The Myth of Pressuring Aaron Rodgers

Aaron Rodgers is the best quarterback under pressure is simply a myth. 

“Aaron Rodgers is better under pressure”

“Teams blitzing Rodgers is a double edged sword”

Aaron Rodgers is the best quarterback in the NFL but despite what some people will lead you to believe, he is human and fallible.  The idea that Rodgers somehow works better under pressure is something that we all believe given all the spectacular plays he’s made over the years when scrambling or buying time in the pocket, but what many fans forget is that the tradeoff is Rodgers also takes a lot of sacks, throws a lot of balls away and sometimes sits on the ball too long waiting for his receivers to get open instead of throwing it short and moving the chains.  

Indeed, Rodgers is decidedly not better when under pressure than when he is given time to settle in the pocket and throw the ball.  In fact no quarterback is better when under pressure and Rodgers isn’t even in the top half of quarterbacks when it comes to dealing with pressure efficiently. 

Football Outsiders releases a QB pressures rating every year that compares a QB’s DVOA (defense adjusted variance over average) when under pressure and when not under pressure.  Aaron Rodgers fairs relatively well in the metric when not pressured over the last three years with an average DVOA of 71.6% (average rank of 5th in the league) but his DVOA drops to -71.9% when pressured.  What this means is that Rodgers gains 71.6% more yards compared to an average quarterback when not pressured and gains 71.9% less yards when he’s pressured.

While no quarterback was able to record a positive DVOA over the last three years, the difference between these two DVOAs is more apparent.  Rodgers ranked 24th, 20th and 38th in pressure DVOA differential.  What this means is that Rodgers’ efficiency drops more when pressure than the top half of quarterbacks when he’s pressured. Perhaps it’s a byproduct of how high his non-pressure DVOA is but his efficiency drops a lot more than quarterbacks who are way inferior to him.   

Now there is some caveats to this, like I mentioned above Rodgers throwing the ball away when under pressure technically counts as a negative DVOA since it’s a failed throw but from a football strategy perspective it often is the correct action given you can try to make something happen on the next play. Furthermore, offensive line play factors heavily into QB pressures; last year the offensive line was banged up and Rodgers was actually pressured 10% in 2015 than he was in 2014 or 2013

Nevertheless, Rodgers does have this myth surrounding him that teams shouldn’t blitz him because he’s better under pressure.  That simply isn’t true.  Rodgers is markedly better when given time to throw, just like every other quarterback to play in the NFL over the last three years.  Of course if other teams buy into the mythos and stop pressuring Rodgers, I’d be fine with that too. 

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Comments (10)

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Bedrock's picture

July 22, 2016 at 12:32 pm

Do you have any data on Andrew Luck with this type of data? Offensive line play is huge with this stat. Last year, for example, if Rodgers saw blitz, he knew the protection call, even the correct one, only got him so much and he'd be running. Teams blitzed more, too, without WRs to fear. A lot is put on Aaron with this data, but I'm not seeing him in need of shouldering the blame. Andrew Luck's line is terrible. I can't imagine he fared much better against the blitz, however he did have a fairly healthy receiving corps.

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hobbes's picture

July 22, 2016 at 01:46 pm

Lucks stats are pretty much in line with Rodgers in the sense that his unpressured passed are in the top half of the league while his efficiency drops quite a bit when pressured.

I also completely agree that qb pressures is a lot more multifaceted than just the qb throwing the ball, but in a sense the qb is also responsible for directing pressure with presnap calls, hot routes and moving the pocket around.

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Bearmeat's picture

July 22, 2016 at 12:37 pm

Brady is the same way. So was Dan Marino and Joe Montana. Favre was not. Neither was Elway. Just different QBs with different strengths.

I'd like to add a caveat here - IF ARod has 1v1 with a WR that he trusts, he'll often put it where that guy can make a play and no one else can. But last year there was no one he trusted - which is another whole issue.

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hobbes's picture

July 22, 2016 at 01:50 pm

I don't think Footballoutsiders has qb pressure analyzed for when Favre was actually playing but I'm guessing he would be the same in the sense that he's way better when not pressured; keep in mind Favre threw a lot of interceptions under pressure and that will downgrade his DVOA% severely.

I honestly think no quarterback is good with dealing with pressure, it's just that some qbs are less worse at it than others.

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Bearmeat's picture

July 22, 2016 at 03:19 pm

"less-worse"

.10 word of the day! haha!

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hobbes's picture

July 22, 2016 at 04:30 pm

Sometimes it's not about being good but limiting the bad.

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Tundraboy's picture

July 22, 2016 at 05:40 pm

Sort of like our presidential choices. Sorry for injecting politics but I could not resist.

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Salvatore Ioppolo's picture

July 23, 2016 at 05:40 am

Correct me if I'm wrong, but "when pressured" and "when blitzed" are two different things. A QB can be pressured even without the difense throwing a blitz at him.

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NashvilleCheesehead's picture

July 23, 2016 at 06:23 am

How many quarterbacks can dance on the head of a pin? My goodness! Football can't get here soon enough!!

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lucky953's picture

July 23, 2016 at 05:47 pm

Rodgers' success against the blitz is partly a result of that oft-emphasized trust with his WRs. Are they on the same page so the proper route adjustment takes place and he can get the ball out quickly? That's a part of what's so important about getting Nelson back. It limits the defense's willingness to blitz. Now if the the OL can just keep the other 4 guys off his back....

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