This is something of a companion article to my recent (or forthcoming) article trying to decide which NFL teams got the best value out of new Week 1 starting quarterbacks acquired either via trade, or free agency. The purpose of this article will be to look at the biggest drop offs in performance from NFL quarterbacks going into Week 14 of the season.
While we will discuss factors that have led to the performance drops, the biggest determinant for this listing will be stats and performance as compared to their career efforts. For that reason, Tom Brady, who has had the greatest career of all time, will be pretty highly on this list, despite the fact that he hasn’t actually been bad.
Russell Wilson is going to be interesting in that he makes both lists, the worst value new quarterback acquisitions (based on what has happened so far) and this list for his substantial dropoff in performance. One would assume not being in former Head Coach Pete Carroll's system anymore might have something to do with that. Wilson loved that system so much, he still calls Seahawks’ audibles from it, despite no longer playing for them.
This page is going to list the Top 5, but should not be construed as being in any particular order as this is much more difficult for me to tightly gauge. For example, Russell Wilson is not only with a brand new team, but is on a brand new team with a first-year head coach who has not been very good himself, so far, so it seems a bit unfair to put a number on how far he has fallen or who has the biggest fall.
Here we go: This despite quarterbacks getting an almost ridiculous amount of protection from referees.
Tom Brady-Tampa Bay Buccaneers:
Most of my statistical research, probably all of it, will come from the always reliable Pro Football Reference website. I don’t know whether or not there is a god, but if there is, PFR is doing the Lord’s work, good job, guys! (That is absolutely NOT sarcasm; the site is amazing!)
Keeping in mind that the stats for this year are going to be worked into the career (so far) stats, I first present Tom Brady’s ridiculous career body of work:
Completions: 7,610 (64.2%)
Yards: 87,852 (Maybe we should just measure his performance in miles, at this point)
Yards Per Attempt: 7.4
Yards Per Completion: 11.5
QB RATE: 97.3
Super Bowl Rings: All of.
For anyone who has been living in a cave for the last more than two decades, Tom Brady is the NFL career leader in passing yards, by a lot. Brady also leads in pass attempts, pass completions and touchdowns over the course of his career. Essentially, Tom Brady is #1 in all of the most meaningful passer categories, and in those where he is not, he is still near the top.
For example, Brady ranks ninth all-time (as of this writing) in passing yards per game, which is saying something, because the game has changed to increasingly favor passing, and often using short and high percentage passes (as Brady himself does) in favor of the run, in recent years. The only quarterbacks with a higher number of average yards per game than Tom Brady who are no longer in the league are surefire Hall of Famers, Peyton Manning and Drew Brees, as well as Andrew Luck, who retired fairly young.
Tom Brady is also ninth in career passer rating, with Drew Brees being the only player ranked more highly who is no longer in the league. That’s right, as of right now, Brady has a higher career passer rating than Peyton Manning. Of course, Manning’s worst game might have single-handedly dropped his career rating by ten points. (I jest)
Brady’s somewhere in the 40’s on yards per attempt, but again, he relies heavily on the short passing game. Modern quarterbacks are not even generally in the discussion for yards per completion because old school quarterbacks mostly just heaved the ball as far away from themselves as they could and hoped for the best. That’s why you see them all ranked highly on yards per completion, but not yards per attempt; they completed a shockingly low percentage of passes by today’s standards.
Brady is presently tied for 20th in all-time completion percentage, which I would think, people would agree is pretty good. Of course, I went more in depth on the man in my Brady Is The System article, which you can find here as well as additional praise here.
With that, it’s probably a surprise to see him on this list, but for Heaven’s sake, the man is forty-five years old! I’ll be happy to be able to run on a treadmill when I’m 45; there’s already not a ton that my knees like to do and I have more than half a decade left until then.
Of course, age is not the only factor because, if it were, Max Kellerman wouldn’t have spent the last ten years, or so, looking like an idiot. Has Brady fallen off a cliff yet? Not really.
Let’s look at his 2022 stats, through twelve games:
Completion Percentage: 66.2% (Better than Average, but he’s extremely safe)
Yards: 3,332 (ABOVE average yards per game, if you’d believe it)
Touchdowns: 16 (3.1%) (This is way below average)
Interceptions: 3 (0.6%) (This is way below average, but small sample size)
Yards Per Attempt: 6.4 (One yard below average)
Yards Per Completion: 9.6 (1.9 Yards Below Average)
QB RATE: 91.6 (Below Average)
Super Bowl Rings: Still all of them, but not all of them +1.
