PFF Record Book: Quarterback signature stats

2K5MCNG Green Bay Packers' Aaron Rodgers warms up prior to the NFL International match at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, London. Picture date: Sunday October 9, 2022.

  • Aaron Rodgers‘ 2020 season reigns supreme: His 95.1 PFF grade in 2020 beat out other all-time great seasons from both Tom Brady (2016) and Peyton Manning (2007).
  • Drew Brees was deadly accurate: In the PFF era, a quarterback has only ever surpassed an 80.0% adjusted completion percentage in a season 13 times, four of those belong to Brees – including two of the top three.
  • Ryan Fitzpatrick played out of his mind in 2018: In 2018, Fitzpatrick teamed up with Todd Monkin in Tampa and discovered his inner aggressive side, throwing for nearly 10 yards per attempt. Just three quarterbacks in the PFF era have exceeded 9.0 yards per attempt in a single season.
Estimated reading time: 8 minutes

The PFF database is a vast expanse of grades and statistics that encompass nearly two decades' worth of NFL action. The goal has always been to help better understand the game of football and bridge the gap between the past and present generations. 

PFF data goes as far back as 2006, which may be a small sample size of the game’s entire history but serves as a tremendous asset in determining which performances truly stand the test of time. 

These are the official PFF grading records for the quarterback position's signature stats.

PFF Overall Grade 

Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay Packers (2020) – 95.1

In the first of Rodgers’ back-to-back MVP seasons, he was a maestro orchestrating the Packers offense. His 95.1 PFF grade in 2020 beat out other all-time great seasons from both Tom Brady (2016) and Peyton Manning (2007).

PFF Passing Grade

Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay Packers (2020) – 94.7

Rodgers holds five of the top-25 passing grade seasons — the most of any quarterback. An honorable mention must also be given to Tom Brady, who holds three of the top-six graded seasons.

Adjusted Completion Percentage

Drew Brees, New Orleans Saints (2019) – 83.2%

Throughout his two-decade-long career, Brees has earned a reputation as one of the most accurate passers to ever play the game. In the PFF era, a quarterback has only ever surpassed an 80.0% adjusted completion percentage in a season 13 times, four of those belong to Brees – including two of the top three.

Yards Per Attempt

Ryan Fitzpatrick, Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2018) – 9.6

Despite playing for nine teams – and learning 13 different offenses – in his 17-year career, “Fitzmagic” makes his way into the PFF record books. In 2018, Fitzpatrick teamed up with Todd Monkin in Tampa and discovered his inner aggressive side, throwing for nearly 10 yards per attempt. Just three quarterbacks in the PFF era have ever exceeded 9.0 yards per attempt in a single season.

Big Time Throw Rate

Best: Colin Kaepernick, San Francisco 49ers (2012) – 11.4%

Big-time throws (BTT) are one of the most valuable statistics available in evaluating quarterback performance. In the PFF era, just two players have ever recorded a big-time throw percentage above 10%, and they’re names you may not expect. In 2012, Kaepernick overtook Matt Moore’s record set the year prior and has held onto it ever since, with little resistance from the rest of the league. That season, Kaepernick replaced Alex Smith under center and led the Niners to the Super Bowl, powered by his fearless playstyle and arm talent.

Worst: David Carr, Houston Texans (2006) – 0.9%

The former first-overall pick may not have earned many honors in his 10-year NFL career, but he does make the PFF record books – albeit not for positive reasons. Carr stands as the only qualifying passer to ever throw for under 1.0% BTT rate.

Turnover-worthy Play Rate

Best: Matt Ryan, Atlanta Falcons (2017) – 0.9%

Turnover-worthy plays (TWP) are another critical statistic to consider when evaluating quarterback play, as it is an all-encompassing look at a passer’s ability to take care of the football. Ryan followed up his 2016 MVP campaign by becoming the only player to ever earn under 1.0% TWP rate in 2017. While this is a monumental feat, Tom Brady’s place on this list may be nearly as impressive, as he owns three of the top five seasons in this category — all below 1.5%.

Worst: Matt Barkley, Chicago Bears (2016) – 8.5%

Extenuating circumstances led the 2016 Bears to allow Barkley plenty of room to make mistakes. However, he took that to an extreme earning 19 turnover-worthy plays in just 223 dropbacks, an entire percentage point above the next worst performance.

Average Depth of Target

Tim Tebow, Denver Broncos (2011) – 13.3

The former Heisman Trophy winner may not have panned out as a franchise passer in the NFL, but he does find his way into the PFF record books. In his final season with the Broncos, Tebow led one of the most unique offenses in the league to a playoff win off throws down the field trying to take advantage of heavy fronts and loaded boxes. That season, Tebow threw for a 12-plau-yard ADOT (average depth of target) in all but three games.

