Summary: with some calculations based on adjusted yards per attempt, Matt Ryan’s value as a passer in the 2016 season can be shown to be almost 9 points a game more than the average QB.
Mark Zinno is a host on a sports talk show, 92.9 the Game, in the 7pm ET time slot. Often booted out of the slot by Atlanta Hawks games, he nonetheless has been a dogged supporter of Matt Ryan. This isn’t new, btw. Even in years where Matt Ryan wasn’t at his best, he would doggedly argue that Matt Ryan was an elite quarterback, and said repeatedly that compared to an average NFL team, that Atlanta was blessed.
So, we’re dedicating this blog post to Mark Zinno.
It’s hard to understand the scope of what Matt Ryan has done until you look at his adjusted yards per attempt in 2016. Pro Football Reference lists it as 10.1, which is one of the highest I’ve seen, and comparable to Peyton Manning’s 2004 season, where PM’s AYA was 10.2. Looking a little further, you can see that PFR ranks this the 4th best performance in history. Aaron Rogers is in the top 4, and for some reason, so is Nick Foles.
The value in using AYA is that you can build an expected points curve that satisfies all the requirements of the AYA function, and then use the slope of that curve to relate yards to points. Don’t worry, I did that long ago, and the result is documented here. The simple take home is the magic conversion 2.25, which converts AYA from yards to “expected points generated per 30 passes”.
Then, using the 2016 annual data from Pro Football Reference, you can calculate what the average QB did, by calculating an AYA using the overall season’s statistics. So the formula is:
(123639 yards + 20*786 TD – 45*415 Ints)/ 18295 attempts
(123639 yards + 15720 “TD” yards – 18675 “Int” yards) / 18295 attempts
120684 yards / 18295 attempts
6.60 AYA to 3 significant digits.
Now things become simpler. Matt Ryan generated 10.1*2.25 = 22.7 points per 30 attempts, while Joe QB generated 14.8 points per 30 attempts. The difference, rounded to a whole number, suggests that Matt Ryan was worth about 8 more points in 30 attempts than the average NFL QB this season.
That doesn’t entirely encompass his per game value. Matt threw 534 attempts this season for an average of 33.4 passes per game. So his per game value, to the nearest tenth of a point, was more like 8.8 points a game more than the average quarterback.
But if the numbers baffle you, then the simple take home is that Matt’s statistical efficiency in 2016 is comparable to the best single season Peyton Manning ever had.