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Not All Yards After the Catch Are Created Equal

Yards after the catch shouldn't be considered a negative for the quarterback.

Richard Mackson-USA TODAY Sports

Ever since it became a commonly recorded statistic over the past few season, there has been a wave of denigration against yards after the catch (YAC). This is not as bad as those justifying mid-game interceptions as "basically a punt", but it shows a great lack of context and understanding.

Not all YAC is created equal.

Tom Brady made headlines after the Super Bowl for his methodical style of play against the vaunted Seahawks defense. The Patriots found themselves picking up four, five, six yards a play and needing to string together long drives in order to score. As a result, Brady threw YAC at his second highest rate for the season. Of course, this is how teams have to play in order to beat the Seahawks and New England was able to stick to their plan and leave with a victory.

Chase Stuart of Football Perspective is working on improving the understanding and usage of YAC as a measure for offensive success. It should be reinforced that the initial results seem to show that YAC is based on offensive system and not quarterback prowess- but it also shows that not all YAC is created equal.

Typically, YAC is known to be reserved for small-armed quarterbacks like Alex Smith and Christian Ponder, or young quarterbacks in their first couple of years in the league. Teams that rely heavily on YAC are presumed to be limited by the arm of their quarterback.

The website Sporting Charts measures the YAC statistic and formulates interactive graphs to show a player's YAC usage, like Tom Brady's graph, over time. It turns out that Brady hasn't been alone in taking advantage of YAC, even though he's the only one to receive the scarlet letter.

Over the past three seasons, both Aaron Rodgers and Philip Rivers have enjoyed a higher rate of YAC than Brady has. Over the past two, gunslingers Ben Roethlisberger, Matthew Stafford, Andrew Luck, and the Philadelphia quarterbacks have as well.

The league's top offenses are evolving to take advantage of yards after the catch and a better understanding of YAC is imperative to evaluate the output because, once again for good measure, not all YAC is created equal.