FanPost

Some Clarification is in Order: Playoff Quarterbacks

So some time ago I was having a discussion on MHR about quarterbacks and what it means to be successful. It was just a short discussion, but it became a topic of much thought I had with a colleague I have and travel with a lot who is also a football fan. While we obviously discussed what it should take to get into the Hall and regular and post season victories as well, we became fascinated with how much a quarterback has to do with his teams success in the playoffs. This came to our attention when we discussed Ben Roethlisberger. In my mind the Steelers will likely win another Super Bowl while he is still their quarterback, and that would give him three rings, the same as Tom Brady. But after my friend and I did some research, we concluded that he could be the first QB with three rings not to get into the Hall, or at least not deserve to get into the Hall.

Now this is shocking to a number of people, but we came to this conclusion because we looked at how much each current quarterback contributed to his team's playoff success. We did this tangent because we felt like records don't mean squat in terms of really accomplishing things in the NFL, it might please the simple-minded fan, but winning games is so much more then just a quarterback making plays, or not making plays. So this is a study of active quarterbacks from the 2010 season and looking at their playoff success. Let's jump:

Preview:

So lets set this up. I wanted to look at current NFL quarterbacks rather then do a historical study because that's just to much data for one post, most people get burnt out on my shorter posts, and secondly because I want to take a snap shot of the NFL as it is now, because of it's changing nature.

So as my friend and I were studying how to do this, we wanted to look at multiple factors. We obviously wanted to include these categories for the playoffs:

- Win and loss record
- Super Bowl win and loss record
- Completion percentage
- Touchdown and turnovers
- Yards per game
- Points per game
- Games with more turnovers then touchdowns

Now these are the standard way to judge a quarterback in the post season, and there is some logic to these. Including the record makes sense to appeal to the average fan, to see what their team has accomplished. Personal stats like completion percentage, touchdowns and turnovers also help us gauge how the quarterback helped the team. Add in yards and points per game, along with games with more turnovers then touchdowns, you get a clearer picture of how much the quarterback contributed.

But we realized that most people overlook the biggest factor in post season success, so I put the team back in team sports! To compensate for talent around the quarterback I included a number of other statistics that look more at how the quarterback was a piece of the team, rather then treating him as a stand alone player:

- Average offensive ranking for the quarterback's team (Based on PPG, not YPG over their career)
- Average defensive ranking for the quarterback's team (Based on PPG, not YPG over their career)
- Percentage of the teams total yards per game in the post season (Career, not 2010 season)
- Percentage of the teams total points per game in the post season (Career, not 2010 season)
- 4th quarter comeback percentage, the percentage of times a quarterback lead his team back in the 4th quarter out of total attempts in the post season.

By adding these categories we can see the quality of talent around a player. A quarterback on a team with a highly ranked defense will be more successful then an equally talented quarterback with a worse defense. As for the percentages, we can now see how much the quarterback actively contributed to both moving the ball and scoring. A quarterback on a running based team won't do nearly as much in terms of scoring or moving the ball as an equally skilled quarterback on a pass heavy offense. By including these numbers we can see how much production the quarterback did in terms of his whole team.

I also included the 4th quarter comeback percentage because it doesn't just show total comebacks, which just happen with more games. I followed the criteria for 4th quarterback comeback percentages created and used by both Forbes and Pro-Football-Reference.com. Here's the criteria:

Comeback opportunity: any time a quarterback takes the field in the fourth quarter (or overtime) facing a deficit of between 1 and 8 points.

So I applied this to all the quarterbacks in this study and included the metric. This will show more accurately how often a quarterback can lead a 4th quarter comeback then just total comebacks. If they had no opportunities, I just put a slash in their box. Now this isn't a perfect statistic, as few are, because it could ignore how the comeback was achieved, possibly just through the running game, but it is a much better metric then just listing 4th quarter comebacks.

Now we didn't want to include every quarterback, that would take up to much space and wouldn't contain much useful data, so we set come criteria for this: The quarterback either need to start in five or more playoff games OR have three or more playoff appearances, i.e. three separate years. This would exclude players who haven't had much experience, and would also allow for a sample size that would exclude data that would hamper the study.

