So, just a few key points, and no, this doesn't stand as proof that stats are useless.
As usual, it's instead a reminder that stats in the hands of the intellectually lazy (in this case, probably some NBC intern) can distort anything.
Here's why the numbers of these two players aren't as similar as NBC would have us believe:
- Manning's stats will forever be skewed by a rough rookie season - his 71.2 QB rating that year is 27.9 points (!) below his QB rating over his other 14 seasons. A sample of only three seasons is going to distort things even further.
- In his third year, Peyton's ANY/A was all the way up to 7.22 (his career average is 7.24), while Dalton was only at 6.29 last year (5.89 over his career).
- Perhaps most importantly, Manning's interception rate dropped from each year to the next (4.9%, 2.8%, 2.6%), while Dalton's has risen (2.5%, 3.0%, 3.4%)
- Their careers started during different eras, and it's important to compare them to their peers. If you look at the Advanced Passing table on each player's PFR page, a mark of 100 represents the league average for any given category in a given year.
There are nine categories, and Manning has played for 15 seasons. Nine times fifteen equals 135 opportunities to compare Peyton to his contemporaries.
Of those 135 metrics, he's only been subpar (below 100) six times, and four of those came during his rookie season.
Dalton has played three seasons, so that's 27 comparisons to his peers.
Of those 27 metrics, Dalton has been subpar 13 times, or more than double the times Peyton has done so in his 15 seasons.
- Let's revisit ANY/A, the most useful measure of a quarterback, and also use the 100-point index.
Here are Manning's ANY/A+ figures over his first three years: 96, 120, 127
And, here are Dalton's: 97, 97, 105
Right there is a perfect confirmation of what we all know to be true: Peyton Manning is, and always has been (at least since his second season) far better than his peers.
Andy Dalton, on the other hand, is a very average quarterback.