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Monday, January 3, 2005
Updated: August 12, 11:44 AM ET
QB rankings: Final standings

By Aaron Schatz
Special to Page 2

Note: Go to the bottom of the table for a more complete explanation of how Aaron's QB rating system works.

This week, instead of the best and worst quarterbacks of Week 17, we bring you the best and worst quarterbacks of the entire season. The ratings below represent the number of points this player was worth to his team for all of 2004, compared to a replacement-level quarterback and adjusted for defenses faced. All quarterbacks with at least 100 passes in 2004 are listed.

It is important to remember that since we're measuring total value, quarterbacks who throw more passes will generally be rated higher than quarterbacks who throw fewer passes. If we measure value per pass rather than total value, the top five would read: Peyton Manning, Tom Brady, Ben Roethlisberger, Daunte Culpepper, Donovan McNabb. (Also, Jon Kitna would move up to 17th.)

A few of the comments reference a system of similarity scores that I used two weeks ago to compare Eli Manning with other first-year starting quarterbacks since 1978. The good news is that Manning got better over the last two games. The bad news is that the list of comparable rookies did not.

For those of you insanely curious about the best and worst quarterbacks in Week 17, the top three were Culpepper, Marc Bulger and Brett Favre, and the bottom three were Kerry Collins, Chad Hutchinson, and Sage Rosenfels.

  • Click here to get 2003 rankings.

