The NFL is in the golden era of quarterbacks, whether it's because of the league's self-made rules or due to players like Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers being at the top of their game. Many unsuspected players, like rookie Cam Newton, are off to great starts despite playing elite defenses.
It's difficult to pick out the cream of the crop as so many throwers are on pace for record seasons. All fans have his or her way to tell who's better than the next guy as far as evaluating quarterbacks, but these statistics are often overlooked.
Here's how breaking down quarterbacks through the stat sheet should go when watching the games isn't an option.
Many NFL quarterbacks are dominating this category so far in the early going of the 2011 NFL season. The stat is skewed somewhat due to certain teams throwing more than others, but the NFL is a passing league all-around anyway.
Passing yards don't account for interceptions, as the more interceptions thrown by a quarterback can certainly mean more chances to toss the pigskin due to the team being down. The stat is still a good indicator for picking out the dip-and-dunkers.
Don't let this category fool you like it has many so far this season.
This statistic takes into account the amount of yards per throw, not just each completion. Taking Michael Vick into account, his completion percentage isn't up there with Drew Brees or Tom Brady. However, the Eagles strike deep when the offense completes passes for the most part.
Tossing bombs helps, even though completing over 60 percent of a quarterback's passes should be a given with the contact restrictions on wide receivers.
Five of the top seven in this category through four games include Tom Brady, Tony Romo, Drew Brees, Aaron Rodgers and Matt Schaub. Completion percentage is a good measurement, but it needs to be taken with a larger grain of salt. While much of the elite is ranked high in this category, Alex Smith is second behind only Brady.
ESPN's Total Quarterback Rating takes too many factors into account, like pass protection and being clutch. Passer rating is fairly simple, as it factors in touchdowns, interceptions, completion percentage and attempts.
The statistics are the most basic for passers, and fans can estimate where their quarterback will fall on the number scale after a good, poor or just average performance. Fans can understand when a quarterback's rating overvalues the player; we have that ability, ESPN.
Every statistic is flawed to a certain extent, but ESPN's formula is ridiculous.
Fans are well aware that teams are more willing to take a chance through the air on third downs now than they are to fall short via the ground game. As a result, defenses are knowledgeable of what plays to run against the offenses.
It's better to aim for more than the minimum yardage needed on the last down, as defenses are looking to stuff the pass catcher short of the line (see Patriots-Colts 2009). Evaluating throwers with this rate is an ongoing process because quarterbacks need to continue to prove their worth by getting past the third-down marker over and over.
When it's third down and closer to ten yards on the road when the defense and opposing fans know the road team is passing, throwing over 350 yards won't exactly translate into a first. The next statistic is higher because running is less efficient in the situation, and the field is even more condensed.
There is no current update of red zone efficiency for 2011, and I don't have the fortune of having ESPN's research department. The biggest flaw in this evaluation is that it includes field goals, which can be considered a huge loss since the team comes away with just three points within 20 yards.
However, touchdowns in the red zone can be shown here. Over 2004-2008, the Colts, Patriots and Chargers were the top three teams in touchdowns in the red zone. The bottom three were the Lions, Browns and Raiders.
The rules are making it easier and easier for quarterbacks to march their way down the field, but it still takes a passer at another level to continually get touchdowns.
Cashing in for seven rather than three is important with today's rules that greatly benefit the offense. It's much easier to rack up yardage on the far 20 yard line rather than the opposition's 20. When the field is condensed, fans get a better grasp on which quarterbacks are top notch.