Signature Stat Snapshot: Time To Throw

Khaled Elsayed guides you through the latest addition to PFF's Signature Stat family - Time To Throw.

| 5 years ago

Signature Stat Snapshot: Time To Throw

Continuous improvement.

It’s what we’re all about at Pro Football Focus and it’s why I’m happy to say we’ve been working this week to add a new Signature Stat for our Premium Members: Quarterback Time in the Pocket.

It’s a stat that is continuously updated as games go up and looks at a number of things: How long a quarterback has to throw, the average sack time, and difference in completion percentage depending on how long they have to throw.

So let’s give you a look at this. If you want some more info follow and contact @PFF on twitter and ask a question, or just make the smart choice and get yourself subscribed to PFF Premium.

*For this study we looked at all quarterbacks with at least 175 dropbacks, excluding spiked passes.


The best place to start is which quarterback has the longest time to throw. Now to explain what ‘time to throw’ is, we record the time from when the ball is snapped to the point where the quarterback has either thrown a pass or can no longer throw a pass (has been sacked or has scrambled past the line of scrimmage). While logic would say that Michael Vick would be the one holding onto the ball the longest, it’s actually rookie Russell Wilson who leads the way in this regard with Vick second (though the difference is negligible). Meanwhile, nobody takes less time to throw than Tom Brady who has a marginally lower mark than Matt Hasselbeck. Here’s the full list:

RankNameTeamDrop backsTo Throw
1 Russell WilsonSEA2743.14
2 Michael VickPHI3663.12
3 Cam NewtonCAR2663.04
4 Robert Griffin IIIWAS3093.01
5 Alex D. SmithSF2442.9
6 Andrew LuckIND3712.86
7 Kevin KolbARZ2172.84
8 Matt CasselKC2602.82
9 Josh FreemanTB2742.79
10 Christian PonderMIN3302.78
11 Aaron RodgersGB3732.76
12 Tony RomoDAL3352.76
13 Jay CutlerCHI2782.74
14 Matt RyanATL3312.73
15 Ben RoethlisbergerPIT3162.73
16 Brandon WeedenCLV3562.72
17 Philip RiversSD2852.72
18 Matthew StaffordDET3692.71
19 Sam BradfordSL2782.71
20 Mark SanchezNYJ2912.68
21 Drew BreesNO3572.67
22 Matt SchaubHST2602.67
23 John SkeltonARZ1872.64
24 Joe FlaccoBLT2992.62
25 Eli ManningNYG3312.59
26 Andy DaltonCIN3152.59
27 Blaine GabbertJAX2712.58
28 Carson PalmerOAK3472.57
29 Ryan FitzpatrickBUF2812.57
30 Ryan TannehillMIA2612.57
31 Peyton ManningDEN3042.51
32 Matt HasselbeckTEN2402.5
33 Tom BradyNE3352.49


There’s a correlation between how long a player takes to throw and how high an average time to sack they have. Wilson not only leads the league in time to throw but also in average time to sack. That’s not going to help the Seahawks’ offensive line look better in much the same way as Alex Smith (second-highest time to sack) and Vick don’t help theirs. At the other end of things, nobody warrants your sympathy more than Kevin Kolb who was not helped by a pass protection unit that saw his average sack coming within 2.3 seconds of the ball being sacked. That’s a ridiculous number that explains how helpless Kolb often was. Again, here’s the full list:

RankNameTeamDrop backsTo Sack
1 Russell WilsonSEA2744.05
2 Alex D. SmithSF2444.03
3 Michael VickPHI3664.02
4 Jay CutlerCHI2784.01
5 Josh FreemanTB2743.87
6 John SkeltonARZ1873.85
7 Matt CasselKC2603.81
8 Joe FlaccoBLT2993.68
9 Aaron RodgersGB3733.62
10 Matt SchaubHST2603.61
11 Ryan FitzpatrickBUF2813.61
12 Matthew StaffordDET3693.57
13 Andrew LuckIND3713.39
14 Mark SanchezNYJ2913.34
15 Cam NewtonCAR2663.27
16 Tom BradyNE3353.26
17 Christian PonderMIN3303.22
18 Tony RomoDAL3353.11
19 Eli ManningNYG3313.04
20 Andy DaltonCIN3153.02
21 Matt HasselbeckTEN2402.94
22 Robert Griffin IIIWAS3092.85
23 Drew BreesNO3572.85
24 Matt RyanATL3312.84
25 Brandon WeedenCLV3562.84
26 Carson PalmerOAK3472.67
27 Sam BradfordSL2782.66
28 Ben RoethlisbergerPIT3162.56
29 Blaine GabbertJAX2712.51
30 Peyton ManningDEN3042.5
31 Ryan TannehillMIA2612.48
32 Philip RiversSD2852.43
33 Kevin KolbARZ2172.28


