Week 5 NFL Quarterback Ratings

In Week 5 news, Mitchell Trubisky made his long-awaited debut, and while he certainly looks the part, it was not great. Take away the first drive and it was downright scary-bad. But not all rookies are Matt Ryan or apparently Deshaun Watson. Cam Newton had a great game, leading the Panthers to what may be a season-defining road win at Detroit. Carson Wentz continued his breakout season and Jared Goff returned to Earth a little.

Newton, CAR, 90 (60)
Smith, KC, 87 (81)
Wentz, PHI 78 (55)
Hogan, CLE, 73 (65)
Flacco, BAL, 73 (45)
Rodgers, GB, 68 (60)
Keenum, MIN, 65 (59)
Brady, NE, 64 (69)
McCown, NYJ, 62 (56)
Brissett, IND, 62 (48)
Watson, HOU, 58 (50)
Prescott, DAL, 57 (54)
Hoyer, SF, 55 (41)
Dalton, CIN, 53 (55)
Palmer, ARI, 53 (44)
Stafford, DET, 52 (52)
Cassel, TEN, 45 (31)
Winston, TB, 43 (52)
Wilson, SEA, 42 (48)
Manuel, OAK, 41 (40)
Bortles, JAX, 39 (40)
Bradford, MIN, 38 (66)
Manning, NYG, 35 (51)
Rivers, LAC, 31 (48)
Roethlisberger, PIT, 27 (46)
Taylor, BUF, 25 (55)
Goff, LAR, 24 (60)
Cutler, MIA, 22 (41)
Trubisky, CHI, 21 (21)
Kizer, CLE, 18 (24)

The Monday Night game illustrates some of the issue I have in tracking quarterback wins and losses. As far as the league is concerned and the media is concerned, you start a game, it’s your game. Most people would never know that in Super Bowl 26, Jim Kelly was injured and only was 4-7 passing before he left the game. Frank Reich took over in the second quarter and was 18-31. The Bills lost, 52-17.

So, is that Reich’s loss or Kelly’s? It’s Kelly’s by most standards in that he started. In baseball, pitcher wins and losses are determined by who was responsible for the baserunner who scored the run that gave the other team the lead for the last time. Under that standard, Kelly is still the loser – the Bills were down, 14-7, when he left, and never held the lead again. But Reich threw many more passes (both had two interceptions), was quarterback for a longer time. And sometimes in baseball, you see a closer who had a dreadful 1/3-inning blown save end up with a win. Scorekeepers have some discretion in assigning wins, but only when a starter fails to go five innings. I’m not sure this scorer’s ruling is done anymore or even allowed.

As an aside, the Bills had nine turnovers in that Super Bowl, which isn’t that close to the NFL record of 12.

I try to be consistent in how I assign wins and losses myself. I gave Reich the loss because he threw the ball much more, though I think it could go either way and Kelly certainly put the Bills in a deep hole with three turnovers of his own in his brief stint.

So, what about last night’s game? Sam Bradford started for Minnesota and was clearly struggling with his knee. He wasn’t mobile, it just wasn’t working for him. After a turnover near the end of the half, Bradford led the Vikings five yards in three plays and they kicked a field goal to take a 3-2 lead.

Case Keenum relieved Bradford for the last half-minute of the second quarter and the entire second half. The Vikings won, 20-17. Bradford threw for 36 yards and had a game score of 38. Keenum threw for 140 yards (17-of-21) and had a game score of 65. Now Chicago did tie the score late and Keenum led the winning drive right in the final minute. So under baseball’s rules, Keenum would get the win. I had no problem giving him the win.

But would I have done the same if Chicago had failed on its two-point try in the fourth quarter and the Vikings won, 20-15, without ever having lost the lead they gained with Bradford? I think so. It gets complicated. What do you do with a quarterback who enters the game in the fourth quarter, throws an interception, the other team ties the game and sends it to overtime, where that quarterback who gave up the lead (blew the save) leads the team to victory (perhaps without even throwing a pass)?

Since wins are not an official quarterback statistic, the NFL doesn’t worry about this. I don’t really worry, either, but my primary tool in calibrating my quarterback metric is correlating quarterback statistics with wins and losses. So assigning wins and losses more accurately, whatever that means, leads to a more accurate game score.