Joe Burrow is an elegant enigma.
Off the field, he is a charming, stylish, heartthrob. He’s Harry Styles in cleats. When the whistle sounds, though, that all changes. Gone is the boyish smile, replaced with a stone-faced gaze of determination and ruthless aggression. He is precise, composed, and cold-blooded. For 60 minutes, he is not a pop culture icon. He is not a pop star. No, once a week from September to February, the former No. 1 overall pick turns into Anton Chigurh. He is heartless, he has no conscience.
And as Chigurh, through the brilliant acting of Javier Bardem, asks in No Country For Old Men, “What do you say to a man that by his own admission has no soul?” That is a question that NFL defenses have been trying to find an answer to.
There are plenty of examples of Burrow’s soulless charades since he entered the league in 2020. And while “Joe Burrow is good” is hardly headline material, advanced stats show that, like Chigurh, he is even more dangerous than meets the eye.
Joe Burrow’s Efficiency
Burrow has been incredible from the day he became an NFL quarterback. His 82 touchdowns since 2020 are the sixth most in the NFL, despite missing six games with a torn ACL. Burrow has also been incredibly efficient throughout his young career. His 100.4 passer rating is seventh in the NFL over the last three seasons.
When it comes to better understanding the value of a quarterback, few stats highlight the significance of a reliable signal-caller than EPA. For those who don’t know, EPA stands for expected points added. Over the last two seasons, Burrow is fourth in the NFL in EPA per play, and second in EPA + CPOE (Completion percentage over expected) composite behind only Patrick Mahomes. To go back even further, Burrow has the 11th-highest EPA in the league since 1999 (min. 750 plays).
In addition to EPA, Adjusted EPA is calculated independent of the defenses in which they have played, as well as the down, distance, and win probability at the time of their throws, Burrow is fourth in the league since 2020 (min. 750 plays) and the 10th best in the league since 1999.
Burrow has a case for being the most precise quarterback in the league, and there are several examples as to why many liken him to be this generation’s Tom Brady. His completion percentage, according to RBSDM, is higher than anyone since 1999. His completion percentage over expected is 3.9, meaning he is completing passes at nearly a four percent rate higher than expected, which is the sixth highest over the last 24 years. To continue, his EPA + CPOE Composite is the ninth best in that same time span. In terms of last season, Burrow’s EPA + CPOE Composite was fourth in the league in 2022, behind only Josh Allen, Aaron Rodgers, and Patrick Mahomes.
When it comes to production and reliability, Burrow hasn’t just been good, he’s been generational. Statistically, he is a top-three quarterback in today’s game, and a top quarterback of the last 25 years.
Joe Burrow’s Value
While it took a season for Cincinnati to begin its ascension to the top of the NFL, they have been one of the best offenses in the league since hitting their stride.
Over the last two seasons, the Bengals offense as a whole is tied for fifth in EPA per play with the San Francisco 49ers. Their success rate on offense is sixth in the NFL in that time frame, as well. When it comes to efficiency off dropbacks, the proof is in the pudding, as well, for Cincinnati. The Bengals rank fifth in the league in dropback success rate over the last two seasons, and fourth in dropback EPA. To compare, the Bengals were 24th in dropback success rate and dropback EPA in the three seasons prior to drafting Burrow.
If you need any more evidence of Burrow’s immediate impact and importance, just look at the Bengals’ success as a franchise over the last two seasons. Entering the 2021 season, Cincinnati hadn’t won a playoff game since 1990. They had made several playoff appearances with Carson Palmer and Andy Dalton under center, but had always been eliminated in the Wildcard Round, going 0-7 in their previous seven playoff games. They have won five playoff games over the last two seasons, appearing in consecutive AFC Championship Games for the first time in franchise history, and appearing in the Super Bowl for the first time since the 1988 season. If the Bengals were a vehicle, this dynamic quarterback was premium gas.
Joe Burrow is a generational talent, eloquently picking apart defenses week in and week out at a historic rate, and elevating a city and franchise in the process. The NFL is no country for old men. There will never be a definitive way to stop Joe Burrow. Even if there were, “By the time you figured it out, it would be too late.”