Regular Season QBGOAT VIII: Career Hard Inflation Adjustment

unitasIn the last post, we looked at the career stats of quarterbacks after prorating their performances to the modern 16-game schedule. Today, I’m going to take it a step further and apply a hard inflation adjustment to those stats in order to account for the increased usage rates the position has seen over time. In the early years of the NFL, quarterbacks ran about twenty plays per game. By the time of the AFL-NFL merger, that number hovered around thirty. For the last five years, that number has met or exceeded forty. Because of this, it’s important to put players of the past in proper context when comparing their stats.1

The method to do so is pretty straightforward:

  1. Find the average number of quarterback plays per game in every three year span (with year N in the middle) since 1932.2
  2. Find the average number of quarterback plays per game for all seasons, cumulatively. That number is 34.7.
  3. To find the hard inflation adjustment, divide 34.7 into each season’s three-year average. For example, the average for 1932 was 16.1, so the hard inflation adjustment is 34.7/16.1, or 2.151. For 2015, there were 40.8 quarterback player per game, so the hard inflation adjustment is 34.7/40.8, or 0.854.

Thus, quarterbacks from the age when the run was king get a boost, while modern quarterbacks in the most pass-happy era in history get docked slightly. Whether you believe this is fair depends on how you interpret the increase in passing. If you believe quarterbacks, on average, are used more today because they are simply better today, then you probably disagree with adjusting for inflation. If, instead, you believe the increased usage rate is a product of regulatory changes and schematic innovation, you may agree that an adjustment is necessary.

Career Stats: Hard Inflation Adjustment

This table contains the career stats for every qualifying quarterback since 1932.3 It is sorted by value over average, but you can sort by any column or search by any row. Read it thus: Peyton Manning turned 9113 plays into 61788 Total Adjusted Yards at 6.78 TAY/P. Overall, his TAY/P was 1.71 better than average. Compared to replacement level, he was 2.98 better than 75% of average and 3.13 better than one standard deviation below average. Cumulatively, he produced 15694 Total Adjusted Yards above average. He also produced 27229 or 28685 Total Adjusted Yards above replacement, depending on your replacement-level baseline.

