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Combating rating inflation: introducing Relative Complete Quarterback Rating (RCQBR)

In 2007, New England Patriots quarterback produced a season for the ages, at least according to the WCSN Relative Quarterback Rating (RCQBR) system.

Recently, our venerable SportsNerd columnist Andy Froehle published the results of his study on trends in quarterback performances over the past two decades as measured by the WCSN Complete Quarterback Rating (CQBR).

One of his findings was that average CQBR has risen on average about 0.6 points per season since 1992. That raises the interesting question of how long will it be before NFL quarterback performances have become so inflated that CQBR becomes an outdated metric, much as NFL passer rating has in recent years? What used to be considered an average passer rating would seem laughably poor by today’s standards.

Peyton Manning's 2004 season was one of the greatest performances of the past decade as measured by RCQBR.

Peyton Manning’s 2004 season was one of the greatest performances of the past decade as measured by RCQBR.

Well, what if there were a way to avoid the problem of rating inflation altogether? What if we could create a metric that would be useful 10, 20, even 100 years from now? What if it no longer mattered that the league was becoming more pass oriented or that rule changes were affecting the nature of the game?

Enter Relative Complete Quarterback Rating, which is such a mouthful that we’ll refer to it by the only slightly less onerous abbreviation RCQBR from now on.

What RCQBR is

RCQBR enables us to compare quarterback performances across years, decades, and even eras. It does this by comparing a quarterback’s rating relative to that of his peers from that particular season alone. In other words, a quarterback who is in the 75th percentile for CQBR in 1981 will have the same RCQBR as a quarterback who is in the 75th percentile in 2011. With RCQBR we are able to see how much of a standout — good or bad — a quarterback is in his own time.

If this sounds a lot like previous explanations we’ve made of the statistical tool known as the z-score, there’s a good reason for that. Although it has a fancy name, RCQBR is really just a mapping of a rather arcane statistical measure with numbers like numbers like -2.8 or +1.3 onto an easy-to-understand 100-point scale. For the sake of consistency and more importantly clarity, we derived the scale for RCQBR in the same way we did for CQBR, so it’s no coincidence that RCQBRs look exactly like CQBRs.

To be more specific, we set a z-score of -2.0 (roughly 2nd percentile) to equal zero on the scale, while a z-score of +2.0 (roughly 98th percentile) equals 100 on the scale.

The fact that a quarterback’s RCQBR for a season is relative only to the ratings of other quarterbacks in that season has the positive effect that mean (average) RCQBR never changes between seasons. By definition, it is exactly equal to 50 every year. The following graph illustrates how RCQBR combats rating creep:

Figure 1. Although mean CQBR has steadily risen leaguewide since 2002, mean RCQBR has remained exactly the same.

What this means is that no matter how much the NFL tinkers with the game to favor passing or how talented the athletes on the field become, we will always be able to compare the greatness of one quarterback’s season to another’s over time.

What RCQBR is not

It cannot be stressed strongly enough that RCQBR is a relative rating, not an absolute one. There is not in the strictest sense a formula for RCQBR, so no quarterback will have just one fixed RCQBR. His rating will be will be affected by the sample population against which he is being compared.

For example, RCQBRs listed in this article were derived from the average CQBR for all quarterbacks with more than 100 passing attempts in a season. If the sample size was limited to, say, only quarterbacks with at least 300 passing attempts or only quarterbacks who started all 16 games, the results might be quite different. The important thing is to be consistent with the criteria used across all seasons being compared.

RCQBR is not in any way intended to replace CQBR. It is strictly intended to complement CQBR. Average quarterback ratings will continue to rise for the foreseeable future, but RCQBR gives us the ability to answer riveting questions like “Compared to other quarterbacks around the league performed, was Peyton Manning’s 2004 season CQBR of 107.27 really more impressive than Tom Brady’s 2007 rating of 102.90?

Well, was it?