Turn over the page for more interesting data

  • Sully B

    I would be curious to see what these numbers look like on a team basis. For example, how defenses rank in terms of the opposing QB’s Time to Sack or Time to Throw. This would shed additional light on teams pass rush as I would think teams with strong pass rushes would result in opposing QBs getting rid of the ball quickly.

  • 12thMan_Rising

    Wilson’s stop at the top of these lest shouldn’t surprise anyone considering how ofter the Seahawks use play-action.

    • Khaled Elsayed

      Yep only RG3 is using it more right now.

      • brady

        Yeah, the play action vs shotgun really distorts these statistics

        • lightsout85

          It may play some part, but let’s look at Brady & P. Manning. Both rank very high in quickly getting rid of the ball, yet are also higher up on the PA% rankings. I think the main factor is the QB himself. The guys who are elite between the ears just make the decisions lightning fast, whether PA or not, and get the ball out.

          • Ryan

            You are definitely right

  • Johnny Hatelak

    My compliments on the creation of this. Its kind of a counter balance as far as the O-line metrics are concerned Looking at these times its very easy to see that protection has a lot more involved to it than simply one on one match-ups between linemen. Hopefully you guys are working on a more pro type grading system based on assignment execution,and level of competition against, secondary blocking missed assignments,on chips, and blitz pick ups, bad routes, or a slip or a misread on a hot route assignment or even just a good play by a defender forcing the QB to hold on to the ball longer. Also QB’s just not getting rid of it in time. I know that’s what this is, but grading scores should reflect that on individual blocking as well. Also maybe extra points given on level of difficulty, execution on Combo blocks, on pulls, and getting to the second level adding yardage to a play etc.There’s so much to protection than just a lineman screwing up.Until all these factors are taken into account I will take O-line metrics with a grain of salt.

  • river

    How are the timings timed? Human error would account for around a plus or minus 0.2 differential, or do you use computers and break it down frame by frame?

  • lightsout85

    I agree there’s a correlation between holding onto the ball & time until sacked (like, Wilson holding onto it longest, and taking the longest to get sacked). This also seems to show that while it’s Wilson’s “fault” for getting sacked b/c he held onto it too long, it’s also a kudos to his OL that they were able to protect him long enough to “enable” his ball-holding. Would a case of someone like Rivers, who was middle of the pack in avg-hold-time, but 2nd to last in sack-time, mean that while he may hold it long (he was even higher in 2011), him getting sacked may be due more to sudden-huge-breakdowns by the OL? The scenario that confuses me is Peyton Manning. 3rd fastest in having an outcome happen, but also 4th fastest to get sacked. What exactly would this imply about DEN’s OL? (or protection-in-general). Does it mean that when they have a breakdown, it’s a big one? (maybe Peyton’s lack of mobility (and not able to “extend the play”) means he gets sacked quicker when the pressure is on him?)

    • lightsout85

      also looking at sacks/dropbacks for the 2.5sec #s, Rivers is the 7th worst in sack% (which would say to me, even when the QB makes a quick decision, the OL is still allows pressure at an above average rate)

      • TheNameGame

        Peyton Manning throws it quickly after the snap. He also is a sitting duck and really can’t scramble at all. So when he doesn’t get protection, he goes down quick. Just cause the number is low doesn’t mean Denver’s O-line can’t pass protect. It just means that the times that Manning gets sacked happen quickly after the snap, usually means a breakdown. Manning was sacked 21 times. Yeah that’s not much at all. Rivers got sacked 49 times in 2012. With the lowest time too? That’s atrocious. Of course that’s what happens when you have scrubs and UDFA rookies become your entire O-line.

    • C-Dog

      Wilson is a very squirmy guy to sack also. He escapes sacks and extends plays all the time.

  • Colin William Weaver


  • Topher Doll

    Really pleased with this, though I do agree with river in wondering how you calculate the timings

  • Robert

    How do you know you have a bad line. When the time to sack is lower then the lowest time to throw, a la Miami, San Diego and Arizona.

