BOURBONNAIS, Ill. -- ESPN's new Total Quarterback Rating (QBR) provides a new and more meaningful way to evaluate quarterbacks, compared to the NFL’s decades old passer rating formula.
Interestingly, though, it also proves to be unfriendly to Bears quarterback Jay Cutler.
Based on ESPN’s analysis of approximately 60,000 NFL plays over the past three years, QBR examines every facet of quarterback play -- from passing and rushing, to fumbling and sacks taken -- and assigns credit or blame (and a score between 0 to 100) to the quarterback based on how every play in which they were involved contributed to their team’s success.
According to QBR, Cutler has been more hurtful to his teams than any other QB over the past three years in sacks (he scored minus-55 clutch-weighted points in 2010), interceptions (minus-44.1 in 2009) and fumbles (minus-15.6 in 2010 after 10 fumbles; 43 fumbles over his career).
Based on the normal passer rating formula, Cutler’s 86.3 rating ranked him as the NFL’s 16th best in that category in 2010.
According to ESPN The Magazine senior writer Peter Keating, however, the problem with the NFL's old formula is it compiles completions, passing yards, touchdown passes and INTs per attempt, and compares each to a league-average figure to come up with one number. Keating points out that the formula -- which uses league averages from the 70s to grade QBs -- doesn’t try to weight its categories according to their importance to winning games. It simply averages those numbers together.
So while Cutler ranked 16th in passer rating under the old formula, he finished as one of the league’s worst in 2010, according to QBR. In fact, only former Viking Brett Favre posted a lower QBR score (25.8) than Cutler.
With a QBR score of 42.6, Cutler ranked 25th in the league, while his NFC North counterparts Aaron Rodgers (67.9) of the Packers, and Shaun Hill (44.8) of the Lions, ranked fourth and 23rd, respectively.
While it’s impossible at this point to determine the true value or accuracy of ESPN’s new QBR, it’s quite striking that the three quarterbacks with the highest QBR scores -- Patriots Tom Brady (76.0), Colts Peyton Manning (69.5), and Falcons Matt Ryan (68.6) -- own career win records of .776, .677, and .717 as starters.
Cutler, meanwhile, is .500.