PlayerPlyTAYTAY/PVal/P75Rep/PSDRep/PVal75RepSDRep
Peyton Manning9113617886.781.712.983.13156942722928685
Otto Graham4628309786.692.573.604.80119331671322246
Dan Marino8349505016.051.412.572.88118182150224154
Fran Tarkenton9621490585.101.102.102.95106632028028426
Joe Montana6159383976.231.662.803.14101331717519285
Tom Brady7803502356.441.252.542.6497661987420695
Drew Brees7899507756.431.202.512.6194811978020675
Sammy Baugh6100283024.641.532.313.7792731397622943
Steve Young4843317646.561.893.063.3592441489016293
Johnny Unitas8065429315.321.102.153.0091001761824472
Sid Luckman3500188645.392.393.144.7888651147317269
Norm Van Brocklin4747274145.771.902.873.9488241343518460
Ken Anderson6325336315.321.312.313.0085401484019372
Sonny Jurgensen5957328445.511.312.363.1978331409618995
Dan Fouts6715360615.371.152.202.7477991483718603
Roger Staubach4571248265.431.672.613.4675321182215770
Aaron Rodgers4224297777.051.632.983.0368601258012821
Brett Favre10354562475.430.601.812.0561531866121159
Len Dawson5215278255.341.182.223.0657861117515582
Y.A. Tittle7175362785.060.831.892.8656411320420275
Cecil Isbell2296121215.282.273.024.375221695010047
Tony Romo4295278626.491.172.502.5950761077411189
Philip Rivers5298333496.290.942.282.3450471212712478
John Brodie6336316264.990.811.852.6848241145616716
Ben Roethlisberger5595343846.150.862.182.2747791216212723
Daryle Lamonica3480183045.261.352.333.314599799611391
Joe Namath4912237454.830.911.892.884343914914022
Kurt Warner4127246305.971.052.282.524276935010340
John Elway7992413305.170.531.692.0042141347815971
Bert Jones3630184645.091.132.122.874149770510546
Jeff Garcia3951230525.830.992.202.42388086669525
Dutch Clark219498634.501.812.483.73386853398080
Jim Kelly5092274995.400.741.912.223854978411382
Bart Starr4873249595.120.861.932.763795898813048
Donovan McNabb5857327005.580.641.872.1037921103712386
John Hadl6478299574.620.611.612.5337681024316153
Trent Green3893224845.780.952.162.39371884149323
Jim Hart6667293964.410.471.452.2236581018615395
Bob Griese4946222384.500.711.662.603638830912996
Bobby Layne6697287704.300.471.432.513293970116941
Roman Gabriel6601295894.480.491.492.353287986215562
Steve McNair4990271265.440.641.842.073169915210288
Bob Waterfield2796118224.231.061.853.35310052939555
Cliff Battles216690234.171.392.093.24298944886991
Carson Palmer5386312225.800.551.861.972947999910631
Warren Moon7334369315.040.391.551.8529161143713646
Boomer Esiason5617289825.160.521.681.992891941011154
Johnny Lujack131672395.502.132.974.30282039295685
Charlie Conerly4882210054.300.531.472.622776739412972
Rich Gannon4630247365.340.611.792.04274582209361
Troy Aikman4910258395.260.551.731.99269284709770
Terry Bradshaw5696255704.490.521.512.212623824712290
Arnie Herber2818105963.760.981.682.98258245248219
Jim Everett5114265365.190.501.671.972565855910074
Steve Grogan4701219764.670.511.552.122562741210230
Mark Brunell5032266135.290.511.711.93255385649688
Billy Kilmer4436196914.440.551.522.392528683910713
Matt Ryan4414265756.020.561.931.95249285098628
Joe Theismann4636221634.780.531.592.07240073049606
Craig Morton5299231894.380.421.412.152185739011440
Matt Schaub3263193655.930.641.972.12215164626978
Ed Danowski247988563.570.801.492.72210338026906
Mark Rypien2696145895.410.731.902.20203351845999
Russell Wilson1973131106.651.032.432.28203248014500
Bob Monnett168967333.991.211.903.10201031735228
Earl Morrall4046192364.750.591.632.47198161949623
Bernie Masterson110150844.621.692.423.53192127203961
Frankie Albert2897147885.100.671.783.01189851178698
Daunte Culpepper3680196795.350.501.711.93184063007110
Tommy Thompson2914113703.900.721.513.05182441288636
Doug Williams3064155215.070.661.762.16181251856425
Ken Stabler4922209414.260.241.251.921796669510145
Milt Plum3740172394.610.261.352.21171757869050
Greg Landry3798161144.240.391.352.13171553628382
Frank Ryan3294160564.870.581.652.51169152348075
Chad Pennington2604144415.540.641.862.11163748345473
Jim McMahon3180161755.090.521.662.02162252526400
Bernie Kosar3642184075.050.431.591.93161458247069
Billy Wade4141194534.700.351.442.28149259739472
Randall Cunningham5207258644.970.291.461.76148975829171
Tom Flores2082110085.290.711.852.48147738595160
Cam Newton2755167716.090.521.911.81143652725002
