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Statistically Speaking: Prtoecting the Pigskin

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Prtoecting the Pigskin

A quarterback has many important jobs and responsibilities. One of these is holding onto the football. This aspect is occasionally overlooked because a quarterback’s fumbles are not typically included on the back of his football card with other basic stats such as touchdowns and interceptions. As any fan of football will tell you though, fumbles are an integral part of the game. With this in mind I decided to undertake the task of determining who the most sure-handed quarterback was in 2004.

Let’s start with the obvious; fumbles can only occur when the quarterback is tackled. Therefore it is of little value to rate a quarterback’s sure-handedness based on the number of fumbles per pass attempt. Instead we should only count the number of times the quarterback has been tackled in the equation. Hence the sure-handedness formula is:

Fumbles / (Times Sacked + Rushing Attempts – Rushing Touchdowns)

I computed the fumble percentage for all quarterbacks with significant playing time (at least 160 pass attempts) in 2004. There are 37 quarterbacks who fit this criterion. The league average fumble percentage was 12.7%. The most sure-handed quarterback in 2004 was none other than AP offensive rookie of the year, Ben Roethlisberger with a fumble percentage of only 2.4%.

The complete list:

Player Pct
Ben Roethlisberger 2.4
Carson Palmer 4.8
Daunte Culpepper 6.8
Joey Harrington 7.1
Jake Plummer 7.9
Byron Leftwich 8.1
David Carr 8.2
Marc Bulger 8.8
Matt Hasselbeck 8.9
Chad Pennington 9.8
Michael Vick 9.8
Drew Brees 10.1
Tom Brady 10.1
Brian Griese 10.7
Donovan McNabb 11.4
Kyle Boller 12.6

League Average 12.7

Peyton Manning 13.2
Aaron Brooks 13.7
Steve McNair 14.3
Brett Favre 14.3
Vinny Testaverde 14.8
Billy Volek 15
Drew Bledsoe 15.3
Jeff Garcia 15.8
Eli Manning 15.8
Kerry Collins 17.1
Mark Brunell 17.6
Patrick Ramsey 18.2
Josh McCown 18.5
Trent Green 19.3
Jake Delhomme 21.1
Tim Rattay 22.4
Kurt Warner 23.5
Jay Fiedler 24.3
Chad Hutchinson 27.6
AJ Feeley 27.8
Ken Dorsey 27.8

And tied for last are AJ Feeley and Ken Dorsey who dropped the ball more often than Dick Clark in Times Square at 27.8%.

An interesting aside: Of the starting quarterbacks on the 12 playoff teams from 2004, only 2 fumbled more often than the league average; Peyton Manning and Brett Favre. However, several quarterbacks (Harrington, Griese, Carr) whose teams did not come close to qualifying for the postseason had better fumble rates than the league average. Not sure what (if anything)this means. Any thoughts?

Matt

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