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We Break Down Marcus Mariota's Statistically “Perfect” Debut

Cold, Hard Football Facts for Sep 14, 2015



 

Tennessee rookie quarterback Marcus Mariota wowed the NFL in his Week 1 debut, with a proverbial “perfect” passing performance of 158.3. If we remove passer rating's artificial restrictions on perfection, Mariota's "uncapped" rating of 207.5 stands among the "most perfect" passing performances in NFL history. 

Mariota, the No. 2 pick in the 2015 draft, parlayed just 16 pass attempts into 209 yards and 4 TD passes as his Titans bowled over No. 1 pick Jameis Winston and the hometown Tampa Bay Buccaneers, 42-14, on Sunday.

It's the second time in Winston's last two starts that he has lost badly to Mariota's team. The Oregon Ducks whipped up on the Florida State Seminoles, 59-20, in the Rose Bowl/college football playoff back on Jan. 1.

There have been only 27 perfect passing performances in the NFL since 1960, if you look at the NFL minimum 20 attempts to qualify for official records. Mariota passed the ball only 16 times. So he doesn't qualify for official record books. 

Still, even if we use 16 attempts as the standard, Mariota produced just the 39th perfect game in 56 years of professional football. Nobody did it in their NFL debut. The entire list is below. 

In order to be perfect by the passer rating model, you must complete at least 77.5 percent of your passes, connect on 11.875 percent of attempts for touchdowns, average at least 12.5 yards per attempt, and throw zero interceptions.

Mariota qualified on all counts – and in his first game as a pro no less. So that's something special. 

The performance comes with a couple caveats. 

First, a “perfect” passer rating is a bit of a misnomer. The fine folks who created this incredible indicator back in 1970 put an artificial cap on the number when they created it. And that capped number is 158.3.

Former Cold, Hard Football Facts contributor Luis DeLoureiro “uncapped” passer rating for us a few years ago, so that we could compare the “perfect” games against one another. You can see that list here (we can update it in a future statistical exercise). Mariota's uncapped rating of 207.5 puts him in the Top 10 of most “perfect” passing performances in NFL history. 

Passer rating, as we've noted so many times over the years, and again just last week, is an incredible gauge of team success. You win when your quarterback posts a high passer rating; you lose when he posts a low passer rating. The folks who created the indicator knew what they were doing: all 39 passers with a “perfect” rating won the game, almost all in blowouts.

The second caveat to consider are some of the names of the list of “perfect” passers through the years. This was the second week in a row of regular-season NFL action, for example, that a surprise quarterback produced a “perfect” rating.

Jets QB Geno Smith pulled off that feat in the last game of the 2014 season, in a 37-24 win at Miami. Smith completed 20 of 25 passes for 358 yards with 3 TDs and, of course 0 INT. Incredible performance. But nobody is ready to put him in the Hall of Fame just yet.

In fact, one of Smith's own teamates punched him out in training camp last month.

Other than Geno Smith, Alex Smith of the Chiefs and Nick Foles, then with the Eagles, are the only quarterbacks since 2010 to produce a perfect passer rating. Both did so late in the 2013 season.

“Perfect” passing games are much like perfect games in baseball. They're often statistical anomalies. Blips on the radar screen of a career. Journeymen quarterbacks, it seems, are capable of pulling off a perfect game at least once in their career.

The list of perfect passers boasts plenty of superstars – Tom Brady, Peyton Manning, Ben Roethlisberger, Johnny Unitas and Kurt Warner are all on the list multiple times. But so is two-time Super Bowl dud Craig Morton.

Jeff Blake, Steve Grogan, Ken O'Brien and Jay Schroeder are among those who were perfect for just one day.

Heisman Trophy winner Mariota, based on what we've seen over the last couple years, is more likely to end up in the former category of superstar QB than the list of journeyman. And for two games in a row, he and his team have decidedly outperformed No. 1 pick Winston and his team.

We hope Mariota gives us plenty of statistical performances to dissect over the years. But it's no sure thing by any stretch. But 1 for 1 in the high-pressure NFL is a "perfect" start.