Charley Johnson4846212804.390.281.312.151416638510466
Ray Mallouf57632675.682.463.264.76140118602720
George Ratterman2301118235.140.601.742.91138339926692
Brian Sipe4311195614.540.381.421.98125757048194
Neil Lomax3745183734.910.401.521.92118954116898
Danny White3319160214.830.341.461.85114848706152
Tony Canadeo103841133.961.021.763.53111718823720
Doug Flutie2360123365.230.471.661.91109639024500
Brad Johnson4420222995.050.251.451.67108263827374
Phil Simms5251249534.750.221.351.70107970308874
Michael Vick3982213885.370.261.541.69107461506766
Marc Bulger3288172755.250.321.561.81106951225963
Eli Manning6082332445.470.181.501.59103290589655
Jeff Hostetler2655134435.060.371.541.80100141184809
Ace Parker226184613.740.471.292.4797127965443
Pat Haden178977654.340.401.382.0294626953873
Tuffy Leemans80033694.211.262.003.6692915202854
Don Meredith3431157944.600.311.382.2290345917449
Neil O'Donnell3412169324.960.261.441.7088648945792
Bill Nelsen2677117694.400.331.352.1585935755717
Bobby Thomason224691684.080.451.362.4585629025339
Elvis Grbac2460125215.090.341.531.7483137534282
Bill Kenney2770133414.820.331.451.8581439245033
Frank Filchock222773313.290.331.072.4880624565619
Glenn Presnell203260162.960.300.972.2576521214695
Matt Hasselbeck5518286605.190.121.391.5775077378758
Bobby Hebert3299159734.840.211.361.7074345655661
David Garrard2618140335.360.281.551.8174040664751
Virgil Carter122455564.540.591.582.3273819452859
Jim Zorn4174180154.320.201.231.7967449487372
Andy Dalton2495144845.810.241.631.5459840673839
Doug Russell85126303.090.551.182.6254310782320
Ron Jaworski5091225094.420.161.231.7153059178461
Matthew Stafford3557202005.680.151.531.4851654275261
Andrew Luck2089121415.810.231.621.5047033873134
Spec Sanders143776885.350.311.572.7845022574002
Butch Songin82842345.110.551.692.2844813911880
Kirk Cousins87953866.130.441.861.6438816371439
George Grosvenor112034153.050.310.992.2136711322503
Tommy Kramer4288192584.490.071.181.5634950846742
Jake Delhomme3035153845.070.101.351.6234141084937
Jeff Blake3531171654.860.091.291.5030945185267
Jay Cutler4448241015.420.061.401.4729962466606
Bill Dudley108733433.080.260.962.7728910523023
Colin Kaepernick153789005.790.181.581.4328524402210
Jacky Lee106250214.730.271.382.0527914632171
Bob Berry191877274.030.101.081.8626221433647
Ed Brown3322141024.250.021.071.9525337526670
Stan Humphries2590124274.800.091.271.5123532803911
James Harris174965993.770.081.001.9622818423522
Paul Christman211266873.170.130.892.5022218035244
Nick Foles119769395.800.181.591.4422019001720
Tony Eason176081594.630.131.261.6221321952833
Jeff George4159199044.790.071.251.5121051066192
Steve Pelluer112753454.740.161.301.7118814801941
Gary Danielson2491112584.520.221.301.7418628553979
George Blanda4685206274.400.041.131.8818052268907
Ken O'Brien3938182984.650.051.201.5516946976094
Paul Governali98931923.230.120.892.451659302474
Robert Griffin120668415.670.131.511.4416418351744
Aaron Brooks3271159144.870.041.251.4712940744793
Vince Ferragamo188281424.33-0.101.011.4012022012936
Charlie O'Rourke86339354.560.101.222.6011910682284
Jay Schroeder3097143974.650.031.191.5311036834760
Bill Munson2889115974.010.021.021.8910229855509
Wade Wilson2738127414.650.031.181.529732644182
Byron Leftwich170484454.960.031.271.537121662621
Steve Beuerlein3557168184.730.001.191.442542255127
Jay Fiedler186189584.810.021.221.422022502617
Erik Kramer2371111944.720.011.191.46-627833422
Rob Johnson97646314.74-0.011.181.37-911511336
Craig Erickson115153784.67-0.031.141.36-4813051558
Cotton Davidson209395904.58-0.021.131.73-6223463608
Don Trull92138694.20-0.080.991.88-729121734
Vinny Testaverde6998331814.740.011.191.46-78820410081
Charlie Batch174283024.77-0.051.151.36-8220172384
Jim Harbaugh4494210254.68-0.021.151.43-10351796434
Scott Mitchell2420113344.68-0.051.141.35-10727553281
Charlie Trippi79024953.16-0.170.671.91-1275291509
Johnny Clement143551913.62-0.100.832.25-13111943245
Brian Griese2946140994.79-0.041.171.38-13734194065
Don Strock95340084.21-0.021.041.57-1388631382
Steve Bono174980644.61-0.101.081.33-16418962351
Norm Snead6142252764.12-0.021.011.84-176617911256
Brian Hoyer96552765.47-0.181.231.04-18211811004
Chris Miller3096143704.64-0.071.111.39-18634594354
Shaun Hill122362615.12-0.171.151.33-20214141634
