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What is the QBR?

If you are handicapping american football, one of the statistics you might look at is the quarterback rating. There are actually two quarterback ratings which are widely used, the NFL quarterback rating and the ESPN’s Total Quarterback Rating, or QBR.  The NFL quarterback rating has been around much longer.  While it is less comprehensive than the QBR, it does still offer value to bettors.  The correlation between the NFL quarterback rating differential and the success of the quarterback is quite strong. 


Still, the QBR is more powerful than the original rating system devised by the NFL.  What makes it so comprehensive?

  • It was developed using almost 60,000 plays over the course of three seasons.
  • All aspects of quarterback play were integrated into the statistic.  This includes rushing, passing, and much more.
  • The rating specifically reflects the contribution of the quarterback, and not the overall success of the play.  So for example if a quarterback throws a perfect pass and the receiver misses it, the receiver’s failure will not impact the rating for the quarterback.  The play will still count as a success. 
  • QBR takes context and timing for plays into account.  The old quarterback rating ignored the fact that the same play in two different contexts could be more or less impressive or valuable. 
  • While the original NFL quarterback rating was not very useful for comparing quarterbacks with highly dissimilar play styles, the QBR is much better for such a purpose.  Because all the dissimilarities are taken into account in the complex calculations (rather than ignored), you get a much better idea of overall performance even for vastly different quarterbacks. 


The final score is the combined result of all the calculations for all of the plays, and takes the form of a number somewhere between 1 and 100.  50 represents the average. 


The QBR has some limitations as well.  Like any metric, it is far from perfect:

  • Human beings evaluate the plays for the QBR, and they may have different subjective interpretations about what happened in the game.
  • Sometimes it can be a challenge (or impossible) to guess what an incomplete play was supposed to be, so it can be hard to gauge whether it succeeded or failed, and if so, who gets the credit or blame.
  • Because the QBR is so complex, you cannot hope to adjust it yourself to try and compensate for its shortcomings.  You are stuck just using the number you are given and taking it at face value.  With other less complex stats, you can make adjustments yourself and fine-tune the statistics to your needs.


The QBR is an exciting statistic which can provide you with some excellent information and perspective that you cannot get from the NFL quarterback rating.  Just keep in mind when you use the QBR, like the NFL rating, it does have its drawbacks and limitations.  You may find that either or both are helpful in your handicapping.  Come up with a betting system for evaluating plays and players which works for you.


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