Thus far this season, we start with Brady’s more than five touchdowns for every interception, so despite not throwing as many touchdowns (1.33/game) as he usually does by this point in a season, his ratio is still ridiculous and better, so far, than his career average.
Brady is being forced to throw a ton. This forty-five year old man is being asked to throw an average of 43.67 times per game, compared to his career average of 35.88. Given the Buccaneers total lack of a rushing attack (more on that in a minute) Brady has been forced to use the pass in place of the run more than he ever has in his career, which is something that he has leaned on these last few seasons.
Additionally, Brady no longer has big man Rob Gronkowski at Tight End, so that’s been a major factor as Gronk was getting those moderate passing gains and grabbing a few extra yards with his size and power. With that, in addition to the problems in the running game, Brady simply doesn’t have as much to work with as he did in 2020 and 2021. He’s also got a different Head Coach, but I’m not sure how much that matters.
People tend to look at Brady’s touchdown output, combined with the fact that the Buccaneers are 6-6, and make conclusions about his play from that. While Brady is certainly not the best he has ever been, and while I am no longer a fan of him, he’s still extremely safe with the ball and I can’t think of very many guys that would be doing better right now; certainly no guys that would have actually been available to the Buccaneers going into the season.
In terms of the (lack of) ground attack, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers rank DEAD LAST in both yards per carry average as well as rushing touchdowns. Believe it or not, they are fifth in passing yards, 18th in passing touchdowns and second in interceptions thrown.
Due to the lack of production, Tampa Bay tends to abandon the run early, when they even try to work it at all, as evidenced by the fact that they are second-to-last in the league in rushing attempts.
In other words, opposing defenses can, “Sell out,” for the pass, because it can only really be a pass, and Tom Brady is still producing at an extremely high level.
I think it’s pretty telling that excellent quarterback production, production that the majority of NFL teams would trade a high draft pick for…or teams such as the Denver Broncos traded many draft picks for and aren’t getting, is considered a substantial decline.
Either way, there’s really no choice but to put Brady on this list because there is the matter of the raw comparison that he is on a 6-6 team compared to other teams throughout his career. He also hasn’t thrown very many touchdowns, at least, by the standards we have for him.
Aaron Rodgers-Green Bay Packers:
That brings us to another all-time great, probably somewhere in the top four all-time, to this point, depending on where you want to put Drew Brees and Peyton Manning, in Aaron Rodgers. With Rodgers, we are talking about an actual decline in performance, but we will be able to see if that can be attributed to any significant drop offs in the running game or poor defensive performance causing him to have to throw a ton.
Completions: 4,923 (65.3%)
Yards Per Attempt: 7.7
Yards Per Completion: 11.8
QB RATE: 103.8
Super Bowl Rings: 1
Speaking of being safe with the ball, one thing that jumps out to me about Rodgers is that he throws well over four touchdowns for each interception; unbelievable! He’s definitely got Brady in check when it comes to a tendency to score as opposed to give the ball to the other team, hence his higher QB rating compared to Brady.
That said, both his yards per attempt and yards per completion are also slightly higher than Brady’s. He’s completed a slightly higher percentage of his passes than Brady. I just think it is ironic because I have seen any number of advocates for the ridiculous position that Rodgers is the superior of the two complain that Brady runs up the stats by only throwing the ball three yards through the air, but Rodgers’ distance output isn’t that much higher.
What does Brady frequently do that Rodgers doesn’t? Win Super Bowls.
Okay, let’s take a look at Rodgers performance through thirteen games (as of this writing) in the 2022 season:
Completion Percentage: 65.3% (Exactly Career Average!)
Yards: 2,864 (WAY below average yards per game)
Touchdowns: 22 (5.2%, one percent below career average)
Interceptions: 9 (2.1%, above average percentage)
Yards Per Attempt: 6.8 (0.9 below career average)
Yards Per Completion: 10.5 (1.3 yards below average)
QB RATE: 92.4 (Career worst as a starter so far)
Super Bowl Rings: Still one after this season.
Okay, so Brady and Rodgers are performing at about the same level by QB RATE, but Brady has a higher completion percentage and better TD:INT ratio, as well as a better completion percentage and yards, but Rodgers hasn’t thrown as much and gets more out of his throws when he does, with much better, “Yards per,” stats and touchdowns.
Essentially, Rodgers and Brady seem to be playing to the same level this year, just in different ways. Of course, the Packers rushing offense has the 19th most attempts, 12th most yards, and seventh most yards per carry. In other words, the Packers are reasonably effective on the ground, and would probably run more, except they have to play from behind a good bit, as evidenced by their 5-8 record.