George Shaw144357253.97-0.230.821.68-20413042549
M.C. Reynolds77930733.94-0.430.671.51-2346141285
Steve DeBerg5581250314.490.011.131.51-23659978136
Ty Detmer97743744.48-0.260.931.17-2519061140
Dwight Sloan78421602.75-0.330.441.49-2903151128
Jeff Kemp104044114.24-0.290.851.24-3098691277
Bob Snyder77621012.71-0.350.421.46-3152761090
Jake Plummer4624217524.70-0.091.111.35-33452046290
Teddy Bridgewater86946215.32-0.391.040.79-338902686
John Friesz139762314.46-0.220.951.24-34012951706
Tim Rattay76633734.40-0.450.761.03-349581791
Kyle Orton2712139415.14-0.121.201.37-35732043683
Joe Geri105631753.01-0.360.481.80-3655231915
Benny Friedman100122982.29-0.520.181.27-3873161411
Scott Hunter118540603.43-0.300.631.51-3887141760
Steve Tensi117641023.49-0.350.611.80-4147142106
Jim Miller102744834.36-0.410.780.95-418808978
Steve Spurrier161355863.46-0.280.651.60-41810922621
Jason Campbell2661133935.03-0.171.131.33-42930273556
Jim Finks225777443.43-0.180.731.89-43216064214
Shaun King82234804.23-0.520.670.88-437540714
Seneca Wallace83738514.60-0.540.750.98-447628826
Shane Matthews82534764.21-0.550.640.84-448534693
Mike Tomczak2482111644.50-0.180.991.30-44924523226
Damon Huard100444414.42-0.470.750.99-465764997
Gary Hogeboom145562394.29-0.290.861.20-48411801676
Tobin Rote5408207253.83-0.070.901.86-487477210022
Johnny Green78130713.93-0.640.511.18-494398923
Pete Liske114939143.41-0.470.501.32-5076051539
Mike Livingston258189243.46-0.250.681.61-54918394262
Dave Krieg5933269974.55-0.061.091.41-56462768167
Glenn Dobbs182987424.78-0.300.972.19-57417453986
Joe Flacco4052214445.29-0.151.211.26-57449275122
Vince Young153772174.70-0.380.891.11-57913681701
Joe Ferguson5858237414.05-0.080.961.56-58954049106
Gus Frerotte3196148304.64-0.181.031.26-60032524009
Al Woodall82025063.06-0.780.181.02-626160849
Harry Newman151933812.23-0.380.271.60-6273622398
Steve Bartkowski4366182934.19-0.041.021.54-64239476276
Kordell Stewart2791126474.53-0.230.961.19-64526763308
Steve Ramsey139245233.25-0.460.471.43-6476431974
Derek Carr109555795.10-0.610.820.57-665896628
Trent Edwards99243914.42-0.690.590.85-681588853
Chris Chandler4364200244.59-0.141.041.30-68344705598
Cody Carlson75027893.72-0.940.230.54-685188424
Irv Comp160336392.27-0.620.101.88-6884713331
Parker Hall192151122.66-0.370.391.73-7147383309
Rusty Lisch146-97-0.66-5.12-4.01-3.65-752-590-537
George Mira53214702.76-1.38-0.350.51-757-206251
Mike Boryla78520852.65-0.99-0.080.96-759-44769
Joe Bukant4476411.43-1.61-0.850.54-759-419210
Marty Slovak4535871.30-1.68-0.930.33-764-427148
David Woodley170068134.01-0.460.651.02-77011321749
Roy Zimmerman170441742.45-0.550.201.89-7704983403
Chet Wetterlund125-400-3.19-6.18-5.43-3.57-773-680-447
Tarvaris Jackson121055134.56-0.650.650.81-784790984
Bob Lee103230322.94-0.780.151.09-7861731150
Frank Reich100439373.92-0.790.380.64-786397653
Patrick Ramsey96138764.03-0.820.400.63-787379609
Quincy Carter109144854.11-0.730.480.69-792529754
Marty Domres133541783.13-0.620.321.28-7934571736
Brandon Weeden93744014.70-0.850.540.46-798501434
Darrell Tully193-217-1.12-4.15-3.39-2.36-800-654-455
Bev Wallace115-225-1.96-6.98-5.72-4.54-807-663-527
Matt Moore80534654.30-1.010.310.46-808262381
Chuck Long66822463.36-1.22-0.080.36-809-43252
Ryan Lindley2545852.30-3.24-1.85-1.92-825-473-489
Kevin Kolb80134814.35-1.020.320.46-825249361
Ray Evans3815431.42-2.17-1.270.22-829-48685
Tony Adams60114772.46-1.40-0.440.39-833-259251
Chris Simms55518753.38-1.51-0.29-0.02-834-156-4
Carl Brumbaugh4594270.93-1.81-1.130.06-838-52427
Josh Freeman2092104545.00-0.400.951.06-83819822220
Bob Waters2652761.04-3.40-2.29-1.53-839-544-342
Todd Collins77528583.69-1.110.090.34-84584275
George Herring2633301.26-3.23-2.11-1.44-847-553-379
Chuck Ortmann3362660.79-2.53-1.70-0.55-850-571-184
Terry Nofsinger3817041.85-2.30-1.27-0.34-867-472-120
Tommy Maddox125851954.13-0.680.520.75-868644929
Frankie Sinkwich132834872.63-0.740.101.78-8682202487
Cliff Montgomery243-268-1.10-3.59-2.97-1.53-873-722-372
Art Schlichter2683621.35-3.11-1.99-1.64-877-577-482
Angelo Bertelli2814401.57-3.24-2.04-0.75-883-546-183
Tommy Wade112-415-3.72-7.92-6.87-5.95-883-766-663
Danny Wuerffel3979932.50-2.23-1.05-0.81-887-417-321
Brady Quinn57121243.72-1.58-0.25-0.07-889-134-27
