QBs in Focus: Griffin & Cousins

Following his league-wide looks at QB performance, Steve Palazzolo starts in on the individual passers.

| 3 years ago

QBs in Focus: Griffin & Cousins

qb-month-rg3-cousinsThough 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.

After taking a look at the entire league in various situations, it’s time to break down each quarterback individually.


Robert Griffin III

Robert Griffin III

Robert Griffin III (2)

Robert Griffin III (3)

All categories with a * are normalized so that the league average is 0.0.


•  Throws best to the right (+4.3).
•  Handles blitz pressure better than most (0.0).
•  Showed well on shorter drops (4-6 yards) at +2.6.
•  Among the league’s best on throws between 5-10 yards (+7.9), including an above average Accuracy Percentage of 80.7%.
•  One of the league’s best on third down at +9.5, particularly 3rd-and-Medium where his +6.2 ranked fourth in the league, and showed well whether blitzed (+3.0) or against traditional rush (+6.5).
•  Best grades came while throwing to outside wide receivers, including +3.2 when throwing to a tight end that was split wide.
•  Best route was post routes (+6.3), including +2.3 on play action


•  Graded at -4.0 on passes in the 11-20 yard range.
•  Among the league’s worst on throws of 20+ yards (-7.1), particularly the 21-to-30-yard range (-4.0).
•  Below average on throws to the left (-1.3) and over the middle (-2.0).
•  Struggled against traditional rush at -7.0, particularly when pressured (-10.2).
•  One of the league’s worst on 9+ yard drops at -3.8.
•  After a strong showing as a rookie, Griffin was one of the league’s worst on play action at -5.3, including -9.0 on first down.
•  Graded poorly on crossing routes (-1.5) and go routes (-1.4).


•  Led the league with 148 drop-backs in the pistol, 27.9% of his total drop-backs
•  55.8% of passes came in the 1-to-10-yard range, second-highest percentage in the league. 33.9% of his passes came in the 5-to-10-yard range to lead the league.
•  Threw 58.9% of his targeted passes in between the numbers, well above league average.
•  24.1% of passes went to the right compared to only 17.1% to the left, one of the highest right-left discrepancies in the league.
•  Faced the blitz 31.7% of the time, right around league average.
•  22.5% of drop-backs in the 4-to-6-yard (3-step) range, one of the highest percentages in the league.
•  Only 15.8% of drop-backs in 9+ yard range, one of the lowest percentages in the league.
•  23% of drop-backs last at least 3.6 seconds, one of the highest percentages in the league.
•  Used play action 30.2% of the time, fourth-highest in the league including 44% of his first-down drop-backs, also fourth in the league.
•  Only 13.6% of targets went to running backs, second-lowest in the league.
•  15.7% of targets were out routes, second-highest percentage in the league. Also threw the second-highest percentage of post routes at 11.4%. When using play action, threw a league-high 19.3% post routes.
•  Threw the lowest percentage of go routes at 4.7%.


Kirk Cousins

Kirk Cousins

Kirk Cousins (2)

Kirk Cousins (3)

All categories with a * are normalized so that the league average is 0.0.


•  Sample size is small, but Cousins completed four of his 11 attempts on throws of 20 or more yards, including his only attempt over 40 yards.
•  Graded at +1.1 on his 19 drop-backs against blitz pressure
•  Graded at +1.0 on 7-to-8-yard drop-backs


•  Graded at -7.4 on first downs
•  Struggled on passes between 1 and 10 yards, grading at -3.7 including -4.8 on passes in the 5-to-10-yard range.
•  Was average throwing outside the numbers, but -6.3 over the middle.
•  Graded at -7.0 against a traditional pass rush
•  Graded at -8.5 when taking a drop of 9 or more yards. Threw four of his seven interceptions.


•  8.0% of his drop-backs were designed rollouts, above the league average.
•  Attempted 59.0% of his passes between 1-10 yards, would have led the league with more attempts.
•  Threw 65.3% of his passes to the middle of the field, also would have led the league with enough attempts.
•  Threw 31.5% of his passes in the 2.1-to-2.5-second range.
•  Only threw screens on 4.2% of his passes, well below the league average of 9.7%.
•  Most commonly thrown routes were crossing routes, slants, and hitches.


For the entire set of “QBs in Focus” posts, click here.


Follow Steve on Twitter.

| Senior Analyst

Steve is a senior analyst at Pro Football Focus. His work has been featured on ESPN Insider, NBC Sports, and 120 Sports.

  • mmille32

    Hey Steve,

    Awesome breakdown of RGIII’s stats from this year! Really impressive collection of data you guys put together.

    One small correction, however: On Griffin’s table, you have “0” marked for the number of Drops on passes 30+ and 40+, which unfortunately for Griffin and Aldrick Robinson is not the case. In the 3rd game of the season, RGIII threw a beautiful deep ball to Robinson, who was behind the last defender, that travelled 57 yards in the air and landed right in Robinson’s arms for a touchdown… until it was overturned. On review, it was determined that the ball went threw Robinson’s hand and hit the ground before the catch was complete. It was a perfect pass from Griffin and one that absolutely should have been caught. Thus, I think that Robinson was (or should have been by PFF) credited with a drop and rightfully so. Griffin had an otherwise horrible game (Griffin tried too hard to make a play and threw a bad INT to Chris Houston and had a silly unforced fumble in the 4th Quarter), but that pass was perfect and Robinson deserves the blame for his error.
    I know you guy strive to be as accurate as possible, so I just thought I would point that out. Look forward to the upcoming articles on the rest of the QBs around the league. Keep up the good work.

  • Thomas Holm

    Great stuff Steve! There is one thing i am confused about.
    On the positives for RG3 it says: “Showed well whether blitzed (+3.0) or against traditional rush (+6.5).” But under negatives it says: ” Struggled against traditional rush at -7.0″

    • RickDrummond

      Thanks Thomas, that wasn’t on Steve but rather an editing gaffe. The first statement was intended as part of his ‘on third downs’ comment but was mistakenly split apart. Fixed now.