Class of 2012: Best QB class ever?

November, 21, 2012
11/21/12
9:30
AM ET
US Presswire/Getty ImagesAndrew Luck (left) and Robert Griffin III are two of the best rookie QBs we’ve seen in a while.


Are Andrew Luck, Robert Griffin III and the other Class of 2012 quarterbacks on par with storied the QB classes of 1983 and 2004?

While this week’s Hot Read compares the three classes in their respective infancies, we decided to see how they stack up relative to the eras in which they played through 10 career starts.

Class of 1983: Dan Marino, John Elway, Jim Kelly, Todd Blackledge, Ken O’Brien, Tony Eason
Class of 2004: Eli Manning, Ben Roethlisberger, Philip Rivers, Matt Schaub, J.P. Losman
Class of 2012: Luck, RG3, Brandon Weeden, Russell Wilson, Ryan Tannehill

The NFL has become a pass-happy league since the Class of 1983 made its debut. From 1983 to '86, NFL offenses passed on roughly 53 percent of their plays. So far this season, that number is more than 58 percent. (NOTE: Keep in mind that this includes QB scrambles as rush attempts instead of broken pass plays, as that data is not historically available.)

If that kind of increase doesn’t seem like much, consider this: From 1980 to '89, there were 14 instances of a QB throwing for 4,000-plus yards in a single season. In the '90s that number rose to 22. Since 2000? It’s happened 61 times.

In addition to throwing more often for more yards, quarterbacks are completing a higher percentage and throwing far more touchdowns than interceptions in the current era.

Since that is all NFL passer rating takes into account (Total QBR wasn’t available pre-2008), it makes sense that the league-wide passer rating is 12 points higher now than it was in the mid-1980s (and nearly six points higher than it was from 2004 to '06).

Looking at the QB classes in a vacuum, the Class of 2004 in its infancy rates the best statistically, as it has the highest completion percentage, touchdown-to-interception ratio and passer rating of any of the three groups. Up next would be the current crop, which also had a better completion percentage, TD-INT ratio and passer rating than the 1983 group.

But what happens when we adjust for the eras in which they played?

Through 10 career starts, the classes of 1983 and 2004 put up better cumulative statistics than their respective league averages. That’s not the case for the current crop.

Entering Week 12, the Class of 2012 has a completion percentage nearly 2.5 points lower than the league average. While its TD-INT ratio of 1.22 isn’t bad at face value, it’s actually 26 percent lower than the current league average. The group’s cumulative passer rating of 80.5 -- which would have ranked 13th in the NFL in 1983 -- is more than six points below the current league average.

Of course, there is more to quarterback play than throwing. Led by Luck and Griffin, the current rookies have rushed for 1,059 yards and 12 touchdowns, more than the two previous classes combined at this same early point in their careers.

So it would seem logical that Total QBR -- which measures everything a quarterback does (passing, avoiding sacks, sustaining drives, fumbles, etc.) and at what point in the game he does it -- would paint a more flattering picture for the Class of 2012. While the rookies’ Total QBR measures closer to the league average than other metrics, the current group’s cumulative rating of 55.1 is still below the current league average of 56.1.

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