NFL's Rookie of the Year Finalists: 2012 Drive Stats

Cold, Hard Football Facts for Feb 08, 2013



By Scott Kacsmar
Cold Hard Football Facts’ Comeback King (@CaptainComeback)

After the 2012 season produced the best rookie quarterback class in NFL history, it was no surprise when the three record-breaking players received all 50 votes for the Offensive Rookie of the Year award.

Robert Griffin III won the award with 29 votes, while Andrew Luck (11) finished second and Russell Wilson (10) rounded it out.

Some may have expected a closer race, but any of the three would have won the award in most seasons.

Having looked at the third-down stats in the past, to further dig into the numbers these quarterbacks achieved as rookies, we are going to look at their drive stats.

All three led their teams to the playoffs, but they did not play enough games to make it into our playoff drive stats from last week.

As a reminder, drive stats based on the quarterback include all the drives that quarterback (not his backup) started except for the exclusion of kneel-down drives.

Special teams’ penalties are removed from the play stats. A field goal is not considered a play as well. Only the regular season was included.

 

Overall drive stats

The first table includes the most general of drive stats. Yds/Dr represents the net yards per drive (penalty yardage included). The turnovers are all the interceptions and lost fumbles by the quarterback, and that total is divided by the number of drives to get TOs/Dr. The LOS/Dr is the average starting field position. Table is sorted by descending Pts/Dr.

NFL Rookie Quarterbacks - Overall 2012 Drive Stats (Reg. Season)

QB

Drives

Yds/Dr

Pts/Dr

TD

TD/Dr

Punts/Dr

TOs/Dr

LOS/Dr

Robert Griffin III

156

34.84

2.31

42

0.269

0.391

0.045

26.57

Russell Wilson

157

34.71

2.27

42

0.268

0.408

0.083

28.43

Andrew Luck

176

35.18

1.79

34

0.193

0.415

0.131

24.35

Much like their general statistics, Griffin and Wilson were very close, even leading the same number of touchdown drives (42) on a nearly identical total of drives. The yards per drive are also nearly identical.

Griffin was the best at avoiding turnovers with just seven all season (five interceptions and two lost fumbles). Luck had 23 turnovers (18 interceptions, five lost fumbles) and Wilson had 13 (10 interceptions, three lost fumbles).

Luck meanwhile was less efficient with turning his yards into points, though there are a few reasons that will shed light on that. The poor starting field position (24.35) is one glaring problem, as the Colts were 30th in the league in that category this season.

Here is a drive breakdown for the season:

Drive Breakdown

Quarterback

Andrew Luck

Robert Griffin III

Russell Wilson

Drives

176

156

157

Touchdown

34

42

42

Field goal

26

22

22

Missed/blocked field goal

7

6

3

Punt

73

61

64

Interception

18

5

10

Lost fumble (non-QB)

2

4

4

Lost fumble (QB)

5

2

3

Turnover on downs

1

5

5

End of half

9

7

3

Safety

0

0

1

Blocked punt

1

2

0

Better special teams play for Seattle as evident by fewer missed field goals and no blocked punts. All of these quarterbacks were good on fourth-down attempts, but the Colts only gave it up on downs once all season.

This looks at the drives of 10+ plays and three-and-out drives.

NFL Rookie Quarterbacks - Drive Play Count

QB

Drives

Avg. Plays

10+ Plays

10+ Pct.

3-and-out

3-and-out Pct.

Andrew Luck

176

6.2

26

14.8%

35

19.9%

Russell Wilson

157

5.9

21

13.4%

30

19.1%

Robert Griffin III

156

5.7

22

14.1%

30

19.2%

Again a lot of very similar numbers. Early in the season Indianapolis was near the top of the league in fewest three-and-out drives with only 13 on 118 drives (11.0 percent), but in the last five games the Colts had 17 three-and-outs in their last 58 drives (29.3 percent).

That is one of the common themes. The Redskins really took off after a 3-6 start before Griffin’s injury did them in. The Seahawks exploded after their late rally in Chicago in Week 13. The Colts slumped to maintain offensive efficiency after Thanksgiving as Luck’s pass protection got progressively worse.

 

Average starting field position

Here is a breakdown of the average starting field position (LOS/Dr). You can see the number of drives where the offense started at exactly the 20, followed by the percentage of drives that started at the 20 or worse (<20%). Then it’s starting at your own 21-35 and 36-49, finally followed by drives started in opponent territory (Opp. 50+).

