Quaterback Rating: Not an Accurate Judge of Performance?

Patrick ParsonsAnalyst INovember 10, 2008

Week after week, I have been checking back on the NCAA FBS passing leaders, keeping an eye on the quarterback rating leader boards, and have been surprised to see its results over that period of time.

Obviously, all football fans know that stats can't always tell the story of how good a player is, but that isn't where my quarterback rating complaint lies. It is a stat, and still doesn't give a proper rating based on the other stats.

The formula is legitimate, and that is not where I have the problem. What i take exception to, is the fact that touchdowns thrown per pass attempted is weighed too heavily. For this season's examples, we will use Tulsa quarterback David Johnson, and Texas Tech passer Graham Harrell.


David Johnson

172-258, 66.7 %, 331 YPG, 33 TD, 10 INT, 11.6 YPA: xxx.xx Rating


Graham Harrell

332-463, 71.7%, 407 YPG, 36 TD, 5 INT, 8.9 YPA: xxx.xx Rating


Johnson has a 2.7-yard advantage in each attempt, which gives him a nice boost. But Harrell leads him in completion percentage by five (5) percent, the much better TD/INT ratio, and the more yards per game. So who do you think would have the better quarterback rating?

Due to Johnson's YPA advantage, you would think he would have a bit of an advantage, perhaps able to even out his deficit in completion percentage and TD/INT ratio, and most would guess they would be neck-and-neck in rating, right...?


Maybe Johnson would even be able to boost the lead to a few points due to the number of touchdowns he threw in a lower amount of attempts. Well, what are the real rating you ask?

Johnson: 198.25

Harrell: 169.18

A nearly 30-point advantage for Tulsa's David Johnson due to the emphasis placed on touchdowns per attempt, even more so than placed on interceptions. Examining the formula has led me to create a scenario to see which quarterback would have the better quarterback rating...The formula for the rating is below...

Image and video hosting by TinyPic

Quarterback A: 10-24, 176 Yards, 4 TD, 2 INT.

Quarterback B: 30-49, 300 Yards, 2 TD, 0 INT.

I was hoping all of the scenarios I concocted would fail, thus making my article irrelevant and letting me save some time, but alas, that was not the case.

The first quarterback completed just over 40% of his passes, for 7.5 yards per attempt, and 4 touchdowns, which isn't bad. But two interceptions which essentially kill drives and push momentum the other way.

The second quarterback completed 20 percent more of his passes, but at a bit lower yardage per attempt, just over six. Common sense would tell you that completing two more passes out of every 10 would make up for the difference in average per attempt, though. He threw only two touchdowns, but was without an interception.

Due to the second quarterback's low number of touchdown passes in twice as many attempts, he ends up with the lower rating (141 to 140, basically).

While the difference is rating is not that drastic, and the quarterback may not have had the best game, I still feel the formula needs some tweaks. The emphasis placed on touchdown passes per attempt, in comparison to the negative impact of interceptions needs to be altered, or at least tweaked.

Just a fun fact: Sam Bradford's rating in the game against Texas? 187. Graham Harrell's rating in the game against Texas? 155.