    Quarterback Skinny DPAR
    1. Peyton Manning
    336/497, 4557 yards
    9.2 YPA, 49 TDs, 10 INT
    Without a doubt, the MVP. Just remember: the Lombardi goes to the most valuable 45 players, not the most valuable single player. 170.9
    2. Daunte Culpepper
    379/548, 4717 yards
    8.6 YPA, 39 TDs, 11 INT
    The biggest difference between Manning and Culpepper was not the touchdowns but sacks. Both play behind strong lines, but Culpepper was sacked 45 times, Manning only 13. 148.1
    3. Donovan McNabb
    300/469, 3875 yards
    8.3 YPA, 31 TDs, 8 INT
    In the playoffs, will his performance return to pre-T.O. levels, when only his scrambling made him more valuable than Tommy Maddox or Brad Johnson? 115.8
    4. Tom Brady
    288/474, 3692 yards
    7.8 YPA, 28 TDs, 14 INT
    This year, the numbers caught up with the intangibles; Brady is one of the best. 114.6
    5. Trent Green
    369/556, 4591 yards
    8.3 YPA, 27 TDs, 17 INT
    After the final set of opponent adjustments, his Week 8 performance against Indianapolis now stands as the best game of the year: 27-for-34, 389 yards, 3 TDs, 0 INTs. 107.2
    6. Marc Bulger
    321/485, 3964 yards
    8.2 YPA, 21 TDs, 14 INT
    Bulger was only quarterback besides Peyton Manning to have no negative DPAR games (minimum 4 starts). 95.2
    7. Brett Favre
    346/540, 4088 yards
    7.6 YPA, 30 TDs, 17 INT
    Strange statistical quirk: threw 9 of his 17 interceptions from between the 40s. 84.8
    8. Chad Pennington
    242/370, 2673 yards
    7.2 YPA, 16 TDs, 9 INT
    Golly, Chad, I was sure that throwing a hissyfit in front of the New York media would be just the thing to get you in its good graces. 82.4
    9. Drew Brees
    262/400, 3159 yards
    7.9 YPA, 27 TDs, 7 INT
    Now becomes a permanent part of the discussion whenever a team has to decide if they should cut bait on a slowly-developing young quarterback. 80.1
    10. Ben Roethlisberger
    196/295, 2621 yards
    8.9 YPA, 17 TDs, 11 INT
    Most statistically similar first-year starting QBs (not counting CFL refugees): Tom Brady 2001, Joe Montana 1980, Jim McMahon 1982, Brett Favre 1992. Yes, he's that good. 78.8
    11. Jake Plummer
    303/521, 4089 yards
    7.9 YPA, 27 TDs, 20 INT
    Set the Denver record for passing yards in a season, which pretty much says it all about passing yards as the main yardstick for quarterback performance. 53.9
    12. Matt Hasselbeck
    279/474, 3382 yards
    7.1 YPA, 22 TDs, 15 INT
    Declined from 2003 but not as much as people think. Struggled on third down, but fine on first and second, a combination that makes him a likely candidate for resurgence in 2005. 53.3
    13. Jake Delhomme
    307/526, 3830 yards
    7.3 YPA, 29 TDs, 15 INT
    Delhomme's big step forward from last year's playoffs turns out to be for real. New Orleans fans want him back. 51.9
    14. Brian Griese
    233/337, 2632 yards
    7.8 YPA, 20 TDs, 12 INT
    Looked more like the quarterback Mike Shanahan drafted and trusted. Unfortunately for Shanahan, it was with a different team. 43.8
    15. Carson Palmer
    263/432, 2897 yards
    6.7 YPA, 18 TDs, 18 INT
    Most statistically similar first-year starting QBs: Byron Leftwich 2003, Brian Griese 1999, Ty Detmer 1996, Jim Everett 1987. 42.5
    16. Vinny Testaverde
    297/495, 3532 yards
    7.1 YPA, 17 TDs, 20 INT
    If he doesn't retire, he would still make an excellent backup/assistant coach somewhere. 37.1
    17. David Carr
    271/442, 3452 yards
    7.8 YPA, 15 TDs, 14 INT
    When he takes the rumored big step forward, will someone wake me up? Weeks 1-9: 64% complete, 270 yards/game. Weeks 10-17: 59% complete, 172 yards/game. 33.3
    18. Byron Leftwich
    252/413, 2792 yards
    6.8 YPA, 15 TDs, 9 INT
    Which will define his second season? Amazing early-season comebacks, or massive el foldo last week against Houston? 31.2
    19. Aaron Brooks
    309/542, 3810 yards
    7.0 YPA, 21 TDs, 16 INT
    Led league with 33 third-down completions that did not convert a first down. 30.1
    20. Kyle Boller
    258/464, 2559 yards
    5.5 YPA, 13 TDs, 11 INT
    Improved more than people think. In general, all AFC North and East quarterbacks suffered because the two divisions filled with strong defenses played each other. 24.6
    21. Drew Bledsoe
    256/450, 2932 yards
    6.5 YPA, 20 TDs, 16 INT
    To use a reference as dated as Bledsoe's career: "You are the weakest link. Goodbye." This team has the defense and running game to go 11-5 next year, but they need to find out if J.P. Losman can be Tom Brady. 21.2
    22. Kurt Warner
    174/277, 2054 yards
    7.4 YPA, 6 TDs, 4 INT
    Hot rumor has him signing in Chicago. QB who holds ball too long, offensive line that gave up 66 sacks ... sure, sounds like a winning combination. 19.6
    23. Jeff Garcia
    144/252, 1731 yards
    6.9 YPA, 10 TDs, 9 INT
    Seems like he should still be able to play; he just needs to find a team that matches his style. 16.1
    24. Tim Rattay
    198/325, 2169 yards
    6.7 YPA, 10 TDs, 10 INT
    Ranked as one of the top 10 QBs of the first half, the only 49er bright spot. Struggled with foot and forearm injuries the rest of the way. 49ers should trade down, get picks to build OL and DL, and take the risk that Rattay can stay healthy. 15.0
    25. Josh McCown
    233/408, 2511 yards
    6.1 YPA, 11 TDs, 10 INT
    Did you know both McCown brothers wear #12? Did you care? 10.8
    26. Michael Vick
    181/321, 2313 yards
    7.2 YPA, 14 TDs, 12 INT
    902 rushing
    29.3 DPAR rushing nearly three times next-best QB (Culpepper, 11.7) but -18.3 DPAR passing lower than Dorsey or Feeley. 10.8
    27. Jon Kitna
    61/104, 623 yards
    6.0 YPA, 5 TDs, 4 INT
    Free Jon Kitna! 8.7
    28. Billy Volek
    218/357, 2486 yards
    7.0 YPA, 18 TDs, 10 INT
    This year's least consistent QB. How many fantasy playoff games were lost when Volek went from 492 yards and 4 TDs to 111 yards and 0 TDs in one week? 7.0
    29. Joey Harrington
    274/489, 3047 yards
    6.2 YPA, 19 TDs, 12 INT
    Has a poster of Drew Brees in his bedroom. "It can be me ... it can be me ... it can be me." 6.4
    30. Kerry Collins
    274/474, 3353 yards
    7.1 YPA, 21 TDs, 17 INT
    How bad was he this week? 15-for-39, 142-yard performance with three interceptions and three fumbles passes the Chris Chandler six-interception game to rank as the worst QB performance this year. 5.8
    31. Patrick Ramsey
    169/272, 1665 yards
    6.1 YPA, 10 TDs, 11 INT
    Threw to tight ends less than any QB in league, but four of 10 passes to TE Robert Royal were touchdowns. 0.9
    32. Brad Johnson
    65/103, 674 yards
    6.5 YPA, 3 TDs, 3 INT
    Suddenly, just seemed to have no idea what was going on, even though superficially his numbers look like his previous seasons. -1.4
    33. Steve McNair
    129/215, 1343 yards
    6.3 YPA, 8 TDs, 9 INT
    It's better to burn out than to fade away. -2.2
    34. Ken Dorsey
    123/226, 1231 yards
    5.5 YPA, 6 TDs, 9 INT
    Better completion percentage than Eli Manning, more yards than Eli Manning, same number of interceptions and touchdowns, and the team around him is even worse. -10.8
    35. Eli Manning
    95/197, 1043 yards
    5.3 YPA, 6 TDs, 9 INT
    Good news, Giants fans: the most statistically-similar first-year starting QB isn't Vinny Testaverde anymore. Now it is Todd Marinovich. OK, maybe not good news. -11.4
    36. Mark Brunell
    118/237, 1194 yards
    5.0 YPA, 7 TDs, 6 INT
    Not since the Pentagon's infamous $600 toilet seats has there been a bigger financial disgrace in the nation's capital than the Redskins giving Brunell an $8.6 million signing bonus. -11.8
    37. A.J. Feeley
    191/356, 1893 yards
    5.3 YPA, 11 TDs, 15 INT
    Difficult schedule made him look worse than he really was. Miami doesn't need a quarterback as much as they need an O-line. -12.2
    38. Jonathan Quinn
    51/98, 413 yards
    4.2 YPA, 1 TD, 3 INT
    The most hated man in Chicago. -17.9
    39. Luke McCown
    48/98, 608 yards
    6.2 YPA, 4 TDs, 7 INT
    McCown brothers throw more knuckleballs than Niekro brothers. -18.8
    40. Jay Fiedler
    101/190, 1186 yards
    6.2 YPA, 7 TDs, 8 INT
    Red zone: 11/25 (and two of those completions lost yardage) plus four sacks, two interceptions, only two TDs. -24.4
    41. Chad Hutchinson
    92/161, 903 yards
    5.6 YPA, 4 TDs, 3 INT
    Moles don't sniff as much dirt as this guy. Sacked 23 times in only five games, including NINE yesterday. -27.5
    42. Craig Krenzel
    59/127, 718 yards
    5.7 YPA, 3 TDs, 6 INT
    Most statistically similar QBs: Cody Carlson 1988, Steve Pisarkiewicz 1979, Gus Frerotte 1994, Danny Wuerffel 1997. Parade of quality! -42.1

