Passing First Downs: Best and Worst Seasons

I’m a huge fan of using first downs to measure quarterback performance. Despite ignoring yards, touchdowns, and interceptions, the simple operation of dividing passing 1D by dropbacks does a terrific job of telling us how well a QB has played. Like all statistics, passing 1D% has its flaws, but in my opinion it harbors less distortion than any other simple input passing stat. I place 1D% slightly ahead of NY/A in terms of relevance for making solid evaluations, and miles ahead of everything else. Setting aside any scientific rigor, 1D% passes the smell test.

As far as I know, there has never been a public attempt to organize QB first down data and place it in proper context, so that’s what I’ll be doing today. First, lets take a look at which QB’s contributed the most passing first downs in a single season. The data only goes back to 1991, so this really means “best seasons over the last 26 years.” And this only includes passing first downs, so running QB’s will be underrated here.

I calculate first downs above average by subtracting the league average 1D% from each quarterback’s individual 1D%, giving us Relative 1D%. I then multiply that by their number of dropbacks. I also calculate first downs above replacement by lowering the league average by three percentage points. I prefer 1D/Avg when we’re evaluating the very best QB’s, as 1D/Rep tends to overrate compilers. Here are the top 200 seasons since 1991, minimum 100 dropbacks:

#QuarterbackTeamYearDpbk1D/Avg1D/RepRelative1D%Pa1D
1Peyton ManningDEN201367773.093.310.8%42.7%289
2Peyton ManningIND200451071.486.714.0%45.5%232
3Peyton ManningIND200657163.480.511.1%42.2%241
4Drew BreesNO201168158.779.18.6%40.8%278
5Kurt WarnerSTL200158456.073.69.6%39.9%233
6Tom BradyNE201164354.073.28.4%40.6%261
7Peyton ManningIND200958152.870.39.1%40.8%237
8Peyton ManningIND200547051.865.911.0%41.9%197
9Matt RyanATL201657150.767.88.9%41.7%238
10Carson PalmerARI201556249.566.38.8%41.1%231
11Philip RiversSD201057949.366.78.5%40.4%234
12Tom BradyNE200759948.366.38.1%40.1%240
13Philip RiversSD201357446.964.18.2%40.1%230
14Philip RiversSD200951146.061.39.0%40.7%208
15Kurt WarnerSTL200036741.852.811.4%41.7%153
16Trent GreenKC200458841.859.47.1%38.6%227
17Tony RomoDAL200754440.957.27.5%39.5%215
18Drew BreesNO200953440.756.77.6%39.3%210
19Drew BreesNO201269640.561.45.8%38.2%266
20Tom BradyNE201266439.959.86.0%38.4%255
21Kurt WarnerSTL199952839.255.07.4%37.1%196
22Aaron RodgersGB201454838.755.17.1%40.0%219
23Chad PenningtonNYJ200242138.651.29.2%39.7%167
24Mark RypienWAS199142838.551.39.0%39.5%169
25Brett FavreGB199560338.356.46.3%37.6%227
26Steve YoungSF199349338.152.97.7%38.1%188
27Matt RyanATL201264337.757.05.9%38.3%246
28Vinny TestaverdeNYJ199844037.650.88.5%38.6%170
29Steve McNairTEN200341937.550.08.9%39.1%164
30Matt SchaubHOU200960837.355.56.1%37.8%230