Top 25 seasons by RCQBR, 2002-2012

Season Player CQBR z-score RCQBR
2007 Tom Brady 102.90 2.83 120.86
2011 Aaron Rodgers 104.86 2.73 118.25
2004 Peyton Manning 107.27 2.66 116.52
2006 Peyton Manning 86.77 2.63 115.65
2011 Drew Brees 99.15 2.42 110.61
2002 Chad Pennington 86.18 2.16 104.07
2010 Tom Brady 92.11 2.14 103.53
2008 Philip Rivers 82.81 1.95 98.67
2005 Peyton Manning 83.58 1.93 98.36
2009 Drew Brees 91.14 1.87 96.72
2005 Carson Palmer 82.09 1.85 96.32
2003 Peyton Manning 77.89 1.83 95.74
2002 Marc Bulger 80.95 1.82 95.57
2006 Donovan McNabb 75.03 1.79 94.85
2012 Peyton Manning 89.75 1.79 94.75
2009 Brett Favre 89.28 1.78 94.57
2011 Tom Brady 86.64 1.76 93.89
2004 Daunte Culpepper 87.31 1.70 92.46
2005 Ben Roethlisberger 78.92 1.68 91.98
2008 Peyton Manning 78.65 1.67 91.79
2003 Steve McNair 74.67 1.64 91.03
2012 Aaron Rodgers 86.76 1.63 90.66
2010 Aaron Rodgers 83.02 1.62 90.45
2007 Peyton Manning 80.29 1.62 90.44
2006 Drew Brees 72.14 1.59 89.74

Table 1. The top 25 quarterback season performances between 2002 and 2012 as measured by Relative Complete Quarterback Rating (RCQBR). Included for the sake of comparison are the quarterbacks’ season CQBRs. To illustrate the relationship between z-score and RCQBR, the z-scores are also included.

It is impossible to miss just how dominant Peyton Manning has been in the regular season over the past decade. He owns an astounding seven of the top 25 season RCQBRs. Not only has he been putting up impressive numbers year after year, but he has also stood head and shoulders above his peers in an era in which quarterbacks are putting up Madden-like statistics. Had he been able to pair his regular-season prowess with postseason success, he would undoubtedly be considered the greatest quarterback of all time.

Another standout is Tom Brady, perched atop the leaderboard with a stunning 2007 RCQBR of 120.86. No one in the past 10 years has outpaced his peers quite as much as Brady did this year. He also appears three times in this top-25 list.

Hot on his heels are Aaron Rodgers, with the second-highest RCQBR for his 2011 season, and Drew Brees, both of whom hold three of the top 25 slots.

It shows just how much better than the rest of the league these four quarterbacks have been that between them, they have accumulated 16 — a full 64 percent — of the top-25 RCQBRs.

The following table is slightly different: it looks at the top 25 seasons of the past decade as measured by CQBR and sees how they stack up in terms of RCQBR.

Season Player CQBR z-score RCQBR
2004 Peyton Manning 107.27 2.66 116.52
2011 Aaron Rodgers 104.86 2.73 118.25
2007 Tom Brady 102.90 2.83 120.86
2011 Drew Brees 99.15 2.42 110.61
2010 Tom Brady 92.11 2.14 103.53
2009 Drew Brees 91.14 1.87 96.72
2012 Peyton Manning 89.75 1.79 94.75
2009 Brett Favre 89.28 1.78 94.57
2004 Daunte Culpepper 87.31 1.70 92.46
2006 Peyton Manning 86.77 2.63 115.65
2012 Aaron Rodgers 86.76 1.63 90.66
2011 Tom Brady 86.64 1.76 93.89
2002 Chad Pennington 86.18 2.16 104.07
2009 Peyton Manning 84.82 1.58 89.39
2005 Peyton Manning 83.58 1.93 98.36
2010 Aaron Rodgers 83.02 1.62 90.45
2004 Donovan McNabb 83.01 1.49 87.28
2008 Philip Rivers 82.81 1.95 98.67
2009 Aaron Rodgers 82.79 1.48 87.04
2009 Philip Rivers 82.70 1.48 86.94
2012 Robert Griffin III 82.57 1.40 84.95
2005 Carson Palmer 82.09 1.85 96.32
2012 Tom Brady 81.59 1.34 83.61
2012 Matt Ryan 81.27 1.33 83.17
2010 Tony Romo 81.08 1.51 87.65

