In a recent article published to their site, Pro Football Focus' John Kosko declared that Eli Manning of the New York Giants' QB isn't in the top 20 players for his position right now. Manning has been making headlines this week with the report that he wants to be the highest paid player in the league. This is, of course, a good negotiation tactic for Manning, and additionally, good fodder for companies like PFF.
The article is obvious clickbait. "Eli Manning isn't even a top-20 QB right now" is exactly the sort of thing that draws a crowd to a site that's better known for its numbers than its articles. After the jump, Kosko immediately begins to backtrack, running swiftly out of a building set ablaze by its hot-take headline.
In fact, the problem here is that the writer is using his own company's numbers poorly in order to create a story out of nothing.
Now, that assessment might be overly harsh, in part because of the fact that Manning is still being punished for his rough 2013 campaign during which he ranked No. 31 in the league for his accuracy under pressure. It also can't take into account the impact a healthy tandem of Odell Beckham Jr. (our No. 1-rated wide receiver entering 2015) and Victor Cruz will have on his play.
The metric in question is PFF's individual number rating system; a numerical order designed to compare different positions against each other. Its flaw for this scenario is that it takes into account up to two years of games. Recently, it coughed up a result that said Odell Beckham Jr. is the best wide receiver in the NFL. This was a product of weighted ratings and secretive formulas.
While that expanded Beckham's grades to scale alongside guys like Pittsburgh's Antonio Brown and Green Bay's Jordy Nelson, the situation with Manning is the inclusion of data that doesn't necessarily reflect how he is performing right now.
Eli Manning under Kevin Gilbride and Eli Manning in Ben McAdoo's system are two different people, yet this rating is combining both to form an opinion of "Manning is the 27th best quarterback". Kosko knows this flaw. He specifically works around it.
And we know his top-level performance ability is very high. In Manning's 2011 Super Bowl season, the former No. 1 overall pick was dynamite, especially under pressure. He was pressured on 39.1 percent of his dropbacks (most in the NFL), but was sacked just 11.4 percent of the time (best in the NFL), and his accuracy percentage of 69.1 was second-best to Drew Brees. In the playoffs, he posted the best postseason passing grade of any quarterback in the PFF era.
The writer goes way too far back to describe Manning's performance. If the number is supposed to determine "right now," keep it as recent as possible. The Gilbride era is over. It died a slow and cumbersome death. Outside of the company, we can't calculate the rating for Manning based on 2014 alone, because we don't have the formula, but just looking at PFF's basic grades for QBs; Manning was 18th best for his position last year. This is a significant boost over being called "No. 27 ranked QB".
In conclusion, PFF has a lot of merits, but it also has a lot of flaws. The vast database of numbers it provides is second to none, but when criticized publicly, their stance has always been about how their grades need to be taken in context.
Perhaps they need to do some internal analysis. If PFF wishes to be taken seriously on all fronts, whether it's data, journalism or otherwise, it needs to follow its own guidelines. After all, their numbers are only valuable because we trust that they have a standardized approach to all facets of analysis. If this isn't the case, well maybe fans won't be so eager to shell out for a product which has seen a 122 percent price increase over the last year.