How injury prone is your QB? Eli Manning is the new iron man; Alex Smith, Matt Schaub, and Kevin Kolb, not so much

In a similar post to one I did last year at Bleeding Green Nation, I figured we’d take a look at the QB’s around the league to see how “injury-prone” they are.  I took all the QB’s that I would project as their team’s starter this season, added up the number of games in their career in which they were the clear-cut starter for their team, and tallied how many games they played/missed due to injury.

Since it has no bearing on being “injury-prone,” I didn’t include games in which the QB sat out Week 17 because they were locked into a particular playoff seed (for example, Aaron Rodgers this past season). I also factored out benchings (Alex Smith, Kevin Kolb, etc.), and any other circumstances in which a QB missed a game due to a non-injury related circumstance (Michael Vick being in jail, etc).  Five teams’ projected starting QB’s were omitted. Andrew Luck (likely Colts), Robert Griffin III (likely Redskins), and the Seahawks’ Matt Flynn were all omitted due to a lack of an adequate sample size. Also, the Dolphins’ Matt Moore and the Bills’ Ryan Fitzpatrick both have careers that were simply too difficult to pinpoint exactly which games they missed due to injury and/or coach’s decision, so I just skipped them completely.  Apologies for this egregious act of lazy journalism.

The list:

Rank QB Team Possible games Played Missed % started
1 Eli Manning Giants 119 119 0 100
2 Philip Rivers Chargers 96 96 0 100
3 Joe Flacco Ravens 64 64 0 100
T4 Andy Dalton Bengals 16 16 0 100
T4 Cam Newton Panthers 16 16 0 100
6 Blaine Gabbert Jaguars 15 15 0 100
7 Christian Ponder Vikings 11 11 0 100
8 Aaron Rodgers Packers 63 62 1 98.4
9 Mark Sanchez Jets 48 47 1 97.9
10 Josh Freeman Buccaneers 41 40 1 97.6
11 Matt Ryan Falcons 64 62 2 96.9
12 Drew Brees Saints 158 153 5 96.8
13 Peyton Manning Broncos 224 208 16 92.9
14 Tom Brady Patriots 174 159 15 91.4
15 Jay Cutler Bears 80 73 7 91.3
16 Ben Roethlisberger Steelers 124 113 11 91.1
  NFL average   2171 1947 224 89.7
17 Carson Palmer Raiders 122 107 15 87.7
18 Matt Hasselbeck Titans 176 154 22 87.5
19 Tony Romo Cowboys 91 78 13 85.7
20 Matt Cassel Chiefs 63 54 9 85.7
21 Michael Vick Eagles 110 90 20 81.8
22 Sam Bradford Rams 32 26 6 81.3
23 Matt Schaub Texans 80 64 16 80
24 Colt McCoy Browns 27 21 6 77.8
25 Alex Smith 49ers 86 56 30 65.1
26 Kevin Kolb Cardinals 23 14 9 60.9
27 Matthew Stafford Lions 48 29 19 60.4

Some notes after the jump…

  • Last year, Peyton Manning was the reigning NFL QB iron man.  Now it’s his brother, although Philip Rivers’ streak is impressive as well.  One missed season dropped Peyton from 1st to 13th.
  • Seven NFL QB’s have never missed a start, although 4 of them were rookies last year and don’t have adequate sample sizes.
  • Only four players missed significant time due to injury in 2011: Matt Cassel of the Chiefs missed 7 games, Jay Cutler of the Bears missed 6, Matt Schaub missed 6 with the Texans, and the Eagles’ Michael Vick missed 3.  However, an argument can be made that three of those players’ teams missed the playoffs because they got hurt, and the absence of Schaub may have cost the Texans a deep playoff run..
  • There’s some debate as to who the Titans’ starting QB should be this season, Matt Hasselbeck or Jake Locker.  For the sake of picking the QB with a larger sample size of games played to draw from in this study, I chose Hasselbeck.
  • I took all the QBs from this list and tallied up their possible games played/missed.  That’s where you see the “NFL average” on the above list in between Ben Roethlisberger and Carson Palmer.
  • It’s somewhat surprising that Michael Vick is less injury prone than 6 NFL starters.
  • Alex Smith leads all NFL QB’s with 30 missed starts due to injury.


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  3. […] The Giants typically only keep 2 QB’s, and there’s really no need for them to keep more, seeing as Eli Manning is currently the NFL’s QB iron man. […]

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  16. […] that’s 232 games.  Think about that.  A week ago, I put up the numbers for QB’s and how many games they’ve missed over their careers.  Only one had over 100 consecutive starts at QB (Eli Manning with 119).  And we’re talking […]

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  22. Redskins Fan says:

    Might also be interesting to see how many of those were “events”….. as you mentioned in the article, Peyton Manning was out 16 games last season, and that’s all the games he’s missed. Tom Brady is ditto for the 15 games he missed, they were all from one incident.

    The stat showing how many “incidents” per game would go a long way to showing not how injury prone a QB is, but how reliable he is… PM and TBs stats would be much better in that case since a single incident requiring more downtime accounted for all of it. Vick might not look nearly as good, if my rough guess is correct, because he frequently misses only a single game before he’s back, but then misses another realtively soon thereafter.

    It’s harder for the backup to get a rythm; by being in and out like that, it would seem to hurt the team more than something like “our starter is going to miss the next four games, but should be good otherwise” than “our starter will miss a scattershot of four games over the season”.

    1. Imp says:

      ” Vick might not look nearly as good, if my rough guess is correct, because he frequently misses only a single game before he’s back, but then misses another realtively soon thereafter.”
      Nope. Missed 3 straight games last year for same injury and another 3 straight game in ’10 for the same injury. He also missed week 17 matchup in ’10 but that was because Eagles already had a playoff spot.


    2. Jalarsen1 says:

      I agree. Hard to call a guy ‘injury prone’ for being injured once. I’m actually more curious to know how often a guy misses a game following a start the previous week.

  23. Steve D. says:

    “Only four players missed significant time due to injury in 2011: Matt Cassel of the Chiefs missed 7 games, Jay Cutler of the Bears missed 6, Matt Schaub missed 6 with the Texans, and the Eagles’ Michael Vick missed 3. However, an argument can be made that all four of those players’ teams missed the playoffs because they got hurt.”

    It would be pretty difficult to make an argument that the Texans missed the playoffs because Schaub get hurt since they made the playoffs. (Not having Schaub did hurt them against the Ravens in the playoffs)

    1. Ha, derpage on me. Fixed.

  24. Immynimmy says:

    I hate injuries 🙁

  25. brisulph says:

    I thought you made a post about Vick last off-season where he was not truly injury prone… missing nearly 1 in every 5 starts is not a good number.

    1. I linked to it in the first sentence.

      1. brisulph says:

        Just testing you… yeah, just testing you. Definitely wasn’t me missing it or anything. Quality control, know your articles, you know how we do.

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