NFL Single-season Passer Rating comparison

In my last post I took the NFL best Career Passer rating list and tried to come up with an era-adjusted list. This time I’ll look into NFL Single-season list from Pro Football Reference site and try to adjust single-season Passer ratings based on average rating for each season from 1970 to 2012. This way we will be able to compare player’s Single-season ratings from different NFL eras.

The calculation is the same as in Career Passer ratings, I took each player’s Single-season Passer rating and divided it with an average NFL rating for the season. For example, last season NYJ QB Mark Sanchez posted a 66.9 rating, if we divide his rating with 83.8 (2012 average passer rating) we get the % of average he was relative to the NFL. It turns out Sanchez was 20.2% below average rating of 2012. For a simple comparison, in 1977 CIN QB Ken Anderson posted a similar rating of 69.7, but back then the average NFL rating was only 57.8, which puts Anderson’s achievement 20.6% above 1977 average rating, therefore his 1977 season was a lot better compared to Sanchez’s 2012 season.

Before I present the top 20 Single-season Passer rating list based on those calculation let’s first look at top 20 players from Pro Football Reference’s list, only for quarterbacks from 1970 to 2012 with a minimum of 175 pass attempt (if played in 14-game regular season), minimum of 200 pass attempt (if played in 16-game regular season) or minimum of 100 pass attempts in a strike-shortened 1982 season.

NFL Single-season Passer Rating leaders

As we can see from the table on the left, a lot of active or just recently retired players are on the top 20 list which doesn’t make a lot of sense. From the top 20 list there are 13 quarterback single-season ratings from last 10 years and Staubach’s exceptional 1971 season just barely makes the list. QB Aaron Rodgers tops the list with an absolute highest single-season passer rating.

This list too would look much better if we list the best quarterback single-season ratings based on % above average rating for the season. Here is the list:

NFL Single-season Adjusted Passer Rating leaders

There are 7 different HOF players with total of 12 seasons that rank top 20 of % above average which makes a lot more sense. Aaron Rodgers’ absolute best mark drops to No.16 with 48.5% above 2011 average. Only 2 active players ‘survived’ the adjusted list with Tom Brady just missing the cut with 44.9% above average in 2007 season in which he posted a 117.2 passer rating.

Like I said in earlier post in which I made a comparison of Career Passer ratings, the rating was designed to fit the passing efficiency of NFL passers in the early 70’s which probably explains why there are 8 out of 13 passers on the adjusted list from that era. As the average rating steadily climbs higher and higher each year,  as seen on the chart from earlier post, it is that much more difficult for new era NFL players to beat the average rating with percentages seen in earlier years. Nevertheless I still think this list gives better comparison between players’ single-season results from different eras.


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