  • Shinywalrus

    This feels like a tough stat to use effectively, since it conflates a decidedly good thing – quick release that might indicate good decision-making by the QB, a fast physical release time, early separation by receivers etc – and a decidedly bad thing: getting sacked or being forced to scramble (at least for most QBs). Seems like it would be most sensible to isolate the sack/scramble cases from the throw cases completely.

    • lightsout85

      In the premium stat section it breaks them all up (along with the total-case).

  • Dustan

    These stats ignore one important fact, and that’s mobility. A mobile QB is going to scramble more and get out of trouble, and thus lengthening the average time from snap to throw, or the time from which they take to scramble across the line of scrimmage. Mike Vick is going scramble more, invade more sacks, and that will lengthen time from snap to throw, and the the time it takes to sack him. Notice how the most mobile QBs are at the top ? It’s because mobile QBs have the ability to extend the play, which will make their average times higher. These stats also fail to acknowledge the play calling. If an offense like to go down the field, which takes deeper drops, it will also lengthen the average time.

    • Johnny Vicars

      Teams in general all go down the field closer to the same than people think…Example, while this obviously upset some people that Brady gets rid of the ball fast….in passes that traveled over 20 yards in the air last year Rodgers had 62, Peyton had 54, brady had 68….not everything is as it seems.

    • TheNameGame

      mobility, O-line, coverage, play call, route running….it ignores many multiple facts…that’s what stats generally are, just details for a bigger picture.

  • val

    NOT “BUYING” these stat, they are by themselves meaningless (unless I missed something)

    “Time to throw ”

    It doesn’t actually measure the time available for a QB to throw, because the QB can (and most often will) decide to throw well before he is forced to do so !

    Tom Brady is dead last in that category . Does it means NE offensive line does a bad job ? Or is it because NE has a lot of short passes to TE and slot receivers ?

    I think we know the answer to that thanks Gronk, Wes), even though the fact that NE has such an emphasis on short / mid-range passing might be an indicator that pass protection is not NE best feature.

    But you can’t tell that from this “time to throw” stat.

    Simple question :
    Is a “long time” a good or a bad thing ?

    Does it mean is your QB well protected, or is he too slow to read the play?

    There is absolutely not way to tell.

    “Time to sack”.

    Same thing. Look like a long time to sack is a good thing, but when I see M. Vick at n° 3…. :

    ” So it takes a long time to sack you Mr Vick, very nice… But what’s the heck are you doing with the ball after such a long time ? get rid of it already !!!”

    So again does this stat pick up good elusive QB with good Oline, or over optimistic ball huggers ?

    • TheNameGame

      You can’t look at it that way. Read how they define “time to throw” and “time to sack”. Compare the two lists together too to paint a picture….it’s not always going to be perfect cause there would be so much more you’d actually need to account for O-line performance, opponents faced, etc. But if you have a good idea on how O-lines generally rank in the league, you can get a solid idea of some things. “Time to throw” should be named something else summing up, “How long it took for them to throw it on average”. Time to sack = Time it took for them to get sacked on average when they did get sacked. Keep in mind we’re talking about very small differences in these averages…the difference between the top and bottom of the list is less than 2 seconds.

      “because the QB can (and most often will) decide to throw well before he is forced to do so.” Wrong. This completely ignores route running, coverage, game situation, and pressure.

      Brady and Manning are at the bottom of the time to throw list cause they usually have their minds set before the snap. That’s where they win most of their battles. They have very quick releases because they essentially made their reads and have their target identified earlier than Russell Wilson, Vick, or RGIII would be if scrambling, or out of play-action, just running along to the sideline. Wilson, Vick, and other QBs that have both the combination of “enough” protection and extending-the-play-ability (aka legs) are at the top of the time to sack list by nature. Other QBs like Alex Smith had a really good O-line. Other QBs in the middle are probably just varying degrees of those O-line and running traits. Think of all the sitting duck QBs like Manning, Brady, and Rivers that are near the bottom…NE definitely has a good O-line, so IMO that’s probably why he’s higher in time to sack, while still having such a quick release time. Rivers that year had a one of the worst O-lines. Manning as an old man has just been killing teams before the snap since he has too while he’s throwing ducks. Arizona had a terrible O-line, but Skelton is high up in time to sack. That’s the only one I can’t understand, unless their interior protection was okay and outside was atrocious. Most likely has to do with low number of snaps but still, I don’t know cause I didn’t watch the AZ offense very much that year.

