The Armchair Q-Bot
Today more than ever we are a culture obsessed with judgement. With rating things. All things of all shapes and all sizes. Employers rate workers, workers rate bosses. Married couples rate other married couples and, for that matter, those who aren’t married. Kids rate other kids. Communities rate other communities. There are web sites now designed for the express purpose of letting you log on to do nothing more than assign a rating (1–10 normally) to all things that matter and to many that don’t. The subjects range from pets, music, cars, art, poems, people to – believe it or not — even babies.
We are a judgmental lot at heart and none among us is more culpable than the redblooded American sports fan. After all, what are sports at large if not the granddaddy of all rating systems? It doesn’t matter if we are watching teams labor through a long season to see who will take home the ultimate rating, or if we are watching an individual player boost his own rating among the faithful by racking up impressive stats…A key dimension of sports always has been and always will be how we rate those playing.
Consequently, it stands to reason that if we are to continue rating the gladiators that populate our modern arenas – which we no doubt will – then we should strive for the most accurate and precise system with which to do so. That was the spirit behind the creation of The Armchair Q-Bot…TheSignalCaller.com’s very own Quarterback rating system.
Unlike other rating systems that have preceded it (check TheSignalCaller.com’s Links section for the NCAA/NFL Passing Calculator), The Armchair Q-Bot accounts not just for the statistical wherewithal of a given signal caller, but also for a number of things which aren’t measured on the stat sheet. As such, it’s not entirely accurate to label the Q-Bot System as a “Passer” Rating System. A more telling description would be to consider Q-Bot as an overall “Quarterback” Rating System.
Q-Bot takes a much more global reading of how a given QB performed on every snap, not just on plays in which he was throwing the ball. A QB is after all accountable for the entirety of the offense he directs, not merely the passing game. In the running game, a valuable QB makes invaluable checks. Whether that means audibilizing into a trap to the 3-technique DT, or checking into an iso to exploit a leverage advantage, no QB is “hands off” in the ground game. He plays an integral role in helping put his backs in the best possible position to succeed.
In the Red Zone, it is encumbent on a quarterback to see to it that his charges are firing on all cylinders and that they are all (as a unit) conscious of avoiding costly turnovers, no matter what play is called. Moreover, a savvy quarterback is a great manager of the game and the clock, able to make the proper checks and decisions to help his team respond quickly when behind and too hold a lead late in the game if ahead. These are some of the things that the Q-Bot system does account for, while the traditional NCAA and NFL Passer Rating formulas do not. Yes, The Armchair Q-Bot accounts for the garden variety statistical areas that signal callers have traditionally been rated on, but unlike less flexible systems in place The Q-Bot also goes a long way toward measuring what many might consider the “immeasurable.”
The one parallel The Q-Bot does share with the traditional systems is a NASA-like level of complication in formulating the numbers. It is what it is. When quantifying things that don’t directly lend themselves to being rated, it’s going to get pretty complex no matter how you stack it. Anyone who has ever tried to unravel the values assigned to various stat categories in the current NCAA passer rating system knows that they would be just as well served to try and decode the meaning of life with a broken weed eater and a collection of shower curtain rings. What’d ya say? I’m the only one combing through that stuff? Oh. Uh…
Well, trust me either way. It’s complicated.
Ok…So how does The Armchair Q-Bot system work? Glad you asked. First, here’s a glance at the number value assigned to each stat category and/or scenario. Take a second to kick the tires then we’ll take it for a spin in a real game situation (Pat White’s performance in the 2008 Meineke Car Care Bowl).
- Completion Percentage %: Divided by 2, plus (+)…
- Touchdown Pass Percentage %: Multiplied by 2, minus (-)…
- Interception Percentage %: Multiplied by 5, plus (+)…
- Average Gain Per Pass Attempt: Multiplied by 2, plus (+)…
- Team’s Third Down Conversion Percentage %: Divided by 4, plus (+)
- Team’s Red Zone Scoring Percentage %: Divided by 5, plus (+)…
- Team’s Total Offensive Yardage: Divided by 40, plus (+)…
Also: If the QB’s offense scores immediately following (first possession after) the opponents’ first score, Add (+): FG-2 Points, or Touchdown-4 Points
- Plus (+)…
If the QB’s offense scores in the final two minutes of either half, each time they do so the following points will be Added (+): FG-2 Points, or Touchdown-4 Points
- And finally…
If the QB’s team blows a lead in the fourth quarter of ten or more points and loses the game, no matter what the final score is, Subtract (-): 5 Points
That all sounds fine, but you might be wondering at this point how this formula can be used to actually evaluate a QB’s overall performance in a real game. Let’s take a look.
