Neil’s NFL Daily: May 21, 2013

Neil Hornsby unveils the definitive data on the best and worst performed QBs in the league when facing pressure - and it may be the most important single facet of ...

| 4 years ago

Neil’s NFL Daily: May 21, 2013

Wow — was news sparse on the ground yesterday? When the most interesting item I hear is that Brooks Reed is taking snaps at inside linebacker, you know it’s a slow day in the NFL. While the possibility the Texans may view Reed as the same uninspiring pass rusher we do (we’ve consistently graded him far better as a run defender and in coverage than in pressuring the QB) is worthy of note, I suspect 800 words telling you that may be overboard. It’s for that reason I’m returning once more to what I think is the most important statistic in the NFL — how a quarterback performs under pressure. We’ve looked at individual parts of this topic many times but I thought a summary taking in every QB would finalize our thoughts on the subject.


Tuesday, May 21st

Quarterbacks Without Pressure

Roughly 69% of NFL passes are made free of pressure. Some of this is the result of the type of throw (quick, screens etc.) or the quality of the pass protection, and obviously it varies from team to team. However, even Kevin Kolb threw more frequently without a pass rusher in his face than otherwise so it’s incredibly important to do well in this category. Here is the how every QB (minimum 200) fared when kept clean.


QB Performance Without Pressure, Ranked by PFF Grade/drop-back

RankName% PressuredDropbacks
w/o Pressure
AttComYardsTDsINTsQB RatingPFF RatingPFF Grade
1Colin Kaepernick67.6%2402221482123142114.841.00.171
2Russell Wilson61.7%3423212302915248114.254.00.158
3Matt Ryan70.7%5255153794366309110.980.50.153
4Peyton Manning80.0%5245203764343398115.777.00.147
5Robert Griffin III65.8%3213042082460174106.044.50.139
6Eli Manning70.2%3963912523022237100.154.50.138
7Drew Brees71.4%49949734141803712109.167.50.135
8Tom Brady75.1%5755743954673347108.072.50.126
9Aaron Rodgers69.7%5024833523851338111.959.50.119
10Alex D. Smith71.9%1841771321533113114.021.00.114
11Jake Locker71.1%26324315218778687.129.50.112
12Ben Roethlisberger65.9%324318210230815596.533.50.103
13Josh Freeman66.0%398389236328320896.439.50.099
14Tony Romo68.7%4764743393706201099.547.00.099
15Joe Flacco68.5%483479307385823799.047.00.097
16Jay Cutler62.7%311300182209413786.430.00.096
17Michael Vick58.6%245223151178110499.323.50.096
18Matt Hasselbeck75.5%18217911611647291.616.50.091
*NFL Average68.7%95.00.089
19Matt Schaub71.4%4754723293622201295.742.00.088
20Philip Rivers61.8%3633582652724227107.832.00.088
21Matthew Stafford72.9%5665533564030151385.345.50.080
22Sam Bradford67.3%4073972642983161190.732.50.080
23Cam Newton63.4%352345219303215896.427.50.078
24Andrew Luck62.2%4754632813323161184.236.00.076
25Carson Palmer68.2%406405261296815989.429.00.071
26Matt Cassel70.6%22121413514554775.615.50.070
27Ryan Tannehill69.4%36936222024259978.625.50.069
28Kevin Kolb57.6%125124777367290.78.50.068
29Andy Dalton73.9%4644573043220241293.431.50.068
30Brady Quinn62.8%145135919592286.68.50.059
31Blaine Gabbert67.3%20820712112735574.411.50.055
32Christian Ponder68.3%379355248241115695.617.50.046
33Mark Sanchez71.0%3523472032294131474.115.00.043
34Chad Henne62.4%217215132160711591.89.00.041
35Nick Foles63.0%18417911811605484.07.50.041
36Ryan Fitzpatrick73.3%415400257289520993.1150.036
37Brandon Weeden72.3%4043952462799121083.14.00.010
38John Skelton65.1%142142848452663.3-4.0-0.028


As can be seen, the vast majority of players have both a reasonable QB rating and a positive overall grade from us on un-hurried throws. The best though, have NFL ratings over 110 and ratings from us in excess of 50% more than the NFL average. The bottom line here is that if you are as clinical as Peyton Manning (QB rating 115.7) and throw unmolested 80% of the time (as he does) you will always do well, almost regardless of what happens when made to hurry.

