ESPN’s New QBR Stat Isn’t Perfect After All

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Back in August we told you about ESPN’s new Total Quarterback Rating, just their next step on the road to total sports domination.  With the laughability of the new metric and the audacity of ESPN to come up with their own statistic to judge the art of quarterbacking, it was only a matter of time before the WWL ended up with egg on their face.  I mean, even in THE YEAR OF THE QUARTERBACK, an idea like ESPN’s QBR was bound to backfire.  Enter Week 5 and two mythological figures… Aaron Rodgers and Tim Tebow.

Yes, ESPN’s two favorite quarterbacks.  One is deservedly being recognized as the best QB in the league, and yes, I’m talking about Aaron Rodgers.  But, somehow, someway, ESPN’s infallable ultimate QB metric decided that Rodgers (who was 26/39 for 396 yards and two TDs against Atlanta) was inferior in Week 5 to Jesus Christ Quarterback himself… Tim Tebow.  Well, since ESPN’s new QBR is so thorough and fantastic, Tebow mush have had one hell of a game!  And, looking at the numbers, how could anyone think Rodgers had a better performance than Tebow, who threw for 334 yards, ran for 212 yards, scored 8 total TDs, and rescued children from a burning building in the Broncos comprehensive victory over the Chargers…

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Wait… what’s that?  The Broncos didn’t win?  And Tebow didn’t have 500 yards of offense and 8 TDs? Oh really! You mean he only played half the game?  And his stat line was 4/10 for 79 yards, 6 rushes for 38 yards and had two total TDs?  Oh… well then yeah, this new ESPN QBR must really be awesome.  And don’t worry, ESPN isn’t incessantly hyping Tebow’s QBR rating in their endless, horrifying, nauseating, nonstop TebowMania coverage or anything.

But, the mere fact that ESPN’s GREATEST STATISTICAL METRIC TO COMMEMORATE THE YEAR OF THE QUARTERBACK ranked Tim Tebow ahead of Aaron Rodgers isn’t laughable enough on its own.  On ESPN’s Stats & Info Blog (who knew?), there are not one, but two articles justifying why Tebow was ranked ahead of Aaron Rodgers.  Now, how great can your shiny new stat be if your stats department has to write two separate blog posts to justify the ranking?  To save you the grief, here are five key points supposedly justifying why Tebow ranked ahead of Rodgers and why it doesn’t make sense…

(1) ESPN’s QBR measures rates, not absolute statistics

Total QBR is a rate statistic. It was designed this way so that it could be used to break down a QB’s performance over a season, a game, a specific set of plays, under certain conditions, etc. Tebow’s rating for Sunday represents his performance over 16 action plays, while Rodgers’ rating accounts for what he did over 47 action plays against the Falcons.”

Basically, ESPN is admitting Tebow’s QBR is inflated because it occured over a much smaller sample size than Rodgers.  I wasn’t a statistics major or anything, but I do seem to recall hearing that sample size is one of those important statistical things you don’t want to tinker with if you want to maintain any shred of credibility.

(2) Tebow’s “Action Plays” happened when the game was close in the 4th Quarter

“Total QBR is clutch-weighted, so the QB’s plays where the game was closest – whether those come in the beginning, middle, or end of the game – count more toward a QB’s single-game rating than the plays that occur when it was out of reach. In the case of Tebow, he came in with the Broncos trailing by 13 and struggled on his first couple of drives when the game was not that close (Broncos had less than 10 percent chance of winning on most of his first few plays). On Denver’s final three drives, he led the Broncos to two TDs and had them less than 30 yards from a game-winning score on the final play of the game. Those plays where the deficit was within one score count more towards his rating since they had a greater likelihood of affecting the eventual game outcome, and since he played well in that span, his overall rating for the game is quite high.”

