After an eventful Week One in the NFL, the Chiefs look to be back on top of the NFL landscape, as most fans of the team would have predicted. However, after a dominant performance by Patrick Mahomes, PFF seems to be off the deep end.
This was a pretty crazy weekend in the NFL, but the guys at Pro Football Focus decided to take it over the top Monday morning with their quarterback rankings.
Pro Football Focus defines itself as a sports analytics company known for its player grading system. For years I have questioned the accuracy of their grading system, despite the league and many in the media using them as an authoritative reference. They aren’t always obviously horrible, but following the week one slate of games, their ignorance was on full display.
PFF's highest-graded QBs in Week 1 so far 1. Josh Allen – 91.5 2. Kirk Cousins – 85.1 3. Ryan Tannehill – 81.1 4. Justin Herbert – 79.8 5. Jameis Winston – 79.6 6. Lamar Jackson – 76.8 6. Jalen Hurts – 76.8 8. Patrick Mahomes – 71.5 9. Tom Brady – 70.0 10. Davis Mills – 68.1 — Jarad Evans (@Jarad_Evans) September 12, 2022
PFF and its group of expert analysts graded Patrick Mahomes’ performance against the Arizona Cardinals at 71.5. That was good enough for eighth in the league according to them.
PFF Doesn’t Hate The Chiefs, But Their Grades Are Often Odd
Now before I bury PFF for that insane grade and ranking, I should probably explain a little more about their grading system for those unfamiliar with them. PFF has its own grading system that acts a lot like a credit score. It involves a lot of information that nobody knows about and analyzes it in a way nobody knows. They do not explain their grades or what goes into them except to say they grade good things as good and bad things as bad.
The idea behind the system is a fine idea; they are trying to break through all the stats and show how well a player actually plays on a given day. A pass was thrown perfectly so that a wide receiver pops up into the air for an interception is graded better than a pass that hits a DB in the chest and pops up into a wide outs hands. In theory, it is a great system that should be able to break through the box score to get to the truth of how well someone played.
There are a couple of major flaws with the system, however. In their desire to be unbias and fair, they have gone too far and treated each player and situation as equal when the reality is they aren’t. A pass in the first quarter is not equal to a pass in the fourth quarter. A pass down three points late in the game isn’t the same as a pass down 20 late. Mahomes trying to fit it into a window is not the same as Chad Henne trying to fit it into a window.
Now we do not have the complete PFF breakdown, but I have enough experience with them to give some examples of why their grade is insane. It’s understandable that they would grade the pass in the endzone that Noah Gray turned defensive back as poor. It was a turnover-worthy pass that was saved by Gray playing great defense. It should be graded the same as if Gray didn’t make that play, and that is fine.
But the play being shown all over NFL highlight shows is the Mahomes to Travis Kelce beautiful pass and catch between three defenders. Analysts like Dan Orlovsky and others talked about that being the best pass of the week by any quarterback. I guarantee you that play was graded negatively by PFF. They will see it as a dangerous pass into coverage that had a high turnover risk. They’ll see the open running back in the flat and say that was the better pass option.
Oh my sweet lord this angle of Mahomes throw to Kelce yesterday pic.twitter.com/qziq6ZuaCL — Braiden Turner (@bturner23) September 13, 2022
If that were the Chiefs backup, Chad Henne, I would understand that grade. I mean if Henne made that throw in a tough spot all Chiefs fans would hold their breath and pray Kelce came down with it. We’d prefer the check down to wide open and not risk it. But when it’s the best quarterback in the league, that pass is not dangerous at all. You can tell it wasn’t dangerous because of how perfectly he threw the pass which is another thing PFF does not take into consideration.
Chiefs Quarterback Mahomes Clearly Dominated; PFF Is Lost
They grade Mahomes running the offense to perfection as a negative because instead, they give the credit to Andy Reid. Some of PFF’s lead NFL analysts have said that Mahomes two touchdown passes to Clyde Edwards-Helaire could be made by anyone’s mom because of how well Andy schemed. On one hand, I agree, the guys were wide open. But if that is the case, then nearly all touchdown passes in the NFL are coach made.
I have no issue with Mahomes not being graded the best of the weekend. The Cardinals were bad and Mahomes took advantage of that bad defense and it was easier than other quarterbacks had it. Josh Allen and Justin Herbert are guys I have no issue with having high grades based on their competition and how well they each played. But then you see guys like Jameis Winston and Ryan Tannehill being far ahead of Mahomes and it’s embarrassing for PFF.
Tannehill lost to the Giants with five more incompletions, 94 fewer yards, and only two touchdowns. I’m not saying stats are everything, but there is no way you can tell me the stats are that far off. Tannehill only completed 20 passes, how could those 20 passes have possibly been better than the 30 passes of Mahomes? This is not just me either, go to Twitter and follow the threads from Sam Monson (@PFF_Sam) or Jarad Evans (@PFF_Jarad) and you’ll see lots of blue checkmarks calling them crazy.
This is not the first time PFF has had issues, start paying attention to their grades each week and you’ll find yourself scratching your head quite often. My first time occurred in 2015 when the Chiefs played against the Green Bay Packers. Alex Smith went 24/40, 290 yards, one TD, one interception, and was sacked seven times. Aaron Rodgers went 24/35, 333 yards, five TD, zero interceptions, and was only sacked once. The Packers were up 31-7 before they called the dogs off late in the third quarter. Want to take a guess who PFF graded better of those two QBs? Of course, it was Smith in one of the worst games of his career in Kansas City.
PFF unfortunately isn’t going away. It’s too engrained into the NFL culture, but that doesn’t mean we as fans should take them seriously. As Bob Fescoe of 610 Sports in Kansas City likes to call them, Pro Football Out of Focus should never be taken seriously. This week’s QB rankings are just one more example of the embarrassment they are. But don’t be too angry Chiefs Kingdom; we all know this is just one more chip Mahomes can put on his shoulder heading into the home opener against Los Angeles. Mahomes didn’t need any more motivation, but we appreciate you PFF for helping out.