As a frame of reference that you might be familiar with, I’ll walk you through an evaluation of former Mountaineer standout Pat White’s already legendary performance in West Virginia’s bowl victory over North Carolina in 2008.
It’s been a long offseason and in addition to needing an oil bath The Q-Bot also looks famished! Let’s feed him Pat White’s Meineke Car Care Bowl stat line and other essentials from the game and see what the old ‘droid comes up with.
First let’s look at Pat’s completion percentage. Incredibly, he connected on 26 of 32 pass attempts for an eye-popping 81.25%. Plug that into The Q-Bot and that completion percentage number gets divided by 2 for a final value of: (+) 40.6.
Second, we’ll check White’s Touchdown Pass Percentage. In 32 pass attempts Pat connected for 3 Touchdowns (9.4%). Plug those numbers in and The Q-Bot multiplies it by 2, calculating Pat’s TD Pass Percentage value at: (+) 18.8
Next we look at Interception percentage. Nothing in this formula will hurt your rating faster than throwing picks. Fortunately for White only 1 of his 32 pass attempts was intercepted. How do interceptions hurt a QB so much in this system? Simple…They are given considerable weight and multiplied out by five. In other words, in the case of White, The Q-Bot takes his Interception Percentage of 3.1% and multiplies it by 5 for a final value of: Minus (-) 15.6
Now in the formula we assess White’s Average Gain Per Pass Attempt. Against the Tar Heels Pat attempted 32 passes for a total of 332 yards through the air. That divides out to an average of 10.4 Yards Per Attempt, one of the highest single-game averages of the WVU standout’s career. The Q-Bot grabs that number and multiplies it by 2 for a final value of: (+) 20.8
Situation #1: In the Q-Bot system, if a signal caller guides his offense to a score the first time they take the field after the opponent’s initial score of the game, he is in turn rewarded…Two points if he leads the offense downs the field for a field goal, or Four points if he guides them to a Touchdown. The rationale behind this is simple. A team is at a vulnerable point after the opposition’s first score. If the offense goes three and out or, worse yet, turns the ball over and gives it back to the bad guys, they might quickly score again and before you can say “Sudden Change” you could have a full blown crisis on your hands. It’s always best to cut the other guy’s momentum off at the knees before it truly develops. In short, the best way to respond to getting fired upon is by firing back.
The possession following an opponent’s first points of the game, whether it is in the 1st quarter or the 4th, is often one of the most critical of the entire match-up. So, what better time to judge a Quarterback than in such a circumstance? This dimension of The Q-Bot system provides a QB with a once-a-game opportunity to cash in on rating points.
So did Pat White make the most of this opportunity against UNC? Yes, resoundingly. The Heels’ first points came on a 73-yard scoring grab by Hakeem Nicks midway through the first quarter. The Carolina sidelines erupted with the long TD and UNC suddenly seemed poised to grab the game’s momentum and make the most of it. If West Virginia sputtered at that point, things might have taken a turn for the unfavorable. Instead, WVU took the field and Pat answered by methodically guiding the Mountaineers on a 65-yard scoring drive. The drive culminated in a 44-yard Touchdown strike from White to Alric Arnett, quickly quelling (at least for the moment) a potentially irreparable Carolina surge. In a game that was ultimately transformed into a shootout, those points proved vital. By leading WVU on that Touchdown Drive immediately following the Tar Heel’s first points of the game, Pat is awarded by The Q-bot system a value of: (+) 4
Next is another unique opportunity for QBs to score rating points under The Q-Bot formula. Any time a signal caller guides his offense on a scoring drive that culminates in the final two minutes of the first half or the game, he is rewarded 2 points (for a Field Goal) or 4 points (for a Touchdown). Theoretically a player is potentially presented with this multiple times a game, once (or even more) in each half. If he succeeds on multiple occasions, he will receive the points each time. The logic behind this scoring element of The Q-Bot system is straightforward: Effective QBs are often most effective when time is working against them and their team is pressed to quickly push downfield and score. A signal caller who is adept at guiding his offense to success under such conditions should be rewarded. In this system, he is. As for Pat White, no such circumstance arose in the win over North Carolina so he receives no points for this category. Value: (+) 0
Finally, there’s more to good quarterbacking than glam and glitz. Sometimes a situation warrants that, in order to help his team win, a QB must not only be very cautious with the football but milk the clock and scrap and claw for an ugly first down or two to help keep his defense on the sidelines. Consequently, the last thing The Q-Bot system weighs is a quarterback’s ability to do just that: Protect the lead. To effective signal callers this quality is a given. It’s their job. As a result, this is a situation in which The Q-Bot does not giveth…but he may Taketh Away. If a QB’s team blows a 4th quarter lead of 10 or more points and loses the game (irrespective of whether the final score is 16–13 or 52–49) that quarterback is in turn penalized by The Q-Bot in the form of Minus (-) 5
Again, this situation did not arise with Pat White in the Meineke Car Care Bowl so it does not have a bearing on his score. Value (-) 0
So now that all the numbers are in, you may be wondering what all of this translates to as far as Pat White’s final rating against North Carolina according to The Armchair Q-Bot. For those of you who haven’t been keeping score at home, let me pull the lever on The Q-Bot and see what he dispenses.
