When the NFL passer rating (not to be confused with ESPN's QBR) was initially developed in 1973, the objective was to create a single number that would differentiate between outstanding, excellent, average and poor performance. In 1973, a passer rating of 66.7 was considered average, not much of surprise given that the league average at the time was a 61.7 passer rating.
40 years later, the NFL average has improved significantly. In 2014, the NFL average passer rating was 87.1, and a 66.7 passer rating today would be considered a "poor" game by a QB. In 1973, a rating of exactly 100.0 was considered an "excellent" game, and while in today's pass-happy NFL a passer rating of 100.0 may not be considered "excellent" anymore, it is still a pretty "good" performance any way you look at it.
Last year, NFL QBs combined for 47 games with a 100+ passer rating in 512 opportunities. 100+ rating games have become much more ubiquitous than in the past but they still account for just 9% of all games, meaning they are still fairly rare. Pro-Football-Reference.com shows that there were 74 QBs active in the NFL last year who have thrown for a 100+ passer rating at least once in their career. The combined W/L record of those QBs in games with a 100+ rating is 1,021-253-3 for an impressive .800 winning percentage.
If we accept that a 100+ rating in a game is a very "good", perhaps even an "excellent" performance by the QB, it follows that a QB with a lot of 100+ rating games is a pretty good, perhaps even excellent quarterback. And indeed, if you look at the active QBs with the most 100+ rating games in their career, you'll find the usual suspects at the top of the list: Peyton Manning (111 games with a 100+ rating), Tom Brady (94), and Drew Brees (88) lead all QBs in this category.
In fairness though, all three guys have been around the block a few times, and also lead all NFL QBs in number of games started with 256 (P. Manning), 207 (Brady), and 201 (Brees), so it's not a big surprise to see that the three also lead the league in 100+ rating games. To account for that, we'll look at these numbers a little differently. The following table is limited to the 33 NFL QBs currently under contract who've started at least 33 games in their career. It shows those QB's total number of 100+ rating games, their W/L record in those games, and more importantly, their "Good game percentage" (100+ rating games as a percentage of total games started). We'll look at the QBs with 32 starts or less a little further down this post.
100+ Passer Rating Games (click on column headers to sort)
|QBs with 33+ starts ||100+ Passer Rating games||Games Started||"Good Game Percentage" ||Win Percentage|
Follow this Pro-Football-Reference link if you want to play around with the base data. For example, you could include all QBs between 1998 and 2014, not just the currently active QBs; you could include playoff games if you want to; you could put in a filter for the minimum amount of pass attempts needed to qualify; you can do whatever you want, but for now you're stuck with the parameters I defined.
If you sort the table by "Good Game Percentage" you'll see that Aaron Rodgers throws more 100+ rating games than anybody else in the league, and he does it consistently. His rate of 61% leads all other QBs by quite a margin.
Second on this list is none other than the much maligned Tony Romo, who for some reason was the 8th-ranked quarterback in NFL.com's yearly player ranking. With a 52% good game percentage, Romo has the second-highest percentage of 100+ rating games of all NFL QBs, ahead of Russell Wilson (50%), Philip Rivers (47%), Tom Brady (45%), Drew Brees (44%), and Peyton Manning (43%).
In this context, Russell Wilson deserves a special mention. In his short career, Wilson has gotten a lot of grief for not being "elite", being too short, running too much, profiting from an awesome Seattle team, lacking draft pedigree, or whatever meme-of-the-day somebody decides to fling Wilson's way. But over four years in the league, Wilson has thrown for a 100+ rating in every second game, which is better than all but two QBs in the league. Of all the young QBs in the league, I believe Wilson easily the best.
Andrew Luck, Cam Newton and Robert Griffin may get all the headlines, but Wilson consistently delivers better games, as measured by passer rating, than any of the other young QBs, and the Seattle defense has very little to do with Wilson's passer rating.
As you look through the bottom half of the table above and see names like Andrew Luck, Ryan Tannehill, and the two guys in Philly, you've got to wonder what the hype is all about. I'm sure people will come up with all sorts of extenuating factors ("But look at the number of comeback wins," "but look at his leadership," "but making the playoffs is what counts", "but they're drinking smoothies now"), but as pure passers, those guys are simply not very good so far in their careers. All of that can change as they add to their number of NFL starts, but these guys are already waaay behind the curve: Over their first 32 games Aaron Rodgers (18 100+ passer rating games) and Tony Romo (19) had 100+ game percentages of 56% and 59% respectively.
Which brings us neatly back to Tony Romo. In 2014, Romo threw for a 100+ passer rating in 10 games (equaling his personal best from the 2007 season), and the Cowboys won every single one of those games. Over the three-year period from 2011-2013, Romo threw for 20 such games, but the Cowboys lost a stunning eight of the 20, for a win percentage of just .600. In our table above, that percentage would rank Romo 32nd out of 33 QBs. Which just goes to show that a QB can't win games by himself, and a great game by the QB won't mean much if he doesn't have the right supporting staff around him.
Ultimately, it's not one player that wins and loses games. Tony Romo has more than his fair share of detractors, but going by the company he keeps in the stats above, he is at the very top of the game. And last year, it looks like the rest of the team finally caught up.
I didn't include some of the younger QBs in the table above, because I felt that the small sample size (less than 32 starts) could possibly distort the overall picture. But for completeness' sake, here are the 12 QBs who've had between 16 and 32 starts in their NFL careers so far.
100+ Passer Rating Games (click on column headers to sort)
|QBs with 32 starts or less ||100+ Passer Rating games||Games Started||"Good Game Percentage" ||Win Percentage|
What we see here is that outside of Nick Foles, none of the guys on this list is really impressive. But with Foles, nobody is really sure whether he's the real deal or not. In 2013 he lit up the league with eight 100+ passer rating games in 10 starts, but in 2014 that number dwindled to two games in eight starts. Can he get it back together in St. Louis?
If you thought this post has a familiar feel to it, you're right. I published very similar posts the last two years, but for the second year in a row I received a reader request to update the post with the latest data, so that's exactly what I did. And just like last year, now that we've looked at the "good-game-percentage" in this post, I'll follow it up with a "bad-game-percentage" post soon.