Why Is ESPN Forcing Total QBR Down My Throat?

I understand what ESPN is trying to do with Total QBR, and it’s not that I’m against statistical evaluation (obviously) or that I want to defend Passer Rating, but Total QBR now has its own goddamn section, and it’s being touted as the be-all end-all for quarterback evaluation, when the reality is that it’s simply not even close to it.

“Well, yes, because there are two basic problems with traditional passer ratings: what they measure and what they don’t measure. The official formula for passer rating is actually less complicated than its reputation. It takes completions, passing yards, touchdown passes and interceptions, all on a per-attempt basis, compares each to a league-average figure, and mashes them into one number. But passer rating doesn’t attempt to weight its categories by their importance to winning football games.

Okay, Passer Rating isn’t ideal, I get it, but almost everybody with a brain knows that already, and pretending like Total QBR is the statistical messiah for objective quarterback evaluation is far worse than what people ever used Passer Rating for.

In that linked article, Total QBR prides itself on bringing WPA to football, and it actually mentions that us fans can now settle historical debates about which quarterbacks were the greatest with it.


Tom Tango lays it out best regarding WPA:

What WPA represents is the quantification of your feelings as the game unfolds. Imagine if Youk hit into a triple play his first 2 AB, with the score tied 0-0 the whole time, then the Sox lead 15-0 (and he gets two outs), then he hits two HR. How is it that you felt with Youk, if you tracked it in real time?

Well, his first two AB, you are cursing his name like there’s no tomorrow, then when the team batted around (twice), your blood pressure starts to go down, and then, with the score at 15-0, you’re probably not even watching the game any more.

That is what WPA captures…. the quantification of your feelings as the game unfolds, assigned to the players involved.

WPA is not a way to evaluate the talent of a player. WPA is exactly the same as counting a PA 11 times when the bases loaded down by 1 with 2 outs in the bottom of the 9th and counting a PA as almost zero in a blowout game. It is basically ridiculous to think that one PA can inform you on the talent level of a player 1000 times more in one situation than another.

Yup, basically. It’s a fun statistic, but nobody seriously uses it while evaluating a player for a reason.

Just bothers me how ESPN has managed to diminish quarterback analysis down to who can play the best in close games, as if it’s a repeatable skill. Because as we all know, quarterbacks who play well to start the game and rarely get their team into situations where they are down late all the time are useless. However, quarterbacks who play like ass for three quarters, have strong defenses that keep the team in it, and lead late drives to make a come back are clutch and awesome!


Worse yet, all of the WPA discussion above doesn’t even scratch the surface of the problems with Total QBR, as there are legitimate questions about how it’s collected, calculated, adjusted, and weighted that need to be answered. However, the equation isn’t available to the public, so for all we know, Total QBR could be a completely worthless metric, worse than Passer Rating even, and nobody would know.



Obviously this is the statistic that I want defining quarterback play in the NFL.

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