ESPN Explains The Total Quarterback Rating

As we pointed out earlier this week, ESPN developed a new quarterback rating system called the Total Quarterback Rating, which they hope will become an alternate to the more widely accepted Passer Rating that's been in use since the early 1970s. ESPN, after broadcasting the specifics Friday night, explains.

The goal behind any player rating should be determining how much a player contributes to a win. We went back through 10 years of NFL play-by-play data to look at game situation (down, distance, yard line, clock time, timeouts, home field, field surface and score), along with the ultimate outcome of the game, to develop a win probability function.

The idea incorporates the actions of a quarterback on a passing play, which in of itself factors several things such as pass protection, a receiver's ability to catch the pass and run after the reception; all of which are given some credit to the quarterback called the Dividing Credit. To us this makes sense more than the passer rating, which values every play no matter the situation or the contributions from the quarterback's teammates.

Other factors added into the Total Quarterback Rating includes the Clutch Index and Win Probability. As one might surmise, Clutch Index takes a certain play before the snap and evaluates the result. ESPN describes:

Down four points with three seconds to go and facing third-and-goal from the 3-yard line -- that is a high-pressure and high-clutch index situation because the play can realistically raise the odds of winning to almost 100 percent or bring them down from about 40 percent to almost zero percent. The same situation from midfield isn't as high pressure because it's very unlikely that the team will pull out the victory. Sure, a Hail Mary can pull the game out, but if it doesn't work, the team didn't fail on that play so much as it failed before then. On third-and-goal from the 3-yard line, failure means people will be talking about that final play and what went wrong.

Win Probability determines "expected point totals for almost any situation." Carson Palmer's Win Probability, if we understand this correctly, was staggeringly beneficial to the team during the early part of the 2009 season. Last second touchdown passes early in the season against the Baltimore Ravens and Pittsburgh Steelers directly resulted into wins when they were either losing or tied at the snap.

Everything is inputted into a mathematical formula that develops a rating between 0-100.

A value of 90 and above sounds good whether you're talking about a season, a game or just third-and-long situations; a value of four or 14 doesn't sound very good; a value of 50 is average, and that is what QBR generates for an average performance.

For the perspective of Bengals fans, Carson Palmer's Total QBR last season was 46.7, ranked 19th in the NFL. Tom Brady's Total QBR of 76.0 shattered the field. Palmer's Total QBR is slightly lower than his 53.2 rating from the team's 2009 AFC North championship season.

We're not exactly sure what to think about the Total QBR yet. The idea of incorporating game situations and how a quarterback's play translates into wins is a good, and refreshing idea. Much like Football Outsiders, that's evolved advanced statistics using game situations and adjusting that based on the defense, the era of straight-up statistical information (like yards) is increasingly losing its importance.

Tom Brady and Peyton Manning lead the NFL with the best Total QBR last season. But I guess we really didn't need that to tell us how good both quarterbacks are.

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