Peyton Manning Might Be the Worst Super Bowl Quarterback Since the Turn of the Century

Peyton Manning had a miserable 2015 season, and it's now put him in unfamiliar territory. Could he possibly be the worst passer the Super Bowl has seen since 2000?

Anyone my age knows who Henry Rowengartner is. 

After breaking his arm in the movie Rookie of the Year, Rowengartner, a 12-year-old, is able to throw a heater. Like, a serious heater -- one so good that he's able to play in the big leagues as a little leaguer. 

By the end of the movie -- spoiler alert! -- Rowengartner's pitched the Cubs (because why wouldn't it be the Cubs?) to the division championship. In that final game, he slips on a baseball in the ninth inning, lands on his throwing arm and, because this is how the human body works in '90s movies, can no longer throw his insane fastball.

Fortunately, Rowengartner was a fictional character in a kids movie. Despite his lack of arm strength, he was able to throw a floater at the end of the movie to strike out his arch nemesis at the plate. 

The Cubs won.

Though he was only 12, Rowengartner's story is similar to the rise and decay of plenty professional athletes. After elite play, some athletes hit a wall.

Some athletes do what Peyton Manning did in 2015.

Manning's career should never be overshadowed by his poor play this season. He's one of the best quarterbacks we'll ever see, and that can't really be debated. But this year -- this year he was like Henry Rowengartner post-slipping on the ball.

This year, Peyton Manning was throwing floaters.

This year, Peyton Manning was bad.

And it has me wondering -- it has me asking a question I never thought I'd ever ask: Is this year's Peyton Manning the worst quarterback we've seen in the modern Super Bowl era?

Not the Peyton of Old

If you're new to numberFire, you probably haven't seen our Net Expected Points (NEP) metric before. In essence, NEP helps us measure the number of points a player adds or loses for his team versus what's expected. I'm not talking about fantasy points -- I'm talking real points.

You see, each down-and-distance situation on a football field has an expected point total for a particular team on a particular drive. If a player helps that expected point total from one play to the next, he'll be credited with a positive expected points score on that play. If he doesn't, then he's taking a negative score. All of those individual plays, then, form a player's Net Expected Points total.

For more detail surrounding NEP, you can check out our  glossary.

Since 2000, we've seen 30 teams compete in the Super Bowl, with this year making 32. That means there've been 32 starting quarterback instances -- not different starting quarterbacks -- over the last 16 seasons.

Below is a list of these quarterbacks (including this year's passers) who've played in the Super Bowl since 2000. Next to their names, you'll find their Passing NEP totals and per drop back Passing NEP averages for their respective Super Bowl regular season. The signal-callers are sorted by their per drop back efficiency.

Year Full Name Passing NEP Per Drop Back
2007 Tom Brady 259.40 0.43
2013 Peyton Manning 278.52 0.41
2006 Peyton Manning 191.77 0.34
2011 Tom Brady 213.43 0.33
2009 Peyton Manning 188.80 0.32
2009 Drew Brees 169.92 0.32
2001 Kurt Warner 145.17 0.25
2005 Ben Roethlisberger 70.75 0.24
2010 Aaron Rodgers 113.04 0.22
2004 Donovan McNabb 108.34 0.22
2010 Ben Roethlisberger 88.24 0.21
2014 Tom Brady 123.69 0.20
2002 Rich Gannon 133.12 0.20
2004 Tom Brady 100.60 0.20
2015 Cam Newton 105.04 0.20
2008 Kurt Warner 116.97 0.19
2005 Matt Hasselbeck 87.68 0.19
2012 Colin Kaepernick 40.50 0.17
2013 Russell Wilson 74.66 0.17
2011 Eli Manning 95.65 0.16
2002 Brad Johnson 59.72 0.13
2014 Russell Wilson 47.65 0.10
2000 Kerry Collins 45.33 0.08
2003 Tom Brady 29.17 0.05
2012 Joe Flacco 26.20 0.05
2008 Ben Roethlisberger 23.59 0.05
2001 Tom Brady 19.43 0.04
2003 Jake Delhomme 11.45 0.02
2015 Peyton Manning -7.95 -0.02
2006 Rex Grossman -31.82 -0.06
2007 Eli Manning -46.01 -0.08
2000 Trent Dilfer -25.11 -0.10

By no surprise, the most efficient Super Bowl quarterback over the last decade and a half has been Tom Brady and his historic 2007 campaign, with Manning's record-breaking 2013 coming in second. Neither of those quarterbacks won the Super Bowl that year, but it was very clear those two guys were the best at slinging the ball around during those seasons.

You'll notice Newton's passing numbers are about average among Super Bowl quarterbacks -- remember, he doesn't just do his damage through the air -- while 2015's Peyton Manning ranks fourth to last. That's not a great endorsement for Manning, but as the title of the article suggests, that doesn't appear to make him the worst quarterback we've seen in the Super Bowl since Y2K.

But as football fans know, passing has become a much more efficient way of moving the football down the field than rushing. And, if you've watched football for a few years, you know the league has turned into a much more offensive-driven one. 

Our Net Expected Points metric reflects that.

In 2000, the average Passing NEP per drop back among quarterbacks was zero. In other words, the average quarterback wasn't adding or subtracting points with each drop back he made.

In 2015, that average was 0.11.

Now, let's take a look at the same chart, but this time adjusting for era.

YearFull NamePassing NEP per Drop BackLeague AverageDifference
2007Tom Brady0.430.020.415
2013Peyton Manning0.410.070.342
2006Peyton Manning0.340.010.327
2011Tom Brady0.330.010.320
2009Peyton Manning0.320.020.303
2009Drew Brees0.320.020.296
2001Kurt Warner0.25-0.020.264
2005Ben Roethlisberger0.240.010.235
2004Donovan McNabb0.220.030.190
2002Rich Gannon0.200.020.189
2005Matt Hasselbeck0.190.010.177
2010Aaron Rodgers0.220.050.176
2004Tom Brady0.200.030.175
2010Ben Roethlisberger0.210.050.163
2008Kurt Warner0.190.040.143
2011Eli Manning0.160.010.143
2012Colin Kaepernick0.170.060.114
2002Brad Johnson0.130.020.112
2014Tom Brady0.200.100.108
2013Russell Wilson0.170.070.102
2015Cam Newton0.200.110.092
2000Kerry Collins0.080.000.081
2003Tom Brady0.05-0.010.065
2001Tom Brady0.04-0.020.058
2003Jake Delhomme0.02-0.010.037
2008Ben Roethlisberger0.050.040.002
2014Russell Wilson0.100.10-0.001
2012Joe Flacco0.050.06-0.013
2006Rex Grossman-0.060.01-0.073
2007Eli Manning-0.080.02-0.101
2000Trent Dilfer-0.100.00-0.101
2015Peyton Manning-0.020.11-0.130

While Manning has the fourth worst Passing NEP per drop back average among all passers in the Super Bowl over the last 16 years, he actually has the absolute worst when we compare him to how he performed versus his peers during his Super Bowl season. To give you all some context, the -0.13 number associated with Manning in the "difference" column above references the fact that an average passer in 2015 would have added 0.13 more points than Manning did with each drop back. That's more than a field goal per game.

This may not be surprising to pundits who've watched him all season long, because his play was certainly lacking. But it's still astounding to see "Peyton Manning" next to "Trent Dilfer" as a Super Bowl quarterback.

We'll have to wait and see if Manning has just as happy of an ending as Rookie of the Year.