by MARK SIMON AND ALEX VIGDERMAN
So this is the part where you tell us that our ratings are bananas.
We like our World’s No. 1 Quarterback Ranking Tool.
It does what we want it to do. It takes a logical framework and turns out a list of the quarterbacks who fare best by our rules.
We were used to the results we would get the last couple of years: Some combination of Patrick Mahomes, Aaron Rodgers, and Tom Brady as the No. 1, 2, and 3 quarterbacks. And then a veteran right behind them.
And then Week 9 of the 2021 NFL season happened. That’s where things get crazy.
A reminder that The World’s No. 1 Quarterback Ranking is based on a model devised by Bill James to evaluate The World’s No. 1 Starting Pitcher. Bill’s model was based on cumulative evaluation of individual starts over an extended time period using the metric Game Score.
The World’s No. 1 Quarterback Ranking uses our player value stat Total Points to make a cumulative evaluation of game performance over a three-year period. The key to our calculation is Points Above Average (PAA), which is the statistical underpinning of Total Points that is centered at zero so that positive numbers are above average and negative numbers are below average.
Success over time is key to maintaining a good ranking. Prolonged inactivity results in a ranking drop. The most recent performances carry the most weight.
Tom Brady (last week’s #1) and Aaron Rodgers (last week’s #2) didn’t play in Week 9. Brady stayed at No. 1 and Rodgers dropped to No. 3.
Patrick Mahomes (#3) had a bad game.
Matthew Stafford (#5) had a bad game.
Derek Carr (#6) had a bad game.
Lamar Jackson (#7) had a bad game.
Kirk Cousins was just OK for the second straight week—barely above zero Points Above Average in both, which has caused his PAA/Snap rating that underlies this ranking to drop each time. But “just OK” in the context of everyone around him being mediocre meant that Cousins jumped from the No. 4 spot to No. 2.
(As an aside, it was such a weird week that Colt McCoy and Trevor Siemien cracked the top ten quarterbacks for the week.)
And replacing him at No. 4 was Chargers quarterback Justin Herbert, who had the best game by Points Above Average of any QB in 2021. Herbert jumped four spots in the rankings, leapfrogging some pretty experienced competition.
So here’s our new (gulp!) Top 10 Quarterbacks rankings.
- Tom Brady
- Kirk Cousins
- Aaron Rodgers
- Justin Herbert
- Patrick Mahomes
- Matthew Stafford
- Kyler Murray
- Josh Allen
- Lamar Jackson (excluding his underwhelming performance Thu vs. MIA)
- Derek Carr
We’ve been waiting for Cousins to drop since he jumped to the No. 4 spot in our rankings after Week 3. But he hasn’t done that. He’s posted a positive PAA in every game he’s played this season. Admittedly the last two weeks haven’t been great, but as we noted, not-great looks good when everyone around him is struggling and the other best performances come from the likes of Matt Ryan (currently No. 14).
The Vikings are wasting a good-to-great year from Cousins with some of these nailbiter defeats. Or maybe what’s happened so far portends better things to come?
Better things have come for Herbert, who ranked as low as No. 11 this season but now stands tall at No. 4. Having a bye after his worst game of the season (against the Ravens) was a blessing for Herbert, who has totaled 20 PAA the last two weeks against the Patriots and Eagles.
Herbert was 32-of-38 for 356 yards and two touchdowns in the latter game against an Eagles defense that has repeatedly been chopped up by quarterbacks this season.
He wasn’t terribly aggressive downfield, but boy was he effective, going 4-of-5 for 103 yards in that game on throws at least 15 yards downfield. That effectiveness has pervaded his 2021 campaign. His 21 PAA on passes at least 15 yards downfield is a near match for his 22 PAA on those passes in 2020, in which he (unsurprisingly) had twice as many attempts.
And just for good measure, the second-year star added two sneaks for first downs on third and fourth down.
Here is the full list for this week. If you have gripes about Cousins, here is the place where we’ll point out that Cousins, Rodgers, Herbert, and Mahomes are all bundled tightly enough together that it wouldn’t be surprising if the order changes every week for the next few. And given that Herbert was able to vault into that group with one great game among a morass of mediocrity, the same thing could cause someone like Stafford to enter the conversation as well.
|Rk||Player||PAA per 60||Last Week Rank||Start Of Season Rank|
|63||Robert Griffin III||-3||64||64|