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Ranking NFL Quarterbacks By Their Number Of Good Games Per Season

A passer rating of 100 or more remains an impressive milestone, even if it isn't as rare as it used to be. We take a look at how the active NFL QBs measure up against this milestone.

Mitchell Leff/Getty Images

Dak Prescott's Wikipedia page contains an entire subsection dedicated to the NFL records he set in his rookie season. Those records include the most consecutive pass attempts without an interception to start a career, the record for rookie wins, the rookie passer rating record, the rookie INT% record, the rookie TD to INT ratio record, the rookie completion percentage record and others - and that's not even counting the many Cowboys franchise records he broke.

But the one record that stood out to me was this one:

Prescott finished his 2016 rookie regular season with a record 11 games with an over 100 NFL passer rating, breaking the rookie record of 9 games set by Russell Wilson in 2012.

11 games with a 100+ NFL passer rating is a feat that has only been surpassed five times in NFL history:

1994: Steve Young (12 games)
2010: Tom Brady (12)
2011: Aaron Rodgers (13)
2011: Tom Brady (12)
2016: Matt Ryan (12)

This may be worth keeping in mind as we continue to hear and read about how Prescott's rookie season may have been a fluke; how Prescott is sure to have a sophomore slump; how Prescott is merely the product of the Cowboys' system. All of that ignores that Prescott's season wasn't just impressive for a rookie, but was impressive at an historic level.

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, which was slightly above the league average passer rating of 61.7 at the time.

43 years later, the NFL average has improved by an impressive 25 points. In 2016, the NFL average passer rating was 87.6, 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 "very good" performance any way you look at it.

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 very good, probably even excellent quarterback. And indeed, if you look at the you look at the Pro-Football-Reference.com list of active QBs with the most 100+ rating games in their career, you'll find the usual suspects at the top of the list: Tom Brady (110 games with a 100+ rating), Drew Brees (105), and Philip Rivers (77), along with Aaron Rodgers and Ben Roethlisberger (both 76)  lead all QBs in this category.

In fairness though, all five guys have been around the block a few times, and are also among the top NFL QBs in number of games started with 235 (Brady), 232 (Brees), 183 (Roethlisberger), 176 (Rivers), and Rodgers (135) a little farther back, so it's not a big surprise to see that these five 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, 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"
Z-score
Total W L T
Tom Brady 110 104 6 0 235 47% 1.2
Drew Brees 105 85 20 0 232 45% 1.1
Philip Rivers 77 64 13 0 176 44% 1.0
Ben Roethlisberger 76 68 8 0 183 42% 0.8
Aaron Rodgers 76 64 12 0 135 56% 2.0
Carson Palmer 61 43 18 0 174 35% 0.3
Matt Ryan 61 51 10 0 142 43% 0.9
Eli Manning 56 40 16 0 199 28% -0.3
Joe Flacco 43 37 6 0 138 31% -0.1
Russell Wilson 38 34 4 0 80 48% 1.3
Matt Schaub 37 29 8 0 92 40% 0.7
Alex Smith 36 33 2 1 136 26% -0.5
Andy Dalton 36 31 5 0 93 39% 0.6
Matthew Stafford 32 25 7 0 109 29% -0.2
Ryan Fitzpatrick 31 22 9 0 116 27% -0.4
Cam Newton 31 27 4 0 92 34% 0.1
Matt Cassel 24 17 7 0 80 30% -0.2
Sam Bradford 22 15 6 1 78 28% -0.3
Colin Kaepernick 22 17 5 0 58 38% 0.5
Kirk Cousins 21 16 5 0 41 51% 1.6
Andrew Luck 18 16 2 0 70 26% -0.5
Ryan Tannehill 17 14 3 0 77 22% -0.8
Mark Sanchez 15 12 3 0 72 21% -0.9
Josh McCown 15 8 7 0 60 25% -0.6
Nick Foles 15 14 1 0 36 42% 0.8
Derek Carr 13 11 2 0 47 28% -0.4
Robert Griffin 13 8 5 0 40 33% 0.0
Jameis Winston 9 7 2 0 32 28% -0.3
Derek Anderson 8 6 2 0 47 17% -1.2
Chad Henne 6 4 2 0 53 11% -1.7
Blake Bortles 6 3 3 0 45 13% -1.6
Blaine Gabbert 4 0 4 0 40 10% -1.8

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 2016, 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 56% leads all other QBs by quite a margin.