31Philip RiversSD201161236.955.36.0%38.2%234
32Daunte CulpepperMIN200459436.954.76.2%37.7%224
33Daunte CulpepperMIN200050836.151.37.1%37.4%190
34Tony RomoDAL201446536.050.07.7%40.6%189
35Jim KellyBUF199150536.051.17.1%37.6%190
36Steve YoungSF199449236.050.77.3%38.2%188
37Steve YoungSF199856535.952.96.4%36.5%206
38Matt HasselbeckSEA200547335.850.07.6%38.5%182
39Peyton ManningIND199954735.552.06.5%36.2%198
40Aaron RodgersGB201153834.850.96.5%38.7%208
41Jim KellyBUF199248234.448.97.1%37.3%180
42Drew BreesNO201670034.455.44.9%37.7%264
43Peyton ManningDEN201260434.352.45.7%38.1%230
44Trent GreenKC200354334.050.36.3%36.5%198
45Peyton ManningIND200059133.951.75.7%36.0%213
46Carson PalmerCIN200552833.849.76.4%37.3%197
47Peyton ManningIND200358433.651.25.8%36.0%210
48Peyton ManningIND200753633.549.66.2%38.2%205
49Troy AikmanDAL199544633.446.87.5%38.8%173
50Erik KramerCHI199553732.949.06.1%37.4%201
51Philip RiversSD200850332.647.66.5%38.0%191
52Chris ChandlerATL199837232.043.28.6%38.7%144
53Ben RoethlisbergerPIT201155331.948.55.8%38.0%210
54Brett FavreMIN200956531.948.85.6%37.3%211
55Tony RomoDAL200635831.742.48.8%39.9%143
56Drew BreesNO201468831.652.34.6%37.5%258
57Peyton ManningIND201069531.352.14.5%36.4%253
58Dan MarinoMIA199550431.246.46.2%37.5%189
59Randall CunninghamMIN199844531.144.47.0%37.1%165
60Peyton ManningIND200856930.847.85.4%36.9%210
61Tom BradyNE200450030.545.56.1%37.6%188
62Steve YoungSF199739130.141.87.7%37.6%147
63Steve YoungSF199243129.842.86.9%37.1%160
64Tom BradyNE200958129.847.35.1%36.8%214
65Brett FavreGB199753829.145.35.4%35.3%190
66Ben RoethlisbergerPIT201464129.148.34.5%37.4%240
67Brian GrieseDEN200035329.039.68.2%38.5%136
68Scott MitchellDET199561428.847.24.7%36.0%221
69Matt SchaubHOU201060628.746.94.7%36.6%222
70Brett FavreGB200455228.144.75.1%36.6%202
71Drew BreesNO200864827.947.34.3%35.8%232
72Jeff GarciaSF200058527.745.34.7%35.0%205
73Ben RoethlisbergerPIT200432527.637.48.5%40.0%130
74Troy AikmanDAL199139527.539.47.0%37.5%148
75Rich GannonOAK199956427.544.44.9%34.6%195
76Rich GannonOAK200265426.546.24.1%34.6%226
77Peyton ManningIND200157626.543.84.6%34.9%201
78John ElwayDEN199837426.437.67.1%37.2%139
79Kerry CollinsNYG200055726.242.94.7%35.0%195
80Troy AikmanDAL199249626.241.15.3%35.5%176
81Carson PalmerCIN200655626.142.84.7%35.8%199
82Doug FlutieBUF199836625.836.87.1%37.2%136
83Brett FavreGB200153225.841.84.9%35.2%187
84Ben RoethlisbergerPIT200955625.742.44.6%36.3%202
85Peyton ManningIND200261425.744.24.2%34.7%213
86Brett FavreGB199858925.743.44.4%34.5%203
87Rich GannonOAK200050125.240.25.0%35.3%177
88Damon HuardKC200626025.132.99.7%40.8%106
89Troy AikmanDAL199341824.937.56.0%36.4%152
90Drew BreesNO201368724.845.53.6%35.5%244
91Trent GreenKC200249624.739.65.0%35.5%176
92Jay CutlerDEN200862724.543.33.9%35.4%222
93Warren MoonHOU199167824.244.63.6%34.1%231
94Cam NewtonCAR201552924.140.04.6%36.9%195
95Tom BradyNE201051724.139.64.7%36.6%189