Dropped by a Receiver Percentage

Best: Deshaun Watson, Houston Texans (2017) 

Although Watson’s rookie campaign was cut short due to injury, he got off to a very promising start due in large part his playmakers' sure hands. In Watson’s seven games that season, his playmakers dropped just two catchable passes on over 227 attempts, which equates to the best drop rate in the PFF era. The following year, DeAndre Hopkins set the record for most targets in a single season without a single drop (189). That security from elite talents like Hopkins helped to set Watson up for success early in his career.

Worst: JaMarcus Russell, Las Vegas Raiders (2009) 

The former first-overall pick in the 2007 draft may have never panned out at the NFL level for a variety of reasons, but one thing that can be said in his favor is that his weapons didn’t help his cause. In 2009, his final season in the league, Russell’s playmakers dropped 28 catchable passes on over 264 attempts, amounting to the worst drop percentage in the PFF era.

Pressure to Sack Percentage

Best: Jay Cutler, Denver Broncos (2008) – 6.0%

Avoiding sacks even when pressure is barrelling down the pocket can be a great indicator of poise from a passer. It doesn’t just come from the ability to break the pocket, but also the recognition of when to get the ball out — the latter of which was Cutler’s specialty. In his final season with the Broncos, opposing defenses managed to sack Cutler just 10 times on over 164 pressure dropbacks.  

Worst: Andrew Walter, Las Vegas Raiders (2006) – 35.4%

On the other end, the former Raiders signal-caller was sacked on over a third of his pressure dropbacks, totaling 45 sacks in 127 snaps.

Average Time to Throw

Lowest: Ben Roethlisberger, Pittsburgh Steelers (2020) – 2.19

In the twilight of Roethlisberger’s career, he became known for getting the ball out very quickly, even if it were a detriment to the success of the offense. The former Steelers’ 2020 and 2021 both fall into the top-three lowest time-to-throw (TTT) seasons ever recorded by PFF. That’s a notable difference when considering his earlier career, when he held the ball significantly longer. Roethlisberger’s 3.11-second TTT in 2007, is one of the top 25 longest average time-to-throw seasons in the PFF era, making him the only player to have a season on both ends of the spectrum.

Highest: Tim Tebow, Denver Broncos (2011) – 3.66

Oddly enough, Tebow finds himself on this list again, this time for holding the ball longer than any other passer in the PFF era. His 3.66-second time-to-throw is more than 0.2 higher than the next highest average.

Passer Rating from a Clean Pocket

Rating: Matt Ryan, Atlanta Falcons (2016) – 132.9

One of the most stable metrics for measuring a quarterback's play is how effectively they can play from a clean pocket. In his 2016 MVP season, Ryan earned the highest passer rating ever recorded by PFF when operating without pressure, breaking the record previously held by Nick Foles (2013; 132.0). In the PFF era, just five players have ever exceeded the 125.0 rating threshold. 

Grade: Peyton Manning, Indianapolis Colts (2007) – 97.5

In terms of passing grade, the top spot belongs to Manning’s outstanding 2007, as he set the standard in clean pocket play that has held up against all-time great seasons from Rodgers, Brady and Brees.

Passer Rating Under Pressure

Rating: Ben Roethlisberger, Pittsburgh Steelers (2014) – 112.3

At his peak, Roethlisberger was effective with pressure in his face, delivering the best passer rating season in the PFF era. On nearly 200 pressure dropbacks, he managed an 11-to-1 TD-to-interception ratio. Since 2006, just 22 seasons have surpassed the 90-plus range. 

Grade: Josh McCown, Chicago Bears (2013) – 88.1

After just barely missing out on the passer rating record, McCown gets his flowers for his seven-game stretch in 2013, where he managed an impressive 6-to-0 TD-to-interception ratio while under pressure.

Passer Rating on Play Action

Rating: Drew Brees, New Orleans Saints (2018) – 142.9

Play action, understandably, has a sizable, positive impact on passer efficiency. Yet, only a few have ever been able to push this to the heights that Brees has. Just four quarterbacks have ever surpassed a 135.0 rating in a season, a feat Brees has done twice (2018 and 2019). 

Grade: Philip Rivers, Los Angeles Chargers (2018) – 96.9

On the grading side, Rivers takes the top spot for passing grade on play action, and it was a close call, with just 0.4 grading points separating the top three seasons.

Passer Rating against the Blitz

Rating: Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay Packers (2011) – 131.6

Beating the blitz comes down to effectively reading the defense pre-snap, and the league’s elite does that at a high rate. In 2011, Rodgers decimated the blitz to break his own passer rating record set two years prior, which has stood ever since. Defenses had no answers to pressure Rodgers with the blitz, which resulted in one of just two seasons to ever break 130-plus passer rating. 

Grade: Tom Brady, New England Patriots (2007) – 93.1

Brady is undoubtedly one of the most detail-oriented quarterbacks to ever play the game, so he understandably made defensive coordinators pay when dialing up the blitz. Brady owns three of the top 6 passing grades under pressure. 


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