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Ratings gauge QB's passing, but not his intangibles

Question: J.P. Losman's quarterback rating this past week was 142.5. Joey Harrington's was 0.0. What is the formula used to arrive at a quarterback's rating? Can you give an example? -- Bob Jackson, Snyder

Answer: The system takes four factors into consideration: completion percentage, average yards gained per attempt, percentage of touchdown passes per attempt, and percentage of interceptions per attempt. That's it.

Each of those four figures is plugged into a complex formula that was created to measure efficiency. If a passer has a rating of 100 or better for a season, that's exceptional. It has happened only 38 times in NFL history. Jim Kelly is the only Bills QB to have a rating of 100 for a season. He had a 101.2 in 1990. Peyton Manning has the single-season record of 121.1, set in 2004 when he threw 49 TD passes.

Even though it's extremely complicated, it's a good system. It provides a good gauge of passing efficiency. The system actually is called "passer ratings" not "quarterback ratings." That's an important distinction. Doug Flutie always hated the system because it did not factor in winning, leadership, sack avoidance, scrambling, play-calling -- the many other factors that go into making a successful quarterback. But it's very hard to measure those things, outside of the win-loss column. Harrington had a 0.0 because he was awful in all four categories, with two interceptions, no TDs, 29 percent completions and 1.1 yard per attempt.

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Q: Why can't, or won't, the NFL do something about the ridiculous injury reports teams put out? Some teams, especially Denver, are way over the top with their silly reporting of non-injuries. -- George Wojciechowski, Buffalo

A: Going back to the days of George Halas and probably Fielding Yost, football coaches have had a militaristic, bunker mentality about injuries and information in general. I think it's an almost unavoidable result of the fact they get fired roughly once every three years and they work 80 to 90 hours a week during the season. So some coaches think it's a competitive advantage to be secretive about injuries.

A couple of years ago, due to the prodding of the Pro Football Writers Association, the league took the positive step of forcing teams to state whether an injured player practices or not. This helps clear things up. It also helps deter a black market of injury information for gamblers. Still, coaches are determined to try to create uncertainty by putting players on the list.

The league claims it monitors practice video to guard against a team saying a guy did not practice when he actually did. When it comes to bloated reports, I think the league decides it doesn't have the energy to fight the battle. If a player who practices all week suddenly gets deactivated, that's a different story.

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Q: The thought of the Bills leaving town is extremely disheartening. I have read or heard several comments that Western New York is a poor area and can't support higher ticket prices. Yet when I look at the Sabres ticket prices, they are astronomical, and they play about 40 home games. What gives? -- Matthew Kerr, Dayton, Ohio

A: The Sabres have sold about 14,800 season tickets this year. The lower-bowl season tickets are far, far more expensive than Bills season tickets, but the Sabres only have to find 7,000 or so people to buy them. There certainly are enough people with the means to foot that bill.

Finding 70,000 people to buy season tickets is harder. But the Bills have done a good job of selling tickets, this year's blackouts notwithstanding.

Bills beat reporter Mark Gaughan answers your football questions every Friday. Send your e-mails to mgaughan@-buffnews.com or mail to Question Mark, The Buffalo News Sports Department, One News Plaza, P.O. Box 100, Buffalo, NY 14240.

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