Best QB under pressure: Wilson or RG III?

January, 5, 2013
1/05/13
1:15
PM ET
The Washington Redskins and Seattle Seahawks posted a 13-1 combined record from Week 10 forward this season.


Their quarterbacks, Robert Griffin III and Russell Wilson, combined for 25 touchdown passes and four interceptions over that span. Griffin and Wilson also combined for five rushing touchdowns, four by Wilson.

While both are known for their ability to move, Wilson has fared much better since Week 10 when pressured, according to ESPN Stats & Information. The chart shows Wilson with triple the completion percentage, a 254-33 edge in passing yards, a big edge in rushing production and a 49.4 to 0.7 advantage in Total QBR over RG III on these typically negative plays.

I ran across the disparity while combing through game logs for each player. I first noticed that Griffin oddly posted his four lowest single-game Total QBR scores at home, and Washington was 1-3 in those games. Wilson, meanwhile, posted four of his six highest QBR scores on the road. Seattle went 2-2 in those games and led or was tied in the final 25 seconds of both defeats.


Back to the stats when pressured.

Wilson wasn't always more effective than RG III in these situations. In fact, RG III was quite a bit better than Wilson through Week 9, as the second chart illustrates. He averaged an additional 2.6 yards per pass attempt. He held a 327-139 edge in rushing yardage. The QBR disparity was 67.0 to 11.3.

What has changed?

Wilson and the Seattle offense have improved across the board, for starters. The Seahawks' expanded use of option runs has made the team more difficult to defend. Wilson's receivers have done a better job getting open and sticking with plays when Wilson has scrambled.

I haven't seen RG III consistently enough to know what might be different for him when opponents reach him with pressure. He's taken quite a few more hits than Wilson. Perhaps those hits have had a cumulative effect on him.

Note: We have used a few pressure-related terms on the blog this season. "Duress" is one of them. The plays quarterbacks make while under duress do not include sacks. The pressure stats referenced above do count sacks.

ESPN's video tracking glossary includes the following instructions for the teams of analysts that chart and re-chart games each week:
Duress is when a quarterback makes a play while under pressure. We define pressure in one of three ways:
  1. If the quarterback makes a throw or scrambles after being forced from the pocket, no matter how close the nearest defender is. If the quarterback leaves the pocket on his own accord (to get a better throwing angle, for example) or if the play design takes him out of the pocket, do not call that duress.
  2. If a defender has a clear path in the quarterback’s line of sight.
  3. If the quarterback has to alter his regular throwing motion or is forced to move within the pocket due to pressure. If the quarterback steps up into the pocket as a preemptive measure to buy time, do not call that duress.

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