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The stability of play from a clean pocket by NFL QBs

Those plays are massively important and often determine the outcome a game.
Traditional data points: under pressure vs kept clean To get our bearings, we’ll start by looking at a couple of metrics that everyone is very familiar with: completion percentage, yards per attempt and passer rating.
Completion percentage is likely the least exciting of the three, without knowing how far downfield a quarterback throws the ball and how many passes his receivers drop, completion rate is generally not the best measure of quarterback performance.
Completion rate under pressure is correlated at a rate of 0.30 while clean-pocket completion rate comes over the top at 0.52.
Completing passes under pressure is impressive but not nearly as likely to remain at a given rate in the following season.
Yards per pass attempt isn’t perfect either as it again leaves out pass plays where there is no attempt.
Under pressure yards per attempt is correlated at a rate of 0.26 while the clean pocket variant is correlated at a rate of 0.36.
Passer rating is again less stable that the first two metrics we looked with clean pocket passer rating at 0.35 (just a hair below yards per attempt).
What is interesting is the dramatic drop off in stability for passer rating under pressure which is correlated at a rate of just 0.15.
If you must look at passer rating, thoughts and prayers if you must, you are wise not to expect a repeat of a quarterback’s passer rating when pressured.

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Oct 23, 2017; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz (11) passes in the fourth quarter against the Washington Redskins at Lincoln Financial Field. Mandatory Credit: James Lang-USA TODAY Sports

We don’t need any math to know that we are quick to remember the times where a quarterback creates a successful play amidst a sure failure. Carson Wentz had many such plays last season, in Week 7 against Washington, he sidestepped an onslaught of pass-rushers and threw a perfect strike to generational talent Corey Clement on 3rd & Goal from the 9-yard-line to break their divisional rival’s backs. These plays are hard to forget and make us sit in awe of a quarterback’s poise and talent – as we should. Those plays are massively important and often determine the outcome a game. However, it is important that we don’t confuse plays that explain what happened with performance that is likely to happen again. When you win the lottery you don’t immediately buy more lottery tickets (you go straight to Vegas).

Pressured plays by nature are diverse. You’d be hard-pressed to find two plays under pressure that look exactly alike. To pile on, pressure occurs on just about 35.0 percent of dropbacks making the sample size of pressured plays much smaller than its ‘less-sexy’ counterpart, the clean pocket.

This begs the question, if we want to predict the future, should we put more stock in how a quarterback plays under pressure or from a clean pocket.

Traditional data points: under pressure vs kept clean

To get our bearings, we’ll start by looking at a couple of metrics that everyone is very familiar with: completion percentage, yards per attempt and passer rating. We considered all quarterback seasons with more than…

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