Seth Wickersham wrote a great piece over on ESPN Insider last week about Eagles offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg and his method of QB evaluation. It's actually pretty simple and based on a widely available stat. Yards per attempt.
You simply take a QB's yards passing, divide it by the number of throws he made and you get your yards per attempt. It's a very simple, yet sensible way to measure how effective and efficient a QB is. It can also can give you some expectations as far as the passing game. After a large enough sample size, you've got an idea of how many yards you are likely to get per passing play called. It also correlates pretty well to success. 72 percent of the top five passers in yards per attempt over the past 10 years have led their team to the playoffs.
"That statistic not only correlates highly with winning and scoring, but it shows that you get big chunks of yardage in the passing game," he says.
Marty says that simply having a high completion percentage isn't particularly useful if you aren't making big plays.
"If the QB [has a 70 percent completion percentage] but is averaging 5 yards per attempt, that doesn't do a team any good," he says. "I like to take shots."
Of course, Marty's grades go beyond the simple YPA you'll find on any stats websites. He also backs it up with film review to get the real statistic. For instance, if a WR drops a pass, Marty says he will grade the up in that instance. So in reality, Michael Vick was averaging more than 8.1 yards per pass attempted. By the way, that's one to two yards better than he did in Atlanta.
After the jump, we take a look at some QBs who are deficient in the category and look at how some of the NFC East QBs fared. Also, how does the stat treat Kevin Kolb?
Below is a table of all the starting QBs from last year sorted by YPA. Some guys at the bottom are no surprise. Young QBs are rarely asked to air the ball out and that shows here. Jimmy Claussen had the lowest YPA and Sam Bradford wasn't far behind. Bradford got a lot of praise last year, but played in an extremely nerfed offense. Whether it was his inability or their unwillingness to try to make any plays downfield last year, the Rams offense clearly suffered from a lack of explosiveness. So while Bradford completed a solid 60% of his passes, he wasn't very efficient with them.
The biggest outlier would seem to be Matt Ryan, who puts up some gaudy numbers, but doesn't produce a lot of yards per attempt. He averaged only 6.5 YPA last year, which was the same mark he had in 2009. In the playoffs, "Matty Ice" sees his YPA drop to 5.6. Once again proving that he has the biggest misnomer of a nickname in the NFL.
As for the NFC East QBs, Tony Romo has a career YPA of 8 and leads the division. Dallas has always had weapons and been a team that likes to take shots. That shows here. Jon Kitna had a good 7.4 YPA last season in Romo's place.
Donovan McNabb has a career YPA of 6.9, but that jumped to 8 when he played under Marty Mornhinweg. His low career averaged is dragged down from some dismal YPAs early in his career when he was young and the Eagles offense didn't have a lot of weapons and was very dink and dunk.
Eli Manning is an interesting case because he has the lowest YPA in the division at 6.8, although like McNabb his career number is dragged down from some dismal marks early in his career. For several years he was barely managing six yards per attempt. However, these past few years have really trended up for him. He's averaged 7.7 yards per attempt over the past two seasons.
Kevin Kolb's YPA in games he has started is a very good 7.5. I did exclude that last Dallas game with all the backups because I don't really think that says anything about him as a QB, but if you did include it, his YPA drops to 7. That's still well above pretty much every young QB in the game. Actually, the one younger QB who does produce a lot of yards per attempt is Josh Freeman of the Bucs at 7.3 yards per attempt.