When I did my recent post about "The Best NFL Quarterback of All-time", I put together some criteria that I thought were important qualities for any quarterback. Since then, I have had some time to think about it, and there are four qualities that stand out for me that any successful quarterback will have.
1. AVOID MISTAKES
This is the one area where quarterbacks can be fairly judged against other quarterbacks, regardless of the talent around them. While quarterbacks may be unfairly blamed for some mistakes (i.e. a wide receiver runs the wrong route on a timing pattern which leads to an interception, or the running back fumbles the ball on a handoff and the quarterback gets credited/blamed with a fumble), over the entire course of a career these mistakes become very minor statistical blips.
2. GAIN YARDS
There are three basic ways for a quarterback to do this: throw the ball deep, throw the ball short, or run with the ball.
DEEP PASSING: The deep pass is a high reward/high risk play. Older era quarterbacks threw a lot more deep passes than modern era quarterbacks. Because of this, the older era quarterbacks tended to have higher yards/attempt, but also had higher interception percentages.
SHORT PASSING: The short pass is a medium reward/low risk play, hence the popularity of the West Coast Offense. While short passes do get intercepted, it occurs less often than longer passes. As for the reward, consider this: If a quarterback is averaging 5 yards per pass attempt, he is having a bad year; whereas, when a running back averages 5 yards per rushing attempt, he is having a stellar year.
RUNNING: Whether a quarterback run is a good idea varies. Bad running quarterbacks will tend not to run with the ball, and opt to throw it away if they don't think they can complete the pass. Good running quarterbacks have another weapon in their arsenal which they can use on defenses.
3. SCORE TOUCHDOWNS
This goes hand-in-hand with the last category, but it is a separate skill. Throwing or running in the "red zone" is much harder. Consider how many times you have seen a quarterback with 4,000 passing yards in a season, but only 20 touchdown passes.
4. WIN CHAMPIONSHIPS
In any team sport, winning the championship is the whole reason to play the game. All players on any team, regardless of their position, are judged by this criteria.
In categories 2-3, a quarterback relies on his receivers for success. If they don't catch the ball or run the right routes, it doesn't matter how well the quarterback throws the ball. But in the 4th category, the quarterback relies on the ENTIRE rest of his team for success. If the defense is a sieve, then the whole team will be lucky to make it into the playoffs, let alone make it to a championship.
THE BIG QUESTION?
In judging any quarterback, is there any one category which should be weighted more highly than the others? Is there a subcategory of one of these which deserves equal consideration?
Personally, I think these 4 categories should be sufficient, and close to equally weighted. I am also changing my rating system to reflect these. Following is a list of the new calculations:
1. Avoid Mistakes: (Interceptions + Fumbles)/(Pass Attempts + Rush Attempts)
2. Gain Yards: (Pass Yards + Rush Yards)/(Pass Attempts + Rush Attempts)
3. Score Touchdowns: (Pass TD's + Rush TD's)/(Pass Attempts + Rush Attempts)
4. Win Championships: Total number of championships won
Please let me know in the comments if you feel I am overlooking something or not giving enough weight to a specific category. Remember, this rating system is ONLY a statistical starting point for discussion. Intangibles can be brought to the argument later.