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Wednesday, October 12, 2011
Explaining the Rodgers-Tebow QBR caper

By Kevin Seifert

I've been limiting our discussion of Total Quarterback Rating (QBR) to one weekly post, which I caught up on Tuesday afternoon. Since then, however, a number of you have asked how the Week 5 performance of Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers (396 yards) ranked slightly below that of Denver Broncos quarterback Tim Tebow (79 yards).

During his radio show Tuesday on ESPN 540, Rodgers himself said he was "surprised" and "chuckled to myself" upon seeing the rankings on ESPN's television crawl.

"I played a full game," Rodgers said. "He played a half. He completed four passes. I completed 26 …."

I sought an explanation from ESPN's analytics team, which provided a pair of blog posts that explain the apparent discrepancy. Jeff Bennett, ESPN's senior director of production analytics, answered a few follow-up questions as well.

Some bullet points for those interested:
I'll let that explanation stand on its own merits other than to say Rodgers' QBR of 82 is an elite grade. Here's another way to look at it: Rodgers' passer rating (117.1) was higher than Tebow's (101.7), but passer rating doesn't include many of the components that made Tebow's performance uniquely special. I'm not sure that I like comparing individual QBRs because it weighs game factors that are self-contained and don't always relate.

All this comparison tells me is that Tebow did more to nearly defeat the San Diego Chargers than Rodgers needed to do for the Packers to beat the Atlanta Falcons. It doesn't tell me that Tebow played better than Rodgers. If that makes sense.