Last week a coworker of mine (and long suffering Redskins fan) was curious who had the worst single-game WPA of all time. (I think he had a hunch it belongs to Rex Grossman.) I can't go back to "all time", but I can go back through the 2000 season. The worst (undisputed) game ever belongs to A.J. Feeley, who posted a -1.16 WPA as the Eagles' QB against the Seahawks in 2007. There may be a couple worse games, but both have some gray area which I'll explain.
Sure enough, with Sam Bradford out today, none other than A.J. Feeley himself takes over as the Rams' QB against the Cowboys.
I sometimes get asked whether it's possible for a player to have greater than a 1.00 WPA or less than -1.00 WPA. Sure. It's rare, but possible. When a player is having a very bad day, but the team around him is firing on all cylinders keeping the game tight, players can often fall below -0.50 WPA. And if they top off their bad day with a calamitous play with the game on the line in the 4th quarter, they can break the -1.00 barrier. Similarly, if the game is a shootout, and a player makes a clutch play to steal the win, he can break the +1.00 barrier.
This isn't an exact science, as much as we try to make it. For example, if an aborted hand-off is counted against the RB and not the QB, then the honor of worst WPA day would belong to Broncos RB Quentin Griffin, who fumbled the ball in the closing minutes, down by a point to Jacksonville, well inside FG range. Although his 'official' (if there is such a thing) WPA is much better because my current implementation does not count aborted plays against RBs, I'm putting Griffin on the list today.
Or if we want, we can hand the worst single-game WPA award to Donovan McNabb, who posted a -1.22 WPA in a 2008 overtime game resulting in a tie. McNabb had one full quarter longer to accumulate negative WPA than most other players on the ignominious list. But another way to look at it is that he had one full quarter longer to put up positive numbers than most other players. He goes on the list.
One of my favorite stories has to be J.P. Losman's blown game against the Jets in 2008. Leading by 3 late in the 4th quarter, after a valiant defensive stand by the Buffalo defense, Losman fumbles the ball at his own 16, which is then returned for a TD. What makes this so spectacular is that Losman is instantly put in a position to save the game and make up for the blunder. But with about two minutes left in the game, on the very first play after the ensuing kickoff, Losman throws an interception to seal the Bills' fate.
I remember Spergon Wynn's game in the 2000 season well. It was a bitter cold Monday night. Baltimore needed the win to make the playoffs, and Minnesota just needed to avoid career ending injuries and catch a plane to somewhere warmer. It was actually a week 2 game, rescheduled to the end of the season due to the 9/11 attacks. A young backup QB on the road against a desperate 2001 Ravens defense, in a game that as meaningless as possible for his teammates, adds up to negative WPA.
There are big names high on the list. There's McNabb's OT game, plus Brett Favre, Ricky Watters, and Kurt Warner. Favre actually has 3 of the 30 worst games on record. Other big names among the 'dirty 30' include Steve McNair and Corey Dillon. Lesser names include Tony Banks, David Garrard, Jon Kitna, Shaun Hill. Feeley appears a second time, this time on the Dolphins.
Here is the list of worst single-game WPAs. Click on the WPA value to see the game's WP graph and advanced stat box score.