Second on this list, and probably a surprise for most people reading this table, is Kirk Cousins. With a 51% good game percentage, Cousins has the second-highest percentage of 100+ rating games of all NFL QBs, ahead of Russell Wilson (48%), Tom Brady (47%), Drew Brees (45%), and Philip Rivers (44%).

The Z-score, the last column in the table above, shows a player’s ranking relative to the other QBs in the table. The average for the 32 QBs assembled in the table above is 32%, and a score of 1.0 means the player is one standard deviation better than the NFL average at the position. The six QBs at the top of this table (Rodgers, Cousins, Wilson, Brady, Brees, and Rivers) are all at least one standard deviation better than the NFL average.

For a given data set, the standard deviation measures how spread out numbers are from an average value. If your set of data (e.g. NFL QBs) shows a normal distribution, then about 68 percent of NFL players are within one standard deviation of the mean, about 95 percent are within two standard deviations, and about 99.7 percent lie within three standard deviations. Such a standard deviation is best visualized in a normal distribution curve, an example of which you can see below. I've included the six top QBs from the table above to show where they sit on the distribution curve for NFL QBs:

STD_dev.0.jpg

In this context, both Cousins and Wilson deserve special mention. In their short careers, both have thrown for a 100+ rating in every second game, which ranks them at the very top of the league. Wilson did it on a team with a good defense but questionable offense, Cousins did it on a perennially bad Redskins team. Neither gets a lot of credit (the doofuses in Washington don't even think Cousins is a franchise QB), and neither gets the type of recognition some players with a higher draft pedigree get.

Former top picks like Matthew Stafford (-0.2), Sam Bradford (-0.3), Eli Manning (-0.3), or Andrew Luck (-0.5) are all below average passers. They may get a lot more headlines, and their draft pedigree means people are making a lot more excuses for their performance ("But look at the number of comeback wins," "but look at his leadership," "but he's the QB of the future", "but look at the quality of his teammates"), but Cousins and Wilson consistently deliver better games as measured by passer rating. And Cousins is doing it while playing for the dumpster fire in Washington.

As pure passers, Manning, Luck and Co. are simply not very good. Andrew Luck for example would have to play 48 straight games (three entire seasons) with a 100+ passer rating to equal Rodgers' 56% good game percentage. Luck has managed 18 100+ passer rating games over his five-year career, I doubt he'll add 48 over his entire career, much less over the next three years.

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Back to Dak Prescott and his record-breaking rookie season.

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 13 QBs below 30 years of age who've had between 16 and 32 starts in their NFL careers so far (with Trevor Siemian and Jared Goff added for good measure).

QBs with 32 starts
or less
100+ Passer Rating games Games Started "Good Game Percentage"
Z-score
Total W L T
Tyrod Taylor 12 7 5 0 29 41% 0.8
Dak Prescott 11 11 0 0 16 69% 3.1
Marcus Mariota 10 9 1 0 27 37% 0.4
Teddy Bridgewater 8 5 3 0 28 29% -0.3
Case Keenum 5 2 3 0 24 21% -0.9
Colt McCoy 5 3 2 0 25 20% -1.0
Mike Glennon 4 2 2 0 18 22% -0.8
Trevor Siemian 3 2 1 0 14 21% -0.9
Carson Wentz 3 2 1 0 16 19% -1.1
EJ Manuel 3 2 1 0 17 18% -1.2
Geno Smith 3 3 0 0 30 10% -1.8
Brock Osweiler 2 2 0 0 21 10% -1.9
Jared Goff 1 0 1 0 7 14% -1.5

As we saw earlier, Dak Prescott had 11 games with a 100+ passer rating out of his 16 starts last season. That's a very impressive 69% good game percentage, which is a staggering three standard deviations better than the NFL average.

Tyrod Taylor and Marcus Mariota both look to be above average as well, and Teddy Bridgewater is at least close to average. The rest is significantly below NFL average, and all have their work cut out for them to show that they are NFL-quality QBs, and not just another iteration of Mark Sanchez.

All of that can change of course as they add quality NFL starts, but most of 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.

For Dak Prescott and Cowboys fans, there's also the cautionary tale of Nick Foles, who is a good example of how a small sample size may distort the overall picture. In 2013, Foles lit up the league with eight 100+ passer rating games in 10 starts, but since then he's only added five more in 26 additional starts.