The Concept

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I begin with an assumption.  The primary job of a quarterback is to complete passes.  Where those passes are thrown, who they are thrown to, what route the receiver is running, the down and distance, and the outcome of the play are not important for evaluating a quarterback’s skills.  These things are questions of circumstance and have no place when assessing abilities.  I realize that this assumption is enough to spark controversy on its own.  Regardless, this is the primary assumption of these analyses.  (Note:  The “who they are thrown to” assumption will be relaxed in future work.  Specifically, it’s probably important if a pass is thrown to a running back or a not.  Passes to running backs are easier because they are typically shorter and the target is usually not moving.

Next, we recognize that there is a massive amount of historical data regarding player performance.  We can look at how receiver performance changes when the quarterback changes.  NCAA football is an excellent test case for this as receivers and quarterbacks are forced to turn over at least every four years, if not sooner.  By looking at how performance changes when teams change quarterbacks, when quarterbacks throw to different receivers, etc. we can make a very important estimation.

To understand how the estimation works, let’s look at Colby Cameron of Louisiana Tech.  Given all the historical data regarding receiver performance and quarterback performance, we can make an accurate estimate of how many passes every single quarterback in FBS football would complete given Louisiana Tech’s offensive scheme and stable of receivers.  So, we can estimate how many passes Matt Barkley, Geno Smith or whoever would complete if we suddenly dropped them onto the 2012 Louisiana Tech team.  We assume the same number of attempts as the actual team’s quarterback.  We then look at the distribution of all of these estimations.  We find the average of the estimated number of completions.  We then compare this number to the number of completions Colby Cameron actually has this year.  After all these calculations, we discover that Colby Cameron has completed 26.17 more passes than the average NCAA quarterback would complete given Louisiana Tech’s offensive system and stable of receivers.

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