Charlie Batch’s 186-yard, two-pick game has ESPN’s best QBR ever

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There’s a risk of beating a dead horse when you talk about QBR, ESPN’s proprietary statistic that was rolled out with great fanfare four years ago as the “one stat that measures the totality of a quarterback’s performance.” I said plenty about QBR last week, and perhaps no more needs to be said.

But today I decided to dig a little deeper into what is, according to QBR, the greatest game any quarterback has ever played: Charlie Batch’s 186-yard, two-interception performance against the Buccaneers in 2010.

Really. Under “All-Time Best Games” on ESPN.com’s QBR page, the top game on the list is an utterly forgettable game that Batch played in place of the suspended Ben Roethlisberger in 2010. I couldn’t comprehend how 186 yards and two interceptions could add up to the greatest game ever played, with a 99.9 QBR on a scale of 0-100, but then again I didn’t remember exactly what Batch did in that game, and I know ESPN claims that QBR benefits from tape analysis that includes dropped passes and performance under pressure and other things that the traditional stats overlook. So I decided to re-watch Batch’s game and see how it looked.

Thanks to NFL.com’s Game Pass, it’s easy to go back and watch old games. So I did. And what I saw was not the greatest game any quarterback had in NFL history. Not even close. I’m sure Charlie Batch doesn’t think it was the greatest game in NFL history. I’m sure Charlie Batch’s mom doesn’t think it was the greatest game in NFL history. No sane person could possibly think it was the greatest game in NFL history. Only ESPN’s super-secret QBR formula could possibly arrive at the conclusion that it was the greatest game in NFL history.

Batch’s first pass of the game was absolutely terrible. He hit Aqib Talib in stride, right between the numbers — which is not a good thing because Talib played for the Buccaneers. The Buccaneers’ offense couldn’t do anything with the great field position Batch gave up with his interception, but the Bucs did kick a field goal to take a 3-0 lead. Shortly after that, CBS showed a split screen of Talib and Batch and called them “the hero and the goat.”

So how did Batch go from goat to G.O.A.T., at least according to QBR? I have no earthly idea, because ESPN doesn’t make its QBR formula public. But there was certainly nothing in the rest of Batch’s play that day that suggested a “Greatest Of All Time” performance.

The Steelers’ second possession ended in a three-and-out when Batch dumped off a pass to running back Mewelde Moore, and Moore dropped it. QBR apparently doesn’t penalize Batch for the drop, but even if Moore had caught the ball, he was very unlikely to pick up the first down. Why doesn’t QBR penalize Batch for throwing a third-down pass well short of the line to gain? I don’t know, you don’t know, no one knows except the people who calculate QBR, and they’re not saying.

Batch finally had a big play on the Steelers’ third possession, a 45-yard touchdown pass to Mike Wallace. That pass undoubtedly did a lot to bolster Batch’s QBR, but it really shouldn’t have: Wallace was well covered, Batch probably shouldn’t have thrown to him, and it only turned into a touchdown because Wallace made a great play on the ball while Buccaneers rookie safety Cody Grimm (a backup who was only playing because starting safety Tanard Jackson was suspended) lost sight of the ball and didn’t know where it was until Wallace caught it in the end zone.

As Steve Tasker, who was serving as the color commentator on the game for CBS, put it: “That ball’s up for grabs, and Grimm can’t make a play on it because he didn’t turn around and look for it. They had it covered, they just couldn’t make the play.”

That was the first “big play” Batch made in the game: A ball he threw into coverage that only turned into a touchdown because the defensive back lost sight of it.

Soon after that, Batch threw his second touchdown pass, another deep ball to Wallace in the end zone. That pass was even worse: Batch underthrew it, Talib reached up and grabbed it, and then somehow the ball bounced off Talib’s hands and into Wallace’s hands for another touchdown.

“The Bucs had it covered,” Tasker said on the broadcast. “Talib has his hands on it and tips it right to Wallace. That goes from being a pick-off in the end zone to a touchdown, just like that. . . . Talib’s got to be looking at himself going, ‘You got to be kidding me.’ He was right on that play and all of a sudden it’s a touchdown.”

When ESPN rolled out QBR, it boasted that the use of film study improved QBR because it could weed out things like dropped passes, which count against a quarterback’s stats but aren’t the quarterback’s fault. But what good is film study if it gives credit to Batch for two long touchdown passes, without noticing that both passes were thrown into coverage and could just as easily have been intercepted?