So with those parameters, here's the list:

- Brady
- Brees
- Brunell
- Collins
- Delhomme
- E. Manning
- Favre
- Flacco
- Hasselbeck
- McNabb
- Pennington
- P. Manning
- Rivers
- Roethlisberger
- Romo
- Sanchez
- Vick

Now some of these guys aren't starters anymore in the NFL, but they fit the parameters and were active during the 2010 season. So lets get to the meat of the matter, to the stats-mobile!

The Tables:

The General Data:

Name

W-L

Super Bowl W-L

Avg. Off. Rank

Avg. Def. Rank

Games w/ more TO then TD

Brady

14-5

3-1

6

6

5

Brees

4-3

1-0

4

12

0

Brunell

5-6

0-0

9

13

5

Collins

3-4

0-1

15

3

3

Delhomme

5-3

0-1

10

9

2

E. Manning

4-3

1-0

8

15

2

Favre

13-11

1-1

4

7

6

Flacco

4-3

0-0

12

3

3

Hasselbeck

5-6

0-1

11

16

2

McNabb

9-7

0-1

8

6

3

Pennington

2-4

0-0

18

8

3

P. Manning

9-10

1-1

5

13

5

Rivers

3-4

0-0

3

10

4

Roethlisberger

10-3

2-1

13

2

5

Romo

1-3

0-0

7

12

1

Sanchez

4-2

0-0

10

3

1

Vick

2-3

0-0

8

14

2

Average

-

-

9

9

3

 

Some Quick Notes:

- No real surprises in the first couple columns, well minus some of the data on Collins and Brunell, man those guys have been around a while.

- In terms of games with more turnovers then scores, there are some interesting numbers. Guys like Manning, Brady and Favre have the most games with more turnovers then scores. But they also have more games played. In terms of the likelihood of that happening, here's a quick reference bullet point list:

- Brady (26%)
- Brees (0%)
- Brunell (45%)
- Collins (43%)
- Delhomme (25%)
- E. Manning (29%)
- Favre (25%)
- Flacco (43%)
- Hasselbeck (18%)
- McNabb (19%)
- Pennington (50%)
- P. Manning (26%)
- Rivers (57%)
- Roethlisberger (39%)
- Romo (25%)
- Sanchez (17%)
- Vick (40%)

- So from this we see that while P. Manning, Brady and Favre all have turnover numbers similar to Roethlisberger, he's much more likely to have a bad game then either of them. Some of the bright ones were Hasselbeck, McNabb, Sanchez and Brees, who hasn't had a real bad playoff game yet. Looking at this helps us predict how often a quarterback will break down or make major mistakes.

- In terms of talent around them, it's obvious who gets the help. Brady's team overall is ranked 6th, compare that to Hasselbeck who has had an average 14th ranked team around him. Top of the line defense are also noticeable for players like Sanchez, Roethlisberger, Collins (a surprise to me) and Flacco. While players like P. Manning, Brees, and Rivers usually have strong offenses. Some quarterbacks are on more balanced, average teams, like McNabb, Hasselbeck, Romo, Delhomme and Brunell. And then you have players who just play on great teams, like Brady and Favre.

- How someone like Hasselbeck and Delhomme, who both usually had very average or below average teams, won so many games and made a Super Bowl each, is proof that they had some magic back in the day.

More Specific Data:

Name

Comp. %

TD-Turnover

YPG

% of Team YPG

PPG

% of Team PPG

4th Q Comeback %

Brady

62.2%

32-18

236

70%

12

50%

50%

Brees

66.3%

15-2

297

76%

15

52%

67%

Brunell

50.8%

11-11

198

63%

8

32%

25%

Collins

58.5%

12-11

227

72%

12

55%

0%

Delhomme

57.5%

12-10

234

68%

11

48%

50%

E. Manning

58.5%

8-7

187

67%

8

49%

75%

Favre

60.8%

45-31

250

74%

13

52%

40%

Flacco

53.3%

5-7

155

63%

5

24%

0%

Hasselbeck

58.4%

19-9

260

77%

12

48%

40%

McNabb

59.1%

28-20

261

84%

12

57%

33%

Pennington

61.1%

8-8

240

73%

9

47%

50%

P. Manning

63.1%

32-20

285

78%

12

55%

20%

Rivers

58.5%

9-9

263

79%

9

45%

40%

Roethlisberger

61.2%

22-19

234

69%

10

37%

50%

Romo

59.3%

4-2

213

64%

7

38%

0%

Sanchez

60.50%

9-3

194

59%

11

54%

50%

Vick

55.6%

6-4

208

64%

8

38%

0%

Average

59.1%

-

232

71%

10

46%

35%

 

Some Quick Notes:

- This is where it gets interesting. From this table we can really see who is a bigger force on their teams offense.