With that, Rodgers is the more dynamic of the two this season, but the passing game is Tampa Bay’s only offensive weapon. The Packers, on the other hand, can mix it up a bit.
The Packers have thrown the sixth-most touchdowns of any team in the league, through thirteen games, but all of their other passing stats are dead in the middle of the pack.
At one point, Rodgers had the best quarterback rating of all time, but has since been surpassed by Patrick Mahomes and Deshaun Watson, who are still young in their careers, so it’s possible that Rodgers reclaims his first place spot. He’ll almost certainly have the highest quarterback rating amongst retired QB’s when he hangs up the gear.
Russell Wilson-Denver Broncos:
The first thing to do is look at Russell Wilson’s career numbers, which are pretty outstanding, though all but this (not particularly good) season was with the Seahawks:
Completions: 3,294 (64.7%)
Yards Per Attempt: 7.8
Yards Per Completion: 12
QB RATE: 100.5
Super Bowl Rings: 1
Another Super Bowl winning quarterback, Russell Wilson, has experienced a serious decline in production in this 2022 NFL Season. Immediately, one must acknowledge that DisasteRuss is with a brand new team with a first year Head Coach, and could probably have more around him. That said, the Denver Broncos effectively traded their 2022 and 2023 Drafts to land Wilson, so if they are going to add any pieces at all, it will need to be through trade or free agency.
The downside to the trade route is that it would almost certainly require trading away key defensive pieces, or they could keep going the draft stock route and start dealing away early picks in 2024. It appears they traded their way to a new first round pick next season, but it won’t be as early in the round as the one they sent to the Seahawks unless the trajectory for both the Broncos and Dolphins drastically changes.
With that, they do have a pick that they could maybe move for the right guy on offense. They also have all of their early-round 2024 Picks if they want to take the same route that they did for Wilson to get some pieces, but that certainly hasn’t paid off as relates what they gave to get Wilson, thus far.
In terms of averages (by season), Wilson compares fairly equally to Brady and has a slightly better touchdown to interception ratio. He has more yards per attempt and completion than both Brady and Rodgers, but Rodgers TD:INT ratio is going to blow anybody out of the water, hence Rodgers’ obscene QB Rating.
Wilson is young enough in his career that one can’t really look at raw numbers yet. There’s also a question as to whether or not he will have as many meaningful seasons as both Brady and Rodgers did, (Brady sat a full season behind Drew Bledsoe and missed basically an entire season due to injury, but is also 45; Rodgers is 39, but sat behind Brett Favre for three years) and it’s possible that he will, but remains to be seen. He might retire after this contract.
For the time being, Wilson is a Top 20 all-time QB in completion percentage and has the fourth-highest career QB Rating, as of this writing.
That said, this has been an awful year for him. If I was ranking these, rather than just listing five, Wilson would probably be #1.
Who am I kidding? He definitely would be. Through eleven games played:
Completion Percentage: 60.1% (4.6% Below Career Average)
Yards: 2,558 (Average YPG)
Touchdowns: 8 (2.2%---this is just over 1/3rd his normal quip)
Interceptions: 5 (1.4% Actually, Better Than Career Average)
Yards Per Attempt: 7.1 (0.7 below career average)
Yards Per Completion: 11.9 (Roughly Average)
QB RATE: 83.5 (Career worst as a starter so far)
Super Bowl Rings: 1. Not changing this year.
Just from these stats, the biggest thing that jumps out is the fact that DisasteRuss isn’t throwing very many touchdowns and his completion percentage is significantly below his career average. Even with that, however, he is averaging the same number of YPG, despite the fact that his yac is lower than normal.
Conclusion: He’s being made to throw a lot.
Throughout his career, he has averaged 30.14 passing attempts per game, but with Seattle, his teams have had a run offense ranging from decent to stellar most seasons. Russell Wilson is a great quarterback, don’t get me wrong, but Seahawks’ fans, masochistic ones anyway, still rewatch that Super Bowl against the Patriots and ask, “We have Beast Mode; why would you THROW!!??”
Wilson is throwing an average of 32.55 times per game this season, which doesn’t seem like a ton of difference, but it depends on what the team can do on the ground.
Some of that decline in rushing production to support the pass has come from Wilson himself. With the Seahawks, 2016 (16.2 YPG) and 2021 (13.1 YPG) are the only two seasons in which Wilson averaged fewer than twenty rushing yards per game. Of course, he’s getting older and that number sits at 14.4 YPG so far this season.
Not that Wilson doesn’t want to run; he’s been running for his life! Throughout his career, he has been sacked an average of 2.75 times per game, but this season, that number has risen to 3.36 sacks per game, thus far. Again, that doesn’t seem like a lot, but it speaks to the fact that there’s somewhat more pressure getting to him.
