QBs in Focus: Philip Rivers

The league's highest-graded third-down passer, Philip Rivers, gets his turn in Steve Palazzolo's series of in-depth looks.

| 3 years ago

QBs in Focus: Philip Rivers

qb-month-riversThough 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.

Philip Rivers

Philip Rivers

Philip Rivers (2)

Philip Rivers (3)

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


•  Led the league with a +14.4 grade on third down.
•  Third-highest grade on standard drop-backs with no scramble (+27.9).
•  Led the league with a +15.1 grade on passes thrown in the 11-20-yard range.
•  Led the league with a +18.9 grade on passes thrown outside the numbers to the left.
•  Second-best grade when pressured (+5.0).
•  Third-highest grade against the blitz (+11.4).
•  Second-highest grade on 7-8-yard drop-backs (+19.4) and ranked fifth with a +7.7 on drop-backs of at least nine yards.
•  Third-highest grades on drop-backs lasting 2.1 to 2.5 seconds (+13.9) and drop-backs lasting 2.6 to 3.0 seconds (+12.3).
•  Second-highest grade when throwing to tight ends (+13.5).
•  Led the league with a +8.8 grade on in routes and ranked fourth with a +7.8 grade on out routes.


•  Graded at -2.9 on passes thrown in the 1-to-10-yard range.
•  Graded at -2.4 on drop-backs lasting 3.1 to 3.5 seconds.
•  Graded at -0.8 on designed rollouts and -0.5 on plays that broke the pocket.


•  91.5% of drop-backs came out of the shotgun; second-highest in the league.
•  Threw 26.4% of passes in the 11-20-yard range; third-highest in the league.
•  Only 2.0% of passes thrown at least 30 yards in the air; lowest in the league.
•  Only 18.8% of passes thrown outside the numbers to the right; third-lowest in the league.
•  30.3% of drop-backs lasted 2.1-2.5 seconds; fifth-highest in the league.
•  Only 11.4% of drop-backs lasted at least 3.6 seconds; sixth-lowest in the league.
•  League-high 76.6% of drop-backs in 7-to-8-yard range.
•  Only 10.5% of drop-backs went at least 9 yards; fourth-lowest in the league. Took only one drop-back in the 1-to-3-yard range.
•  Used play action 13.1% of drop-backs; second-lowest in the league.
•  Threw 27.8% of passes to tight ends; second-highest in the league.
•  Faced base defenses (4 defensive backs) on only 16.3% of drop-backs (league average: 28.6%).
•  Threw 17.0% of attempts to running backs on non-screens; third-highest in the league.


For the entire set of “Quarterbacks 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.

  • Wyzel

    Led the league in most throws that look a shotput.

    • loosenut

      Cool….I agree. His release is so fast, because he, as you said, shotput’s the ball instead of winding up. With his pocket awareness and super fast release, he is one of the best all time of working/sliding in the pocket. Fifth rated QB all time, and just a blast to watch.

      • Dash

        Once every now and then I’ll revisit the articles/appraisals of Rivers written by the draftniks before he came out of college just to laugh at the ones that said things ranging from, “Can’t throw the deep ball” to “Will never be accurate” to, my favorite, that he would never be an NFL quarterback and should, instead, be moved to tight end.

  • LightsOut85

    IDK…despite these amazing grades, it’s pretty clear Rivers isn’t one of the top QBs in the league.

    • loosenut

      Explain why. The 4th highest rated QB ever. Never missed a start. You say it is clear…then it should be very easy for you to explain. Based on right now, compared to the other QB’s in the game, he should be considered the second best QB in the league. Just watch him play sometime. There are only a few QB’s in the game that can do what he does. Awesome QB and the league is lucky to have him.

      • LightsOut85

        (a month later? lol). I was being sarcastic :) (ie: There clearly IS plenty of evidence for him being a top QB). I watch him play every week :).

        Find the article Sam wrote breaking down an Aaaron Rodgers play (googling key-words would probably find it) & find my comments in there. In it he says P Manning, Rodgers & Brees are the clear top & there’s a gap before anyone else – and I found it ridiculous that they had Rivers graded this well this year (as well as other years) & not to include him in that group. I brought up their OWN grades from every year (where Rivers ranked better than Brees & Rodgers more often than not), and yet no one presented a good argument as to why he isn’t a top-tier QB (which only leaves, IMO, the fact that SD doesn’t get a lot of national press & therefore doesn’t pop up in peoples’ minds much, even PFF folks).