Tampa Bay Buccaneers
New formula helps grade QBs
TAMPA Statheads rejoice! ESPN staffers, obviously with too much time on their hands, worked feverishly this year to devise a new method to gauge the effectiveness of pro passers. Brace yourself for "Total Quarterback Rating.'' The new system was unveiled by the network Friday as ESPN celebrates its Year of the Quarterback.NFL passers can now be rated on a 1-100 scale, in addition to the traditional passer rating that has been in place since 1973. ESPN's new grading system factors in elements such as yards after the catch and sacks. More weight is given to success in the clutch, so a third-down completion that moves the chains in the fourth quarter of a close game is duly rewarded. "How do I judge quarterbacks?'' said Bucs quarterbacks coach Alex Van Pelt. "Winning games. Give me a 70 passer rating and a win and I'll be happy as could be.'' The NFL's current system for grading passers isn't perfect, but it seems to work well. By the numbers, the top six quarterbacks last season were Tom Brady, Philip Rivers, Aaron Rodgers, Michael Vick, Ben Roethlisberger and Josh Freeman. Sounds reasonable. On a team basis, the two stingiest pass defenses were Green Bay and Pittsburgh. That sounds Super. "I couldn't even tell you how they figure it all out,'' Van Pelt said. "All I know is 158.3 is the best number you can get. Why not 200, or 100? To me, it's all about making smart decisions. If we have a high completion rate and low interceptions, we win.'' The current system ranks quarterbacks across four categories – completion percentage, average yards per pass attempt, TD passes and interceptions. Freeman made remarkable strides in his first full season as a starter. He completed 61.4 percent of his throws, with 25 touchdown passes and only six picks. "To win 10 games last year and throw six interceptions … that's impressive,'' Van Pelt said. "If you keep your interceptions under 10 and throw for more than 20 TDs, you're going to win a lot of games.'' Every grading system has flaws – and the NFL passer rating is no exception. For example, Brian Griese boasts a better career mark (82.7) than Hall of Famers Troy Aikman (81.6) and Bart Starr (80.5), who own five Super Bowl rings between them. But when you look at the list of the top-rated quarterbacks in league history (see accompanying chart), the methodology appears sound. Steve Young and Joe Montana are in the Hall of Fame. Brady and Peyton Manning are sure bets for Canton and it's not a stretch to assume Kurt Warner, Drew Brees and Roethlisberger are on their way. Rodgers and Rivers are steadily building their credentials, while Tony Romo remains a highly regarded quarterback desperate for postseason success. ESPN executives are hoping their Total Quarterback Rating will prove to be a more accurate barometer. Bringing sacks into the equation is an intriguing concept, but it's not necessarily fair. Why penalize quarterbacks who play behind porous offensive lines? The Bears couldn't protect Jay Cutler last season. There were times Cutler held onto the ball too long, but the main culprit was an inept front that struggled to keep defenders from collapsing the pocket. The NFL's current system has been rating quarterbacks since Richard Nixon was in the Oval Office. It has worked well enough to merit respect, but ESPN thinks it has a better idea. If I'm Brian Griese, I like things just the way they are.