Good News for Lions Fans

Posted on May 20, 2006 by

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A few days ago I reviewed the quarterbacks who have played for the Lions since 1972, the last year a Detroit signal caller was named to the Pro Bowl.  My basic point was that although quarterbacks for the Lions often go on to great success off the football field, on the playing field Detroit has consistently witnessed very bad performances at the quarterback position.

Doug Drinen, though, at Pro-football-reference-com offered some analysis that shines a bit of happiness on the life of a Lions fan.  I argued that the Lions quarterbacks have not been very good.  Doug decided to see how bad the Lions have been at this position compared to the rest of the league.  Here was his methodology, taken directly from his post:

1.       Compute each team’s passer rating (just for quarterbacks — passing attempts by others have been discarded) for each season since 1978. I’m not a fan of the NFL’s passer rating formula and I’m not sure what possessed me to use it here, but you’ll get similar results if you use yards-per-attempt or, I suspect, any other reasonable metric.

2.       Compare it to league average and get a Passing Effectiveness Index for each team for each year. For example, Detroit’s quarterbacks posted a 69.1 passer rating last season. League average was 80.0. Dividing the Lions by the League gives you about .863, which I’ll multiply by 100 to make it more easily digestible. The Lions Passing Effectivness Index for 2005 was 86.3.

3.       Average each team’s Passing Effectiveness Index over all the years they’ve been in the league (since 1978). When you do that for the Lions, you get 92.9. This means that Detroit’s quarterback’s have been, on average, about 7.1% less effective than average (according to passer rating) over the past 28 years.

I agree with Doug, the NFL’s quarterback rating is not the best measure.  I also agree that whatever method he used the results would probably be the same.  And these results should give much joy to Lions fans everywhere.

It is true that the Lions have had bad quarterbacks. But four teams – Cardinals, Buccaneers, Texans, and Bears – have been worse.  Given that the Bears are one the Lions biggest rivals, there is some joy in seeing Chicago in last place in Doug's rankings. So Lions fans can now chant: We Are Not the Worst, We Are Not the Worst, We Are Not the Worst!!! 

Many thanks to Doug for doing this analysis.  It may not sound like much, but when you are a Lions fan you take what you can get.

— DJ

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