In the National Football League (NFL), the highest official passer rating that a quarterback can achieve is 158.3, which is considered a perfect passer rating. To qualify, a quarterback must attempt at least 10 passes, have zero interceptions, and have minimums of a 77.5% completion percentage, 11.88% touchdown passes percentage, and 12.5 yards per attempt. The passer rating was developed in 1971.
Applying the formula to post-1971 quarterbacks, as of November 2015, there have been 54 different players, on 65 occasions, who have achieved a perfect passer rating. Four of these ratings have occurred in the post-season. Seven quarterbacks have achieved the feat more than once: Peyton Manning threw four, Ben Roethlisberger and Kurt Warner have thrown three, and Craig Morton, Dave Krieg, Ken O'Brien, and Tom Brady have two.
Ben Roethlisberger is the only quarterback with multiple perfect ratings in a single regular season, when he achieved the feat twice in 2007. The San Francisco 49ers had two different quarterbacks achieve a perfect rating in the same season, with Steve Young (week 7) and Joe Montana (week 10) both earning perfect ratings.
Drew Bledsoe, Robert Griffin III, and Marcus Mariota are the only quarterbacks to achieve a perfect passer rating in their rookie seasons, with Mariota being the only quarterback to post one in his NFL debut.
Four of these performances were in a losing cause, though Chad Pennington is the only quarterback to play from start to finish and earn both a loss and a perfect rating. Eleven quarterbacks have had a perfect 158.3 passer rating and also earned a 0.0 (lowest) passer rating during their careers: Johnny Unitas, Joe Namath, Terry Bradshaw, Len Dawson, Bob Griese, James Harris, Bob Lee, Craig Morton, Dan Fouts, Eli Manning, and Peyton Manning.
Perfect game frequency
Games with a perfect passer rating are rare in the NFL. Before the start of the 2010 NFL season, there had been 14,633 regular season and 467 postseason games, providing over 30,000 opportunities to reach the perfect rating milestone. With more teams/games and a general increase in passing efficiency from rules changes, these performances have increased in number since.
Of the rare number of times the feat has happened, only Ken O'Brien and Nick Foles have combined it with a rare 400 yard game.
The most perfect passer games in a single year are the four in 2007 (including two by Ben Roethlisberger). Only once – October 29, 1978 – have two quarterbacks (Steve Grogan and Brian Sipe) earned a perfect passer rating on the same day.
Only two quarterbacks have accomplished a perfect passer rating with 30 or more attempts. Ken O'Brien threw 26-for-32 in his perfect game for a completion rate of 81%, while Kurt Warner threw 24 of 30 in his perfect game for a completion rate of 80%. Ryan Tannehill holds the record for completion rate in a perfect game, throwing 18 of 19 for 94.7% in his 2015 perfect game. Chris Chandler has the best rate for a game with at least 20 pass attempts (23 of 26) for 88% completed in his 1995 perfect game.
Only one quarterback, Nick Foles, has accomplished a perfect passer rating with seven touchdowns thrown. Two quarterbacks have accomplished a perfect passer rating with six touchdowns thrown. Peyton Manning was the first to achieve the record on September 28, 2003 against the New Orleans Saints, while Tom Brady matched the feat on October 21, 2007 against the Miami Dolphins. Thirteen quarterbacks have accomplished a perfect game with only two touchdowns thrown. It is impossible to achieve a perfect game with only one touchdown because of the 10 passing attempt minimum to qualify, combined with the minimum 11.875% touchdown-to-attempted-pass ratio.
Two quarterbacks have accomplished a perfect passer rating with more than 400 passing yards. Ken O'Brien threw for 431 yards on November 2, 1986 against the Seattle Seahawks. Nick Foles threw for 406 yards on November 3, 2013 against the Oakland Raiders. Only three quarterbacks have accomplished a perfect game with fewer than 150 passing yards. Scott Hunter threw for 138 yards on October 31, 1976 against the New Orleans Saints, Drew Bledsoe threw for 143 yards on December 26, 1993 against the Indianapolis Colts, and Rich Gannon threw for 146 yards on October 15, 1992 against the Detroit Lions.
Only three quarterbacks have accomplished a perfect passer rating in their rookie season. Drew Bledsoe of the New England Patriots achieved it against the Indianapolis Colts on December 26, 1993; Robert Griffin III of the Washington Redskins did it against the Philadelphia Eagles on November 18, 2012; and Marcus Mariota of the Tennessee Titans did it against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on September 13, 2015, the first quarterback to do so in his professional debut. Only one QB, Ben Roethlisberger, has accomplished a perfect passer rating twice in one season, against the Ravens on November 5, 2007; and against the St. Louis Rams on December 20, 2007.
Greatest "perfect" games
Within the confines of the perfect passer rating, there is room for one performance to be statistically more dominant than another. Unlike a perfect game in baseball or a 300-point game in bowling, which are strictly the most effective result you can achieve in the game, the benchmark of perfection for an NFL passer is arbitrarily drawn.
The record for most touchdown passes in a perfect game (7) was set by Nick Foles on November 3, 2013 against the Oakland Raiders. In this game he also threw for 406 yards on 22 completed passes with 28 attempted passes, which ranks 2nd most all-time yards thrown in a perfect game, tied for 6th most all-time completed passes in a perfect game, and 5th most all-time attempted passes in a perfect game.
Ken O'Brien on November 2, 1986 threw for 4 touchdowns with 436 yards on 26 completed passes and 32 attempted passes, which is the record for most all-time yards, completed passes, and attempted passes in a perfect game, and tied for 10th most all-time touchdowns in a perfect game.
Peyton Manning on September 28, 2003 threw for 6 touchdowns with 314 yards on 20 completed passes and 25 attempted passes. Similarly, Tom Brady on October 21, 2007 threw for 6 touchdowns with 354 yards on 21 completed passes and 25 attempted passes. Both of these efforts rank lower than the Nick Foles November 3, 2013 game by every metric except passing efficiency.
Kurt Warner on October 1, 2001 threw for 4 touchdowns with 390 yards on 24 completed passes and 30 attempted passes. This game had 3 fewer touchdowns and 16 fewer yards than the Nick Foles 2013 performance but exceeded it in number of completions and passing efficiency. It matched the number of touchdowns in the Ken O'Brien performance in 1986, but it ranks lower in the other metrics.
Peyton Manning on January 4, 2004 in an AFC Wild Card game threw for 5 touchdowns with 377 yards on 22 completed passes and 26 attempted passes. This game exceeds the Nick Foles 2013 performance only in passing efficiency.
The two best games (based on these primary statistics) when measured against each other are the Nick Foles November 3, 2013 game and the Ken O'Brien November 2, 1986 game. The comparison between these games would be +3 touchdowns for Foles against +30 yards, +4 completed passes, and better efficiency for O'Brien.
If using the NCAA formula for passer rating, the performance by Frank Ryan on December 12, 1964 against the New York Giants would be highest rated perfect game. Ryan's 12 completions on 13 attempts for 202 yards and 5 touchdowns would result in an NCAA quarterback passer rating of 349.75, heavily influenced by Ryan's 38.5% touchdown percentage. It would also result in an NFL passer rating of 271.96 if the NFL formula were unconstrained.