What Is NFL Passer Rating?

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Much like in other professional sports, numerous statistics are used in the NFL to evaluate player performance. One such statistic that has been a measure of quarterback efficiency is the NFL passer rating. While the formula hasn’t changed since 1973, there are some critics. 

Let’s look at the NFL passer rating, what a good rating is in this era, and the calculation of the formula.

What is NFL Passer Rating?

The NFL passer rating calculates a quarterback’s effectiveness during a game, season, and career. It is based on a formula that considers pass attempts, pass completions, passing yards, interceptions, and touchdown passes.

A perfect passer rating is 158.3, while 0 is the worst PR possible.

What’s Considered a Good Quarterback Rating?

This depends on the era in the quarterback play. In the days when offenses weren’t as complex and defenders had more leeway when covering receivers, quarterback ratings were significantly lower.

For example, Hall of Famer Terry Bradshaw had a career rating of only 70.4, with his highest of 88. Only one starting quarterback last season had a rating below 70.4, and 21 had a higher rating than Bradshaw’s best single-season rating.

In today’s high-flying offensive-driven NFL, a quarterback rating above 95 generally will place in the top 10 in the NFL, with several seasons with ratings over 100. A rating in the 85 to 95 range shows solid starting quarterback play. Anything below 75 in this day and age will likely put the quarterback on the bench.

Who Has The Worst QB Rating?

The NFL quarterback with the worst single-season passer rating goes to Bud Schwenk of the Detroit Lions in 1942 at 25.5. He completed only 42.7 percent of his passes with six touchdowns and 27 intercepts in 295 attempts. Since the current formula has been used since 1973, Hall of Famer Joe Namath, albeit at the end of his career, had a rating of 39.9 with the Jets in 1976.

Nathan Peterman, who played in the NFL from 2017-2021 as a backup, never found his rhythm when he had a chance to play and had a quarterback rating of 34.0. Of those quarterbacks that saw significant time as a starter, Frank Tripucka had the lowest ever of 52.2 while playing from 1949-1952 and 1960-1963.

What Is Considered a Perfect Passer Rating?

The perfect score for an NFL quarterback passer rating is 158.3, and must meet the following criteria:

1 – Complete at least 77.5 percent of passes with at least ten attempts.

2 – Average at least 12.5 yards per pass completion.

3 – Have a touchdown-to-attempt rate of 11.875 percent or higher.

4 – The quarterback cannot throw an interception.

There have been 78 instances of perfect single-game passer ratings in NFL history. Eight players have achieved this at least twice, including Tom Brady, Peyton Manning, and Kurt Warner

Is It Possible To Throw a 0 For a Passer Rating?

There have been several instances of a 0 quarterback passer rating. To throw for a 0, a quarterback must fail to throw a touchdown, have interceptions, complete under 30 percent of his passes, and average under three yards per attempt.

There have been 60 instances of quarterback ratings of 0. Hall of Famer Terry Bradshaw has four Super Bowl rings and had three cases with a 0 passer rating. Eight other quarterbacks are tied with two games with a 0-PR

How Do You Actually Calculate QB Passer Rating?

The formula for the quarterback rating appears complex, but it is not if you break it down into sections. The overall calculation is as follows:

QB Rating = ((Pass Completions / Pass Attempts -30) * .05) + ((Pass Yards / Pass Attempts – 3) *.25) + ((Passing Touchdowns / Pass Attempts) *100 *.2) + (2.375 – (Passing Interceptions / Passing Attempts) *100 *.25) / 6 *100

Think of each section as chunks, all separated by + signs. Add them all, divide by six and multiply by 100. Therefore, you can think of the formula as

QB Rating = (w + x + y + z)/6 * 100

Example Of The Formula

Suppose a quarterback completed 20 of 30 passes for 270 yards with two touchdowns and one interception. Let’s enter the numbers into the formula and calculate the passer rating for this game.

W: ((20/30 * 100) – 30) * .05 = 1.83

X: ((270/30 – 3)*.25) = 1.5

Y: ((2/30) *100)*0.2 = 1.33

Z: ((2.375 – (1/30)*100 * 0.25) = 1.542

Formula: (1.83 + 1.5 + 1.33 + 1.542)/6 * 100 = 103.4

Quarterback Passer Rating of 103.4

How Can a QB Improve Their Passer Rating?

One way quarterbacks can improve their passer rating is by improving their accuracy. Doing simple things like working on their mechanics and release point while ensuring they follow through on their throws. 

Another way to improve passer rating is by increasing the yards gained per attempt. This can be done by throwing the ball deeper downfield and taking advantage of the receiver’s speed. Quarterbacks can also improve by minimizing turnovers meaning protecting the ball and making intelligent decisions when throwing it.

Does The Passer Rating Formula Have Flaws?

The NFL Quarterback Passer Rating Formula isn’t perfect like any other metric. The formula favors pass attempts and completion percentage more than the quality of the pass.

A quarterback could complete many screen passes or other passes short of the first down marker throughout the game. This will pad completion percentage but, in theory, might do little to help his team win the game.  

In this era of football, quarterback mobility is vital. Perhaps there should be two metrics for a quarterback, one for the QB passer rating and another for overall quarterback play. There is a difference between the two. The quarterback rating is strictly a “passer rating” and doesn’t consider rushing yards, touchdowns, sacks taken, and fumbles. 

Conclusion

The QB Passer Rating is a great way to measure the overall effectiveness of a quarterback as a passer. It can be used to evaluate a single game, multiple games in a season, a season, or a career. While the system certainly is not perfect, it has been used in its current form for nearly 50 years. 

Notice that quarterback ratings have increased over the years, making one wonder if the players are that much better today or if rule changes have favored the offenses. I think it’s a combination of both.

As more and more statistics come into the game, new and perhaps more sophisticated formulas will be used to evaluate the effectiveness of the quarterback and other positions on the field.