As young, athletic quarterbacks have started to replace the previous generation of pocket passers, it has become clear that traditional passing statistics cannot on their own explain which players do the most and least for their teams. But that realization doesn't make quarterback evaluation any easier. Quarterback success depends in part on the success of the players on offense around them, the success of their team's defense and special teams, and the success of the strategies their coaches' implement. It is difficult to disentangle.
ESPN Stats & Information makes that effort a little bit easier with their expected points added metric. It works by comparing the points a team is expected to score at the start and at the end of their plays based on factors like down and distance, field position and time remaining. It does not split the credit between a quarterback and his receiver for a long touchdown or split the blame between a quarterback and his linemen for a blindside sack. But it does frame every play on the same scale, making it possible to compare a team's success on plays that involve its quarterback to plays without him on offense -- typically runs but also plays with a backup under center -- and on defense and special teams. It isn't perfect, but that approach can help identify real trends that traditional statistics overlook.
By comparing the total EPA of each quarterback's pass and run attempts to that of his team's running game, defense and special teams, we have identified the top 10 and bottom 10 quarterbacks in comparative value. Essentially, this is how much value quarterbacks brought in comparison to the rest of their teammates. It is not a raw measurement of "most valuable," because that measurement would end up with Lamar Jackson No. 1 in 2019. But Jackson shared the spotlight with a good running game, a good defense and good special teams. Someone like Ryan Fitzpatrick emphatically did not.
For our rankings, we included passers who made only 10 or more starts in 2019, which excluded four teams in the Broncos, Lions, Steelers, and Washington Football Team. We'll start with the players who brought the most comparative value compared to their teammates.
Read through our various categories of passers, or skip ahead to the metric of your choice here:
Note: QBs with the most/least comparative value were appraised by Scott Spratt, most/least accurate were detailed by Bryan Knowles, and most/least aggressive were illuminated by Rivers McCown.
Most comparative value
QB EPA: +70.7 (eighth)
Team EPA: -177.1 (27th)
QB comparative value: +247.9
Since Jon Gruden returned to the Raiders, Carr has heard rumors that he would be replaced as the team's starting quarterback. Apparently, he's tired of it. Even before his comments, Carr made that point clear with a tremendously efficient 2019 season. He finished top 10 among regular starters with both his 62.2 QBR and 18.2% passing DVOA (DVOA measures efficiency adjusted for situation and opponent, explained further here.). His 6.7-yard average depth of target (aDOT) was bottom five and does back up the scouts who lament that Carr is sometimes unwilling to push the ball to open receivers downfield. But while conservative, Carr's approach is one that can lead to tremendous success -- just look at the Saints, and Drew Brees' even lower 6.6-yard aDOT. If the Raiders want to make changes to improve their playoff chances in future seasons, they should aim to fix their bottom-10 defense (14.8% DVOA, 31st) and special teams (minus-3.2%, 25th) before they worry about their quarterback.