Table 2. The top 25 quarterback season performances between 2002 and 2012 as measured by Complete Quarterback Rating (CQBR) are compared to their Relative Complete Quarterback Rating (CQBR) for the same period.

This table illustrates yet again the excellence of the fabulous four quarterbacks, who own almost as many of the top CQBRs as they do RCQBRs. It also shows that putting up a high CQBR won’t look as impressive in a season when quarterback output is up across the league as it will in a year when defenses have adjusted to the latest schemes and rule changes.

Top 25 worst RCQBRs

By now you’re eager to rub your hands together in glee and toss stones at the lowest of the low, those quarterbacks who have put up the worst RCQBRs over the past few years. But since the human eye tends to get weary of long lists of numbers pretty quickly and just skip over them, we’re going to save that for our next installment.

Be sure to check back tomorrow for our hall of shame.

1440 comments
gatrbuc17
gatrbuc17

Hey pritt. Go check out the Salary cap thread and scroll down to find me.'

Steve Brock gave me back my original profile from 2009 after I emailed him.

Looks like poof is busted

Prit
Prit

New post is up too.

JVince 11
JVince 11 like.author.displayName 1 Like

 link or it didn't happen.

Prit
Prit

  I'm lazy, you're sol this time...

Prit
Prit

   Suppose so. 

___bp___
___bp___ like.author.displayName like.author.displayName 2 Like

  I suppose that means we are stuck here.

JVince 11
JVince 11

DeMarcus Ware's contract is allllll back loaded too...



That bitch is about to get ugly as fuck in 2014 when Ware is 33 or 34 years old.. 16M, 17.5M, 14M, and 14M cap hits..

Prit
Prit

 Prolly when they cut him then...

JVince 11
JVince 11 like.author.displayName 1 Like

I'll put it this way... if I am going to make 2 of my teams players the top paid players in the NFL at their positions...


I am much happier with the names being Rodgers and Matthews than it being Romo, Suh, Bradford, Flacco, Rivers, Chris Long, and Mario Williams

Prit
Prit

 This is true. 

JVince 11
JVince 11


This has Schefter as quoted to have said it is for exactly 13M a season which is the same as Ware I believe.  3rd highest paid defender in the NFL.

Bro Montana
Bro Montana

 Good. I think CMIII is worth just as much as Ware, but not more. I'll be happy if the deals are close.

JVince 11
JVince 11

  As it stands now... Allen (17M), Peppers (16.2M), Hali (15.5M), and Finnegan (15m) would all be more than Matthews in CAP HIT.

JVince 11
JVince 11

    that is the other thing I am looking at... all of thes eplayers are in their 30s... Hali, Peppers, Allen, etc... they are 30... which only means what kind of huge contracts players in their mid 20s are going to sign in the next few years.

andylet445
andylet445

    so are SDL's balls but i don't talk about them. 

Prit
Prit

   Peppers is old....

andylet445
andylet445

  3 of the top 5 paid defenders in the NFL would reside on the best three teams in the NFC North. 

Prit
Prit

  How the hell did Finnegan get that much? The former Titan db Courtland finnegan??? The one Andre beat like a dog? The one who runs his mouth as much as MeAngelo Hall, is getting 15 a year? WTF!!!

JVince 11
JVince 11 like.author.displayName 1 Like

I don't think anyone here is saying CM3>Ware... and no one has... but I think that CM3 is entering his prime.. and Ware is on the back of his prime....


