QBs in Focus: Under Pressure

Steve Palazzolo starts off a series focused on quarterback play in 2014 with a look at performances under pressure.

| 2 years ago

QBs in Focus: Under Pressure

QBs-in-focus-pressureWe 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 under pressure in the 2014 season.
*Minimum 200 drop-backs to qualify
*Playoffs Included
*All grades are normalized so that the NFL average is 0.0 for each category.

Who Faced the Most Pressure?

QB pressure pct

– The QBs that hold the ball longer tend to face the highest percentage of pressure, and that’s generally the case at the top of the list. Robert Griffin III had the fifth-highest time to throw at 2.94 seconds while Russell Wilson was first at 3.18 seconds.

– On the other end, the faster the QB can get the ball out of his hand, the less pressure he’ll face and that’s why Peyton Manning and Andy Dalton faced the lowest percentage of pressure as they got rid of the ball in 2.25 seconds and 2.41 seconds, respectively.

– Including the playoffs, Tom Brady’s 2.36 seconds in the pocket was the second quickest behind Manning, yet he still managed to face very close to the league average when it comes to pressure (32% vs. NFL avg of 33.4%).

Best/Worst Under Pressure

QB pressure grade

– In perhaps his best season as a pro, Ben Roethlisberger was the league’s best when pressured. He threw 11 touchdowns against one interception under pressure.

– Damage control was the name of the game for Ryan Tannehill who faced the eighth-highest percentage of pressure in the league, yet managed to rank third when normalized. For a quarterback facing that much pressure, his seven touchdowns, four interceptions, and 76.7 passer rating could have looked much worse.

– For the second year in a row, Eli Manning finds himself on the bottom end of the grades when pressured, though he faced the sixth-lowest percentage of pressure in the league.

Best/Worst with No Pressure

QB no pressure grade

– No surprise to see the No. 2 player in the PFF 101 sitting atop the charts. Aaron Rodgers was dominant when given time to throw.

– Even in a clean pocket, Blake Bortles still had his struggles as a rookie. His passer rating of 84.9 wasn’t bad, but he had some help from his receivers as his grade did not match up to that number.

– Jay Cutler was one of the rare cases that saw him struggle in a clean pocket just as much if not more than he did when pressured.


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.

  • Vitor

    Wow, -30,4 without pressure, playing in a division that doesn’t have great defenses. That’s…very bad

    • Izach

      Um he watt twice a year is probably -15 of that score haha

      • Vitor

        The Texans defense as a whole sucked, tough.
        (sadly, for me)

      • Dildo Baggins

        WITHOUT pressure. That means even when Watt wasnt destroying him, he still sucked.

  • Riffle,Rod&Fly

    Tannehill has elite footwork in the pocket. Jay Cutler could learn a lot from watching him. If his arm catches up, he may be worth the 45m guaranteed after all.

    • https://twitter.com/MALACHiOFCOURSE Malachi

      ascending player, and it’s only 25 mil fully guaranteed

      • Riffle,Rod&Fly

        I see, thanks for the correction. It is hard to see a scenario in which they drop him before he can fulfill it. Even if he continues with this level of play, there will probably not be a better option. They have an interesting experiment going on there with this former WR.

        • https://twitter.com/MALACHiOFCOURSE Malachi

          i like how he’s progressed every year, and his completion % is quickly becoming elite. i believe he’ll take the next step this year and become a true franchise QB, and eventually the contract will look like a steal. a healthy brandan albert will really help them on offense as a unit as well

      • eYeDEF

        I like his chances too, so it just seemed like he really got shafted signing this deal. He already had 18.27 in guarantees, and this deal had no new money over the first two years. The 3rd year he’ll only be paid a way below market 14.475 salary which will be light years behind the franchise tag. This seems like a terribly slanted deal in favor of Miami. They can axe him anytime after two years, but have him locked up for six years. He doesn’t start to see the a franchise QB salary after year for when his salary reaches 19 mil. I don’t know what his agent was thinking exactly, I think he got some bad advise to allow the team to structure the deal that way.

        • https://twitter.com/MALACHiOFCOURSE Malachi

          nahhh, his 5th year option was guaranteed against injury only, and he got 12 million to sign his name. he’s set for life, with huge potential to earn a third contract

        • Riffle,Rod&Fly

          Still, even if it is 25m fully guaranteed. There is the opportunity to make much, much more than that and all he’ll have to do play well enough to keep his job.

          Philip Rivers got a tremendous amount of guaranteed money, he disappeared for two years and showed up again just before the contract was over. No one likes to bring this up in the age of the short term memory. I can see why teams are weary of the big guaranteed contracts.

          • eYeDEF

            Yeah, he no doubt has no problem betting on himself because I think he left of guaranteed money on the table with this deal. Most guys in his shoes probably would have held out for more. From the team perspective they got a great situation to have a potential franchise QB willing to sign such a team friendly deal when he really didn’t have to. We’ll find out soon enough whether it was smart or not for him based on whether he plays it out, but Kap’s team friendly deal he signed last off season isn’t looking so good for him right now with all the rumors his team was ready to unload him for the right price pre-draft. He’ll need to have a big time bounce back year to justify signing a contract with so little year to year security.

          • Riffle,Rod&Fly

            Tannehill’s contract really seems more like 45m in tiered payments and not so much 25m. Something catastrophic would have to happen for him not to get the later installment. It doesn’t seem particularly team friendly to me. Even 25m is above average what the young, somewhat unproven guys are getting. Tannehill is still a work in progress, he’s shown potential for 3 years now. Benchmarks for money in the NFL are short lived though and this next batch will make more than the last.

