This is the second year that ESPN will feature QBR and entering that second year, we wanted to test its potential predictive qualities. We did a little bit of this internally last year before the season, speculating on how various quarterbacks would perform. This year, we're stepping out on to the ledge and putting some of that speculation out for the public. The ledge is admittedly a bit unstable because, though the QBR algorithm is robust and has a lot of information, going from that to a prediction requires an understanding of what carries over from year to year. That step is harder and something we're continually working on.
There are, however, some indicators we are finding.
The primary indicator of future success is one that we saw last year before the season started: QBR on third-and-long is hugely important for success, but also not terribly consistent from year to year. As a result, if a player's QBR is heavily dependent upon success in third-and-long situations, they will probably come down.
As a good example: Coming off the 2010 season, Josh Freeman was a lot of people's hot quarterback. His QBR was 64.6, but his QBR in third-and-long was 94.5, the best in the league among qualified quarterbacks. He completed 66 percent of his passes in those situations, with six 30-yard completions, and rushed for another 52 yards. He couldn't repeat this in 2011, his QBR on third-and-long dropping to 54.3. Freeman's overall QBR dropped to 45.3 and his third-and-long QBR is the reason for most of the overall decline. He wasn't the first quarterback to show this pattern, but he was the first we noticed and we have found a few others since then. If you apply this finding across the league, you can start to project some likely movement in potential 2012 QBR numbers and see who figures to improve or regress.
First, some good news for a QB who could really use some.
Just as a QB with strong performances on third-and-long will likely regress the following season, a QB with poor performances on third-and-long is likely to improve. That would be a positive development for much-maligned Jets QB Mark Sanchez.