So let me get this straight.  Aaron Rodgers gets penalized because he played so well that the Packers had already assured victory?  Meanwhile, Tebow gets credit for coming in late and scoring a couple of TDs at the end of a game that San Diego probably thought they had in the bag.  Even ESPN admits Tebow didn’t play well initially, but apparently his play was infinitely “more clutch” in a loss than Rodgers’ play was in a win.  Pass the Advil, please!

(3) Rodgers unfairly benefitted from his receivers racking up yards after the catch.

“…while Rodgers did throw for 396 total yards on Sunday, the box score does not show that almost half of that total (197 yards) came via yards after catch.”

Nevermind the fact that Rodgers has to throw the ball in the right place to allow his receivers to run after the catch, or the fact that Rodgers is responsible for carrying out the impeccable timing of the Packers offense. But, because Tim Tebow was throwing jump ball ducks, he gets more credit… of course!

(4) Tebow ran for 38 yards and a TD while Rodgers didn’t

“…three of Tebow’s biggest plays came on the ground, including his 12-yard rushing TD to cut the deficit to one score. QBs are given significant credit for making plays with their feet in Total QBR, especially on scrambles, which Tebow had a couple of Sunday. Taking into account a QB’s rushing contributions is an advantage that Total QBR has over other rating systems that only look at a quarterback’s passing statistics.”

Where was the QBR when Fran Tarkenton or Randall Cunningham was around?  Who needs to only look at passing statistics when you’re a quarterback?  It’s not like Philip Rivers’ QBR was overly inflated because he ran in a TD from two yards or that Mike Vick ranked 16th in QBR this week despite 4 INTs just because of his rushing total and something called a “Run EPA,” which I think is a new enviornmental campaign.

(5) Rodgers accounted for more negative plays (in this case sacks) than Tebow.

“Rodgers took four sacks for 27 yards while Tebow took none. In fact, Tebow had no negative yardage plays at all.”

What about the fact that Aaron Rodgers had more “action plays?”  Doesn’t that mean his rate of being sacked shouldn’t count against him as much?  What about the fact that Tim Tebow only had 10 passes?  What about Aaron Rodgers playing behind two backup tackles?  It’s not like Aaron Rodgers turned the ball over 4 times.  Maybe Trent Dilfer should’ve added in a Backup Tackle Quotient or an Offensive Linemen Efficiency stat, then Jay Cutler could crack the top 10!

At least ESPN’s Stats & Info blog was wise enough to completely discredit its own statistic.  

“Tim Tebow is not Aaron Rodgers. Even if he now has five and a half quarters of QBR around 80, he has a lot more quarters around 50. That’s better than Orton, but not by a lot. The Tebow Revolution may have begun, but it’s a long way from succeeding.”

“Remember, though, this was for a limited period and is not reflective of overall past performance for Tebow and probably does not predict future performance.”

“That 83.2 is better than Aaron Rodgers’ 82.1 against the Atlanta Falcons because Tebow was efficient. It doesn’t mean, though, that he is a star. The San Diego Chargers weren’t ready for him and they were winning by two touchdowns when he entered the game. Tebow was good for a quarter and a half.”

The real question is, will ESPN admit their own embarrassment after this ridiculous episode and stop touting the QBR statistic?  Or, are we destined to deal with these ESPN driven, misleading stats throughout the YEAR OF THE QUARTERBACK?  Survey says… more than likely the latter.  Perhaps the most shocking thing of all though is the lack of a “Skip Bayless Bonus” just to get more mileage out of Tebow Time on First Take or the endless hours of NFL content on the WWL.  I actually like Tebow personally and he may even succeed in the NFL.  But, ESPN’s obsession with Tebow is now reaching Favrian levels.  ESPN using ESPN’s own flawed statistic to fuel the debate only adds to the madness.  If only the QBs who actually led the league in meaningful statistics got as much air time as the likes of Tim Tebow.  One thing’s for sure… if a statistic requires hundreds of words to explain/excuse its results, it’s probably a damned lie at best.  

[H/T Pro Football Talk

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