(UPDATE: Benny Boy points out that I had a "1" for Foles under total Passing TDs. I have revised this to 9, his correct rank. I've also fixed a spreadsheet error that ak4niner spotted.)
If "Top Five-iness" sounds made up, that's because it is, but I made it up and I like it so I'm going to keep talking about it. The goal is to examine this season's top quarterback performers and determine who is playing the best ball. I don't care too much about the overall debate about where Brady and Manning stack up with Brees and Rodgers, but I am quite interested in how QB performance grades out over the most relevant sample size we have: the current season. Cool?
We last looked at these numbers three weeks ago, just after the Seahawks dismantled the Falcons in Atlanta. If you don't feel like clicking over there, here's a quick recap of the methodology we use to determine these numbers:
To get started, I pulled up Pro-Football-Reference.com's 2013 Passing leaders. There's a lot to choose from. I threw out passing yards and yards per game because those stats tell me more about the offensive coordinator and the YACability of the wide receivers than they tell me about the quarterback. I threw out Interception % because interceptions are fairly random. I also threw out yards per carry, Comebacks, and Gamewinning Drives because not many QBs rank highly in YPC and Comebacks/GWDs are mostly team metrics. There is also a 30-way tie for 2nd/3rd place in Comebacks and GWD drives, which doesn't help us much either. So, what's left? I landed on nine quarterback statistics that I believe do a good job of measuring a QB's overall effectiveness:
Yards per pass attempt
Yards per completion(Air yards per attempt)
Adjusted yards per attempt
Net yards per attempt
Adjusted net yards per attempt
You'll note that the only change I've made is replacing "yards per completion" with "Air yards per pass attempt". It was pointed out to me that yards per completion is a bit of a bad stat to use for this type of analysis, so I replaced it with the VERY interesting AirYPA. Still cool?
Our metrics established, the next task is to simply add up the rankings for each quarterback who appears in the top 10 spots for each of these metrics. A number 1 ranking is worth 1 point, a number 10 ranking is worth 10 points. For the sake of this exercise, and since all we care about are the Top 10 (and ultimately Top 5) QBs for each metric, we will call everything after the 10th spot a tie for 11th. So far, this is pretty simple, yeah? It's golf scoring, essentially. The quarterbacks who rank the best (lots of 1s, 2s, or 3s) should end up with a low score, which is good. Quarterbacks on the fringe will end up with a higher score, which is bad. A quarterback who doesn't rank in the top 10 for any of these 9 categories will be awarded all 11s for a total of 99, meaning he is irrelevant to us.
The grid below shows how quarterbacks with at least 5 starts grade out as of Week 13:
What does this mean? Right now it's Foles, Manning, and Wilson at the top tier. Brees, Rivers, and Rodgers are the next tier. After that, we have guys like Kaep, Cutler, Stafford and so on who may flash in one or two categories but don't really belong in the conversation this year.
Just for fun, I also decided to run these numbers with rushing yards per attempt included. It looks like this:
The ability to run efficiently is tremendously valuable, but few good quarterbacks can actually do it. Among qualifying passers, only Russell Wilson and Colin Kaepernick rank in the top 10 for yards per carry (minimum 60 attempts). When you factor in rushing contributions, Wilson looks like the best quarterback in football. He is bananapants.
A quick note to wrap up: You'll notice that some big names are not included here. This is simply because they did not make the cut. Some may have only flashed in one category, giving them a score too high to warrant mentioning. Others like Tom Brady, Alex Smith, and Andrew Luck did not rank among the top10 in any category we looked at. In other words, if they aren't on here it's because their numbers aren't good enough this season.