It’s not that Batch was terrible in his “all-time greatest” QBR game: On Batch’s third and final touchdown pass of the day, he did a nice job of buying himself some time and then finding an open Hines Ward in the end zone for a touchdown. It was a good play by Batch, but no better a play than we see quarterbacks make every Sunday — certainly not a play that screams “Greatest game in NFL history!”

That was Batch’s final touchdown pass of the game. He did throw another interception, again right into the hands of a defender: Buccaneers linebacker Quincy Black intercepted it with ease.

“He just throws it right to him. Quincy Black wasn’t moving anywhere,” Tasker said on the broadcast.

Why didn’t that interception count against Batch’s QBR? Maybe because QBR is “clutch-weighted,” which means it places greater importance on plays that come late in close games, and Batch’s second interception came after the Steelers had already taken a big enough lead that the game was in hand. But the Steelers’ big lead in that game was mostly attributable to their defense, which totally shut down Buccaneers quarterback Josh Freeman, who was benched after throwing a pick-six. Does Batch really deserve more credit on his QBR just because his defense shut down the other team’s quarterback?

To review, in that Steelers-Buccaneers game, Batch threw 17 passes. Two of them were interceptions thrown directly into the hands of the opposing defense. Two of them were long touchdown passes that easily could have been intercepted if the defensive backs had done their jobs. One was a legitimately good touchdown pass. On the other passes, Batch went 9-for-12 for 90 yards.

Does that sound to you like the greatest game any quarterback has ever played in NFL history? If it does, there might be a place for you in ESPN’s analytics department.

103 responses to “Charlie Batch’s 186-yard, two-pick game has ESPN’s best QBR ever

  1. Yea ESPN, you need to figure that out. I dont watch ESPN anyways other than just games and then turn it. Id rather read yall comments than listen to ex football players tell me a recap of the game in their version.

  2. QBR much like ESPN’s reporting standards has always been a joke. There is a reason why no one ever talks about it unless they either: work for ESPN or they are mocking how stupid it is.

  3. I don’t like QBR at all, but did you ever think that maybe this particular game is just a glitch in their system?

  4. Even better than Peyton Mannings 5-20 30something yard 4 pick performance last week? Figured that would be the top spot for sure how backwards this made up stat is.

  5. Typical ESPN artificial creation of some sort of metrics whom no one else ever uses or has no use for, then get the hype machine rolling and pump it down the public’s throat so all meaning is lost except for the fact that if it is regurgitated by ESPN it must be the best, the most unique sort of measurable because, you know, we’re the best, too! How conceited.

  6. You should have stopped after the first paragraph. Over-analyzing a made up stat only gives ESPN the top-of-mind exposure they have built their business model on. Do what most sports fans with a brain have done: Only watch the games on ESPN and turn the doggone channel.

  7. Does ESPN even realize they are over the jokes. Good think have of most people in the US like sports or else they would be history. Them and Goodell are the laughing stock of INTEGRITY!!!

  8. I have a lot of ideas about how to build an effective “QB Performance Rating” system that endeavors to be the most accurate/precise statistical measure of using one numerical result to describe how well a QB actually did, and I would love to have an opportunity to work for any organization that finds value in creating that kind of a statistical system!

    I don’t see anything in existence that fits what I’m describing and it should easily yield a lot more value and benefit than what it would cost to invent.

    *resumes waiting for phone to ring*

  9. Stats have much more to say in Baseball. Too much is variable in football, and too many dependencies.

    The nerds have ruined football.

  10. One of the many reasons I loathe ESPN. Hell this may actually be the biggest. Their arrogance that they think their opinion matters that much where they think they can change the landscape of a sport makes me sick. And you know it has to make the former players sick to even use the QBR, but as long as ESPN shells out that cash they will be their puppets.The NFL’s QB rating is the Sh!t and your is just shi!t, ESPN.

  11. Very little purpose is served by having a statistic whose formulation is secret. We literally have no idea what different values of the QBR are supposed to mean. They might as well be having judges assign numbers to each performance each week.

  12. This made my day. We should insist ESPN produce a four hour special on “the greatest game ever played.”

  13. “Batch’s first pass of the game was absolutely terrible. He hit Aqib Talib in stride, right between the numbers — which is not a good thing because Talib played for the Buccaneers.