If we can sign CM3 to a slightly bigger contract that Ware got 3 years ago in today's NFL inflated market... It is all about what are they gonna be worth in the future years of the contract.. having CM3 at 13-14M for the next 5 or 6 years is goign to look like a steal by the time Von Miller signs his next contract extension.


I take that as a win.

Prit
Prit like.author.displayName 1 Like

 You'd be a fool not to. And if Clay hits the FA market, I can see a desperate team paying him like the bills did Mario.

J. Walter Weatherman
J. Walter Weatherman

  Especially a team that needs to hit the cap floor.

JVince 11
JVince 11

    or a Travis Henry kid... 9 kids by 8 different women.

Prit
Prit like.author.displayName 1 Like

    Could be worse.... You could be a cromarties kid.... olo

Prit
Prit

    True, even if they don't have it Danny boy, would still throw the money at him... 

JVince 11
JVince 11

    I prefer not to have 6 kids by 5 women actually...

Prit
Prit

    Thought you just wanted em, to be like Lynch.... 

JVince 11
JVince 11 like.author.displayName 1 Like

    I need skittles in order to make Purple Drank...

Prit
Prit like.author.displayName 1 Like

    I wanted gummy bears damn it! 

andylet445
andylet445

   Jerry Jones and the Jets wouldn't be able to call. 

Bro Montana
Bro Montana like.author.displayName 1 Like

   "Hey, we're offering a stick of Juicy Fruit." - Ravens

Prit
Prit like.author.displayName 1 Like

   Not many, but a few teams like the Bengals and Bucs could give him all he wanted then some more. 

JVince 11
JVince 11 like.author.displayName 1 Like

   I guarantee that if CM3 hit the UFA market.. there would be 32 teams calling his agent.....Every single team would try to make money to sign a guy like CM3

Bro Montana
Bro Montana

+Matthews&playerTwo=DeMarcus+Ware&playerThree=&playerFour=


J. Walter Weatherman
J. Walter Weatherman

In 4 less games he has equal tackles. 

Prit
Prit

  And truthfully, I'd be happy to have either one.... 

Bro Montana
Bro Montana

  56 to 43 is equal?

J. Walter Weatherman
J. Walter Weatherman

Ware had more assists, Matthews played with Walden/3rd sting MLB/Hawk.  Thoes guys let at least 12 tackles through them that Matthews could have assisted on...

Prit
Prit

 I'll take Ware last year 4  more ff> 1.5 more sacks. But Ware is older, and I would take Clay if there was more than 2-3 years involved. 

JVince 11
JVince 11 like.author.displayName 1 Like

  Clay had another 3.5 sacks in the playofffs... you can't take that away from Clay.. he comes up BIG every time he steps on the field.

J. Walter Weatherman
J. Walter Weatherman

    Was it not 1 more loss and we miss the playoffs?  Cuz we lose 1 more game without him, thats for sure.

Bro Montana
Bro Montana

    I think we do. He missed 4 games last year. I'll look to see how many of those we won.

Bro Montana
Bro Montana like.author.displayName 1 Like

    Right, but without Rodgers we win maybe 4 or 5 games.  Without Clay, we win more than that.

J. Walter Weatherman
J. Walter Weatherman

    Yeah.  With that Defense, he deserves it as much as Rodgers.  There are 2 sides to the team, not just 1.

Bro Montana
Bro Montana

    Did CMIII take his team to the playoffs? Get real.

Prit
Prit like.author.displayName 1 Like

    One word for that question... Romoception.

Bro Montana
Bro Montana

   Would Ware have done nothing if Dallas made the playoffs? 

Bro Montana
Bro Montana

  I agree - my point is that I don't think CMIII's deal should greatly exceed Ware's deal. 

Prit
Prit like.author.displayName 1 Like

   So what's the problem? 

JVince 11
JVince 11 like.author.displayName 1 Like

  it exceeds it by like 500K a year i read... and even that might be incentive based.