Kent Graham141457914.10-0.620.560.82-8947731143
David Archer82427943.39-1.080.040.40-89625322
Emmett Mortell87317962.06-1.00-0.240.72-898-231606
Colt McCoy91340474.43-1.010.350.42-920321385
Jeff Rutledge61418793.06-1.47-0.340.08-921-22632
A.J. Feeley77929103.74-1.180.050.28-92235211
Harry Hopp250-181-0.72-3.71-2.96-1.10-928-741-276
Drew Bledsoe6901320154.64-0.131.061.29-94172938860
Chad Hutchinson45712452.72-2.06-0.87-0.66-943-396-303
Jack Kemp4061170834.21-0.210.891.66-94635346651
Kelly Holcomb93335853.84-1.020.200.44-949185412
Ted Marchibroda73519102.60-1.31-0.330.49-950-231371
Bobby Scott72517092.36-1.40-0.460.44-955-278395
Boley Dancewicz5056711.33-1.88-1.080.42-956-552209
Manny Rapp350-90-0.26-2.74-2.12-0.68-961-743-240
Blake Bortles110053184.83-0.880.550.30-962609334
Cotton Price5769531.66-1.64-0.820.66-966-502360
Pat Sullivan3332590.78-2.91-1.99-0.97-976-668-330
Billy Patterson4594050.88-2.15-1.39-0.17-981-633-76
Donald Hollas45211342.51-2.17-1.00-0.68-983-455-307
Randy Hedberg149-460-3.09-6.64-5.75-4.78-989-857-712
Harry Gilmer97324362.50-1.05-0.161.01-999-133999
Pete Beathard179460823.39-0.550.441.50-10077562656
Jim Plunkett5320205853.87-0.180.831.52-101343238127
Sam Vacanti58619793.37-1.75-0.470.72-1015-263434
Steve Walsh135553683.96-0.780.410.66-1015589938
Ryan Tannehill2228114915.16-0.460.950.80-101821081774
Gary Cuozzo173859603.43-0.570.431.25-10187162137
Mark Herrmann65919372.94-1.55-0.43-0.06-1019-279-33
Bobby Hoying51013762.70-2.02-0.84-0.56-1023-422-279
Gary Marangi4626511.41-2.21-1.30-0.27-1023-606-127
Jerry Golsteyn2861470.52-3.49-2.49-1.82-1036-753-553
Bill Troup4416111.38-2.36-1.42-0.74-1037-624-321
Ken Dorsey4159852.37-2.53-1.31-0.99-1048-539-409
Browning Nagle47811192.34-2.23-1.08-0.72-1051-506-331
Matt Robinson70417012.42-1.56-0.570.00-1057-36050
Derek Anderson157270254.47-0.680.610.82-10599601295
Mickey Slaughter75324463.25-1.43-0.260.27-1066-185214
Jim Hardy151840512.67-0.700.151.54-10672082341
Kellen Clemens69125973.76-1.53-0.21-0.14-1068-156-109
Geno Smith90239794.41-1.190.210.05-107818647
Stan Heath180-466-2.59-6.00-5.14-3.63-1081-928-654
Don Majkowski222093514.21-0.500.680.98-108715252201
Joe Reed84220462.43-1.28-0.350.64-1092-313526
Dick Wood141154963.90-0.770.390.97-10945521364
Chris Weinke73224203.31-1.50-0.30-0.14-1098-219-100
Mike McMahon59918003.00-1.83-0.62-0.42-1100-376-254
Paul McDonald96132023.33-1.14-0.020.35-1110-35323
Hugh Millen107438913.62-1.030.130.48-1114135505
Bud Schwenk135943613.21-0.770.231.77-11161972337
Steve Dils106937113.47-1.040.090.52-111887547
John Skelton60821683.57-1.85-0.50-0.41-1121-298-242
Chris Cagle6806700.99-1.68-1.020.25-1126-671186
Steve Fuller147953743.63-0.750.350.71-11294921036
Frank Patrick240-365-1.52-4.74-3.93-2.97-1130-939-704
Heath Shuler63919082.99-1.78-0.59-0.39-1136-375-251
Scott Bull325380.12-3.56-2.64-1.84-1149-851-588
Rusty Hilger52112402.38-2.24-1.09-0.65-1166-564-339
Steve Romanik69212161.76-1.69-0.830.41-1167-571289
David Whitehurst129040343.13-0.890.120.67-1170122855
Whizzer White112823202.06-1.00-0.240.93-1171-307997
Doug Pederson56114892.65-2.10-0.91-0.68-1178-512-382
Richard Todd3824149903.92-0.350.721.21-118628734817
Terry Hanratty62912431.98-1.95-0.97-0.17-1208-591-89
Bob Davis78413471.72-1.94-1.030.13-1209-509462
Vince Evans169066093.91-0.610.520.87-12116971286
Charlie Frye76925623.33-1.58-0.35-0.11-1218-273-83
Alex Smith3862196385.09-0.291.061.08-123239444080
Andrew Walter3745921.58-3.30-2.08-1.84-1234-777-687
David Klingler81825743.15-1.52-0.35-0.11-1239-285-82
John Reaves89922112.46-1.35-0.400.40-1241-390343
Jack Thompson97530833.16-1.26-0.160.25-1243-165230
Christian Ponder110748294.36-1.120.250.24-1244274267
John McCormick62816692.66-1.98-0.82-0.16-1246-517-103
Mike Pagel185572813.93-0.590.540.91-12488471539
Jimmy Clausen48714112.90-2.56-1.19-1.12-1251-588-551
Jack Scarbath4915511.12-2.52-1.61-0.44-1256-808-240
Dave Ryan5752990.52-2.18-1.500.26-1257-871148
Babe Parilli4664195634.19-0.150.941.73-125837627572
Cliff Stoudt87328223.23-1.27-0.140.29-1270-28788
Craig Whelihan56613812.44-2.27-1.10-0.81-1286-620-460
Jeff Komlo5439731.79-2.40-1.35-0.93-1287-719-492
Todd Blackledge97030833.18-1.33-0.200.16-1293-201154
Bruce Gradkowski78126573.40-1.66-0.39-0.16-1297-309-126