    I could not stop laughing at this line.

  14. If the Batch game is the best ever in QBR, I’d love to know what Phil Simms got for SB21 – probably 17.3.

  15. “He hit Aqib Talib in stride, right between the numbers — which is not a good thing because Talib played for the Buccaneers.”

    One of the best lines ever. Thanks MDS.

  16. There’s clearly something going on here. Here are the other two games that got a 99.9 rating:

    Carson Palmer (10/25/09): 20-24-233-5-0

    Tom Brady (10/21/07): 21-25-354-6-0

    There is no way this statistic is equating Batch’s game to those two. There must be a glitch somewhere. As much as we all love to criticize ESPN, they can’t possibly be this stupid.

    I do wonder why they don’t just make the formula public so we can see what really goes into it. Are they afraid someone else is going to steal it and make money off of it?

  17. look at #22 on the list!! Jake Locker’s 8 for 11 with one touchdown performance is on there. He left that game with an injury if I recall. That’s one good drive for any average QB in the league.

  18. Once ESPN hired Ray Lewis, knew they had absolutely NO integrity. Only watch it b/ c they have Monday night football. Even then turn down the sound!

  19. Shoutout to Charlie Batch though. He could ball, and he had step up several times and each time the haters were like “oh this dude is absolutely done no way steelers win”
    But Batch prolly won more than he lost iirc. Had a nice deep ball and scrambling ability even in the twilight of his career.
    Steelers always seem to have good backup qbs

  20. This seems like a very Trent Dilfer-eque performance….
    … coincidentally, ole Trent was a main contact when Stats and Analysis created the formula.

    Classic.

  21. It’s simple; if the QBR is that revolutionary, then publicize the formula and open it up for scrutiny. This reminds me of the cold-fusion hype from a few years back.

  22. Just behind Batch’s best game ever played by a quarterback in the ESPN QBR rankings:

    1. Peyton Manning last Sunday vs. Kansas City
    2. Rich Gannon in Super Bowl 38 vs. Tampa Bay
    3. Ryan Leaf vs. Kansas City in the infamous “don’t talk to me” game.
    4. Tony Eason in Super Bowl 20 vs. Chicago
    5. Peyton Manning in Super Bowl 48 vs. Seattle

  23. I am a big fan of these articles bashing QBR, as they are high on the humor value. I don’t know what ESPN is smoking, drinking, or otherwise ingesting, but it must be some strong stuff.

    Maybe they can invent RBR, Running Back Rating, which will confirm for us that a game played by a third-string backup where he went 12 carries for 29 yards with 1TD and 2 fumbles is actually the greatest game ever played by a running back.

    Keep ’em rollin’, boys.

  24. QBR is a form of mind control. The power elite are testing to see if a system so stupid that it rates Charlie Batch as the greatest QB of all time actually gains enough public support that it can overtake QB rating as the primary statistic. If this happens, they know that the sheeple have been dumbed down sufficiently enough that they can move forward with the next phase of their operation.

  25. ESPN is just like the any Rex Ryan train-wreck. You hate them but can’t turn away when they are on!

  26. From 2005 to 2012 Charlie Batch started 9 games for the Steelers and won 6 of those games. Five of those starts came after he was 35 years old. Thats admirable production from an old timer.

    Also think he finished a couple games for Big Ben and maybe Byron Leftwich, and sealed some wins, but not sure.

    Regardless shoutout to Charlie Batch.

  27. ESPN is just like the any Rex Ryan train-wreck. You hate them but can’t turn away when they are on!

    Cause dirty south isn’t played out….but thanks for the take…..the only thing you know about trains are the ones that your wife conducts

  28. The only one who seems to mention ESPN’s contrived stat with any regularity is Mike Greenberg, who is as big a joke as their QBR stat is…

  29. I remember watching the Jake Locker performance that ranks #22 on their list.

    As I recall, Locker was so erratic that day, he didn’t complete a single pass that traveled more than 5 yards in the air. Here’s how impressive Locker was that day: when he finally returned a week or two later from the concussion he had sustained, Ken Whisenhunt demoted Locker to #2 and made Zach Mettenberger his starter.

    And according to ESPN’s QBR, this was the 22nd greatest QB performance of the modern era.

    I literally don’t know a single person that places any stock whatsoever in ESPN’s uselessly flawed formula. It’s just silly.