QB

Drives

LOS/Dr

20 (exact)

%

<20%

21-35

%

36-49

%

Opp. 50+

%

Robert Griffin III

156

26.57

53

33.97

59.62

30

19.23

17

10.90

16

10.26

Russell Wilson

157

28.43

36

22.93

53.50

29

18.47

23

14.65

21

13.38

Andrew Luck

176

24.35

63

35.80

59.09

41

23.30

24

13.64

7

3.98

Luck is at a disadvantage here, often having to go a long field without the same caliber of running game the other two quarterbacks had. That can help explain his 730 drop backs, which is the third-highest season total in NFL history.

Based on the playoff research, teams start around 14 percent of their drives in opponent territory. For Luck it was just 3.98 percent of the Colts’ drives this season for a grand total of seven times.

Wilson had triple the amount, which speaks to the value of having a No. 1 scoring defense that can get stops and start an offense in better position.

Griffin is in between the two in field position, but he had four drives start inside the opponent’s 15-yard line, which led to three touchdowns and a field goal. The three touchdowns were drives of 3-9 yards. Wilson had two such drives (two field goals), while Luck never started any better than his opponent’s 28 (a field goal against the Titans) all season.

However, it is not as though Griffin and Wilson were not capable of leading long drives. Here is a breakdown of points per drive based on starting field position, first in a table and followed by a chart.

Points per Drive - Starting Field Position Splits

Quarterback

Andrew Luck

Robert Griffin III

Russell Wilson

Own 1-9

0.25

1.44

1.54

Own 10-19

1.59

2.16

2.26

Own 20

1.84

1.85

1.19

Own 21-35

2.05

2.03

2.34

Own 36-49

1.79

2.35

2.65

Opp. 50+

3.29

5.06

4.10

Opp. 20+

N/A

6.00

4.40

 

Touchdown drives

The next table looks at the touchdown drives the quarterbacks led. It is sorted by the Avg. Yds, or average length of the drive. ScoMg is the average scoring margin when the touchdown drive started. Then the distances are broken down by 70+, 80+ and 90+ for long drives, then <50 and <20 are in the opponent’s territory and red zone.

QB

TD

Avg. Yds

ScoMg

70+

%

80+

%

90+

%

<50

%

<20

%

Andrew Luck

34

73.3

-4.79

26

76.5

18

52.9

0

0.0

2

5.9

0

0.0

Russell Wilson

42

66.9

4.05

24

57.1

18

42.9

4

9.5

9

21.4

1

2.4

Robert Griffin III

42

66.8

1.07

28

66.7

22

52.4

3

7.1

9

21.4

3

7.1

Even the average distance of a touchdown drive was nearly identical for Wilson and Griffin III. The amount of 80+ yard touchdown drives have exploded because of the 2011 kickoff rule, but you can see each quarterback leading at least 18 such scoring drives this year.

Wilson was impressive with two drives for scores of 90+ yards in Chicago alone. Luck’s longest was 87 yards, but his shortest was just 39 yards as you can see Wilson and Griffin both had nine scores start in opponent territory.

 

Average scoring margin

This table looks at the drives related to the scoreboard when they started. The ScoMg is again the average score margin at the start of the drive. Then it’s broken down by the number of drives when the team was behind, tied or ahead. 3SD- is the number of drives that started with the team trailing by at least three scores. The 3SL+ is the number of drives that started with the team holding at least a three score lead.

QB

Drives

ScoMg

Behind

%

Tied

%

Ahead

%

3SD-

%

3SL+

%

Russell Wilson

157

2.56

48

30.57

43

27.39

66

42.04

0

0.00

17

10.83

Robert Griffin III

156

0.86

63

40.38

29

18.59

64

41.03

3

1.92

7

4.49

Andrew Luck

176

-3.15

90

51.14

26

14.77

60

34.09

18

10.23

3

1.70

We have three different tiers here. Wilson rarely trailed, and actually never trailed by three scores until the NFC Divisional game in Atlanta (the Falcons went up 20-0). Wilson was either ahead or tied to start 69.4 percent of his drives.

Griffin and Luck had inferior defenses, so they did trail more, especially Luck. It is hard to believe the Colts were 11-5 when they trailed on 51.1 percent of their drives this season. But that is the value of having seven game-winning drives.

This will hardly be the last time these quarterbacks are compared to each other. Expectations are sky high moving forward for each of them after a historic beginning to their careers.

 

Scott Kacsmar is a football writer/researcher who has contributed large quantities of data to Pro-Football-Reference.com, including the only standardized database of fourth quarter comebacks and game-winning drives. You can visit his blog for a complete writing archive. Please send any questions or comments to Scott at smk_42@yahoo.com, or you can follow him on Twitter at @CaptainComeback.


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