Is The NFL Protecting Big-Name Quarterbacks?
There have been a number of questionable Roughing the Passer penalties in the early part of the season, particularly in New England's win over Baltimore in Week 4. Some of the complaints have people asking if the officials call penalties more often to specifically protect the bigger-name quarterbacks like Tom Brady and Peyton Manning. What do the numbers say?
Here is a list of the quarterbacks who have drawn the most Roughing the Passer flags since the beginning of 2007:
8: Trent Edwards, Jeff Garcia, David Garrard
7: Tom Brady
6: Peyton Manning, Matt Ryan, Kurt Warner
5: Drew Brees, Jay Cutler, Chad Pennington, Matt Schaub
Obviously the sample sizes here are small. It is true that Brady and Manning draw more Roughing calls than most quarterbacks. However, so do Trent Edwards and David Garrard. Seven calls on Brady is a lot considering he didn't play most of 2008, but Matt Ryan has drawn six flags and didn't play at all in 2007. (Brady and Edwards, by the way, are the only quarterbacks to draw three flags for Roughing so far in 2009.)
If you wanted a list of "big name quarterbacks," it's hard to find a better one than our own J.I. Halsell's list of top ten quarterback salaries from a few weeks back. However, most of the quarterbacks on that list have not drawn a high number of Roughing flags in the past 2+ seasons. Eli Manning and Carson Palmer have drawn just one apiece. Ben Roethlisberger and Brett Favre have drawn two apiece. Philip Rivers and Aaron Rodgers have drawn three apiece. And no defender since 2007 has been flagged for roughing Donovan McNabb.
If you want to figure out where Roughing comes from, to be honest, the defense involved is a much better indicator than the fame of the quarterback. One defense clearly stands out when it comes to roughing the passer over the past 2+ seasons, and no, it isn't Baltimore. The team with the most Roughing the Passer flags since 2007 is Tennessee, with 14, including two on Peyton Manning last week. Baltimore is second with nine; Carolina and Pittsburgh each have seven.
ADDENDUM: Looking at the initial comments below, I'm starting to wonder if I need to include a disclaimer whenever I get curious about something, spend 10 minutes looking up numbers, and write an XP because I think it is sort of interesting. ("DISCLAIMER: BRAINSTORM WHILE GAME CHARTING; NOT A FULLY SCIENTIFIC STUDY.") Anyway, I do feel like we haven't done enough of these little quickie commentary XPs this year, so I'll keep posting them as long as people can accept that they aren't fully-adjusted, "final word" type studies.