  30. QBR is also known as the “John Elway is a Whiner” stat.

    Elway’s career QB rating is under 80. And he spent most of his career whinging about how ‘unfair’ it was to HIM that the QB rating system treated him so badly because he had a substandard completion percentage because he threw a few more passes further downfield than the average QB.

    Eventually ESPN got on his bandwagon and invented the stat. Unfortunately, it’s not any better than the 1960s QB rating system in correlating with wins and losses.

    The best system out there was Advanced NFL Stats WPA/EPA systems run by Brian Burke. But ESPN bought him out during the offseason and have buried his work into theirs.

  31. ESPN is a glitch, and complete garbage. Who made these clowns out to be an accurate source for ratings to begin with? Did they win a raffle? Was there a vote? Oh, well they’ve done great with the Hungarian Ultimate Frisbee league. Let’s give them a shot.

  32. The only statistic in the NFL that matters is Advanced Passer Rating Plus. If you believe and different, you`re wrong.

  33. Finally! Someone is calling ESPN and their garbage “stats” they make up. Hey ESPN, if the league doesn’t recognize it, don’t try to push it!!

  34. Although I have a great disdain for ESPN, I can’t help to comment that NBC who owns this site, shows below the fold videos in tiny players bc they over inflate their inventory to advertisers – ESPN isn’t the only one who cheats – and yeah, we all dislike ads, but cheating, is cheating – whether it’s ESPN or NBC.

  35. voidhelix says:
    Nov 19, 2015 6:59 PM
    The only statistic in the NFL that matters is Advanced Passer Rating Plus. If you believe and different, you`re wrong.
    ———–
    The only statistic that matters is W-L percentage. Fantasy fools and their geekball stats are pointless, useless and make pro-football a worse place by existing.

  36. I’ll tell you the greatest QB’ed game in NFL history based on JBR (Justin’s Bad*ss Rating). This is based on pressure, circumstances, opponent, weather, clutchness, and a few other proprietary formulaic algorithms I can’t disclose.

    Eli Manning’s performance in the 2011 NFCCG at San Francisco in the rain where he stood up to intense pressure all game long against a stellar defense, was sacked and crushed a ton of times and yet went 32 for 58, 312 yds and 2 tds.

    That game he registered a 100.00 JBR and no quarterback has ever topped that before or since.

    FYI – second place was Eli in the 07′ NFCCG in the frozen -26 tundra at Lambeau when he picked GB apart in subhuman conditions. He scored a 99.5 JBR that game.

  37. I am watching this game now to grade it with my system (greatestqb.com) and after watching the first quarter, I can pretty much guarantee it won’t be the highest rated game by my system. I will hopefully post the result and a write up tomorrow sometime, so look for it in the near future.

    In my opinion, the ESPN score has to be some kind of written (recorded) error and not the actual score that Batch received because no type of system would give that game the highest grade. It just seems impossible that one could.

    I also don’t believe that QBR is derived from watching the game. I think it is derived from play by play data. I have seen too many inconsistencies with games that I have graded where QB’s receive great QBR grades despite having mistakes that don’t show up on the stat sheet. If they were watching the games, they would see the errors made and it would effect the QBR of the QB. I did a 2014 week 1 rankings of the QB’s with my system and listed the QBR ranking for a comparison with my grades and you can kind of see that the QBR number is not derived from watching film. You can see that article under the regular season tab at greatestqb

  38. The arrogance of these people, telling us that what we see with our eyes, and understand with years of observation about what constitutes good play from the QB position, is flawed. They have the magic formula for great QB play, pay no attention to the fact that the results it spews out are absurd to anyone that actually watches the games. Oh, and it’s a secret, so don’t ask us to justify it with data.

  39. It’s laughable. That was your best work, MDS. Good job. I sort of feel bad for Charlie Batch tho. He deserves a little better.

  40. One thing you didn’t mention … at the bottom of the ESPN page it says:

    * All-time data reflects 2006 onwards.

    Even so … what a joke. And I applaud the effort to smear this QBR nonsense.

  41. This is an awesome article. I have often heard guys like Skip Bayless use QBR as a knock on Eli Manning and as a love for Romo. While on many occasions this can be held as a truth I bet not always. I still prefer the QB rating. At least we know how that’s calculated.

