QBs in Focus: Short Passing

Steve Palazzolo continues his QBs in Focus series by examining how NFL QBs fared in the short passing game.

| 2 years ago

QBs in Focus: Short Passing

QBs-in-focus-shortWe had some fun last summer breaking down quarterback play from every angle, so we’ve decided to dig into the database again to review the 2014 season. One of the beauties of collecting data on every play of the season is the ability to then isolate each player’s strengths and weaknesses. This series will take a look at how quarterbacks performed in various situations, looking beyond just the overall grades that are posted on the site.

As always with PFF grades, it’s important to remember that we are isolating the quarterback’s role in the play from everyone else. We are evaluating the decision making and the throw, not necessarily the result. A great pass that gets dropped by a receiver receives the same credit it would have if the pass was caught, while an ill-advised pass into coverage that is dropped by a linebacker is downgraded as if it was intercepted. It’s important to remember this distinction when diving into the grades.

Here’s a look at how quarterbacks fared in the short passing game in 2014.

*Minimum 200 drop-backs to qualify
*Playoffs Included
*All grades are normalized so that the NFL average is 0 for each category.

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– Nobody threw a higher percentage of short passes than Tom Brady, though it may surprise some to see the likes of Colin Kaepernick, Joe Flacco, and Aaron Rodgers near the top as well.

– On the other end was Nick Foles who threw only 37.3% of his passes in the 1-10 yard range as the Eagles offense likes to push the ball downfield and complement it with screen passes behind the line of scrimmage.

– Both Arizona Cardinals quarterbacks, Carson Palmer and Drew Stanton, also pull up the bottom of the list.

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– The league’s best QBs were dominant in the short range, including Aaron Rodgers, Ben Roethlisberger, Tony Romo, and Tom Brady.

– A big part of Robert Griffin III’s struggles came in the short game, despite throwing a high percentage of passes in that range.

– Surprising to see Peyton Manning struggle in this range as he ranked in the bottom half of the league.


Follow Steve on Twitter: @PFF_Steve


| Senior Analyst

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

  • GorillaNationUSA


  • http://www.facebook.com/jaterrance.young JaTerrance Dwayne Young

    When u look at the Passes by Direction column of the QBs in the Player section these grades do not match up. Can someone explain why this is

    • a57se

      This is PFF.
      They are GOD.

    • Steve Palazzolo

      As mentioned above, all passes are normalized so that the NFL average in each category is set to 0.0. Each category uses a slightly different normalization factor than the one used on the site, and there is an adjustment for number of attempts.

    • Chris

      “ALL GRADES ARE NORMALIZED so that the NFL average is 0 for each category.”

  • Jason Williams

    Aaron Rodgers is ridiculous. How is it possible that GB went from one hall of fame QB to a BETTER hall of fame QB? As a Bears fan, that makes me mad.

    • Chris


      • Jason Williams

        best quarterback the Bears have ever had. Ever. I get it that all you other franchises roll out starting quarterbacks at will and you’re not subject to the same pain as a Cleveland or a Chicago, but when you get one that has some idea what he’s doing with a football in his hands, you keep him.

        • Richard

          Sid Luckman comes to mind. Luckman was one of the best during his era of play and led the Bears to 4 championships. I haven’t watched a lot of McMahon, but what I have watched, he was better then what people give him credit for. I think he might have been better than Cutler.


          • Jason Williams

            that link is janky…there’s a LOT more content and analysis needed other than the wall of text on the main page.

            I can’t argue with Luckman just because it was a totally different era and I don’t have the time to break down Luckman vs his peers and Cutler vs his peers.

            My first thought on McMahon was that he hardly played because of injury but it turns out that wasn’t quite accurate –

            McMahon played 66 games over 7 reg seasons vs Cutler’s 82 games in 6 seasons.

            McMahon completed 57.8% of his passes, Cutler 61.4%.

            McMahon threw a TD 4.4% of attempts, Cutler 4.9%.

            McMahon was picked off on 3.7% of attempts, Cutler 3.5%

            I’m going with Cutler over McMahon. But it’s not a no brainer.

          • Richard

            greatestqb.com is my site, you have to click one of the subjects at the top to get to the actual content of the site. There is nothing there to argue the point of this post, although you can find Jim McMahon’s Super Bowl performance on the site. Just use the search bar on the Super Bowl performances page to find it.

            The numbers are very similar, but McMahon played in an era where passing numbers weren’t inflated by high completion percentages. McMahon’s completion % is probably more respectable when compared to his peers than Cutler’s is. McMahon also has a big edge in wins with a 67-30 record compared to Cutlers 44-38 record. Plus he won a Super Bowl. Most people credit the defense and running game, but from the games I watched, McMahon was more than just a care taker. He was a playmaker and an inspirational spark for that team. Granted, I haven’t watched a lot of McMahon but with the stats being so close between the 2, I’ll take the guy with a much better record and a championship. He also had a better on field demeanor than Cutler. McMahon’s biggest problem was staying healthy.

          • Jason Williams

            QBs don’t win Super Bowls, Teams win Super Bowls. Dan Hampton said that team would have won 5 Super Bowls with Jay at QB

            Look I loved McMahon as a kid – he was right there with Montana in my heart but to say he was a more talented QB than Cutler – I just don’t see that.

            your site should explore best qb for each team in its history – would be a neat little analysis project.

          • Richard

            I agree that teams win Super Bowls. Dan Marino is my favorite QB of all-time. I just think with the stats being pretty similar, McMahon’s overall record, personality and success pushes him above Cutler for greatest Bear QB. I’m not dead set on this though, maybe watching both QB’s more will change my mind. I was surprised that you made the claim for Cutler so easily, because It doesn’t seem so cut and dry to me. I think Cutler’s demeanor, personality and decision making could possibly be detrimental traits that hold his team back. I’m not sure McMahon had those detrimental traits. His worst trait was not being able to stay on the field. If he could have stayed on the field more often, this probably wouldn’t even be a debate.

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  • Seattle Steve

    Surprised the Packers don’t use quick passes/screens more often, it always looks like they just want the deep ball.

    That impatience probably cost them a few games (against the Niners/Giants) in recent years.

  • LightsOut85

    Am I correct in assuming those %s are of total-aimed passes (and not overall pass attempts)?

  • fkr

    ryan tannehill looks like a sure fire top ten qb when looking at all 3 categories of short, mid and long throws. he has improved each year and if the trend continues could be considered elite after this year. just wish he was not the second most sacked qb of all time in his first three years. even looking at his release times he ranks just behind brady.