QBER/Week 8: Would You Choose Elvis Grbac over Johnny U?

Paul LadewskiCorrespondent IINovember 4, 2009

BALTIMORE - SEPTEMBER 24:  A close up of Hall of Fame Quarterback Johnny Unitas, formerly of the Baltimore Colts, as he smiles and looks on during the game between the Cincinnati Bengals and the Baltimore Ravens on September 24, 2000 at PSINet Stadium in Baltimore, Maryland. The Ravens defeated the Bengals 37-0.  (Photo By David Leeds/Getty Images)
M. David Leeds/Getty Images

(QBER is short for Quarterback Efficiency Rating, a more comprehensive, easily understood rating system that I devised to place the emphasis where it belongs—the ability of a quarterback to advance the ball, avoid negative plays, and score touchdowns in comparison to his peers. A rating of 100.0 is the league average.)

In a week in which few quarterbacks turned memorable performances —take a bow, Brett Favre— nobody looked better than the late, great Johnny Unitas, who threw his final pass 36 years ago.


When Peyton Manning failed to complete a touchdown pass for the first time in 11 regular-season games, Unitas’ record of 47 consecutive games with at least one TD pass was as safe and impressive as ever. Among active players, Manning is the most likely to challenge the mark, but not even he has made a serious run at it.


Joe DiMaggio’s 56-game hitting streak gets the hype, but Unitas’ mark is far more significant. Hits don’t automatically lead to runs, but TD passes count as points.

What's more, Pete Rose came within 12 games of Joe D’s record. At 30 games in a row, runner-up Dan Marino would have required more than one season to catch Johnny U and his record.


Dude, quarterbacks don’t play 47 games in a row nowadays.


Yet to judge by the NFL passer ratings, which cater to the dinkers and dunkers of the modern era, one would never know that Unitas set the standard at the position five decades ago. 


Currently, Unitas ranks 58th behind guys named Aaron Brooks, Tony Eason, Elvis Grbac, Trent Green, Jeff Hostetler, and Dave Kreig, among others.


Fifty-eighth? Johnny Unitas? Fifty-eighth?!


Unitas may be gone, but 49 years after he set one of the epic records in professional sports, those who understand true greatness won't forget him.



The QBER leaders through the Week Eight of the regular season:


       1. Peyton Manning 147.2

2. Donovan McNabb 146.3

3. Aaron Rodgers 139.0

4. Brett Favre 138.1

5. Kyle Orton 132.2

6. Drew Brees 130.1

7. Matt Schaub 129.4

8. Tom Brady 126.1

9. Joe Flacco 124.5

10. Tony Romo 124.1

11. Philip Rivers 122.5

12. Matt Hasselbeck 121.8

13. Ben Roethlisberger 115.5

14. Carson Palmer 114.3

15. Eli Manning 109.0

16. Matt Ryan 106.5

17. Shaun Hill 104.3

18. Matt Cassel 99.8

19. Jay Cutler 94.0

20. Seneca Wallace 89.7

21. Kurt Warner 87.0

22. Trent Edwards 82.6

23. Jason Campbell 79.3

24. David Garrard 78.6

      25. Kerry Collins 78.4

      26. Mark Sanchez 77.1 

      27. Marc Bulger 75.8

      28. Chad Henne 74.3

      29. Matthew Stafford 71.7

      30. Josh Johnson 50.2

      31. JaMarcus Russell 46.8

      32. Jake Delhomme 32.9

      33. Derek Anderson 28.4



A few observations:


  • For quarterbacks, it was a good time for a bye week. After the offense had its way for three consecutive weeks, the defense finally had enough. Of the top five passers in the league—Manning, Kyle Orton, Matt Schaub, Donovan McNabb, and Drew Brees—only McNabb had a better QBER at the end of the day. In particular, Kurt Warner had a game to forget. He committed six turnovers, the most for any player in one game this season. His QBER dropped from 105.6 to 87.0, which ranks 21st in the league.
  • In one of the strangest plays of this or any other season, Detroit Lions rookie Matthew Stafford threw an interception on which St. Louis Rams safety James Butler was tackled in the end zone for a safety. According to the QBER system, Stafford was credited with a turnover, a 12-yard gain, and two points (one-third of a touchdown).
  • The Dallas Cowboys have moved into playoff contention, and the improved play of Tony Romo is a primary reason for it. In the last four weeks, he totaled eight touchdowns and one turnover and moved from 23rd to 10th on the QBER charts as a result.
  • For the first time this season, Jake Delhomme does not have the worst QBER in the league. Cleveland Browns quarterback Derrek Anderson has the dubious distinction now.


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