    How DPAR (Defense-adjusted Points Above Replacement) works

    The success of each play is judged based on yardage gained towards both a touchdown and a first down. Then each play gets compared to the NFL average on similar plays, based on down, distance, and other variables. Quarterbacks are judged not based on how many yards they get, but on how important those yards are in the context of the game.

    Ratings are also adjusted for the quality of the opposing defense. The quarterback's performance is then translated into an approximate number of actual points that such success (or failure) is worth when compared to a "replacement level" quarterback (defined as any quarterback named "Billy Joe").

    When all offensive, defensive, and special teams plays are added together for one team, the result comes very close to the actual difference between points scored and allowed.

    Among the advantages of this system:

    1. Gives value for first downs, which are not really included in any other QB rating system but are hugely important.

    2. Does not punish quarterbacks who are always in bad field position because of a poor defense, nor does it punish quarterbacks who are always stuck in third-and-long because of a poor running game.

    3. With enough data to begin including defensive adjustment, quarterbacks receive bonuses when they play well against good defenses, and they don't get rated as world-beaters when they shred the 49ers

    4. Includes both passing and rushing plays, which obviously helps a QB like Michael Vick.

    5. DPAR punishes quarterbacks for turnovers but also for fumbles that his own team recovers. Different kind of fumbles have different penalties depending on how often defense recovers for a turnover. Sacks are punished as well.

    6. 5-yard scramble on 3rd-and-10? Worthless!

    7. Actual points! Easy to understand!

    An even longer explanation of these numbers can be found here.

    Aaron Schatz is editor-in-chief of