The Great QB Divide: Just 12 Teams Harbor Legit Super Bowl Dreams

Cold, Hard Football Facts for Sep 03, 2015


The 2015 NFL season kicks off in one week and the Great Quarterback Divide has never been more evident than it is this year. 

A handful of teams harbor legit Super Bowl dreams because they boast habitually efficient quarterbacks. Other teams are already doomed to failure, because they don't have a quarterback who can be counted on to pass the ball efficiently week after week. 

By our count, only 12 of 32 teams this year have legit Super Bowl-caliber quarterbacks. And that's being generous. It includes four veteran quarterbacks who have never even reached the big game.

Twelve other teams can hope to reach the playoffs but will go no further; 6 teams have no hope of doing anything because they have lousy quarterbacks. Two teams have unknown quantities in rookie quarterbacks.

In the NFL, with very rare exceptions, you are who your quarterback is. If you're a good, mediocre or bad team you have a good, mediocre or bad quarterback. The list of teams in each category appears below. 

The Cold, Hard Football Facts have long noted that the NFL is a very simple game: you win when your quarterback plays well, you lose when he doesn't. Proof is found in our Quality Stats Big Boards, where we track the performance of every team in every game in every one of our Quality Stats. See the 2014 Offensive Passer Rating Big Board right here.

Here's a look at the victory rate of NFL teams last year based solely on one single indicator: passer rating. 

2014 Record of NFL teams based upon Passer Rating

Rating Record Win %
130+ 36-0 1.000
120-130 26-3 0.897
110-120 34-13 0.723
100-110 38-16 0.704
90-100 44-30 0.595
80-90 37-49 0.43
70-80 23-47 0.329
60-70 7-44 0.137
50-60 9-25 0.265
40-50 2-15 0.118
<40 0-12 .000

It's a fairly amazing set of data. First, it tells us that the ex-jocks, the former long-snappers and third string linebackers who know fancy themselves professional analysts, the radio blowhards and the nouveau stat guys and all the others who mock trusty old passer rating are f*cking morons. Wins and losses move in (almost) perfect lockstep with this number. So only an idiot would dismiss passer rating. It is, in fact, one of the single most important indicators in all of sports, as our table above proves. Keep in mind, you get similar results looking at any year in NFL history.  

Second, this list accounts for NO other factor. Not defense. Not specials teams. Not coaching. Not turnovers. Not situation substitution. Not red-zone success. Nothing. Yet, looking at NOTHING else but QB efficiency, we find wins and losses move in (almost) complete lockstep with that performance. 

  • Teams with a passer rating >100 last year went 134-32 (.807)
  • Teams with a passer rating <70 last year went 18-96 (.158)

Bottom line: Teams win when their quarterback passes the ball efficiently. They lose when he does not. It's virtually impossible to lose when your quarterback is at the top of his game; it's virtually impossible to win when he shits the bed. 

Certainly, many factors go into a QB's performance. It's a team game after all. But the performance of one single player is a paramount. All things being equal, a great quarterback is going to play more efficiently than a bad quarterback – instantly improving a team's record and Super Bowl potential in the process.

Football is a complex game schematically. And the so-called experts and ex-players in print, on TV and on radio love to wow readers and listeners with their detailed deconstruction of the X's and O's of the game.

But the statistical reality is much simpler. If you have a great quarterback, you usually have a great team. You have a mediocre quarterback, you usually have a mediocre team. You have a bad quarterback, you usually have a bad team.

The 2015 List of Super Bowl Hopefuls

12 teams with Super Bowl potential at quarterback – New England, Baltimore, Pittsburgh, Indianapolis, Denver, San Diego, Dallas, N.Y. Giants, Green Bay, Atlanta, New Orleans, Seattle

12 teams that can reach the playoffs but go no further – Miami, N.Y. Jets, Cincinnati, Kansas City, Washington, Chicago, Detroit, Minnesota, Carolina, Arizona, San Francisco, St. Louis

6 teams with no hope because they got no QB – Buffalo, Cleveland, Houston, Jacksonville, Oakland, Philadelphia

2 teams with unknown quantities at quarterback – Tennessee, Tampa Bay

That's it. We just summarized the entire 2015 NFL season for you. It's no more complex than that. Bam! You're welcome. 


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