96Ben RoethlisbergerPIT200745123.737.25.3%37.3%168
97Steve BeuerleinCAR199962123.642.23.8%33.5%208
98Carson PalmerCIN200759223.641.34.0%36.0%213
99Kurt WarnerARI200862423.442.23.8%35.3%220
100Tony RomoDAL201155823.340.14.2%36.4%203
101Dan MarinoMIA199157623.340.64.0%34.5%199
102Dak PrescottDAL201648423.237.84.8%37.6%182
103Drew BreesNO200657223.140.34.0%35.1%201
104Bobby HebertNO199243723.036.15.3%35.5%155
105Peyton ManningDEN201461423.041.43.7%36.6%225
106Gus FrerotteWAS199649223.037.74.7%35.4%174
107Warren MoonHOU199236222.733.56.3%36.5%132
108Chad PenningtonMIA200850022.537.54.5%36.0%180
109Elvis GrbacKC200057622.539.83.9%34.2%197
110Andrew LuckIND201464322.541.73.5%36.4%234
111Jeff GarciaSF200153022.438.34.2%34.5%183
112Drew BledsoeNE199471321.743.13.0%33.9%242
113Mark BrunellJAC199660721.739.93.6%34.3%208
114Tom BradyNE201460321.639.73.6%36.5%220
115Aaron RodgersGB201050621.636.84.3%36.2%183
116Steve McNairTEN200251321.536.94.2%34.7%178
117Matt HasselbeckSEA200244521.334.64.8%35.3%157
118Tom BradyNE200555621.237.93.8%34.7%193
119Marc BulgerSTL200356921.238.23.7%33.9%193
120Ben RoethlisbergerPIT200529121.129.87.2%38.1%111
121Vinny TestaverdeBAL199658321.038.53.6%34.3%200
122Brett FavreGB200755021.037.53.8%35.8%197
123Matt RyanATL201564421.040.33.3%35.6%229
124Kurt WarnerARI200953720.836.93.9%35.6%191
125Boomer EsiasonNYJ199349120.735.54.2%34.6%170
126Daunte CulpepperMIN200349120.735.44.2%34.4%169
127Wade WilsonATL199217120.425.511.9%42.1%72
128Kirk CousinsWAS201556920.237.33.6%35.9%204
129Dan MarinoMIA199756820.237.23.6%33.5%190
130Mark BrunellJAC199746820.134.14.3%34.2%160
131Steve YoungSF199129219.928.76.8%37.3%109
132Jim EverettNO199456119.736.53.5%34.4%193
133Jameis WinstonTB201556219.536.33.5%35.8%201
134Rich GannonOAK200157619.536.83.4%33.7%194
135Kerry CollinsNYG200256919.536.53.4%33.9%193
136Matt HasselbeckSEA200355519.436.03.5%33.7%187
137Drew BreesSD200552719.235.03.6%34.5%182
138Matthew StaffordDET201275619.141.72.5%34.9%264
139Matt SchaubHOU200840319.131.14.7%36.2%146
140Nick FolesPHI201334518.929.35.5%37.4%129
141Matt SchaubHOU201130818.828.16.1%38.3%118
142Chad PenningtonNYJ200332218.828.45.8%36.0%116
143Kirk CousinsWAS201662918.737.63.0%35.8%225
144Jake PlummerDEN200331618.628.05.9%36.1%114
145Jim KellyBUF199349518.533.43.7%34.1%169
146Dan MarinoMIA199463318.437.42.9%33.8%214
147Drew BreesNO200766818.238.32.7%34.7%232
148Matt HasselbeckSEA200450418.233.43.6%35.1%177
149Drew BreesNO201068318.138.62.7%34.6%236
150Brett FavreGB200349018.032.73.7%33.9%166
151Vinny TestaverdeCLE199540918.030.34.4%35.7%146
152Matthew StaffordDET201169917.938.92.6%34.8%243
153Tony RomoDAL200958417.935.43.1%34.8%203
154Ben RoethlisbergerPIT200651517.833.33.5%34.6%178
155Steve DeBergKC199145317.831.43.9%34.4%156
156Matthew StaffordDET201563617.636.72.8%35.1%223
157Eli ManningNYG201161717.335.82.8%35.0%216
158Boomer EsiasonCIN199719317.323.19.0%38.9%75