Bill Mackrides5927531.27-2.18-1.320.02-1298-7873
Bob Hoernschemeyer135354154.00-0.980.271.50-13023802047
Mark Malone179568493.82-0.700.430.82-13027261443
Anthony Wright68219972.93-1.93-0.72-0.48-1307-478-318
Rodney Peete2664112074.21-0.510.670.91-131418242474
Eddie LeBaron3084114683.72-0.400.631.57-131618524779
Eric Hipple182870213.84-0.640.480.87-13187291439
Don Jackson193-807-4.19-6.85-6.18-4.89-1320-1192-942
John Roach57510921.90-2.44-1.36-0.43-1323-699-157
Akili Smith52911802.23-2.51-1.32-1.12-1329-702-593
J.P. Losman108439903.68-1.24-0.010.23-1340-7255
George Terlep300640.21-4.52-3.34-2.03-1344-989-596
Jack Jacobs108921671.99-1.29-0.471.10-1344-4561263
Dave Wilson111236143.25-1.22-0.100.28-1355-113310
Lynn Dickey3923158194.03-0.220.841.37-135627804945
Rex Grossman158667084.23-0.860.410.60-1357658960
Marc Wilson232291393.94-0.600.530.89-137812562088
Adrian Burk168846822.77-0.800.091.20-13831291989
Karl Sweetan83720592.46-1.66-0.630.28-1389-527227
Stan Gelbaugh4496681.49-3.09-1.95-1.56-1393-879-706
Bubby Brister2449100824.12-0.580.600.89-140814662198
Randy Wright119139873.35-1.18-0.050.36-1409-60432
Billy Joe Tolliver180271193.95-0.780.400.67-14127191199
JaMarcus Russell72923273.19-1.94-0.66-0.37-1415-480-269
Dick Shiner111531312.81-1.29-0.260.53-1425-285599
Chad Henne196191144.65-0.750.600.70-146411801380
Sam Bradford2233108224.85-0.650.720.72-147215961609
Sam Etcheverry4686901.48-3.15-2.00-1.30-1473-932-606
Tim Couch181071773.97-0.820.380.57-14756891031
Ryan Fitzpatrick3595181215.04-0.390.971.00-148233923545
Don Panciera4144020.97-3.58-2.44-1.17-1495-1020-493
Joe Pisarcik119732292.70-1.24-0.250.38-1516-351447
Al Dorow185866833.60-0.750.331.03-15594411774
Kelly Stouffer4937261.47-3.15-2.00-1.61-1563-993-805
Scott Brunner139342413.05-1.44-0.320.09-1567-5548
Jim Ninowski162157183.53-0.880.221.05-15782091577
Danny Kanell96329723.09-1.65-0.47-0.21-1591-450-198
George Izo4342560.59-3.74-2.66-1.81-1596-1125-757
Joe Kapp143242612.98-1.11-0.090.69-1598-137967
Lamar McHan264889973.40-0.680.341.25-163110623465
Fred Enke133230062.26-1.25-0.371.03-1640-4721402
Bob Avellini161543052.67-1.07-0.140.70-1643-1391240
Matt Cassel2710127864.72-0.620.720.85-164319692358
Davey O'Brien123520701.68-1.35-0.590.56-1662-728702
Rudy Bukich174559693.42-0.810.251.15-16861601736
Ed Matesic114611951.04-1.50-0.860.56-1716-991646
Dan Darragh423-115-0.27-4.08-3.13-1.99-1729-1326-844
Dean McAdams7435140.69-2.28-1.540.22-1741-1188120
Ronnie Cahill375-632-1.68-4.69-3.94-2.17-1758-1477-814
Bobby Douglass232870003.01-0.770.171.06-17634362515
Jack Concannon178253342.99-1.03-0.030.77-1848-561359
Josh McCown208691064.37-0.860.440.51-18508681026
Tony Banks2552102054.00-0.750.440.68-190011281740
Kent Nix92718321.98-2.04-1.04-0.20-1920-991-221
Dave Brown180766603.69-1.070.120.32-1943208573
Blaine Gabbert110441443.75-1.78-0.40-0.46-1981-454-514
Ryan Leaf69913251.89-2.84-1.65-1.44-1986-1158-1007
Archie Manning5311195353.68-0.290.701.39-199132467047
Joey Harrington2603106344.09-0.780.440.67-202511421760
Rick Norton521-121-0.23-4.14-3.16-1.98-2146-1637-1021
Jack Trudeau175459033.37-1.26-0.100.23-2166-140432
Joe Lillard8632300.27-2.55-1.85-0.74-2181-1574-625
Kerry Collins6353286524.51-0.350.871.10-219455226991
Dennis Shaw151736302.39-1.45-0.490.29-2202-746437
Kim McQuilken414-756-1.83-5.47-4.56-3.54-2256-1879-1454
Mark Sanchez2285101284.43-0.990.360.44-22698271017
Jon Kitna4633202224.36-0.500.710.93-232133194317
Hugh McCullough702-259-0.37-3.37-2.62-1.41-2387-1861-1016
King Hill122930282.46-1.80-0.730.18-2408-109932
Johnny Gildea634-808-1.27-3.89-3.23-1.87-2497-2086-1212
Kyle Boller169257913.42-1.52-0.29-0.02-2559-468-20
Rick Mirer226781633.60-1.140.040.26-259296594
Mike Taliaferro129826402.03-2.01-1.00-0.06-2630-1320-101
David Carr263599543.78-1.080.130.37-2833368996
Randy Johnson194148392.49-1.51-0.510.38-2848-911811
Frank Tripucka225967582.99-1.24-0.180.68-2876-5271506
Gary Huff118914711.24-2.43-1.51-0.51-2882-1792-599
Ralph Guglielmi125423321.86-2.47-1.39-0.47-3078-1723-562
Zeke Bratkowski226567212.97-1.33-0.250.60-3127-6991262
Trent Dilfer3343128393.84-0.940.260.48-31468481610
Mike Phipps278072412.60-1.23-0.270.55-3360-7081648
Dan Pastorini4340126132.91-0.910.050.86-38642523877