A special word for Bengals fans regarding John Skelton — it takes a special type of player to generate a 63.3 NFL rating and grade negatively overall when throwing from a clean pocket.

Quarterbacks Under Pressure

The remaining 30.13% of throws (the NFL average for pressured drop-backs) is still a lot to consider, and when you take away the throws where you couldn’t possibly be hindered it grows even larger. The average drop-off in QB rating is a huge 35.8 and when you consider the touchdown-to-interception ratio unpressured is better than 2:1, but when pressured interceptions exceed TDs the opportunity for disaster looms large. Who are the guys who can still do it with a defender in their face?

QB Performance With Pressure, Ranked by PFF Grade/drop-back

RankNamePressured DropbacksAttComYardsTDsINTsQB RatingPFF RatingPFF Rating/ Dropback
1Ben Roethlisberger1681317495711398230.137
2Aaron Rodgers218141689759189.423.50.108
3Russell Wilson212134617755367.220.50.097
4Robert Griffin III167107598195287.712.50.075
5Ryan Tannehill163122628693468.6120.074
6Kevin Kolb9259324331176.460.065
7Cam Newton203140618374460.990.044
8Andrew Luck289218861339785611.50.04
9Matt Ryan218177979998867.57.50.034
10Drew Brees200173819976759.86.50.033
11Colin Kaepernick115763748903533.50.03
12Peyton Manning131106526061550.33.50.027
13Tom Brady191158608184355.840.021
14Chad Henne131933447706272.50.019
15Eli Manning168145699263852.330.018
16Jay Cutler185134739396769.830.016
NFL Average59.30.012
17Joe Flacco22217883109910378.42.50.011
18Carson Palmer1891608410507574.720.011
19Sam Bradford198154647195261.610.005
20Blaine Gabbert10171413894185.90.50.005
21Matt Schaub190161849914274.30.50.003
22Matthew Stafford210174799375462.400
23Nick Foles10886435391168.900
24Alex D. Smith7241212042261.4-0.5-0.007
25Christian Ponder176128525243641.3-2-0.011
26Tony Romo2171748611978965.7-3-0.014
27Andy Dalton164101395763547.3-3-0.018
28Philip Rivers224169738824848-6-0.027
29Michael Vick173128535812641.2-6-0.035
30Ryan Fitzpatrick151105495054745.9-5.5-0.036
31Matt Cassel9263263412536.5-3.5-0.038
32Brandon Weeden155122515862738.5-6.5-0.042
33Matt Hasselbeck5942222030336.1-2.5-0.042
34Jake Locker10771253052529.4-5.5-0.051
35Josh Freeman205169707827947.5-12-0.059
36John Skelton7659252870336.5-5.5-0.072
37Mark Sanchez144106435890443.3-10.5-0.073
38Brady Quinn866221182063.2-8-0.093


The remarkable thing here is that four of the Top 8 players are rookies. The naivety of youth? The ability to scramble and make things happen? Maybe they are just that good, and Russell Wilson and Robert Griffin III in particular had remarkable seasons — both finishing Top 5 in each category.

I’ve said it before (and if I appear to be laying it on thick I apologise) but a 3.2 QB rating by Brady Quinn, together with the lowest PFF grade should have Seahawks fans praying for either Russell Wilson’s health or an all-world performance in pass protection.

Largest Differentials With and Without Pressure

So does anyone perform better when the heat is on? Well, remarkably two players do, but it is only two and it is marginal — no one is suggesting those teams give up investment in the O-Line. In summary, here are the quarterbacks ranked 1 to 38 by PFF rating differential pressured to clean.


