Points Per Pass Metric, Results Through Week Five

My passing offense metric, updated with last week's results. See below an explanation of the statistical details:  It's the same text I've posted in previous weeks.  The only difference is the minimum cutoff for making the list is 50 pass attempts.

Romo's numbers plummeted from last week, obviously.  His week five score was an abysmal - 0.04.  Because he's such a high-profile player, it's hard to have an unemotional discussion about Romo's performance, whether it's good or bad.  But I have a couple of relevant observations that are grounded in fact, not emotion.

The first relate to comparisons between Romo and Brady.  Last night was obviously a stinker, while Brady has a reputation of calm, steady precision, so obviously at first glance Romo would not seem to compare favorably to Brady.  He's mister clutch right?  He never has games like Romo had last night, right?  Wrong.  December 20th, 2004, in the middle of the Patriots best season ever, as they were marching to their third Super Bowl, they went into Miami on a Monday night, and Brady fell flat on his face, throwing some of the craziest interceptions you'll ever see.  In that game, Brady was literally almost ten times worse than Romo was last night, based on my points per pass metric.  His score in that game was a mind-boggling -0.32, which is worse than Rex Grossman on a bad night.  His stat line for the game:

Att       Comp        Yds       TD       Int       Sack     Sack Yards     Fumbles
29         18           171        3        4            2             15               0

Brady threw almost as many interceptions as Romo, while attempting about half as many passes.  So my first observation is an attempt to curb any hasty conclusions made by those who are doubting Romo, and is an invitation for them to come inside from off the ledge.  The key will be how often does Romo have a stinker game; if it's once in blue moon like Brady, he'll be fine.  If he strings three of them in row, we've got a problem.  We'll just have to wait out to see how well he does the rest of the season.

The second observation is one I made a couple of months ago on this blog, and bears repeating.  When looking at Romo's point per pass metric last season, I wanted to see how his numbers compared to other quarterbacks through history, when they were at the same age.  In particular, I was looking for the flash-in-the-pan effect:  Is there a history of QBs playing well at his age for one season, then tanking it the rest of his career?  Something like what Scott Mitchell did in 1993 for Miami, as a classic example of that type player.  And more generally, I wanted to see what sort of company he had.  Who were his peers at that age, and what sort of careers did they go on to have?  The answer was encouraging.  The only quarterbacks in my database who played better than Romo at the age of 26 were Chad Pennington, Drew Brees, Aikman, Carson Palmer, Brett Favre and Ken Anderson.  Brees is sucking this year, but he's had a solid to excellent career so far, and all the other QBs are either frequent visitors to the Pro Bowl or Hall of Fame candidates.

That's the encouraging news.  The not-so-encouraging news is that performance of every single one of those group of top-notch QBs declined the next season.  For reference, Romo's value last year was 0.51.  If Romo holds to the pattern of the other historical QBs, odds are he's due for a few more sub-par games.  Maybe nothing as dramatic as last night, but the historical precedent is there for at least some decline in performance.

So the second observation is an attempt to ground us when we watch Romo this year.  He appears to be a streaky passer, and last night was when his previously hot hand cooled off.  We see the hot streak, and are elated to have such a great magician; then we see the cold streak, and we wonder why he's such a bonehead.  The truth lies somewhere in the middle, and we should not be overreacting to the extremes to which he exposes us.  On the main, I am very confident he is and will continue to be an excellent quarterback.  We'll just have to recognize he gives us an incredible emotional rollercoaster ride along the way.

My original post:

Here's the intro I've posted on previous weeks:

I've been using a passing offense metric for many years now to gauge how well a QB is doing.  Inspired by baseball SABRmetrician Bill James, I performed linear regressions of NFL statistics and concluded from a big picture point of view, only two statistics mattered:  Yards gained from scrimmage, and turnovers.  The best fit to matching points scored came when assuming the following coefficients:

Ten yards gained from scrimmage = +1.0 points; and
One turnover lost = -6.0 points.

Simply put, teams that score points rack up yardage and don't commit turnovers.  Note how powerful turnovers are:  A team can, for example, gain 55 yards of offense, but if they turn it over the next play, they actually ended up hurting their team.

With that in mind, I created the points per pass metric, which calculates the effectiveness of quarterbacks.  The above two coefficients are used to determine, on average, how many points a quarterback (and his offensive teammates, since everyone else contributes to his success or failure) creates with each passing attempt.  It takes the simple yards per attempt metric we're all familiar with, adjusts it for sacks, and further adjusts it for turnovers.  One interception equates to minus six points; one fumble equates to minus three points.  I treat fumbles as half a turnover, since there's essentially a 50/50 chance of recovering or losing a fumble.  The results will probably be unsurprising for the most part, but sometimes they can appear odd.  One of the things that may cause these oddities are fumbles.  Most people, when looking over a QB's stat line, don't think about fumbles; they just look at yardage, attempts, touchdowns, interceptions, and maybe sacks.  But fumbles are very important, since they are essentially half a turnover.

Brady, NE                                      0.74
Garcia, TB                                     0.73
Manning, Ind                                 0.70
Warner, Ari                                   0.65
Garrard, Jax                                  0.63
Delhomme, Car                             0.54
Romo, Dal                                     0.54
Favre, GB                                      0.54
Schaub, Hou                                 0.51
Hasselbeck, Sea                           0.51
Palmer, Cin                                   0.47
Harrington, Atl                              0.46
Roethlisberger, Pit                       0.46
Campbell, Was                            0.46
McNabb, Phi                                 0.44
Boller, Bal                                    0.42
Cutler, Den                                  0.41
McNair, Bal                                    0.40
Manning, NYG                              0.39
Anderson, Cle                              0.38
Pennington, NYJ                           0.37
Holcomb, Min                               0.36
Rivers, SD                                   0.34
Huard, KC                                    0.33
Leinart, Ari                                   0.33
Kitna, Det                                     0.31
Green, Mia                                   0.31
Bulger, StL                                    0.30
Edwards, Buf                               0.29
Smith, SF                                     0.28
Carr, Car                                     0.26
Young, Ten                                   0.20
Brees, NO                                   0.17
Griese, Chi                                  0.16
Grossman, Chi                            0.09
Jackson, Min                               0.05
McCown, Oak                            -0.09
Dilfer, SF                                    -0.12

Another user-created commentary provided by a BTB reader.

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