The consistency and production of NFC North quarterbacks

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Updated: January 25, 2013

This is the second part of a two-part series. In part one, we looked at consistency trends of quarterbacks throughout the NFL. Here we are going to examine in greater detail the consistency and production of the four NFC North quarterbacks.

Excited to look at NFL statistics? Then you, like the author, are a nerd.

Excited to look at NFL statistics? Then you, like the author, are a nerd.

The previous installment featured a study of all 24 NFL quarterbacks who have started at least twenty games for the same team between 2011 and 2012.  Conveniently, Jay Cutler, Christian Ponder, Aaron Rodgers, and Matthew Stafford—all four quarterbacks in the NFC North—fit that description.  So let’s look a little closer at those four in an effort to better understand just how they compare to each other in terms of consistency and overall production.

Chicago's Jay Cutler is the least consistent quarterback in the NFL.

Chicago’s Jay Cutler is the least consistent quarterback in the NFL.

Consistency

The overall numbers showed that Aaron Rodgers was far and away the most consistent of the four quarterbacks; his passer rating standard deviation of 20.5 marked him as the third most consistent in the NFL. Matthew Stafford came in at 23.5, slightly more consistent than average, while Christian Ponder was on the other side of average with a standard deviation of 27.2. With a standard deviation of 30.0, Jay Cutler came in as the least consistent quarterback in the entire league.

Let’s dig in a little deeper to see more clearly the distribution of their games relative to their average passer rating that season. The chart below compares the percentage of games that are within 10.0 points of their average, between 10.1 and 20.0 points of their average, between 20.1 and 30.0 points of their average, and more than 30.0 points away from their average. The table also lists the percentage of games in which the quarterback is more than 50 points away from his average, but it should be noted that this is a subset of the 30 point group and those two are therefore not exclusive of each other.

Difference from Average Passer Rating Average NFL QB Jay Cutler Aaron Rodgers Matthew Stafford Christian Ponder
< 10 31.5% 28% 29.00% 37.50% 37.00%
10.1 to 20.0 25.6% 28% 35.50% 21.90% 14.80%
20.1 to 30.0 20.8% 16% 32.30% 25.00% 14.80%
>30.0 22.1% 28% 3.20% 15.60% 33.30%
>50.0 3.4% 16% 0.00% 3.10% 3.70%

There are a few interesting trends to note here. First, observe that Rodgers, the most consistent quarterback, has a significantly lower percentage of game right at his average than either Stafford or Ponder. What makes Rodgers so consistent is that he avoids the extremely varying games that are more than 30 points from his average passer rating. All of his games basically fall within a range of 60 points (i.e., ± 30 from his average).

That is not the case for the other quarterbacks, particularly Cutler and Ponder; nearly one-third of their games fall more than 30 points from their average passer rating. A large reason why Cutler has the largest standard deviation an insanely high proportion of his games — 16.0% — fall more than 50 points from his average. This is more than four times the NFL average and nearly doubles that of any other quarterback.

Overall production

It is important to note that all of the statistics discussed to this point have been about quarterback’s average and their production relative to that average. This ignores the difference between the average production of the quarterbacks, which can be fairly substantial when you consider that Aaron Rodger’s average passer rating of 114.9 is nearly 30 points better than that of Matthew Stafford, the second-best quarterback in the division with an 88.1 passer rating.

So let’s put some clarity in this discussion by looking at real numbers instead of simply averages. The table below shows the percentage of games that have fallen in various passer ratings by the average NFL quarterback (the 24 in the overall study) and each of the four NFC North quarterbacks. The graph below that shows the same numbers in a visual format (special thanks to WCSN regular Preparation_A for the graph).

Passer Rating NFL Average QB Jay Cutler Aaron Rodgers Matthew Stafford Christian Ponder
<50.0 6.8% 12% 0% 6.3% 14.8%
50.1-60.0 6.5% 8% 0% 3.1% 18.5%
60.1-70.0 9.7% 12% 0% 9.4% 7.4%
70.1-80.0 16.0% 16% 0% 18.8% 14.8%
80.1-90.0 13.3% 12% 16.1% 12.5% 14.8%
90.1-100.0 12.8% 20% 16.1% 9.4% 7.4%
100.1-110.0 13.1% 4% 9.7% 25.0% 11.%
110.1-120.0 8.6% 8% 25.8% 6.3% 7.4%
120.1-130.0 6.5% 0% 3.2% 3.1% 3.7%
130.1-140.0 3.3% 4% 16.1% 6.3% 0%
>140.0 3.5% 4% 12.9% 0% 0%

qb rating

These numbers show three clear groupings in the NFC North quarterbacks. Ponder produces an abnormally high number of bad games without really having many really good ones (only one game with a passer rating above 120), making him a below-average NFL quarterback. To be fair, Ponder has only finished his second year, so he still has significant room to grow. Stafford and Cutler both have roughly average numbers, at least in terms of their most typical passer ratings, although Cutler does have an atypically high number of really bad games.

Minnesota's Christian Ponder has had a passer rating below 75 on over half his career starts.

Minnesota’s Christian Ponder has turned out a passer rating below 75 on over half his career starts.

The true standout here is Aaron Rodgers, as he incredibly has no games with a passer rating below 75 in the last two years (in fact he has none below 80); he is the only quarterback in this study who can claim that remarkable feat. The typical Rodgers game resides in the very good category, with relatively equal numbers of average and great games.

This clearly illustrates the difference between Rodgers and the rest of the NFC North quarterbacks. A bad game for Rodgers, when his passer rating is in the eighties, is an average game for Cutler, Ponder, or Stafford. An average game for Rodgers is a very good or great one for one of the other three.