            I really think Kap’s deal made sense. So did Dalton’s. Both got extremely highly incentivized contracts and both have shown that they aren’t ready for the franchise role yet.

        • Chris

          Miami was in a hurry to get the deal done before the Luck and Wilson megadeals. The deal probably seemed fair to Tannehill, but if he had chanced it and waited, those two could probably have doubled his guaranteed money.

          • eYeDEF

            Exactly. I’m REALLY surprised he didn’t at least wait to see if one or both of them got a deal done this off season, more likely Wilson since he doesn’t have a 5th year option. 25 mil guaranteed just seems unreasonably low when Cutler got 54 guaranteed.

        • theowl

          The plus for Tannehill is that it that the extension is only for 4 years. So, even though he was a first round draft pick (5 year contract) and came into the league a year later, Tannehill’s contract runs through 2020, the same year as both Kaepernick and Dalton . Tanny will get back to the contract game soon enough. It will be interesting to see how many years Newton and Wilson get on their new contracts. The extra years on the long term contracts are pretty much the same as the option years for first round draft picks.

  • letownia

    so why do the Steelers invest in the O-line? Might as well scrap it and ride to the superbowl with Big Ben’s 11-1 TD-int ratio!

    • Izach

      That was actually Bruce Adrian’s game plan, “Ben do what you do” was the play every time it seemed. Haley has kept Ben healthier and past 2 years have been the only time in bens career he’s played every games consecutively.

    • James Edwards

      A. Ben has a history of getting hurt and missing a game or two. Imagine what would happen if they didn’t invest in the o-line.
      B. Where did you get 11-1 ratio? Last season he was a td away from having from having a 11-3 ratio, and career wise it’s close to 2-1. And it would only get worse without a decent oline

      • letownia

        Do you want me to borrow my sarcasm meter? Or a link to a free online tutor on detecting humor?

        • James Edwards

          Well, knowing how delusional some fans can be, nothing surprises me.

          • letownia

            I guess I tore you apart excesively. Apologies. You are right there are a lot of delusional idiots :)

  • Kyle

    RG3 faced the most pressure…shocker. We HAVE to protect the kid if we expect him to succeed.

    • Clement

      Defenses are preasuring him and have begun gameplanning for him because he holds onto the ball too damn long. The claim that he needs better protection does not explain why Kirk Cousins performed much better than Griffin without pressure.

      • Eric Hurt

        On the other hand Kirk Cousins win/loss results weren’t much different from RG3. Kirk isn’t the answer for Washington. Since they’ve invested so much already in RG3 I believe they might as well ride it out unless there’s a viable option available. They need to improve the offensive line. Football games are won in the trenches. That’s the offensive line and the defensive front seven. That’s why my Baltimore Ravens excel. The proof is in the pudding. In the last eight years the only team to win more games than us is the New England Patriots. Also I don’t think Gruden was the best choice to develop RG3. You build around the strengths of your quarterback. You don’t try to force him into a style he’s not fit for. This is why Cam Newton is more successful. Opposing defenses game plan for every quarterback, not just RG3. It’s on his coaches to bring in talent to compliment his abilities and to develop plays that cater to his strengths. If Washington does this and also invest in the trenches, then they’ll do much better.

        • ImperishablePhantasm

          You’re very correct. They’ve looked to address the offensive line in this years draft as well as last years. They’ve also hired a better offensive line coach than what they’ve had in order to try to help. The thing about RG3 and Gruden is that Robert actually said he wanted to try to be more of a pocket passer. That said, Gruden wasn’t the best coach last year. Gruden is a really pass-heavy coach. There were games last year where the run game was working, but he decided to get away from it and we’d end up losing the game. It’s believed that the Redskins will try to run the ball a lot more than last year. Probably even be a run-first kind of team. If that’s the case, I believe RG3 can probably go back to what he was in 2012. Seeing that they’ve also upgraded the defense, they could probably be better than they were in 2012. We’ll wait to see how that goes, though.

      • ImperishablePhantasm

        That doesn’t take away from the fact that there needs to be better protection. From 2007-2011, the Redskins offensive line had given up 126 sacks. From 2008-2011, they were top 10 in sacks allowed. You’ve also got to factor into the fact that going by the numbers above, RG3 was pressured a lot more than Kirk Cousins. The difference between Kirk and RG3 is that Kirk’s a lot more willing to throw the ball. Sometimes it does good, sometimes it ends in a disaster. The numbers above also show that RG3 was better than Kirk Cousins when facing pressure. When you’ve got two quarterbacks and they both have a bad offensive line, the quarterback who’s more groomed into the system you’re running is going to put up the better numbers. That’s why Kirk played better without pressure, and even overall, Kirk wasn’t very good. The fact that both McCoy and Cousins were both more pocket-friendly quarterbacks and still had their fair share of struggles says more than enough about a Redskins offensive line that hasn’t been very good for a while.

  • brokemack

    Derek Carr’s got some work to do.

  • Neer Shah

    Brees is second while facing pressure and without facing pressure. That’s pretty damn impressive.

  • df

    And look who came in No. 10 best under pressure: Teddy Bridgewater. Only names ahead of him are some very good QBs.

    • Cam

      Teddy will be a beast next year. I can’t wait to see his progressions as he will improve.

  • Nathan Zeldafan Swift

    I swear stafford was under pressure on every single play.