Another day, another first place finish for Manning. He is, statistically, the most dominant force the league has ever seen at the quarterback position (at least in the regular season).4 If we sort by VAL/P, we’ll see that he falls all the way to ninth, meaning he wasn’t as dominant on a per-play basis as eight other guys in history. However, even after adjusting for era inflation, Manning has nearly twice as many plays as anyone above him. In both Total Adjusted Yards and Value over average, he’s in a league of his own.

After giving a rather steep bonus for the low volume of his era, Otto Graham edges Dan Marino for second place. This comes primarily from his incredible 2.57 TAY/P over average during his ten years in professional football. If you want to discount his time playing the inferior defenses of the AAFC, that’s fine. Just don’t dismiss those years entirely, because the league was much stronger than you might realize. In fact, the early AAFC was probably much better relative to the NFL than the early AFL was. He’s not lucky he played in the AAFC; he’s just lucky he didn’t have to play his own defense.

tarkentonFran Tarkenton helped the expansion Vikings find success, then helped the struggling Giants find their footing, before going back to Minnesota and helping them become a powerhouse.5 He played nearly his entire career in the dead ball era but still managed to hold the career yards and touchdowns records longer than any quarterback in history. Prorating his stats to the 16-game schedule moved him into eighth place, but adjusting for inflation moved him all the way to fourth. That may seem like a high ranking, but consider that he played eighteen years without ever having a bad season. That adds up fast. In fact, depending on your threshold for replacement-level, Tarkenton ranks as high as second by this method.

