Third Down Conversions: Quarterbacks
When dropping back to pass on third and fourth downs, which quarterbacks convert and which fall short? Khaled Elsayed offers numbers to break it down.
Third Down Conversions: Quarterbacks
They say a lot of things.
You should eat your vegetables. You should say your prayers. And you should judge a quarterback by the kind of work he does on third and fourth downs. You know, the ‘clutch’ downs.
Yet very little is made of it despite the information being right there. I didn’t want team conversion rates or quarterback completion percentage. I wanted to know when a quarterback drops back to pass on third and fourth down, what rate of those are converted for either a first down or a touchdown.
So I found out… and needless to say, the results were interesting.
Before I get into the best and worst, some notes:
– This only includes regular season data.
– When a quarterback scrambles on third or fourth down it is counted. Designed runs are not.
– A quarterback needed to face at least 100 drop-backs in this situation to qualify.
The playoffs didn’t turn out the way he wanted, but during the regular season there wasn’t a quarterback in the league who converted a higher percentage of third or fourth downs into first downs or touchdowns than Peyton Manning. In all, 79 of his 161 drop-backs in these situations ended in success for Denver; 49.07 percent, for comparisons sake.
That put Matt Ryan into second place with a score of 46.45 percent, and it will surprise some to see Tony Romo in fifth at 43.94. A bigger shock, however, comes with the guy who finished seventh and led all rookies.
Yes, just when you think you can’t say any more nice things about him, you discover a new stat that does just that for you. Still, he’s not the only rookie who can be proud of his performance with Andrew Luck 10th overall, though it’s worth noting that Robert Griffin III could only manage the 19th best score, with Ryan Tannehill 23rd and Brandon Weeden achieving the fourth-lowest score.
And, right at the bottom is none other than Chad Henne who had his opportunity to make the Jaguars’ fan base love him, and quite frankly failed. He turned just 31of his 117 third- or fourth-down drop-backs into first downs or touchdowns. Just not good enough.
A more shocking name is the guy who finished just above him. You see, while Andy Dalton made the playoffs he didn’t exactly do it by excelling in clutch situations. Indeed, his score is worryingly low for a franchise quarterback for whom many are wondering if he’s already reached his ceiling.
Here’s the full list:
Name 1st Down Short Total Percentage
Peyton Manning 79 82 161 49.07%
Matt Ryan 85 98 183 46.45%
Tom Brady 78 96 174 44.83%
Drew Brees 87 111 198 43.94%
Tony Romo 82 105 187 43.85%
Matthew Stafford 98 126 224 43.75%
Russell Wilson 70 90 160 43.75%
Ben Roethlisberger 64 83 147 43.54%
Aaron Rodgers 79 104 183 43.17%
Andrew Luck 87 116 203 42.86%
Michael Vick 51 73 124 41.13%
Ryan Fitzpatrick 66 101 167 39.52%
Christian Ponder 69 108 177 38.98%
Matt Schaub 57 95 152 37.50%
Jay Cutler 59 100 159 37.11%
Philip Rivers 67 114 181 37.02%
Eli Manning 58 100 158 36.71%
Cam Newton 57 100 157 36.31%
Robert Griffin III 49 92 141 34.75%
Sam Bradford 66 125 191 34.55%
Joe Flacco 61 116 177 34.46%
Carson Palmer 56 110 166 33.73%
Ryan Tannehill 56 111 167 33.53%
Josh Freeman 60 122 182 32.97%
Mark Sanchez 53 111 164 32.32%
Brandon Weeden 58 123 181 32.04%
Jake Locker 38 84 122 31.15%
Andy Dalton 46 121 167 27.54%
Chad Henne 31 86 117 26.50%
Obviously there’s more that goes into judging quarterback play than just one stat, and not all third and fourth down situations are created equal. But it’s an interesting look at an aspect of the game that is all too often left to gut feel, as opposed to deep study.
Follow Khaled on Twitter: @PFF_Khaled