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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
( September 2, 1997)
SDSM& T PROFESSOR’S ARTICLE ANALYZES HOW THE NATIONAL FOOTBALL LEAGUE RATES PASSERS
Dr. Roger Johnson, Associate Professor of Mathematics at the South Dakota School of Mines & Technology ( SDSM& T), has published an article analyzing how the National Football League rates passers. Dr. Johnson’s article appears in the current issue of The Journal of Undergraduate Mathematics and Its Applications and is entitled “ How Does the National Football League ( NFL) Rate Passers?”
The particular way the NFL computes its rating is generally unknown despite the fact that the rating is often discussed by broadcasters, sports writers, and fans. Rating values are important in quarterback contract negotiations and have even been used in trade agreements. A passer’s NFL rating depends upon the following four statistics: 1) yards per passing attempt; 2) interception percentage; 3) touchdown percentage; and 4) completion percentage.
Utilizing a mathematical method called " least squares," Dr. Johnson shows in his article that the first two of these statistics -- yards per passing attempt and interception percentage -- are the most influential in determining a passer’s rating with touchdown percentage closely behind. Completion percentage is a distant fourth in influencing a passer’s NFL rating.
As of the beginning of the current NFL season, the top all- time passers with a minimum of 1,500 pass attempts are Steve Young ( with a 96.2 rating), Joe Montana ( 92.3), Brett Favre ( 88.6), and Dan Marino ( 88.3). Although used since 1973, the NFL’s method of rating passers has been criticized by some individuals. For example, Harvard statistician Carl Morris notes that any passers with a rating less than 83.3 would improve their passer rating by completing their next pass for no gain.
Dr. Johnson’s article also determines the rating method used by the National College Athletic Association ( NCAA). The NCAA method uses the same four passing statistics as the NFL but with somewhat different weightings. In particular, the importance of interception percentage and touchdown percentage are reversed from the NFL method.
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