Another legend who rockets up the list is Johnny Unitas. He suffers in lists like these because his bread and butter was never being the most efficient passer in the league; it was carrying a load that few passers before him had attempted to hoist. He led the NFL in attempts, yards, and touchdowns four times apiece. He also led the league in game-winning drives four times and at least shared the lead in fourth quarter comebacks seven times. Despite not being known for his efficiency, he ranks eighth in value above average. By one measure of replacement-level, Unitas ranks third all time in career value above replacement.

One of the things that always interests me most is just how close Tom Brady and Drew Brees are, regardless of how we look at the numbers. Brady has a decent advantage in Value over average, while their numbers are only negligibly different relative to replacement-level. Brees cemented his legacy by bring a title to the forlorn Saints, while Brady is the winningest winner who ever won.6 Three extra rings will put one on the pantheon of NFL quarterbacks, while the other settles for a bronze bust and a gold jacket. That’s how it goes.

Sammy Baugh is widely regarded as one of the finest players – not just quarterbacks – ever to play the game. He was the greatest passer of his era, and he played well for a very long time. In spite of that, his stats don’t stack up with his lofty reputation. That’s because we tend to view stats from the lens of today’s inflated box scores. When we try to put quarterbacks on a more level playing field, as I have tried to do here, we see Baugh stand out as a top ten quarterback in history. In fact, when we sort by the final column, he ranks fifth in total career replacement value.

We’ve worked to make the numbers line up with the narratives, and I think we’ve done a pretty good job thus far. However, there are plenty more steps to take to get where we want to go.

 

  1. You can see all this information in table form here.
  2. Obviously 1932 and 2015 only include two years. Same goes for the first and last years of the AAFC and AFL.
  3. All stats are presented after being prorated to the 16-game season and given the hard inflation adjustment.
  4. Don’t get me wrong, he’s been good in the postseason too. He just hasn’t been the cyborg who devours defenses like he has before January.
  5. Don’t let the lack of titles fool you. This was a great team for a long time.
  6. When we get around to adding playoff performance to the mix, we might see some separation between the two, but I’m going to have to unearth a lot of data before we can get to that part of the analysis.