QB PFF Rating Differential With and Without Pressure

RankNameQB RatingPFF Rating/Drop-back
1Ben Roethlisberger1.50.034
2Ryan Tannehill-9.90.005
3Kevin Kolb-14.2-0.003
4Aaron Rodgers-22.5-0.011
5Chad Henne-64.7-0.022
6Cam Newton-35.5-0.034
7Andrew Luck-28.2-0.036
8Nick Foles-15.1-0.041
9John Skelton-26.8-0.044
10Blaine Gabbert11.5-0.05
11Brandon Weeden-44.6-0.052
12Christian Ponder-54.4-0.058
13Carson Palmer-14.7-0.061
14Russell Wilson-46.9-0.061
15Robert Griffin III-18.3-0.064
16Ryan Fitzpatrick-47.1-0.073
17Sam Bradford-29.1-0.075
NFL Average-35.8-0.077
18Jay Cutler-16.6-0.08
19Matthew Stafford-23-0.08
20Matt Schaub-21.4-0.086
21Joe Flacco-20.6-0.086
22Andy Dalton-46.1-0.086
23Drew Brees-49.2-0.103
24Tom Brady-52.2-0.105
25Matt Cassel-39-0.108
26Tony Romo-33.8-0.113
27Philip Rivers-59.8-0.115
28Mark Sanchez-30.7-0.116
29Matt Ryan-43.4-0.119
30Eli Manning-47.9-0.12
31Peyton Manning-65.5-0.12
32Alex D. Smith-52.5-0.121
33Michael Vick-58.1-0.131
34Matt Hasselbeck-55.5-0.133
35Colin Kaepernick-61.7-0.14
36Brady Quinn-83.4-0.152
37Josh Freeman-48.9-0.158
38Jake Locker-57.7-0.164


Perhaps the biggest cause for concern should be among 49er fans. Colin Kaepernick, our No. 1 rated player when kept clean, drops an enormous 61.7 QB rating points when hurried — only Brady Quinn drops more. Additionally, Josh Freeman will need to do far better in his 2013 contract year if he wishes to remain a Buccaneer, and most of that is based on how he performs under pressure.


Other editions of Neil’s NFL Daily can be found HERE


Follow Neil on Twitter: @PFF_Neil


| PFF Founder

Neil founded PFF in 2006 and is currently responsible for the service to the company's 22 NFL team customers. He is constantly developing new insights into the game and player performance.

  • Pedro

    As a niners fan it was actually encouraging to see that Kaep is ranked 1 without pressure, and still ranked 11 under pressure. The small sample size of his good year makes me much more concerned than the fact that he has one of the biggest drops, since he is still above average under pressure (the two names below him on the under-pressure list are pretty decent company). His gap in performance wouldn’t be so glaring if he wasn’t so good to start with. Much rather have that than Tannehill or Kolb, who are mediocre regardless of pressure.

    • Abouthat

      As a dolphins fan, I have to admit to being a little offended that you compare Kolb and Tannehill. Yes, his unhurried work is not great, but he was 5th when pressured. Not to mention, Kolb has several years in the NFL to this point, and Kaep, while he has less starts, was in the NFL for a year to prepare, which really helps. Don’t get me wrong, I’d take Kaep over Tannehill to this point, and I actually really like the niners. But between my homerism and some legitimate differences, I really don’t appreciate that particular comparison.

      • Pedro

        Fair enough, good points. Tannehill will only get better, and he is off to a solid start, better than I would expect for a rookie. Can’t really judge him or Kaepernick by their first years, but we’ve seen Kolb for a while. (Not that Kolb couldn’t improve with better circumstances either, like Alex Smith did over the last two years.) Really just wanted to point out that the differentials list can be misleading. Peyton Manning drops off a ton but if I was a Colts fan I wouldn’t be unduly alarmed since he still does fine under pressure, it’s just that he’s only Peyton-esque when clean.

        • Robin

          Peyton’s back with the Colts? 😉

          • Pedro

            Doh! Um, minor detail 😉 . I guess Colts fans could probably care less. And I probably shouldn’t post comments after 11 pm when my brain is mush.

  • Eric

    As a Packers fan, I find the difference in Aaron’s yards per completion when facing pressure, versus without, very interesting. There are some similar discrepancies for players like RG3, but other guys like Brees and Peyton have almost no difference in yards per completion. I think it reflects how the Packers struggles to get big plays last year, everyone was playing the deep ball after their 2011 season, and with no running game to respect, teams played deep safeties all the freaking time.