A total of 68 NFL quarterbacks started a game in the just-concluded 2017 regular season. Colin Kaepernick was not among them.
With multiple players claiming the former San Francisco 49ers quarterback had been blackballed by the league for sparking protests during the playing of the national anthem, a subject that dominated the past two NFL seasons and drew criticism from President Trump, The Washington Post tracked the statistical performance of each team’s top passer to see how they measured up to Kaepernick’s 2016 averages.
Over the course of the season, 10 quarterbacks were worse than Kaepernick, 7 were about the same (plus or minus 0.35 ANY/A) and 15 were better.
To be fair, two of those 10, DeShone Kizer and Mitchell Trubisky, were rookies, with their teams building for the future. Two others, however – Brett Hundley with the Packers and Jacoby Brissett with the Colts – were thrust into starting roles due to injury to star starting quarterbacks Aaron Rodgers and Andrew Luck. Would those teams have been better off on the field had they turned to Kaepernick? It will remain the source of debate, but the numbers suggest the former 49er would have represented an upgrade.
Note that adjusted net yards per attempt only measures passing. Quarterbacks who run a lot – such as Kaepernick, Cam Newton, and Russell Wilson – were not given credit for those contributions. Here’s the full QB ranking, from worst to best:
|Player||Team||Total seasons||2017 Passing Stats||ANY/A|
|32.||DeShone Kizer||Cleveland CLE||Rookie||53.6% comp, 11 TD, 22 INT||3.69|
|31.||Brett Hundley||Green Bay GB||2||60.8% comp, 9 TD, 12 INT||3.71|
|30.||Trevor Siemian||Denver DEN||3||59.0% comp, 12 TD, 14 INT||4.38|
|29.||Joe Flacco||Baltimore BAL||10||64.1% comp, 18 TD, 13 INT||4.71|
|28.||Jay Cutler||Miami MIA||12||62.0% comp, 19 TD, 14 INT||5.04|
|27.||Mitch Trubisky||Chicago CHI||Rookie||59.4% comp, 7 TD, 7 INT||5.05|
|26.||Eli Manning||N.Y. Giants NYG||14||61.6% comp, 19 TD, 13 INT||5.11|
|25.||Jacoby Brissett||Indianapolis IND||2||58.8% comp, 13 TD, 7 INT||5.26|
|24.||Cam Newton||Carolina CAR||7||59.1% comp, 22 TD, 16 INT||5.28|
|23.||Marcus Mariota||Tennessee TEN||3||62.0% comp, 13 TD, 15 INT||5.51|
|22.||Andy Dalton||Cincinnati CIN||7||59.9% comp, 25 TD, 12 INT||5.65|
|21.||Tyrod Taylor||Buffalo BUF||7||62.6% comp, 14 TD, 4 INT||5.67|
|20.||Dak Prescott||Dallas DAL||2||62.9% comp, 22 TD, 13 INT||5.74|
|19.||Carson Palmer||Arizona ARI||14||61.4% comp, 9 TD, 7 INT||5.86|
|Kaepernick (2016)||San Francisco SF||6||59.2% comp, 16 TD, 4 INT||5.92|
|18.||Josh McCown||N.Y. Jets NYJ||15||67.3% comp, 18 TD, 9 INT||6.00|
|17.||Derek Carr||Oakland OAK||4||62.7% comp, 22 TD, 13 INT||6.07|
|16.||Blake Bortles||Jacksonville JAX||4||60.2% comp, 21 TD, 13 INT||6.21|
|15.||Kirk Cousins||Washington WSH||6||64.3% comp, 27 TD, 13 INT||6.38|
|14.||Russell Wilson||Seattle SEA||6||61.3% comp, 34 TD, 11 INT||6.45|
|13.||Jameis Winston||Tampa Bay TB||3||63.8% comp, 19 TD, 11 INT||6.70|
|12.||Matt Ryan||Atlanta ATL||10||64.7% comp, 20 TD, 12 INT||6.87|
|11.||Ben Roethlisberger||Pittsburgh PIT||14||64.2% comp, 28 TD, 14 INT||6.95|
|10.||Matthew Stafford||Detroit DET||9||65.7% comp, 29 TD, 10 INT||7.01|
|9.||Case Keenum||Minnesota MIN||6||67.6% comp, 22 TD, 7 INT||7.03|
|8.||Deshaun Watson||Houston HOU||Rookie||61.8% comp, 19 TD, 8 INT||7.19|
|7.||Carson Wentz||Philadelphia PHI||2||60.2% comp, 33 TD, 7 INT||7.43|
|6.||Tom Brady||New England NE||18||66.3% comp, 32 TD, 8 INT||7.56|
|5.||Philip Rivers||L.A. Chargers LAC||14||62.6% comp, 28 TD, 10 INT||7.60|
|4.||Jimmy Garoppolo||San Francisco SF||4||67.4% comp, 7 TD, 5 INT||7.62|
|3.||Alex Smith||Kansas City KC||12||67.5% comp, 26 TD, 5 INT||7.65|
|2.||Drew Brees||New Orleans NO||17||72.0% comp, 23 TD, 8 INT||7.71|
|1.||Jared Goff||L.A. Rams LAR||2||62.1% comp, 28 TD, 7 INT||7.72|
About this story
All data from Pro Football Reference. Quarterback photos are from the NFL via Pro Football Reference, with the exception of Colin Kaepernick (Marcio Jose Sanchez/AP).
Originally published Sept. 7, 2017.