Undrafted rookies Matt Scott and Jordan Rodgers are getting all the attention at quarterback right now, and rightly so. As the rookie minicamp continues through Sunday, the Jaguars have their attention on a couple of guys who could fight for a third roster spot in 2013. Lost amid a lot of the talk about the younger quarterbacks the Jacksonville Jaguars have brought in, a small statistic from Jaguars head of analytics Tony Khan slipped into an NFL.com article.
“Tony Khan…produced data that suggested Blaine Gabbert was in the top third of NFL quarterbacks when given at least 2.6 seconds to throw,” says writer Chris Wesseling. In analyzing how and why the Jaguars selected selected Joeckel, Wesseling concludes that the analytics department played a crucial role. Just how crucial? Fortunately, we can turn to an older article from Pro Football Focus that analyzes time to throw. The data suggests, whether Gabbert was a top third QB or not with more than 2.6 seconds to throw, that Gabbert was at the minimum hindered by a poor offensive line.
PFF found that Gabbert had the seventh shortest time to throw at that point in 2012 (the article was written on November 11th, after week nine of the NFL season) with just 2.58 seconds. Gabbert was benched after the next game so it’s safe to assume his numbers didn’t change much as he only saw snaps in one more game. The time to throw measures either the quarterback getting sacked or holding onto the ball until thrown or he can’t throw any more (has moved past the line of scrimmage).
Being the great statisticians that they are, PFF dug deeper and found that Gabbert had the fifth shortest time to sack with just 2.51 seconds until he hit the turf. The players with the two lowest times until sacked, Kevin Kolb and Philip Rivers, had incredibly depressing seasons while the only truly good player with less time to a sack than Gabbert was Peyton Manning with just 2.5 seconds.
The point is wisely made by PFF that it is significantly easier for a team’s pass protectors to protect for a quarterback who gets rid of the ball around 2.5 seconds. Based on how bad Gabbert’s numbers were in 2012 it appears that he simply needs a little bit more time to get the ball away in an effective manner. That puts a bit more pressure on the offensive line. Still, Gabbert had the sixth highest percentage of throws (58.3%) at or under a time to throw of 2.5 seconds. He and Ryan Tannehill were the only quarterbacks in the top 10 of that statistic with a QB rating below 80.
It makes sense that Gabbert is not very good when he has less time to throw. He is still developing as a quarterback. The Jaguars should not expect him to be Tom Brady. Brady showed that he something special early on in his career and has been a first-ballot Hall of Famer ever since. Gabbert is a liability with less time to throw. He isn’t Manning and he isn’t Brady. The Jags were smart to get Joeckel in the NFL Draft and they are smarter to do the background necessary to find a deficiency in Gabbert’s game and attempt to turn it around. If Gabbert can get more than 2.6 seconds in the pocket, maybe the Jaguars can finally have a top eight quarterback in the league. It would be a welcome change.
Props to Tony Khan for figuring it out and thanks to PFF for providing some numbers to look at in relation to Khan’s statement.
– Luke N. Sims
You can also find me on Twitter @LukeNSims