      Statistics are always contingent on other statistics and other stats. The goal is to simply things with stats, but they’re almost always misleading if you don’t take into account the stats that correlate to it and are not measured. That’s why there’s that “lies, damn lies, and statistics” or whatever quote by Twain.

  • Mickharrison101

    Who are these teams these qbs play on?  BLT?  ARZ?  SL?  CLV?  HST?  I’m not trusting this stat based on that.  Also because it just says that black qbs hold on to the ball longer while qb’s that actually have good offensive lines like the giants and pats are average.

    • TheNameGame

      No, it doesn’t. Use what you know about the O-lines to your advantage in understanding these stats (also read what how they came up with the stat above). Worse QBs generally throw it later. Compare the time to sack with sack totals on the QB to get a better idea. If Manning got sacked 21 times out of over 300 snaps in 2.5 seconds average, then I think his O-line is doing a good enough job and either has breakdowns here or there or the defense just made an unstoppable play. If Brady doesn’t even need 3 seconds to throw the ball but has the protection to keep him going almost a second more than he needs than his line is probably doing an excellent job and that possibly is more of an indication of coverage doing its job to assist the pass rush.

  • eYeDEF

    Can someone explain why generally QBs get less accurate with more time to throw? Wilson currently experiences a 40 point drop in passer rating on passes with 2.6 seconds or more time to throw, yet his Passes under Pressure he ranks first with the highest accuracy percentage under pressure. Can someone explain the discrepancy?

    • TheNameGame

      Coverage. Play breaks down. Generally.

  • Andrew

    I wouldn’t call them meaningless, though I would agree with you that they don’t tell a complete story all by themselves. I would disagree with the author’s interpretation that Russell Wilson “leads the league” in time to throw, unless he would also say that a golfer with the greatest number of shots is leading the tournament. I would say Wilson trails the league. I would much rather have a QB who throws quickly.

    The reason that doesn’t tell the whole story is his line seems giving him the time to throw. If you’re getting the time, you can’t entirely discredit a QB for using it to his advantage, providing he isn’t wearing out his team by holding the ball, or missing opportunities.

    • TheNameGame

      Wilson leads the league in their defined “time to throw”. That doesn’t mean he sits behind the pocket all day. Anyone who watches Wilson play regularly has picked up that he is often scrambling in the backfield a la Fran Tarkenton and Ben Roethlisberger’s faster and nimbler love child. Not a bad thing necessarily when it assists your O-line’s pass protection and it ends up in completions. I get what you’re saying though, the language (time to throw) is misleading.

    • Joel Anthony

      Throw quickly ?, then the yardage is marginal and minimal. Short quick strikes mean 5 yards if completed and another 5 if first tackle is broken. You can’t have it both ways. Throwing quickly means less yardage Then you start talking about the line giving time. Yes, it is a true statement. But the game dictates this as well as Qb skill, team chemistry, etc… So if a Qb has time and throws quick as you like, what is the point ? He should have time if under 2 seconds.


    just a quick question, if Kevin Kolb gets sacked in 2.3 seconds but he had only been sacked once in the the section where you break it down to less than 2.5 and he gets sacked 33 times when holding onto the ball more than 2.5… that doesn’t add up

    Maybe he had the quickest sack.

    • TheNameGame

      Time to throw = Time it took them to throw a ball on average when they did throw the ball

      Time to sack = Time it took them to get sacked on average when they did get sacked

      Not all drop backs count.

  • JET005

    You’re saying that when they take less than 2.5 seconds to throw, they are better. But all quarterbacks shown average more than 2.5 seconds (including Brady). Bubble screens probably take under 2.5 seconds but aren’t always productive. Does quarterback rating account for that? That seems like something work looking at.

    • James Richardson

      Also I think there can be a problem with a QB who gets rid of the ball very fast (to fast and not giving his targets a chance a break free). I Think the stat that is more accurate in comparing is the time it takes from the first arm movement to throw to the release. This stat will give true information as QB’s with an elongated motion are more susceptible to being sacked and having the ball knocked away before releasing it. On the other hand a QB who has a short compact release is less likely to have those happen.

  • Robert Carley

    Watching TNF, Bears vs. Packers, and the commentators are saying how Aaron Roger’s completion % goes down the longer he takes to make a throw. My roommate thinks that’s true for Alex Smith, as well. Can anybody shed some light on this?