159Steve McNairTEN200146817.231.23.7%34.0%159
160Donovan McNabbPHI200450117.232.23.4%34.9%175
161Jeff GarciaSF199939017.228.94.4%34.1%133
162Troy AikmanDAL199437517.128.44.6%35.5%133
163Marc BulgerSTL200222617.123.97.6%38.1%86
164Matt SchaubHOU201257117.034.13.0%35.4%202
165Jay CutlerDEN200749416.931.73.4%35.4%175
166Jim EverettLRm199250116.731.73.3%33.5%168
167Steve YoungSF199635016.627.14.7%35.4%124
168Jameis WinstonTB201660216.534.62.7%35.5%214
169Russell WilsonSEA201552816.532.33.1%35.4%187
170Joe FlaccoBAL200953516.432.53.1%34.8%186
171Tom BradyNE201644716.429.83.7%36.5%163
172Kurt WarnerARI200747116.330.43.5%35.5%167
173Dan MarinoMIA199258216.233.72.8%33.0%192
174Matt BarkleyCHI201622216.222.87.3%40.1%89
175Ben RoethlisbergerPIT201548916.130.73.3%35.6%174
176Andy DaltonCIN201540615.928.03.9%36.2%147
177Joe MontanaKC199331015.825.15.1%35.5%110
178Aaron RodgersGB201260315.633.72.6%35.0%211
179Philip RiversSD200648715.530.23.2%34.3%167
180Drew BledsoeBUF200266415.535.42.3%32.8%218
181Drew BreesNO201565815.535.22.4%34.7%228
182Trent GreenKC200553915.431.62.9%33.8%182
183Jake DelhommeCAR200843415.328.33.5%35.0%152
184David GarrardJAC200734615.325.74.4%36.4%126
185Jake PlummerDEN200453615.231.22.8%34.3%184
186Jim EverettNO199559415.132.92.5%33.8%201
187Josh McCownCHI201323515.022.16.4%38.3%90
188Brett FavreGB199658315.032.52.6%33.3%194
189Jay FiedlerMIA200230515.024.14.9%35.4%108
190Eli ManningNYG201055515.031.62.7%34.6%192
191Matt RyanATL200845114.928.53.3%34.8%157
192Gus FrerotteWAS199742514.927.73.5%33.4%142
193Ryan TannehillMIA201463614.833.82.3%35.2%224
194Steve BeuerleinCAR200059514.732.62.5%32.8%195
195Ben RoethlisbergerPIT201042114.727.33.5%35.4%149
196Mark BrunellJAC199947014.428.53.1%32.8%154
197Matt RyanATL201159214.432.12.4%34.6%205
198Marc BulgerSTL200452614.330.12.7%34.2%180
199Jake PlummerDEN200547814.328.63.0%33.9%162
200Sage RosenfelsHOU200724614.321.75.8%37.8%93
My first downs are a bigger deal than Eli’s rings.

Peyton Manning dominates this metric, sweeping the top three seasons and filling five of the top eight. His 2004 season stands in a league of its own when it comes to pure efficiency; Peyton moved the chains 45.5% of the time compared to that season’s average of 31.5%. Beyond Manning , we find that all of the greatest recent seasons by conventional wisdom also shine when measured by 1D%. Again, this is completely ignoring ¬†ANY/A, Passer Rating, DVOA, QBR, etc. Perhaps complicated isn’t always better?

Now let’s flip the table and laugh at the worst QB seasons by first down percentage. In this context, replacement level makes for a much better baseline than league average, because even mediocre starters provide enough value to justify their continued play. But if a player can’t even clear the low bar of replacement level, we can confidently say that he really sucks.

#QuarterbackTeamYearDpbk1D/Avg1D/RepRelative1D%Pa1D