Overall, the offense is 27th in the league in yards gained (to this point) and is dead last in scoring. The only reason they are even competitive is because they have the second best defense in points allowed and third best in yards allowed.
The team is a little below league average in passing attempts, but getting sacked more kind of plays into that slightly. They are safely in the bottom half in passing yards, but Brett Rypien filled in for Wilson Week 7, threw A TON and overall passing yardage was about average.
The Seahawks try to run the ball somewhat, but mostly without success. They are in the bottom quarter of the league in all rushing categories, with exception only to attempts. They are next to last in the league in passing touchdowns, and third from last in rushing touchdowns.
They can move the ball, sometimes, but cannot seem to find the endzone whatsoever. At 37.5%, they are the worst team in the league in Red Zone scoring, fortunately for them, their defense is the best in the league (32.1%) at preventing opposing offenses from scoring in the Red Zone.
There’s no lipstick to put on this pig. The defense is amongst the best seen in this NFL era and the offense is pure garbage. If the offense could at least hold onto the ball for longer drives (28th in the league) then the defense would look even better. As it stands, despite the stellar defense, opposing teams’ offensive possessions last nine seconds longer than those of the Broncos.
I never thought I would give Ben Roethlisberger a compliment, but here it is: Russell Wilson is no Ben Roethlisberger. The Steelers weren’t amazing last year, they weren’t even good, but Big Ben was able to do much more with as much to work with, though I won’t say more with less.
Matthew Stafford-Los Angeles Rams:
I’m happy for Matthew Stafford that the Rams won a Super Bowl, but I feel bad for those former St. Louis Rams fans who were disenfranchised after the move. I almost typed, “St. Louis Rams,” above as a joke, but I didn’t have the heart to go through with it.
Obviously, Stafford has not quite enjoyed the career success, or statistics, of the three guys above, but I’ve always maintained that he hasn’t been given proper credit for his accomplishments. He played for the Detroit Lions most of his career, for Heaven’s sake, what do you want him to do?
Anyway, his career numbers are, at least, better than average over a long period of time and he managed to get that Super Bowl ring, that he NEVER would have gotten as a Lion, in his first season with the Rams. That’s one thing his naysayers can never take from him. Here are the career stats:
Completions: 4,508 (63.2%)
Yards Per Attempt: 7.3
Yards Per Completion: 11.6
QB RATE: 90.9
Super Bowl Rings: 1
Stafford is more of an old school type of quarterback who sort of reminds me of Drew Bledsoe, just with a better TD:INT ratio of nearly 2:1.
Much like Bledsoe, Stafford has had to throw A TON, and averages 37.32 attempts per game, which I would assume contributes to his interception total significantly. The Detroit Lions often found themselves playing from behind, often through no real fault of Stafford’s, so the result is going to be a quarterback who has to throw the ball a lot to try to make a comeback.
One knock on Stafford is that some have called him a, “Choke Artist,” but the truth is he is sixth all-time in fourth-quarter comebacks, despite only having played 14 seasons. There is nobody who has played fewer seasons higher than him on the list, with 34 such comebacks, though “Matty Ice” Matt Ryan has played only one more season and has 38 such comebacks.
The other guys ahead of him are Tom Brady, Drew Brees, Peyton Manning and Ben Roethlisberger, so I would suggest Stafford is in pretty decent company. That’s right; Matthew Stafford has more fourth quarter comebacks than Aaron Rodgers, who has only 21.
Granted, Stafford, ‘Gets,’ to play from behind more often, but his ability to drive a terrible team (meaning the Lions) to wins prove that he’s got the fortitude to get things done. Not good enough? Okay. He also won a Super Bowl in his first season with the Rams.
This year, however, hasn’t been so great.
Attempts: 303 (Nine Games)
Completion Percentage: 68% (4.8% Above Average)
Yards: 2,087 (Down more than 40 YPG)
Touchdowns: 10 (3.3%, almost 1.5% below average)
Interceptions: 8 (2.6%, slightly above average)
Yards Per Attempt: 6.9 (0.4 below average)
Yards Per Completion: 10.1 (1.5 below average)
QB RATE: 87.4 (Near Career Low)
Super Bowl Rings: 1. Still going to be one.
Stafford is presently on injured reserve, but the first thing that I note is that he attempted 303 passes in nine games, which is 33.67 attempts per game and is below his career average. If he doesn’t play again this season, this will be a career-high in completion percentage, believe it or not, which is what saves his QB rating as all of his other stats are slightly below career average.