  42. ESPN is a group of non athletic types trying to quantify something that can’t be quantified. According to ESPN the Mets and Royals had no business in the World Series.
    Games and Performances are evaluated on the field not on a computer.

  43. QBR is actually more subjective because it tries to measure things like how clutch a QB is. But clutch is actually a reflection of the entire team to just the QB.

  44. 1. Take total yards gained via forward pass;
    2. For each interception subtract the win probability reduction caused by the interception ( e.g. an intercepted Hail Mary pass would have minimal effect);
    3. Divide the result by number of pass attempts.

  45. Batch must have been ‘clutch’ or something in the 4th quarter.

    or QBR is garbage.

    I ll go with the second option.

  46. If Skip Bayless swears by the QBR, then it must be total garbage. It must somehow benefit Tom Brady, Tony Romo or Tim Tebow, as he has stated more than once that he doesn’t believe in the standard QB Rating that the NFL generally adopted several years ago.

    I am convinced that Skip fantasizes about Brady, as I haven’t seen a so-called journalist be so much in love with a player, as Skip is with Brady.
    Of course he was deeply hurt by the failures of Tim Tebow, so this could just be a rebound thing!

  47. Ya, I don’t get this ESPN thing….

    Week 8 this year Eli Manning had a 350 yard, 6 TD and 0 INT performance that doesn’t even crack the top 250. Brees put up over 500 yards and 7 TDs with the 2 INTs in the same game and that’s rated as the 401’s best QB performance.

    In fact, week 6 Brees’ 312 yards and 1 TD actually out-scores that 505 and 7 TD performance above. Something is just not right with all that. I understand that playing great at QB isn’t *just* about the numbers, but 6 and 7 TD games just never happen. That is some great QB play! That week 8 game especially was the most explosive and entertaining game I can remember watching. It’s barely a footnote in their ratings.

  48. If this game rated a 99 QBR, then his last win
    on the final game he started against the Ravens
    should rate 100 – it was a thing of beauty.
    Way to go Charlie Batch!

  49. Its pretty easy to reach the obvious conclusion:

    ESPN’s QBR is the biggest turd in the history of sports metrics.

  50. FWIW, apparently they’ve “fixed the glitch”. The game in question still rates at a 99.9 QBR under Mr Batch’s stats, but it’s now filtered out of this list. I didn’t see it before, but there’s an asterisk now indicating a “Minimum of 20 action plays” to be eligible for the All-Time Best Games listing. Look at you, making a difference PFT.

  51. “FWIW, apparently they’ve “fixed the glitch”. The game in question still rates at a 99.9 QBR under Mr Batch’s stats, but it’s now filtered out of this list. I didn’t see it before, but there’s an asterisk now indicating a “Minimum of 20 action plays” to be eligible for the All-Time Best Games listing. Look at you, making a difference PFT.”

    Apparently the minimum of 20 action plays is just a line thrown in to explain why they removed Batch’s performance as soon as this article was posted, because Jake Locker’s 8-11 pass attempt, 4 rush attempt performance (15 action plays, right?) against the Browns last year is still on there.

  52. @Rob Magee….

    If you go look at the Internet Wayback Machine, the QBR page from a month ago said “Minimum 20 action plays” as well… it’s said it for years actually.

    So, ESPN still needs to explain how Batch’s game went “away”.

  53. ESPN should go back to Australian Rules Football. As for Charlie Batch, he is the classiest guy I have ever met. There isn’t a charity event in Allegheny County that he won’t promote and show up for. He’s done more for Pittsburgh than the last four mayors combined.

  54. I was never sure which is more stupid and arrogant, ESPN with their QBR or The Weather Channel for naming winter storms.

    But after reading this story I’ll give Charlie Batch and his 99.9 QBR the nod over Winter Storm Nemo.

  55. this comment section is hilarious! “wow ESPN is a joke. im still going to watch live sports on one of their stations and then watch family guy re-runs on TBS and basketball on ABC though!!”

  56. Nobody pays any attention to ESPN’s rating besides ESPN. You could tell it was completely flawed and almost totally worthless the very first year they revealed it.

    The original quarterback rating system is much better and much more accurate than what ESPN came up with.

  57. Good old passer rating does a decent job even if the scale is weird. It’s more or less equivalent to ANY/A. Both will give wierd results for small samples but are pretty reliable is the sample is large enough. Even plain old total passing yardage does an ok job over the course of a season.

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