1165Blake BortlesJAC2014530-42.4-26.5-8.0%24.9%132
1164David CarrHOU2002520-41.6-26.0-8.0%22.5%117
1163Matt CasselKC2009535-41.6-25.5-7.8%23.9%128
1162Akili SmithCIN2000303-33.8-24.7-11.2%19.1%58
1161Derek CarrOAK2014623-42.0-23.3-6.7%26.2%163
1160Blaine GabbertJAC2011453-36.9-23.3-8.1%24.1%109
1159Jimmy ClausenCAR2010332-32.9-22.9-9.9%22.0%73
1158JaMarcus RussellOAK2009279-30.4-22.1-10.9%20.8%58
1157Jared GoffLAR2016231-28.8-21.8-12.5%20.3%47
1156Nick FolesSTL2015351-31.4-20.8-8.9%23.4%82
1155Bruce GradkowskiTB2006353-30.8-20.2-8.7%22.4%79
1154Kyle OrtonCHI2005398-31.0-19.0-7.8%23.1%92
1153David KlinglerCIN1993383-30.4-18.9-7.9%22.5%86
1152Bobby HoyingPHI1998259-26.0-18.2-10.0%20.1%52
1151Bubby BristerNYJ1995186-23.2-17.6-12.5%18.8%35
1150Chris WeinkeCAR2001566-34.5-17.5-6.1%24.2%137
1149Alex SmithSF2005194-22.9-17.1-11.8%19.1%37
1148Doug PedersonCLE2000227-23.8-17.0-10.5%19.8%45
1147Ryan FitzpatrickCIN2008410-29.2-16.9-7.1%24.4%100
1146Cade McNownCHI2000307-26.0-16.8-8.5%21.8%67
1145Kelly StoufferSEA1992216-23.2-16.8-10.8%19.4%42
1144Blaine GabbertJAC2012300-25.2-16.2-8.4%24.0%72
1143Brady QuinnKC2012218-22.6-16.1-10.4%22.0%48
1142JP LosmanBUF2005254-23.5-15.9-9.2%21.7%55
1141Ryan LindleyARI2012183-21.3-15.8-11.6%20.8%38
1140Ryan LeafSD2000353-26.0-15.4-7.4%22.9%81
1139Marc BulgerSTL2008478-29.6-15.2-6.2%25.3%121
1138Chad HutchinsonDAL2002284-23.6-15.1-8.3%22.2%63
1137Alex SmithSF2009394-26.9-15.1-6.8%24.9%98
1136Danny KanellNYG1998321-24.6-15.0-7.7%22.4%72
1135Tim CouchCLE1999455-28.1-14.5-6.2%23.5%107
1134Alex SmithSF2007210-20.2-13.9-9.6%22.4%47
1133Chad HenneJAC2012336-23.9-13.8-7.1%25.3%85
1132Tim TebowDEN2011304-21.9-12.8-7.2%25.0%76
1131Stan GelbaughSEA1992289-21.3-12.6-7.4%22.8%66
1130Derek AndersonCLE2009193-18.2-12.4-9.4%22.3%43
1129Luke McCownCLE2004110-15.7-12.4-14.2%17.3%19
1128Kent GrahamNYG1992104-15.4-12.3-14.8%15.4%16
1127Brodie CroyleKC2007241-19.1-11.9-7.9%24.1%58
1126Rich GannonOAK2003242-19.1-11.8-7.9%22.3%54
1125Mark RypienWAS1993335-21.8-11.8-6.5%23.9%80
1124Joey HarringtonDET2004525-27.4-11.6-5.2%26.3%138
1123Don MajkowskiGB1991256-19.1-11.4-7.5%23.0%59
1122David CarrCAR2007149-15.7-11.2-10.5%21.5%32
1121David KlinglerCIN1994255-18.8-11.1-7.4%23.5%60
1120Cody CarlsonHOU1994147-15.4-11.0-10.5%20.4%30
1119Dave BrownARI1999187-16.5-10.9-8.8%20.9%39
1118Akili SmithCIN1999172-16.1-10.9-9.4%20.3%35
1117Jesse PalmerNYG2003132-14.9-10.9-11.3%18.9%25
1116Sam BradfordSTL2011393-22.5-10.8-5.7%26.5%104
1115Craig KrenzelCHI2004150-15.3-10.8-10.2%21.3%32
1114Shaun HillSF2009173-15.8-10.7-9.2%22.5%39
1113Jake PlummerARI2002566-27.6-10.7-4.9%25.6%145
1112Josh McCownTB2014363-21.4-10.5-5.9%27.0%98
1111EJ ManuelBUF2013334-20.5-10.5-6.2%25.7%86
1110Andrew WalterOAK2006322-20.1-10.5-6.3%24.8%80
1109Jason CampbellCLE2013333-20.2-10.2-6.1%25.8%86
1108Joey HarringtonATL2007380-21.6-10.2-5.7%26.3%100