This is not an earth-shattering revelation. Rodgers is clearly the best quarterback in the NFC North and by most statistical measurements is also the best quarterback in the NFL. It is truly remarkable, however, to look at just how large the gap is between Rodgers and the rest of the quarterbacks in the division.

Conclusion

This is the part for all you lazy bums who don’t feel like doing much reading (that’s all of you, including me). I’m going to put my findings in simple, easy-to-digest bullet points so you can skip all the long, confusing words above!

  • Aaron Rodgers is one of the most consistent quarterbacks in the NFL because he is exceptional at avoiding games with extreme passer ratings (relative to his average).
  • Jay Cutler is the least consistent quarterback in the NFL because he has an incredibly high rate of games that are either really good or really bad.
  • A bad game for Aaron Rodgers is an average game for any other NFC North quarterbacks.
Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers is operating on a different plane of existence than the other NFC North quarterbacks.

Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers is operating on a different plane of existence than the other NFC North quarterbacks.

So there you have it!  I hope you enjoyed this miniseries examining the consistency of NFL quarterbacks. If you think I screwed something up, want to see my raw data, or have an idea for a future study I should do, please send me an email at the email address below with your comments or ideas.

About the author

Jon Vander Woude enjoys writing in-depth analytical articles that examine statistical trends in the NFL offseason. He also covers the Chicago Bears beat for Water Cooler Sports. Despite growing up in Michigan, California, and Miami, he had the good fortune to be reared by a father who grew up in Chicago raised him to root for the Bears, Bulls, and Cubs. Feel free to write him at with any questions, comments, or suggestions for future columns. Connect with

534 comments
jwoude23 Bear Down
jwoude23 Bear Down moderator like.author.displayName 1 Like

Colin Kaepernick made the Packers his personal bitch.

___bp___
___bp___

 I suddenly have serious distaste for this gif.  Is that man just randomly frightening some woman?  I know that paper would never actually have hurt that poor lady, but she may have fallen over out of fright, or dropped whatever goods she was carrying.  It is seriously irresponsible of that young man to exhibit that behavior, and I would hope that we, as a society, would find ways to curb such random non-violence towards our middle aged female populace.

Maized and Confused
Maized and Confused

  

Somthing tells me she wasn't carrying groceries from an apartment into an empty walkway with a mounted Camera sitting on a tripod right in front of her and DIDN'T have an idea of what was happening.

SDL
SDL

... that...

... and the bitch coulda been strapped

SDL
SDL

 

My maternal grandfather had a big black-n-tan foxhound named 'Hercules' (~ 80 lbs) who could kill a cat in about 3/4 of a second


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___bp___

  Cool story?  Bro?

jwoude23 Bear Down
jwoude23 Bear Down moderator like.author.displayName like.author.displayName like.author.displayName 3 Like

   be nice to the old guy with dementia... that'll be you telling random, pointless stories some day

SDL
SDL

Problem was: as he got older, he'd do the same thing to chickens... spent most of his life chained up (when he wasn't hunting foxes)


SDL
SDL

Later draft / FA speculators

BearsSaveLives
BearsSaveLives moderator like.author.displayName like.author.displayName 2 Like

BYE MR. SDL. HAVE FUN AT YOUR BINGO NIGHT.

Maized and Confused
Maized and Confused

  

PFFFT! Shows what you know! Tonight's Bridge night!

SDL
SDL like.author.displayName 1 Like

 

Snortin' whisky and drinkin' cocaine, tonight


jwoude23 Bear Down
jwoude23 Bear Down moderator

main guys who will be FA on offense:

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___bp___

 I think the Pats should consider Jennings.  WR and CB are their big needs before the Brady era ends, and Jennings would fit in.

jwoude23 Bear Down
jwoude23 Bear Down moderator

  I would be thrilled with any of the 4 TEs listed (not counting Gonzo, he retires or stays a Falcon)

jwoude23 Bear Down
jwoude23 Bear Down moderator

   I don't think they need a star there, just someone who can be a solid threat

BearsSaveLives
BearsSaveLives moderator

   He only had one good full year, but he was pretty productive with Carson Palmer.

BearsSaveLives
BearsSaveLives moderator

  What about Brandon Myers from Oakland? He'd be cheap.

jwoude23 Bear Down
jwoude23 Bear Down moderator

  yeah, that won't happen.  I'll be ecstatic if Chicago can get Albert though

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___bp___

  I'd like Jake Long at a reasonable price.

jwoude23 Bear Down
jwoude23 Bear Down moderator

and defense 

Childerz..
Childerz..

  i'd be alright with MN pursuing Sean Smith.... and Dwayne Bowe but I doubt they make much of a splash. 

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___bp___

  Bowe is going to be a tough land.  They have Jennings no. 1, but I think that's BS.  And I love Greggy.

jwoude23 Bear Down
jwoude23 Bear Down moderator

there are worse ways to die

jwoude23 Bear Down
jwoude23 Bear Down moderator

seriously, people this guy died IN A BEER FRIDGE

SDL
SDL

 

Reminds me of a bit by either Richard Pryor or Eddie Murphy... claimed his father died at an advanced age (70's - 80's) while banging a 20-something year old chick...

Childerz..
Childerz.. like.author.displayName like.author.displayName 2 Like

  yeah the story lost its allure when he had some medical issues and didn't die from drinking beer. 

Maized and Confused
Maized and Confused like.author.displayName like.author.displayName like.author.displayName 3 Like

JVince probably goes here:

Childerz..
Childerz.. like.author.displayName 1 Like

  This is soo much win.... think how many of those schmucks choose the bottom one 

jwoude23 Bear Down
jwoude23 Bear Down moderator

 what a great deal!  Wait, what?

natradamus
natradamus moderator like.author.displayName 1 Like

  worried about inflation?  Get locked in on a higher rate today!