The passer (quarterback) rating is a measure of a quarterbacks success on the field. It is an attempt, albeit an imperfect one, to separate contributions from other players and measure the quarterbacks effectiveness on the field. It takes into account the number of passing attempts, passes completed, passing yards, touchdown passes and interceptions.
These parameters are then placed into a complex formula to produce a meaningful number with the intent to objectively rate the ability of a passer to affect the game. While the passer is not limited to quarterbacks, the passer rating is of primary used to assess quarterbacks.
In 2011, the best passer rating is currently held by Baylor's Robert Griffin, III. Currently his rating is 230.0, out of a possible 1261.6. Griffin has completed 93 of 113 attempts for 1,308 yards and 18 touchdowns. Griffin has thrown one interception on the year. He averages 11.6 yards per completion and his longest completion on the year is 66 yards. There is a lot of football left to play in 2011 and no quarterback has finished the season with a rating of over 200 for the season.
The highest career passer rating for a college quarterback is held by Sam Bradford. His rating stands at 175.6, accumulated over three seasons. The highest single season rating is held by Colt Brennan of Hawaii University. In 2006, Brennan finished the season with a rating of 182.8, accumulating 5,549 yard passing and 58 touchdowns.
In 2009, first year starting quarterback Greg McElroy finished the season with record setting numbers for an Alabama quarterback. Starting all 14 games, McElroy finished the season with 2,508 yards passing and 17 touchdowns. He also finished with the lowest interception ratio in school history and second lowest in SEC history. During the 2009 season, McElroy has a string of 141 pass attempts without an interception and did not throw an interception in his last 98 pass attempt to finish the season.
For his career, McElroy played in 35 games, was the starting quarterback in 27 games, and completed 436 of 658 pass attempts yielding a 66.3 percent completion rate. His 168.3 passer rating during his senior year was fourth best in the country, behind Kellen Moore, Andrew Luck and Cameron Newton. His career passer rating was 155.4, finishing with 5,691 yards passing and 39 touchdown.
McElroy was the best in modern times for the Crimson Tide. In historical terms, only Harry Gilmore surpassed McElroy with a single season passer rating of 193.1. The closest in recent years was Jay Barker, with a career passer rating of 131.9 and Brodie Croyle (128.4).
For an even better perspective of what McElroy accomplished under the guidance of Jim McElwain and Nick Saban, Joe Namath had a single season high of 139.4 in 1964, Steve Sloan peaked at 153.8 in '65 and Ken Stabler maxed out at 152.6 in 1966. In relative modern times, Jeff Rutledge eclipsed McElroy for a single season in 1977 (169.9) but dropped to 133.2 during his senior campaign.
In 2011, AJ McCarron has risen to the ranks of the starting quarterback for the University of Alabama. The assignment was given to McCarron by head coach Nick Saban when the team went on the road to play Penn State on Sept. 10. On the season, McCarron has 98 completions on 150 attempts and has eight touchdown passes against two interceptions. His longest touchdown pass is for 61-yards, that came as a result of a screen pass and 61-yard jaunt by running back, Trent Richardson.
McCarron has passed for 1,156 yards in six games for an average of 192.7 yards per game. His quarterback rating is 134.5, ranking 62nd amongst NCAA-division I quarterbacks. He ranks seventh in the SEC behind Tyler Bray, a true sophomore with a rating of 176.1, Tyler Wilson, who is a first year starter with a rating of 154.3, Aaron Murray, John Brantley, LSU's Jarrett Lee and Auburn's Barrett Trotter.
Wilson, Murray and Trotter have each been sacked more than 10 times on the season. McCarron has been sacked five times in six games. This statistic is thrown into the discussion because it is well known that the number of sacks begins to affect the quarterback during a game and over the length of the season. The statistic is not included in the quarterback rating formula.
Having stated these facts as statistics, McCarron has led the Crimson Tide to a 6-0 record to start the 2011 season. He is protected by the one of the most mature offensive lines in the SEC and is backed by the best running back tandem in the nation. For fans of the Alabama Crimson Tide, it doesn't get much better.
It is rare for the quarterback to be the centerpiece of the Alabama offense, and the 2011 season is no different. McCarron has great potential that has yet to be realized as success in consecutive game situations. Head coach Nick Saban has been tentative to release the potential of his talented quarterback in favor of a predictable, stable production on offense, featuring the talent at the running back position.
At this point in McCarron's career, it is ludicrous make comparisons with greatness at the quarterback position. Not only is it unfair to McCarron, it is ridiculous to assume that he has established any semblance of consistency in his game. The story will unfold, but as of now, he has only shown a skill set that places him somewhere in the middle of the pack. He has great potential, but must continue to improve and remain injury free for the remainder of his career.
Make no mistake, every Alabama fan hopes for this young man to succeed because without question success of the team depends on at least some measure of success by the quarterback. But success of the team is paramount if the goal is a national championship, individual success takes a back seat.
Every team listed in the AP top 10 this week has a quarterback with an exceptional passer rating. Jarrett Lee (140.1) and the LSU Tigers occupy the number one spot. His passer rating is 51st amongst NCAA D1 quarterbacks. Oklahoma's Landry Jones has a passer rating of 164.9, placing him 14th on the list. Russell Wilson of Wisconsin has the highest rating of the quarterbacks with a team in the Top 10, calculating at 216.9 after six games.
Of all the remaining Top 10 teams, which includes Boise State, Oklahoma State, Stanford, Clemson, Oregon and Arkansas, every quarterback leading the respective team has a passer rating that is Top 25 amongst NCAA division one quarterbacks.
Interestingly, only Jarrett Lee and McCarron sit outside the Top 25. That is entirely due to the domination exhibited by their respective teams on the defensive side of the football equation. Without the assistance of the defensive units establishing domination over the opponents and securing victories for both teams, it is doubtful that either team would be undefeated at this point in the season. Thankfully, we will never know because both teams do have dominating defenses and that won't change.
What it does say is that when these teams meet, the quarterback has a very high likelihood of affecting the game in a negative way if they are not focused, in the zone and do not have adequate protection from the offensive line. Both defenses will do their best to shut down the rushing game of the opponent and force the quarterback to throw. Because when the ball is in the air, only three things can happen and two of them are bad, leading to early three and out situations or turnovers.
Both teams will go to great lengths to establish the running game because the coaching staff knows of the vulnerability of the passing game. Also, both teams have exceptional defensive backfields. Passing in this game will be a very dangerous proposition, particularly downfield.
So between now and Nov. 5, it is absolutely essential that McCarron continues to improve. As of game six, he is the biggest liability on the offense as is Jarrett Lee (or Jordan Jefferson for that matter). There are two games left between now and McCarron's date with destiny.
At least from this fan, where football is concerned, McCarron will be in my thoughts and prayers.