1107Joey HarringtonDET2002437-23.3-10.2-5.3%25.2%110
1106Matt CasselDAL2015219-16.7-10.2-7.6%24.7%54
1105Donovan McNabbPHI1999244-17.5-10.1-7.2%22.5%55
1104John BeckMIA2007117-13.4-9.9-11.5%20.5%24
1103Cleo LemonMIA2007334-19.9-9.9-6.0%26.0%87
1102Eli ManningNYG2004210-16.2-9.9-7.7%23.8%50
1101Jim EverettNO1996483-24.3-9.8-5.0%25.7%124
1100Craig WhelihanSD1998335-19.8-9.8-5.9%24.2%81
1099Boomer EsiasonCIN1992297-18.7-9.8-6.3%23.9%71
1098Chad HutchinsonCHI2004184-15.0-9.4-8.1%23.4%43
1097Trent Edwards2TM2010112-12.7-9.4-11.4%20.5%23
1096Trent DilferSF2007246-16.7-9.3-6.8%25.2%62
1095Donovan McNabbPHI2001532-25.2-9.2-4.7%25.6%136
1094Sean SalisburySD1996174-14.4-9.2-8.3%22.4%39
1093John SkeltonARI2010135-13.1-9.0-9.7%22.2%30
1092Jeff BlakeARI2003386-20.6-9.0-5.3%24.9%96
1091Michael VickNYJ2014140-13.1-8.9-9.3%23.6%33
1090Jake DelhommeCLE2010155-13.4-8.8-8.7%23.2%36
1089Colin KaepernickSF2015272-16.9-8.7-6.2%26.1%71
1088Todd CollinsBUF1997430-21.6-8.7-5.0%24.9%107
1087Bryce PettyNYJ2016146-12.9-8.5-8.8%24.0%35
1086John SkeltonARI2012216-15.0-8.5-6.9%25.5%55
1085Colin KaepernickSF2016367-19.4-8.4-5.3%27.5%101
1084Ryan LeafSD1998267-16.4-8.4-6.1%24.0%64
1083Tony BanksHOU2003115-11.7-8.3-10.2%20.0%23
1082Ryan FitzpatrickBUF2009248-15.6-8.2-6.3%25.4%63
1081Ken DorseySF2004239-15.3-8.1-6.4%25.1%60
1080Aaron RodgersGB2015618-26.6-8.1-4.3%28.0%173
1079Kordell StewartPIT1998491-22.8-8.1-4.6%25.5%125
1078Charlie WhitehurstSEA2010104-11.2-8.1-10.7%21.2%22
1077Jim KellyBUF1995484-22.5-8.0-4.6%26.7%129
1076Stoney CaseBAL1999187-13.5-7.9-7.2%22.5%42
1075Keith NullSTL2009132-11.8-7.9-9.0%22.7%30
1074Eric ZeierCLE1995176-13.1-7.8-7.4%23.9%42
1073Nick FolesPHI2012285-16.3-7.8-5.7%26.7%76
1072Jeff GarciaCLE2004276-15.9-7.7-5.8%25.7%71
1071Chris ChandlerCHI2002184-13.1-7.6-7.1%23.4%43
1070Drew BreesSD2003377-18.9-7.5-5.0%25.2%95
1069Billy Joe TolliverHOU1994267-15.5-7.5-5.8%25.1%67
1068Zach MettenbergerTEN2015179-12.8-7.4-7.2%25.1%45
1067Steve StenstromSF1999110-10.7-7.4-9.7%20.0%22
1066Robert Griffin IIICLE2016169-12.4-7.4-7.4%25.4%43
1065Danny WuerffelNO1997109-10.6-7.3-9.7%20.2%22
1064Jay FiedlerMIA2004215-13.7-7.3-6.4%25.1%54
1063Kyle BollerBAL2004499-22.2-7.2-4.4%27.1%135
1062Danny KanellNYG1997313-16.6-7.2-5.3%24.6%77
1061Brooks BollingerNYJ2005298-16.1-7.1-5.4%25.5%76
1060Neil O'DonnellCIN1998373-18.3-7.1-4.9%25.2%94
1059Mike McMahonPHI2005226-13.8-7.1-6.1%24.8%56
1058Josh JohnsonTB2009136-11.1-7.0-8.2%23.5%32
1057Brock OsweilerHOU2016537-23.1-7.0-4.3%28.5%153
1056AJ FeeleyMIA2004379-18.4-7.0-4.9%26.6%101
1055Kent GrahamPIT2000161-11.8-7.0-7.3%23.0%37
1054Blaine GabbertSF2015307-16.2-7.0-5.3%27.0%83
1053Robert Griffin IIIWAS2014247-14.3-6.9-5.8%27.1%67
1052Craig EricksonTB1993492-21.6-6.8-4.4%26.0%128
1051Daunte CulpepperDET2008129-10.6-6.8-8.2%23.3%30
1050Jimmy Clausen2TM2015132-10.6-6.7-8.1%24.2%32
1049Charlie BatchDET2000453-20.3-6.7-4.5%25.8%117
1048Jake LockerTEN2012339-16.8-6.7-5.0%27.4%93
