04 Oct 2011
Following the Eagles' Week 3 loss against the Giants, Michael Vick went on a bit of a rant about the state of officiating in the NFL as it pertained to him. The rare "I'm not complaining, but I am complaining," statement. Former NFL Director of Officiating Mike Pereira went on a barnstorming tour to show his support for the officials and to counteract Vick's claims, ending with a piece on FoxSports.com that measured each players' Roughing the Passer penalties against his pass attempts.
Now, if you're a long-time Football Outsiders reader, that sentence probably inspired the same red flag that came to my mind: pass attempts are a poor denominator. Not only would it shift things in favor of players who didn't throw often, it would also make certain superstar quarterbacks with a proclivity for throwing the ball often show up lower on the chart.
I decided to run the numbers and compare the Roughing the Passer penalties to our quarterback knockdown numbers (i.e. QB hits plus sacks). This contains data from 2009 through Week 3 of this season. Plays cancelled by penalty are included (after all, a sack with a Roughing the Passer penalty doesn't count in the PBP, but it sure counts to the quarterback).
Here's your big caveat: Roughing the Passer penalties are fairly rare. There are only about three or four of them, total, called in any given week. Don't make sweeping conclusions based on this data. (And a small caveat: Not every Roughing the Passer penalty is called on a quarterback knockdown. A knockdown technically means the quarterback hit the ground or was sacked, but some Roughing the Passer penalties are called simply for helmet contact.)
With those limitations in mind, here are my observations:
Here's what the raw data looks like:
|Roughing the Passer Penalties / Quarterback Knockdowns, 2009-Week 3 2011|
45 comments, Last at 01 Jan 2013, 7:13am by mano
A week after big upsets of Stanford and Ohio State, the USC and Virginia Tech themselves fell to less-talented opponents. Georgia also fell to South Carolina after pummeling Clemson in the opener.