When we get to the scorching days of summer, fans start playing the waiting game. Free agency is more or less done. The draft is finished. The recruits have mostly signed up and already appeared in minicamps and rookie camps. Training camp hasn’t arrived yet. So, fans have to pass the time with things that will entertain them. In this case, we’ll look at the relative importance of having star players in various positions.
We’ve passed the odds of Davis Mills becoming a top-flight quarterback. This may not be the right question. Today’s question has nothing to do with Mills in particular. The question today is do you need a top ten quarterback to have a chance of winning.
We’ve done two statistical breakdowns since 2000. So basically we’re looking at this from two different angles. The first angle looks at QBR’s best quarterback each season and a look at their progression through the playoffs. Of course, names are also important. In short, for a statistic to be convincing, it should pass a test of both statistical accuracy and relevance. It just means that the player who is the leader sticks in our memory of who was actually good.
Highest rated quarterbacks
So, in this first test, we’re just looking at the highest-rated quarterback each season from 2000 to 2021. That spans twenty-two seasons in total. 21 of the 22 quarterbacks were on teams that made the playoffs. Two of those quarterbacks lost in the wild card round. Eleven of those quarterbacks lost in the divisional round. Lost three in the Conference Championship Round. That means five of the quarterbacks reached the superbowl.
In a sense, this data is compelling. In another sense, it’s not so convincing. If you’re the highest rated quarterback in the league, your offense is bound to be good. If your offense is good, you should win more matches. If you win more games, you go to the playoffs. So having all but one in the playoffs is unconvincing,
Aaron Rodgers has led every quarterback since 2000 leading the league four times in QBR. He is followed by Peyton Manning (three times), Drew Brees (twice), Tom Brady (twice), Philip Rivers, Russell Wilson and Matt Ryan also led the league in QBR. If we count Kurt Warner as a Hall of Famer, we can easily say that 15 of the 22 seasons have seen a Hall of Famer lead the league in QBR. It’s not a perfect correlation, but I’d say it makes QBR quite relevant. The other seven had guys who were really good, but maybe not quite Hall of Fame worthy. They include Steve McNair and Tony Romo. So overall we’re looking at a pretty strong correlation.
The Final Four
Whenever you’re looking at an important issue, it’s important that you look at as many different angles as possible. So we are reverse engineering the question. We could easily call a team in the last four an elite team. Although they weren’t in the top four teams in the regular season, they were in the bottom four teams at the end of the season.
We also note that this is a place the Texans have never been and a place Houston hasn’t seen since the end of the 1979 season. So in this case, we’re expanding the scope to include the top ten quarterbacks. -back in the quarterback rankings. However, this time we’re not taking these guys to see how far they’ve come. Instead, we’re looking at what percentage of teams had a top-ten quarterback since 2000.
So between 2000 and 2021, we’ve had 88 quarterbacks in the bottom four. Obviously some guys have done it more than once, so we’re not looking at literally 88 different guys. We are looking at 88 individual cases. For example, Tom Brady appears on the list fourteen times. Peyton Manning, Aaron Rodgers and Ben Roethlisberger also appeared on several occasions. Of course, this only serves to reinforce the idea.
88 quarterbacks = 61 quarterbacks in the QBR top 10
88 quarterbacks = 35 quarterbacks in the QBR top five
88 quarterbacks = 8 quarterbacks were number one in QBR
So we see a pretty strong correlation between being a top-ten quarterback and being in the conference championship game. There are 27 quarterbacks who were not. Of the 27, only ten have appeared on the list once. So even the other 17 appeared on our list at least twice and many of them had been top ten quarterbacks in other seasons. So let’s take a look at the Super Bowl.
44 quarterbacks = 33 quarterbacks in the QBR top 10
44 quarterbacks = 20 quarterbacks in the QBR top five
44 quarterbacks = 5 quarterbacks were number one in QBR
Obviously, the correlations are a bit stronger when we come to the Super Bowl. 75% of quarterbacks in the game were the top ten quarterbacks of the season they played. There are a few guys who fall into the “who the hell is this guy” category. They include Jake Delhomme, Rex Grossman, Kerry Collins, and possibly Joe Flacco and Colin Kaepernick. Considering that the last two appear more than once on the list, we can remove them. Collins played in the 2000 Super Bowl, it’s also the one Trent Dilfer played in. Jake Delhomme played in 2003. Rex Grossman was in 2006.
If we go back in time to 2010, we see that Kaepernick and Flacco were the only players who didn’t make the top ten and didn’t wear a gold jacket. It’s hard to draw too many conclusions based on the outcome of a football game, but if we watch that game 22 times, we might see patterns.
22 quarterbacks = 15 quarterbacks in the top 10
22 quarterbacks = 8 quarterbacks in the top five
22 quarterbacks = 2 quarterbacks were number one in QBR.
Davis Mills ranked 21st in QBR last season with an 88.8 QBR. This is where things get risky. Is he able to propel himself into the top 10? I guess anything is possible. We can say whatever we want to make this situation look good or bad. You could say that Mills was one of the top ten quarterbacks in the last five or six games. Arguably he had the worst supporting cast in the league. We can say that he had a horrible play caller. We can say all of these things about Mills and defend them down to the smallest detail.
You also have to be really honest with yourself. Does Davis Mills have the makeup of a top-ten quarterback? We can name the names of the guys we have in our personal top ten and get to the point where Mills’ name pops up. It appears at different times depending on who is doing the scoring. It doesn’t make the top ten of any of them.
The good news is that some of these guys were top ten quarterbacks in individual seasons. Alex Smith makes an appearance. Case Keenum makes an appearance. Garappolo makes a few appearances. None of these guys would hit a top-ten mark over the summer. So the question is if Mills could be one of those guys. Could he put things together in a particular season and look like a top ten quarterback or is he just marking time until we find this guy who can?