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Total Quarterback Rating vs. Passer Rating: Which Is More Accurate for the NFL?

Jeff Cohn@jeff_cohnCorrespondent IIIAugust 7, 2011

Tom Brady, quarterback for the New England Patriots
Tom Brady, quarterback for the New England PatriotsAl Bello/Getty Images

ESPN recently created and instituted a new quarterback rating system that they coined the Total Quarterback Rating (TQR). This complex model could very well serve as the new standard for judgement in the NFL field, perhaps replacing the popularly accepted Passer Rating, which has been used for the past few decades.

Where the Passer Rating formula only takes into account plays without considering the quarterback's teammates' efforts or the circumstances of a game, TQR allows for quarterbacks to be rated on every aspect of a passing play to establish their complete contributions to a game. For instance, on a pass play, all quarterbacks are given credit, labeled Dividing Credit, for what their teammates and receivers achieve on their part. This credit is broken down into four components: the pass protection, the throw, the catch and the run following the reception.

Other new factors come into play with TQR, such as Clutch Index, a 100-point scoring system as the new basis for rating (with 50 representing an average QB), and win probability and expected points. Also complementing the fundamentals behind a player's contribution to a win is the concept of defensive adjustment, and, when necessary, ESPN will consider opponent adjustment in discussions as well.

Regarding scoring and win expectations, ESPN explained,

"The goal behind any player rating should be determining how much a player contributes to a win. We went back through 10 years of NFL play-by-play data to look at game situation (down, distance, yard line, clock time, timeouts, home field, field surface and score), along with the ultimate outcome of the game, to develop a win probability function."

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So, should we trust this system over passer rating?

Well, one thing is for sure: rating passers without considering rushing yards, a QB's win-loss record, sacks, leadership, play-calling or other intangibles has certainly been growing less substantial as a statistic over the years. Also, no quarterback should be considered a completely perfect passer in a game, wherein 60 QB's in the NFL have achieved the perfect score of 158.3 (and seven have achieved this feat more than once). TQR seems to be much more accurate and effective in determining a passer's overall game contributions.

However, the new rating system is very subjective, and some factors are not entirely specified. This is based on the fact that anybody may review an important play or close game differently than others.

Whether or not the league decides to use TQR, quarterbacks will most likely feel unaffected by the number or value they are assigned.

After all, it is just a number, but it is also a grade for players' performances. The new system may even affect the way Fantasy Football data is collected and impact those leagues based on the introduction and usage of new criteria.

For a better explanation from ESPN's staff of the statistics involved in computing TQR, click here.

This article was written by Jeff Cohn, a sports writer and enthusiast.

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