Stafford has never been much of a runner, so we’ll ignore rushing yards, but the big problem that he has is that the Rams Offensive Line isn’t protecting anybody and 8.7% of Stafford’s dropbacks have resulted in him eating turf; this is easily a career-high and is almost double the rate at which he was sacked last season.
You can look at the reasons why for yourself, but what basically happened was that the Los Angeles Rams basically sold this season, and probably the next season or two, to make a Super Bowl run last year. Fortunately, they were successful, and I think that Matthew Stafford finally got the ring that he absolutely deserves.
Why does everyone hate Matthew Stafford? Theories abound. I’ve always liked him and see him as a top tier quarterback. I don’t think he’s a Hall of Famer. I don’t think he has ever been a Top Five quarterback in any given season, which is tough to do when most of his seasons have seen at least five future Hall of Famers in the league, but he’s easily top half and probably should have been seen as a Top 10 QB in most of his campaigns.
Also, he’s currently ranked 11th in all-time passing yards. If he plays four more seasons, and manages to stay healthy, he will probably jump into the Top Five all time. He’s also clinging to Top 25 career QB Rate so far.
Kyler Murray-Arizona Cardinals:
I had my reservations about including Kyler Murray on this list because this is only his fourth season in the league, but I wanted to have five on this list, so here you are.
Relative to career averages, Murray has actually not been that bad, so this is mainly looking at it in terms of dropoff compared to his 2021 campaign, after which he declared himself the single savior of the Arizona Cardinals, basically the most important person to ever grace that organization and got paid. I’d have traded him.
In the offseason, Kyler Murray would sign a five-year contract worth a total of 230.5M with 189.5M dollars of that money being guaranteed. The contract is structured in such a way that the real cap hits (and higher base salaries) don’t start to come about until year three of the contract, which will be the 2024 season, but those cap hits are going to seriously limit what the Cardinals might have been able to do as an organization in those years and the ones to follow.
What they are really going to need to hope for is to knock it out of the park in terms of drafting. Since Murray’s historical stats are basically irrelevant, as he is so young in his career, let’s compare this season with the 2021 campaign:
Yards (Per Game): 2021: 270.5 2022: 235.9
Completion Percentage: 2021: 69.2% 2022: 66.3%
Touchdowns (Per Game) 2021: 1.71 2022: 1.4
Interceptions (Per Game) 2021: 0.71 2022: .7 (Same)
Yards per Attempt: 2021: 7.9 2022: 6.0
Yards per Completion: 2021: 11.4 2022: 9.1
Sack Percentage: 2021: 6.1% 2022: 6.0%
Attempts (Per Game): 2021: 34.36 2022: 38.9
QB RATE: 2021: 100.6 2022: 87.1
I suppose it is something of a single-handed effort, however, as in four fewer games played (he played 14 games in 2021) he has only eight fewer rushing yards than he did last season.
With that, Kyler Murray is getting it done with his legs, but it would seem that he’s having trouble finding guys deep, and perhaps, the Cardinals are having trouble designing plays that would result in significant yards after the catch, both of which are evidenced by Murray’s abysmal sub ten yards per completion so far this year.
You sometimes hear talk about guys playing for contracts, but I’ve never really bought into all of that, except in a few extremely rare cases…which I don’t think Kyler Murray is one of. Sample sizes are limited, but other than the drop in yards per attempt and completion, Murray has basically looked like he looked in the 2019 and 2020 NFL Seasons.
With that, if there can be said to be a decline at all, then it is simply a quick return to the mean based on a very limited sample size of seasons. He played out of his mind last year, and certainly demanded a huge contract, publicly, which isn’t normally advisable, but this appears to be just Kyler Murray coming back down to Earth in terms of performance.
Do you think he was playing for a contract last year? I don’t. These guys are competitors and my tendency is to go out and believe that most of them play the best ball they can every single week. With statistics, however, come deviations and I simply think last season may have been one of them.
It’s true that the rushing offense of the Cardinals has also dropped off substantially comparing the two seasons, but they were one of the best ground teams in the league in 2021. This season, the ground game (which, admittedly, gets a lot of help from Murray) has been basically around the league average.
A few of the guys we listed above are doing much more with much less support from the ground attack, so my tendency is to think Murray can play to an elite level with an elite offense around him and is, barring that, simply better than average. Guys like Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers can play to a significantly above average with basically nothing around them, as they have already proven on so many occasions.
Do you agree with my list? If not, then who would you remove and who would you replace the removed player(s) with? Other than Kyler Murray, and to a lesser extent, Matthew Stafford, I think Brady, Rodgers and Wilson solidly belong on this list, though to the extent of Brady, through no real fault of his own.