Uh-oh. The Q-Bot is gyrating a bit. I see some smoke billowing out of his power coupling. This must be a good one! Here it is…Pat’s final Q-Bot rating in the win over UNC is: 110.8 points!
So, without any other frame of reference, you might now be wondering just how solid that overall rating is. Now that you have a better understanding of how the formula works, let’s wrap this up with a glance at The Q-Bot rating posted by some other QBs you may have heard of during some notable performances of the recent past:
Vince Young, Texas; GAME: Longhorns with an epic 41–38 National Championship victory over Southern Cal in the 2006 Rose Bowl. NOTE: Neat trick garnering a final rating so high when you consider that Young didn’t have a single Touchdown pass in this game…More evidence that with The Q-Bot formula there’s more than one way for a productive QB to rack up a solid score. What was unique about his performance here was that he guided the Texas offense to three Touchdown drives inside of two minutes left in the half and/or game (twice in the final two minutes of the 2nd quarter, once in the 4th). Under The Q-Bot system, Young receives 4 points for each of those TDs—–THE ARMCHAIR Q-BOT RATING: 99.6
JaMarcus Russell, Louisiana State; GAME: LSU blasts Notre Dame 41–14 to capture the 2007 Sugar Bowl. NOTE: This was the performance that many feel won Russell a hefty payday by catapulting him to the top of the NFL Draft boards where he was ultimately selected #1 overall by Oakland. Against the Irish, Russell mastered the long ball, throwing for over 300 yards and connecting on a pair of 58-yarders . The Tigers’ offense proved too much for an overmatched Notre Dame ‘D’ that yieded 577 total yards.—–THE ARMCHAIR Q-BOT RATING: 94.5
Jared Zabranksy, Boise State; GAME: The Broncos shock the college football world with an unimaginable 43–42 victory over Oklahoma in the 2007 Fiesta Bowl, highlighted by a perfectly orchestrated hook-and-ladder TD in the game’s final seconds. NOTE: Zabranksy racked up 8 of his Q-Bot rating points by directing Boise State on Touchdown drives in the final two minutes of each half, including the historic gadget play that tied the game with seven seconds remaining.—–THE ARMCHAIR Q-BOT RATING: 98.9
Matt Leinhart, Southern Cal; GAME: Aided by a 61-yard Matt Leinhart completion on 4th down with less than a minute-and-a-half to play, No. 1 ranked USC scored to knock off the Irish in South Bend and continue on course to appear in the 2005 National title Game. NOTE: No TD passes against 2 interceptions contribute to a rating that will leave Matt a bit blue. Leinhart’s rating, which represents the lowest total of those mentioned here, is a product of lackluster play that is made mildly respectable by the performance he strung together in crunch time. Four of his total Q-Bot points came as the result of a Trojan’s TD drive in response to Notre Dame’s first score of the game, and 4 more of his points were gained by stringing together the now iconic game-winning touchdown drive in the final two minutes of the contest. “The Bush Push” into the endzone with three seconds remaining that extended SC’s winning streak to 28 also added 4 rating points to Leinhart’s overall total courtesy of The Q-Bot’s Situational Scoring Opportunities. All told, this was a textbook case of a marginal game with a fantastic finish for the ages. Leinhart played below his standards for the better part of the first three-plus quarters, but found his stride in the game’s final minutes to help USC march into history.—–THE ARMCHAIR Q-BOT RATING: 58.6
Sam Bradford, Oklahoma; GAME: The Sooners climbed back into the 2008 national title hunt by bombing No. 2 ranked Texas Tech 65–21 just weeks after Tech upset top-ranked Texas. NOTE: Unbeaten Texas Tech blinked…and they were down 28–0. Bradford connected on 74% of his throws in directing an offense that shredded Tech for 625 total yards. The OU signal caller was as close to perfect as you can get, guiding the Sooners to 8 scores in their first 9 possessions en route to carving up the Red Raiders’ defense for the most points surrendered in school history.—–THE ARMCHAIR Q-BOT RATING: 166.7 (No, that’s not a typo)