ESPN Total Quarterback Rating: How Does Colt McCoy Grade Out?

Sam TothContributor IIIAugust 6, 2011

JACKSONVILLE, FL - NOVEMBER 21:  Colt McCoy #12  of the Cleveland Browns leads the team out of the tunnel during a game agaisnt the Jacksonville Jaguars at EverBank Field on November 21, 2010 in Jacksonville, Florida.  (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)
Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

ESPN recently unveiled its new Total Quarterback Rating (QBR), a new metric to measuring a quarterback’s performance—unapologetically leaving “passer rating” in the dust.

The worldwide leader did not reveal the sure-to-be complicated formula in its entirety, but they did give us the gist of why we should be excited about it.

For one, we should be pumped to have something other than passer rating, which was apparently pretty weak:

"It takes completions, passing yards, touchdown passes and interceptions, all on a per-attempt basis, compares each to a league-average figure, and mashes them into one number. But passer rating doesn’t attempt to weight its categories by their importance to winning football games. It just averages them together, which tends to bias scores heavily in favor of QBs who complete a lot of short passes, driving up completion percentage without necessarily generating more yards or points. It’s even possible, absurdly enough, to improve your rating by throwing passes for negative yards."

So passer rating basically uses the four areas of completions, passing yards, touchdown passes and interceptions blindly, and ignores other aspects of being an effective quarterback: running, avoiding sacks, clutch performances, big-play ability, etc.

QBR has set out to right such wrongs. Essentially, a 40-yard touchdown pass that came off of a screen play when your team is down by 30 points should not count as favorably to a quarterback as someone who throws a 40-yard bomb in the air for a touchdown when the game is tied. That makes sense. This is a good thing.

So while that is all well and good, what exactly does that mean for the Cleveland Browns?

Well, when you have had more starting quarterbacks in the past 12 years than Kim Kardashian has had boyfriends, any effective way to assess quarterback play should be welcomed with open arms.

After analyzing over 60,000 plays, the folks at ESPN have provided us with the QBR for quarterbacks from 2008-2010. The results? Peyton Manning, Tom Brady and Drew Brees are the cream of the crop. (In other surprising news, the sky is blue and bacon is delicious.)

The findings also bode relatively quite well for the Browns second-year QB Colt McCoy.

I say relatively, because McCoy actually graded out as a very average quarterback in 2010 with a 46.6 (QBR is on a 1-100 scale). For comparison’s sake, the highest QBR of the past three years belongs to Peyton Manning (82.3, 2009) and the lowest was JaMarcus Russel (10.5, 2009).

But here is a look at how McCoy (a rookie) compared to those relative to him (other QBs during their rookie year):

  1. 2008 Matt Ryan – 72.6
  2. 2010 Colt McCoy – 46.6
  3. 2008 Joe Flacco – 41.6
  4. 2010 Sam Bradford – 41.0
  5. 2009 Matthew Stafford – 32.9
  6. 2009 Mark Sanchez – 30.9
  7. 2009 Josh Freeman – 25.8
  8. 2010 Jimmy Clausen – 11.7

So what does this list tell us? That rookie Matt Ryan was insane. His rookie year was the fifth best year out of ANY quarterback in ANY year (2008, 2009 or 2010).

What else does it tell us? That Colt "American Hero" McCoy's rookie year graded better than that of Joe Flacco, Sam Bradford, Matt Stafford, Mark Sanchez, Josh Freeman and Jimmy Clausen. That's what else it tells us.

Am I saying that Colt McCoy is definitively better than all those other higher-drafted, highly touted quarterbacks? Yes. Of course not. (At least not definitively.)

All I know is that ESPN has developed some new super fancy schmancy saber metric to assess quarterback play and the Browns have the quarterback with the most promising rookie year since Matt Ryan.

While you are taking a moment to reflect on that and smile, Browns fans, I’m going to throw some more optimism your way: nearly all of these quarterbacks improve during their second year—the only two that didn’t shouldn’t even count. Matthew Stafford was hurt and Matt Ryan couldn’t have realistically improved on his MVP-like rookie season.

But take a look at these first-to-second year jumps: Josh Freeman plus-37.7 (!!), Mark Sanchez plus-16.5, and Joe Flacco plus-11.0. Those are significant chunks of change.

With the inevitable second-year boost, the respect gained in the locker room during the offseason and the switch to an offense more suited to his skill set, I am as optimistic as ever for Colt McCoy’s performance this year.

And you should be too.


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