Though we certainly miss football during the offseason, it’s always a good time to take a step back and analyze our plethora of data.
We’re often so busy grading and collecting data during the season that we’re unable to put a lot of the information to good use. With that said, we’ve decided to declare June as “QB Month” as we break down NFL quarterbacks every which way.
We’re going to examine quarterbacks from a number of situations before looking at each of them individually. The grades and numbers should reveal each quarterback’s strengths and weaknesses from the 2013 season.
As we go through this series, it’s important to understand the relationship between QB Rating (NFL’s version) and PFF Grade.
While QB Rating is obviously supposed to be a QB statistic, it’s actually a better gauge of what the entire offense did in a given situation. This is the type of information that is actually extremely valuable to our NFL team customers as their game planning efforts must go towards stopping an entire passing offense, not just the quarterback.
If the quarterback throws an easy dump off pass to the RB who then weaves through the defense for the touchdown, it’s certainly not a great indicator of quarterbacking skill as it is the running back and defense accounting for the majority of the work on the play. Of course the QB Rating will look quite shiny in that situation.
On the other hand, PFF Grade is a good indicator of how well the quarterback actually performed in a given situation. Whether they throw an accurate pass that was dropped, or perhaps an inaccurate one that should have been intercepted and the defense dropped, the PFF grade will account for those situations with a positive and a negative grade respectively while QB Rating will simply reflect the 0-for-1 passing.
It’s important to distinguish between QB Rating and PFF grade, though there’s a good chance they’ll match up in most situations.
Time to Throw
We introduced time to throw data for the 2011 season, and it opened up an entirely new way of looking at the game. Initial instincts tell us that time to throw is a function of an offensive line’s ability to protect the quarterback, but we’ve found that it’s better used as an indicator of a quarterback’s style and a team’s offensive scheme.
It’s no coincidence that pocket quarterbacks like Peyton Manning and Tom Brady consistently rank among the fastest releases in the league as they’re rightly touted for their quick decision making and ability to work within the flow of the offense, and their pocket stats back this up.
On the other hand, some of the younger, more mobile quarterbacks in the league such as Cam Newton, Russell Wilson, Colin Kaepernick, and even Andrew Luck have much higher times to throw, and it’s not because they’re getting more time from their line, but moreso because they’re either looking to extend plays with their legs, trying to take more downfield shots, or some combination of both.
There’s no right or wrong when it comes to time in the pocket, but it’s a great look at both what a quarterback and scheme are trying to do and each quarterback’s strengths and weaknesses when using a quick release or when given time to sit in the pocket.
Less than (or equal to) 2.0 Seconds
• Aaron Rogers was a fascinating study as he had the highest percentage of drop-backs end in two seconds or less, but also had the lowest percentage of drop-backs in the 2.1-to-3.6-second range. Then he’s near the top of the league in percentage of drop-backs that last at least 3.6 seconds.
• Andy Dalton had the most dropbacks in this range with 255, but he came in with the second-lowest grade at -6.6.
• Peyton Manning had an amazing 29 touchdowns on passes thrown in two seconds or less.
2.1 to 2.5 Seconds
• Tom Brady’s sweet spot was the 2.1-to-2.5-second range as he led the league at +19.3 to go with a league-high 19 drops from his receivers.
• Dalton is much better in this range as his +11.1 grade ranked fourth.
• Matthew Stafford had the most drop-backs in the 2.1-to-2.5-second range with 211, while Ryan Fitzpatrick had the highest percentage of his drop-backs in the range at 32.6%.
• At the bottom of the list, Eli Manning graded at -8.6 including 14 interceptions while Geno Smith ranked last at -9.8.
2.6 to 3.0 Seconds
• Josh McCown led the league in QB Rating (134.4), success percentage (60.0%), Accuracy Percentage (88.7%), completion percentage (74.5%), and yards per attempt (11.0) in the 2.6-to-3.0-second range.
• The quick passing game was new for Philip Rivers but it was a good fit as he ranked third in both the 2.1-to-2.5-second range (+13.9) and the 2.6-to-3.0-second range (+12.3).
• Both Brady and Ryan Tannehill topped the list in the 2.1-to-2.5-second range, but they find themselves near the bottom of the 2.6-to-3.0-second list at -3.9 and -3.6, respectively.
• Cam Newton ranked last in this range at -9.4.
3.1 to 3.5 Seconds
• Peyton Manning led the league in PFF Grade (+11.3), success percentage (52.5%), completion percentage (66.7%), and yards per attempt (13.4) when given 3.1-3.5 seconds to throw.
• McCown had the highest percentage of passes in the 3.1-to-3.5-second range at 17.3% while Dalton had the fewest with only 5.8%.
• Joe Flacco is usually seen as a downfield passer that needs time in the pocket, but he struggled in this range with a -7.7 grade that ranked last.
Greater Than 3.6 Seconds
• Terrelle Pryor had the highest percentage of his drop-backs last at least 3.6 seconds at 39.5% while Russell Wilson led the way with 164 total drop-backs.
• Other than Nick Foles, the top of the list is littered with quarterbacks who are known for their mobility, including Wilson, Newton, Andrew Luck, Alex Smith, Geno Smith, Colin Kaepernick, and Jake Locker.
• Only 4.4% of Peyton Manning’s drop-backs lasted at least 3.6 seconds; by far the lowest percentage in the league.
For the entire set of “QBs in Focus” posts, click here.
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