1047Charlie FryeCLE2006436-19.6-6.5-4.5%26.6%116
1046Rex GrossmanCHI2007250-14.0-6.5-5.6%26.4%66
1045Vinny TestaverdeCAR2007181-11.9-6.5-6.6%25.4%46
1044Erik KramerCHI1996157-11.2-6.5-7.1%23.6%37
1043Will FurrerHOU1995104-9.6-6.4-9.2%22.1%23
1042Craig WhelihanSD1997258-14.1-6.4-5.5%24.4%63
1041Bernie Kosar2TM1993224-13.1-6.4-5.8%24.6%55
1040Caleb HanieCHI2011121-10.0-6.3-8.2%24.0%29
1039Tony BanksSTL1996416-18.7-6.2-4.5%26.2%109
1038Joey HarringtonDET2003563-23.0-6.1-4.1%26.1%147
1037Trent EdwardsBUF2009206-12.3-6.1-6.0%25.7%53
1036Joe FlaccoBAL2016705-27.2-6.1-3.9%28.9%204
1035Kordell StewartCHI2003276-14.4-6.1-5.2%25.0%69
1034Rick MirerCHI1997119-9.6-6.0-8.1%21.8%26
1033Matt HasselbeckSEA2001359-16.8-6.0-4.7%25.6%92
1032Elvis GrbacKC1998199-11.9-5.9-6.0%24.1%48
1031Brady QuinnCLE2009275-14.2-5.9-5.2%26.5%73
1030Rick MirerNYJ1999198-11.8-5.9-6.0%23.7%47
1029Rick MirerSEA1994408-18.1-5.8-4.4%26.5%108
1028Mark BrunellWAS2004252-13.4-5.8-5.3%26.2%66
1027Mike GlennonTB2013456-19.5-5.8-4.3%27.6%126
1026Austin DavisCLE2015105-8.9-5.8-8.5%23.8%25
1025John ElwayDEN1992352-16.3-5.7-4.6%25.6%90
1024Tarvaris JacksonSEA2011492-20.4-5.7-4.2%28.0%138
1023Jay SchroederLRd1992278-14.0-5.6-5.0%25.2%70
1022Browning NagleNYJ1992414-18.0-5.6-4.4%25.8%107
1021David KlinglerCIN1992116-9.0-5.6-7.8%22.4%26
1020Rick MirerSEA1996287-14.1-5.5-4.9%25.8%74
1019Jon KitnaDET2008135-9.5-5.5-7.1%24.4%33
1018Koy DetmerPHI1998186-11.0-5.4-5.9%24.2%45
1017Kyle BollerSTL2009193-11.2-5.4-5.8%25.9%50
1016Chad HenneJAC2013541-21.6-5.3-4.0%27.9%151
1015Quincy CarterDAL2001188-11.0-5.3-5.8%24.5%46
1014Chris ChandlerPHO1993107-8.5-5.3-8.0%22.4%24
1013Kirk CousinsWAS2013160-10.0-5.2-6.3%25.6%41
1012Josh McCownOAK2007204-11.3-5.2-5.5%26.5%54
1011Anthony WrightDAL2001103-8.2-5.1-8.0%22.3%23
1010Chris ChandlerCHI2003206-11.2-5.0-5.4%24.8%51
1009John SkeltonARI2011298-14.0-5.0-4.7%27.5%82
1008Brandon WeedenCLE2013294-13.8-5.0-4.7%27.2%80
1007Glenn FoleyNYJ1996119-8.5-5.0-7.2%23.5%28
1006Doug PedersonPHI1999247-12.4-4.9-5.0%24.7%61
1005Jeff GarciaDET2005179-10.3-4.9-5.8%25.1%45
1004Dave BrownNYG1997193-10.7-4.9-5.5%24.4%47
1003Jim MillerCHI2001406-17.0-4.8-4.2%26.1%106
1002Scott ZolakNE1992117-8.3-4.8-7.1%23.1%27
1001Josh Freeman2TM2013155-9.4-4.8-6.1%25.8%40
1000Derek AndersonARI2010352-15.3-4.7-4.3%27.6%97
999Charlie WhitehurstTEN2014203-10.8-4.7-5.3%27.6%56
998Curtis PainterIND2011259-12.4-4.6-4.8%27.4%71
997Jeff Kemp2TM1991315-14.1-4.6-4.5%26.0%82
996Rodney PeetePHI1995408-16.7-4.5-4.1%27.2%111
995Scott MitchellCIN2000203-10.5-4.4-5.2%25.1%51
994Byron LeftwichTB2009109-7.6-4.3-6.9%24.8%27
993Heath ShulerWAS1994277-12.6-4.3-4.5%26.4%73
992Heath ShulerNO1997224-11.0-4.3-4.9%25.0%56
991AJ FeeleySTL2011107-7.5-4.2-7.0%25.2%27
990Troy SmithSF2010163-9.0-4.1-5.5%26.4%43
989Matthew StaffordDET2009401-16.1-4.1-4.0%27.7%111
988Daunte CulpepperDET2009171-9.2-4.1-5.4%26.3%45