- It should be noted that on this table it keeps things in perspective. Take McNabb and Hasselbeck, both contributed almost the exact same yards per game, but because their teams were different, McNabb's 261 yards meant more to his team's offense then Hasselbeck's 260 yards. Same applies for scoring.

- Some poor standouts include Sanchez, who only produced 59% of his teams yards, but compensated with a lot of points. On the opposite side you have Flacco, who only contributed 24% of his teams points but 63% of their yards. McNabb stands out, as do Hasselbeck, P. Manning, Rivers and Brees for being the main piece to move the ball, all averaging more the 75% of their teams yards per game.

- In terms of scoring, Sanchez, Brees, Brady, Collins (He keeps showing up), Favre, McNabb, and P. Manning all scored over 50% of their team's points. While guys like Vick, Roethlisberger, Romo, Flacco and Brunell all contributed less then 40%.

The Graphs:

So to continue this adventure, I constructed some graphs that look at each quarterback in some key areas:

Percentage of Team's Yards per Game and Points per Game

Yrdsperrec1_medium

 

Average Offensive and Defense Team Rankings

Untitled_medium

Review:

  • Even a brief glance at the tables shows who got help in the playoffs and who didn't. The fact guys like Hasselbeck and McNabb were such a huge part of their teams makes their accomplishments even greater. While players like Brunell and Flacco, not so much.
  • So if I have to pick my top three and bottom three quarterbacks, with all these taken into account, not just wins, here'd be my list, in no particular order, Top 3: Hasselbeck, McNabb, Brees, and Brady. Okay so I couldn't pick three, but all four deserve this. Hasselbeck and McNabb, though without rings, were pretty much their offenses, with usually only help from one or two players, and took them to the Super Bowl, and were the major source of both scoring and moving the chains. Brady is obvious, his three rings are a lot of proof, but he had a lot of help, more then anyone else. But you also have to look at what he did personally as well, which was impressive. Brees has been almost perfect in the post season, moving the ball, scoring, being accurate, not turning the ball over, and a ring helps to.  Heck lets just make this a top five, there we go. Favre could have made this list as well.
  • Bottom five now: Brunell, Flacco, Roethlisberger, Vick, and Rivers. Flacco and Brunell both have serious struggles in the post season, in terms of scoring and not making mistakes. Both also didn't contribute very much to their offenses as well. Vick just struggled, wasn't accurate, turned that ball over and just wasn't able to score very often. Rivers is a guy who was the offense for his team, but struggled to score, not turn the ball over, and win, despite a lot of talent around him. Roethlisberger is a strange story. He has a fantastic team built around him defensively and an average team around him of, but he doesn't contribute much. Of the 16 quarterbacks in this study, he's in the lower half of most major categories that I was looking for, i.e. % of team production, accuracy and ball security. He struggles with keeping the ball safe and scoring, being one of the worst RZ quarterbacks on this list. He wasn't even in the top half in terms of moving the ball.
  • Now I know many people will say some players just win games, and that they don't do it pretty, but I feel this study was indepth enough to show that while players like Roethlisberger  who are on teams that win a Super Bowl or have playoff success, like Sanchez, I'm much more impressed by a player who wins games with less talent while doing more.

So that's my study, I learned new things, like how many times Kerry Collins and Mark Brunell made it to the playoffs, and awesome a team the Pats are or the Packers were during Favre's years there. I gained respect for guys like Hasselbeck and McNabb and lost some awe for Roethlisberger and Flacco. I proved Rivers still sucks in the post season, and that Brees is a post season god.

This is a Fan-Created Comment on MileHighReport.com. The opinion here is not necessarily shared by the editorial staff of MHR

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