Commentary

Quick Reads: Rodgers making history

Aaron Rodgers isn't just carrying Green Bay, he's challenging Brady and Manning

Originally Published: November 7, 2011
By Vince Verhei | Football Outsiders
Aaron RodgersJake Roth/US PresswireAaron Rodgers has made his case this season as the best quarterback in the NFL.

Dan Marino? Peyton Manning? Drew Brees? You are officially on notice: Aaron Rodgers is halfway home to breaking your records.

Rodgers is on pace to set all-time standards in passing yards (breaking Marino's record, set in 1984), passer rating (Manning, 2004) and completion percentage (Brees, 2009). He's dominating in other statistics as well. He's averaging 9.9 yards per pass attempt. That's the best rate since 1954 (albeit by the slimmest of margins -- he's ahead of Kurt Warner's 2000 campaign by 0.04 inches per throw). If he gets any better, he'll join Sid Luckman, Otto Graham and Norm Van Brocklin as the only passers to average 10 yards per attempt in a season. And Rodgers is also avoiding turnovers -- his interception rate of 1.1 percent would be one of the five best seasons in that category.

Those are the basic numbers. What do the advanced stats tell us? FO breaks down NFL play-by-play data into two numbers, DYAR (a counting stat that measures total value) and DVOA (a rate stat that measures per-play value). (These stats are explained more here).

Rodgers is on pace to finish 2011 with 2,764 DYAR. That would be the second-highest figure in our database, behind Tom Brady's 2,788 in 2007. That's partly because Brady threw a league-record 50 touchdowns that season, but also because he finished with 606 passing plays (including sacks and defensive pass interference penalties, but not including spikes to stop the clock). Rodgers is on pace for "only" 48 touchdowns and 570 passing plays. His DVOA, however, stands at 62.2 percent. That would pass Manning in 2004 (60.6 percent) for the best rate on record.

That record, though, goes back only to 1992, the first year for which we have complete play-by-play data. How can we compare Rodgers to great passers of the past? In 2005, FO boss Aaron Schatz used a variety of individual and team data to evaluate historical seasons, using both passing and rushing numbers, and adjusting for the season in question and the team's schedule to estimate a quarterback's "points above average."

At the time, the record for best overall season was held by Bert Jones of the Baltimore Colts in 1976. Since then, though, Jones has been passed by Brady, and he's likely to be passed again by Rodgers. Here's the updated list of top quarterback seasons since 1960, using our "points above average" formula:


To read more about Aaron Rodgers' season, whether it may be the best of all time and the best and worst performances of Week 9 in the NFL, you must be an ESPN Insider.