On Sack Time and Avoiding the Rush

The Football Outsiders have a great new study out about QB sack times.

Not surprisingly, Peyton Manning laps the field with only 4 sacks over 3 seconds in the past two years. What is surprising is that Kerry Collins also fared very well, finishing third with only 0.8% of his sacks taking over 3 seconds.

It’s a curious result, because while the times correlate well overall with sack rate, there’s quite a gap between Manning’s sack rate of 2.0% and Collins’ sack rate of 3.7% in the last two years.

Part of the difference comes from that fact that while Collins does deliver the ball quickly, he also is completely stationary in the pocket. 

Manning’s feet are constantly moving, and Colts’ fans know full well that when Manning steps up in the pocket, something good is about to happen.

What we saw from Collins last Sunday was that he does not move to avoid the rush. Whereas Manning keeps his feet moving at all times, and is adept at sliding around in the pocket to avoid sacks, Collins stands tall and goes down. What we’ve seen Manning do in the pocket in the last three years may be the single greatest act of quarterbacking of our lifetime. He’s played behind one of the worst lines and football and barely taken a sack.

It seems unfair to blame a quarterback for a sack under three seconds, but when grading on the Manning scale, you realize how much more a quarterback can do to help his line. Behind a good line, Kerry Collins is exactly the kind of QB you are looking for. He’ll get rid of the ball. Behind a bad line, however, he lacks that subtle ability to move around and stay in throwing position. It’s the ‘next level’ that many quarterbacks simply never achieve.

It’s what separates an all-time great from the 15 year vet with a few Pro Bowls and a Super Bowl trip.

Good quarterbacks avoid the slow slow sacks.

Great quarterbacks avoid the quick ones too.