It's not that QBs shouldn't be credited at all, because if a pass isn't completed there can be no yards after catch at all. And the argument that a very accurate QB that can hit a receiver in stride or lead him to open space to create YAC can't be ignored. Scheme matters too. But it's evident that some QBs feast on the YAC-gaining abilities of their receivers much more than others, distorting their overall stats.
I came up with Air Yards a few years ago as a method to compare passers with their receiver's YAC removed. Air Yards is simply the complement of YAC. It's the yardage a pass travels through the air forward of the line of scrimmage. AY is a unique and interesting way to view QB performance, but it's not perfect. A QB would be penalized for completing a short screen that's caught a yard to two behind the line of scrimmage. But those plays are few and far between, and I don't lose any sleep worrying about them. We should also keep in mind that a QB's performance is never just his own. But AY might be an inch closer to isolating the individual QB's contribution than if we look at total passing yards alone.
Here are the leaders in AY for the 2011 regular season. The table is sorted by default according to Air Yards per Attempt (AirYPA), but you can re-sort the table by clicking on the column headers.
|Rank||Name||Tot Yds||Air Yds||AY%||AirYPA|
A few quick observations:
Rodgers beats Brees handily, 4.9 to 4.5 in terms of AirYPA, which would be a vote in favor of Rodgers for MVP.
Eli ranks third in AirYPA, which is largely why the Giants find themselves returning to the Super Bowl for the 2nd time in 5 years.
There are a few surprises at the top of the list, such as Matt Moore and Carson Palmer. Dan Orlovsky beat out Tom Brady, Matt Stafford, and many other notable passers.
Brady tied for third in the league for the highest percentage of YAC.
Look how low Flacco is--29th. 48% of his passing yards were YAC, undoubtedly many which came from Ray Rice. If I had Rice to throw to. Flacco is expecting a contract extension soon, and his 29th-ranked AirYPA number of 3.4 might come in handy for Ozzie Newsome at the negotiating table.
Ryan Fitzpatrick ranks 37th(!) with 3.2 AirYPA. Last season he ranked 23rd with 3.8, which isn't much better. I'm not sure the Bills are thrilled with the 6 yr/$60 million contract they gave him before the season, and maybe if they had noted how much of his performance was thanks to YAC, the offer may not have been so generous.
And what's a football blog post without a Tim Tebow mention? Tebow fares relatively well under the Air Yards light. He ranks 17th in AirYPA, and is 3rd in % Air Yards. This is because he rare throws dump-offs--he's his own check-down.