39 "Perfect" Passer Rating Performances (158.3) since 1960, chronological order; min. 16 attempts (Source: www.profootballreference.com) 

  Date ▾ Tm Opp Result Cmp Att % Yds Y/A TD
Marcus Mariota 09/13/15 TEN TB W 42-14 13 16 81.2 209 13.06 4
Geno Smith 2014-12-28 NYJ MIA W 37-24 20 25 80 358 14.32 3
Alex Smith 2013-12-15 KAN OAK W 56-31 17 20 85 287 14.35 5
Nick Foles 2013-11-03 PHI OAK W 49-20 22 28 78.57 406 14.5 7
Tom Brady 2010-11-25 NWE DET W 45-24 21 27 77.78 341 12.63 4
Drew Brees 2009-11-30 NOR NWE W 38-17 18 23 78.26 371 16.13 5
Kurt Warner 2008-09-14 ARI MIA W 31-10 19 24 79.17 361 15.04 3
Ben Roethlisberger 2007-12-20 PIT STL W 41-24 16 20 80 261 13.05 3
Ben Roethlisberger 2007-11-05 PIT BAL W 38-7 13 16 81.25 209 13.06 5
Tom Brady 2007-10-21 NWE MIA W 49-28 21 25 84 354 14.16 6
Donovan McNabb 2007-09-23 PHI DET W 56-21 21 26 80.77 381 14.65 4
Ben Roethlisberger 2004-12-05 PIT JAX W 17-16 14 17 82.35 221 13 2
Trent Green 2003-12-14 KAN DET W 45-17 20 25 80 341 13.64 3
Peyton Manning 2003-09-28 IND NOR W 55-21 20 25 80 314 12.56 6
Kerry Collins 2002-12-22 NYG IND W 44-27 23 29 79.31 366 12.62 4
Peyton Manning 2002-11-10 IND PHI W 35-13 18 23 78.26 319 13.87 3
Doug Flutie 2000-12-23 BUF SEA W 42-23 20 25 80 366 14.64 3
Peyton Manning 2000-10-22 IND NWE W 30-23 16 20 80 268 13.4 3
Kurt Warner 2000-10-01 STL SDG W 57-31 24 30 80 390 13 4
Kurt Warner 1999-10-03 STL CIN W 38-10 17 21 80.95 310 14.76 3
Jeff Blake 1995-10-19 CIN PIT W 27-9 18 22 81.82 275 12.5 3
Chris Chandler 1995-09-24 HOU CIN W 38-28 23 26 88.46 352 13.54 4
Dave Krieg 1994-11-24 DET BUF W 35-21 20 25 80 351 14.04 3
Craig Erickson 1994-09-11 TAM IND W 24-10 19 24 79.17 313 13.04 3
Bobby Hebert 1993-09-12 ATL NOR L 31-34 14 18 77.78 243 13.5 3
Jay Schroeder 1991-11-17 RAI SEA W 31-7 16 19 84.21 237 12.47 3
Joe Montana* 1989-11-12 SFO ATL W 45-3 16 19 84.21 270 14.21 3
Ken O'Brien 1986-11-02 NYJ SEA W 38-7 26 32 81.25 431 13.47 4
Craig Morton 1981-09-27 DEN SDG W 42-24 17 18 94.44 308 17.11 4
Vince Evans 1980-12-07 CHI GNB W 61-7 18 22 81.82 316 14.36 3
Steve Grogan 1978-10-29 NWE NYJ W 55-21 15 19 78.95 281 14.79 4
Dan Fouts* 1976-09-26 SDG STL W 43-24 15 18 83.33 259 14.39 4
Ken Anderson 1974-11-03 CIN BAL W 24-14 17 21 80.95 297 14.14 3
Fran Tarkenton* 1970-10-25 NYG STL W 35-17 15 18 83.33 280 15.56 5
Craig Morton 1969-10-05 DAL PHI W 38-7 14 18 77.78 261 14.5 3
Johnny Unitas* 1967-11-12 BAL ATL W 49-7 17 20 85 370 18.5 4
Len Dawson* 1965-11-28 KAN HOU W 52-21 14 17 82.35 211 12.41 3
Johnny Unitas* 1963-12-08 BAL MIN W 41-10 17 22 77.27 344 15.64 3
Y.A. Tittle* 1963-11-10 NYG PHI W 42-14 16 20 80 261 13.05 3

 

 


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