987Chris RedmanBAL2002193-9.9-4.1-5.1%25.4%49
986Rick MirerSEA1993533-20.0-4.0-3.8%26.6%142
985Chris Chandler2TM1991171-9.2-4.0-5.4%25.1%43
984Seneca WallaceCLE2011113-7.4-4.0-6.5%25.7%29
983Randall CunninghamPHI1995134-7.9-3.9-5.9%25.4%34
982Charlie FryeCLE2005186-9.5-3.9-5.1%25.8%48
981Tim CouchCLE2001505-19.0-3.9-3.8%26.5%134
980Danny KanellATL2000124-7.6-3.9-6.1%24.2%30
979Chris WeinkeCAR2006106-7.0-3.8-6.6%24.5%26
978Mike McMahonDET2002159-8.5-3.7-5.3%25.2%40
977Jake PlummerARI2000497-18.6-3.7-3.7%26.6%132
976Dan OrlovskyDET2008269-11.7-3.7-4.4%27.1%73
975Shane MatthewsWAS2002246-11.0-3.6-4.5%26.0%64
974Brad JohnsonTB2004111-7.0-3.6-6.3%25.2%28
973Bobby HebertNO1991264-11.5-3.6-4.4%26.1%69
972Kent GrahamARI1997266-11.5-3.6-4.3%25.6%68
971Kyle BollerBAL2003241-10.8-3.6-4.5%25.7%62
970Tim RattayTB2006105-6.7-3.5-6.3%24.8%26
969Danny WuerffelNO1998142-7.7-3.5-5.5%24.6%35
968Todd CollinsBUF1996110-6.8-3.5-6.2%24.5%27
967Alex Van PeltBUF1997128-7.3-3.4-5.7%24.2%31
966Rob JohnsonTB2002107-6.6-3.4-6.2%24.3%26
God hates Jags.

And the loser is…Blake Bortles! The rookie was impotent beyond belief for the 2014 Jaguars, “contributing” 26.5 first downs below a generic pine rider. Scroll down the list and you’ll see a who’s who of bad quarterbacks and terrified rookies. Recent darling Derek Carr had a rookie year almost as worthless as the sack-fest turned in by older brother David 12 years prior. Matt Cassel left the comfy confines of Bill Belichick’s system and fell flat on his face during his first season in Kansas City. Last year, Jared Goff registered the poorest Relative 1D% of any QB with 200+ dropbacks in a season – worse than the floors of JaMarcus Russell, Akili Smith, and Ryan Leaf, worse than the famously putrid `92 Seahawks QB duo. Jared Goff was unspeakably bad in 2016 no matter how you choose to measure it.

I’m not the worst! Let’s celebrate with some purple drank.

What stands out to you? Is there anyone who you think is systematically overrated or underrated by first down percentage? In any event, stay tuned for the career rankings later this week.

 

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  • Wolverine

    I really like the idea of using 1st downs as the primary stat. We all know how overrated total yards are. Passing touchdowns are influenced too much by playcalling. Interceptions are too random (can be artificially inflated by bad luck, or having to take risks to catch up when your defense is bad……or they can be artificially depressed by a risk-averse QB or one that takes too many sacks). Completion percentage has been undergoing constant inflation since the turn of the century. Passing 1st downs, on the other hand…you can’t hide from those.

    The amount of Lions quarterbacks that show up on this list makes me want to cry, in addition to dredging up some bad memories. 2008-2009 was especially rough….yeesh.