2011 was truly the year of the quarterback.
BreesThree players threw for over 5,000 yards, with Drew Brees leading the way with a record-breaking 5,476 and Tom Brady and Matthew Stafford following behind after only two quarterbacks in history had done it before.
Though these quarterbacks were all successful, 2011 also showed that yards aren't necessarily what leads to wins. The 15-1 Green Bay Packers allowed more yards than they gained. Teams that won the yardage battle only won 65 percent of their games. Because yards can be undone by turnovers and can also be generated in meaningless situations, 2011 was the year that we introduced Total QBR to improve the statistical evaluation of quarterbacks and tell better stories.
What follows are snapshots of only a few of the many stories from the season. ESPN bloggers have done numerous stories this year and we will do a season wrap up in the lead up to the Super Bowl.
The Importance of the QB to Winning
Total QBR can be used to quantify just how important the quarterback position has become to winning in the NFL. In 2011, the team with the higher Total QBR in the game went 223-33 (.871 win pct), including 63-1 over the last 4 weeks.
Record of Team with Advantage in Game
NFL Regular Season
Who Should Be MVP?
Highest Total QBR in Single Season
Qualifying QB Since 2008
It looked like Aaron Rodgers had wrapped up the NFL MVP race just a few weeks ago, but that was before the Packers lost their undefeated record and Matt Flynn lit up the Lions while Rodgers sat out in Week 17.
Not only that, but Drew Brees has made the MVP conversation a legitimate debate with excellent play down the stretch, posting a ridiculous 91.7 Total QBR over the last eight weeks of the season to close the gap in the season rankings.
Brees still finished behind Rodgers in Total QBR for the season, but both quarterbacks' ratings are 1-2 among all qualifying QB seasons since 2008. For some perspective, Tom Brady led the NFL in 2010 with a 75.8 Total QBR, a full eight points behind both Rodgers and Brees this season, on his way to winning a unanimous NFL MVP award.
Rodgers even surpassed Brady’s 84.5 Total QBR from that record-setting 2007 season when the Patriots went 16-0, with Brees finishing just half a point behind that mark.
Tebowmania Heads to Playoffs
The 2011 season might also be remembered as the launching point for Tebowmania. It wasn’t just that Tim Tebow helped the Denver Broncos to a division title, but how he won some of the games.
TebowHowever, Tebow’s performance wasn’t outstanding throughout entire games, as he finished the season with a Total QBR of 27.2, the third-worst among the 34 qualifying quarterbacks this season, ahead of only Curtis Painter and Blaine Gabbert.
Since 2008, the timeframe in which Total QBR has been tracked, Tebow’s regular season QBR is the lowest for any quarterback that started for a playoff team.
The previous lowest mark belonged to Mark Sanchez, with a 30.9 mark in 2009. Sanchez, however, had a 74.4 postseason QBR, taking the Jets to the AFC Championship.
Rookies Excel, Struggle
Cam Newton and Andy Dalton both played well in their rookie season. Newton finished in the top half of the league in QBR, helping justify his first-overall selection by the Carolina Panthers, while Dalton led the Cincinnati Bengals to an unpredicted playoff berth.
From 2008-10, the eight rookie quarterbacks who qualified had an average Total QBR of 38.6. Newton had a 56.6, while Dalton totaled a 47.3 this season.
Over the last four seasons, only one rookie quarterback had a better Total QBR than those two, Matt Ryan with a 72.6, when he led the Atlanta Falcons to an 11-5 record in 2008.
Lowest Total QBR
Single Season Since 2008
On the other end of the spectrum was Blaine Gabbert, who finished a rough rookie campaign with a 21.1 QBR, the worst among all qualifiers this season.
Over the last four seasons, it’s the fourth-lowest single-season Total QBR among qualifying passers. What’s worse is that Gabbert didn’t even post an average Total QBR (50) in any of his games this season.