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The relentless pursuit of all things statistical has become the bane of my sports enjoyment. Now, the self-proclaimed Worldwide Leader (ESPN) has added a new metric to the already crowded landscape called Total Quarterback Rating (QBR).  Just when I thought it couldn’t get any worse espn logoalong comes QBR to fuel the fires of every living, breathing fantasy football geek the world over.

According to ESPN.com, it is a “statistical measure that incorporates the contexts and details of the quarterback’s throws and what they mean for wins.”  Couldn’t fans and media members simply watch the games to decide the level of a quarterback’s play?  Does anyone need mathematics to know Tom Brady greatly influences every New England Patriots game?

My love of the National Football League was born in the seventies when star quarterbacks like Ken Stabler and Terry Bradshaw confounded defenses with their skill, intelligence and toughness. Generally, it was easy to see when they played well and when they didn’t. There was no use for a quarterback rating statistic. In fact, I didn’t know what a quarterback rating was until about twenty years later. It was an uncomplicated and glorious time for NFL fans.   

What do quarterbacks Dan Marino, Dan Fouts and John Elway have in common?  Each one Dan Marino and John Elwayhas a career quarterback rating below 87.0. That statistic by today's standards implies they were each slightly above average. Can’t you hear Rotisserie football experts arguing the merits of those legends based solely on quarterback rating?

Fortunately for them their careers are defined by mostly tangential and rational men who saw fit to induct them into the pro football Hall of Fame.  One would be hard-pressed to find anyone who saw them play challenge their rightful place in Canton, OH.

Perhaps it’s part of the overall simplemindedness of the country and world we live in.  Maybe the pundits would rather talk about the NFL with more nuance but they have implicit instructions to focus on the numbers. After all, it’s still about viewers and the fantasy football contingent absolutely loves any and all quantifiable data.

That way, when the subject of pro football comes up in a regular conversation they can offer an opinion that actually sounds believable. Never mind the fact they don’t actually watch the games. They merely tune in to the NFL’s RedZone channel to follow the yards, receptions and touchdowns of players on their rosters. Countless times I've heard a friend or colleague explain the value of a particular player on the basis of some obscure statistic.

The level of minutia available to football fans never ends. Just the other day I read an article by an actual NFL beat-writer whose work is respectable. In it was a detailed (and mundane) analysis of a specific quarterback’s rating, only in this piece the writer provided numbers based on the intended receiver.  It turns out this quarterback’s rating is highest when he targets the player on his team widely regarded as his best pass catcher.

How about that?  It seems there is a fascinating trend permeating NFL stadiums from coast to coast.  According to the current data, quarterbacks who throw to their best receiver have better numbers than when they don’t.  Not to judge this writer too harshly but his reporting is lazy.  It’s hard to fathom there are companies out there actually willing to pay him for this non-sense.  Even a casual fan can see the quarterback plays his best when he throws to his most accomplished and in some instances only good pass-catcher.

This has reached epidemic proportions.  It seems each day brings a new, hard to reconcile metric. Critical analysis and careful thought are secondary to numeric equations and statistical data.

ESPN if offering total quarterback rating as a meaningful figure instead of the useless number it is.  

They should know better and so should we.

Earl Myers is a native of Philadelphia. He enjoys horse racing and considers golf his only hobby.  He closely follows North America's four major leagues but has been known to watch any sporting event on television.  He''s the kind of writer whose message is sometimes received long after it's been sent.


Contact Earl at emyersiii@gmail.com

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ESPN logo from espn.com

Photo of Marino and Elway from buymeposters.com