Quarterbacks are placed head to head in comparisons all the time, even though they never actually are on the field at the same time. Quarterback wins and losses, for better or often worse, are often a thing as well, with quarterbacks praised when they win despite not playing well, because of other aspects of the game, and berated for putting up stats in losses.
Today, I am going to put the quarterbacks head to head, but in a different way. All the caveats apply here. The name of the quarterback on the stat line really represents “quarterback, throwing to his receivers, playing behind his offensive line, with the coaching and play calling, and against a particular defense.” We acknowledge that, and are at least going to control mostly for the defense part.
In this exercise, every quarterback is compared to all other quarterbacks who also threw 10 or more passes against the same opponent. Using Adjusted Yards per Attempt, which takes yards passing, adjusts it by adding 20 for all touchdown passes, and subtracting 45 for all interceptions, then dividing by attempts. This does not include sacks and rushing totals, which would have been ideal but would have taken longer to put together.
After getting that efficiency number for a game, the quarterback is then placed in win-loss comparison to the other quarterbacks who played the same team. If quarterbacks are within 0.5 yards per attempt, it is a tie. Here’s an example. Eight quarterbacks have thrown 10 or more passes against Buffalo in a game. Drew Brees had the best numbers against the Bills, so he goes 7-0. Cam Newton and Tom Brady “tied” 5.89 to 5.44. They both got wins over Tannehill and Flacco, and losses to Brees, Geno Smith, Brandon Weeden, and Andy Dalton.
Rinse and repeat for all 32 teams, and here are the results (only quarterbacks who had 10+ passes in three games or more included in this list). I also list the overall adjusted yards per attempt rank among the group, so we can see who fares better adjusting for opponent with this win-loss method.
A few random thoughts about this list. Aaron Rodgers continues to be pretty good. Peyton Manning is deservedly getting a lot of attention, and is way out in front on touchdown passes. Rodgers has been dominant relative to what other quarterbacks have done against the same opponents.
Jake Locker shoots up to 11th, by not having been horrible relative to other quarterbacks against anyone, and playing a tougher schedule. Andrew Luck, Cam Newton, and Matt Ryan all rise in this method. Overall, I think it moves the quarterbacks in the direction most people would instinctively. Christian Ponder is 23rd in raw adjusted yards per attempt. Accounting for opponents and consistency relative to his peers, he drops to 33rd out of 35, ahead of only teammate Josh Freeman and Blaine Gabbert.