QBs in Focus: Shotgun, Pistol, Under Center

PFF's 'QB Month' drives on as Steve Palazzolo breaks down QB play by shotgun, pistol and under-center snaps.

| 3 years ago

QBs in Focus: Shotgun, Pistol, Under Center

qb-month-shotgunThough 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.

Shotgun (Includes Pistol)


Shotgun (2)

•  Peyton Manning tops the list in PFF Grade, success percentage and dropbacks from the shotgun/pistol

•  Based on his season numbers and the Eagles’ league-leading shotgun usage, it’s no surprise to see Nick Foles top the list in  QB Rating, TD percentage, INT percentage, and Yds/Attempt

•  All three Eagles quarterbacks (Foles, Michael Vick, Matt Barkley) were in the shotgun on over 90 percent of their dropbacks

•  Interesting to note that NFL avg Yds/Attempt was 7.0 in the shotgun and 7.4 under center

•  Philip Rivers took 92 percent of his dropbacks out of the shotgun, behind only the Eagles’ quarterbacks.

•  Matt Ryan had the highest accuracy percentage from the shotgun at 79.7 percent, but also the second-lowest average depth of target at 6.9


Under Center


UnderCenter (2)

•  It may surprise some to see Tom Brady with the third-most dropbacks under center, especially since the Patriots were at the forefront of the shotgun craze, but the Patriots adjusted to their personnel in 2013 and Brady topped the list in PFF Grade at +15.4.

•  Carson Palmer led the league with 262 dropbacks from under center, 42.4 percent of his total dropbacks, also tops in the league.

•  Geno Smith had his struggles under center in his rookie season raking last in PFF Grade (-10.0) and Yds/Attempt (4.8) to go with his QB Rating of 55.9

•  Peyton Manning had only 96 dropbacks from under center, but he certainly made them count as he led with a 129.7 rating, 54.2 percent success rate, and a touchdown rate of 14.0 percent.

•  Aaron Rodgers was accurate on a league-leading 83.3 percent of his throws from under center and he also got the most YAC/completion at 9.0.




•  Robert Griffin had by far the most pistol dropbacks with 148, but also the lowest grade at -1.2.

•  The Broncos added the pistol as a new wrinkle in 2013, and Manning stayed right on course with his usual gaudy numbers

•  Perhaps surprising to see Chad Henne lead in success and accuracy percentages while posting a 116.7 rating. The pistol may get more play in Jacksonville in 2014.


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


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| Senior Analyst

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

  • David

    As a Steelers fan, I’ve been tracking Roethlisberger through these articles. Until now, he’s been solid at all categories. According to this data, last year, Roethlisberger was the 6th best QB in football when passing out of
    shotgun, and 5th worst QB in football passing from under center. Very interesting considering they are looking to run the ball more this year.