A closer look into an increasingly common knock against Teddy Bridgewater.

After the way Teddy Bridgewater ended the Vikings 2014 campaign, expectations were sky high for the second-year quarterback headed into this season. Though, to this point, his season has largely been up and down, it’s safe to say his development from year one to year two has likely fallen short of expectations. (Again, the expectations were really high – maybe unfairly so.) This really isn’t a knock against Bridgewater. It hasn’t necessarily been easy for the quarterback who’s working, once again, with a patchwork offensive line, a less than stellar group of receivers and an offensive scheme that focuses heavily on running the ball. But it is the truth: Bridgewater hasn’t been the epitome of consistency this year.

One of the most frequent critiques you’ll find of Bridgewater the last three to four games is that he holds the ball too long. That he isn’t making decisions quickly and sometimes putting his [already poor] offensive line in even worse positions.

This is an easy thing to say. And I didn’t feel it was fair for so many people to be making a blanket statement without really checking its validity. So I decided to take a look myself. As soon as the All-22 of the most recent Vikings game at home against the Packers was available, I made myself a cup of coffee, peeled back my eyelids and got to work. (For the sake of clarity, I am referring to the game played on November 22, 2015 at TCF Bank Stadium.)

Here’s what I found.

The Process

Okay, I lied. I didn’t just make myself “a cup” of coffee. It was much, much more than that. Many cups of coffee were had. I’ll be honest – beginning this process, I wasn’t quite sure what I was getting myself into. I thought, “Oh, I’ll just grab a stopwatch and time some of his throws! It will be an hour to two, tops!” However, as I began to make decisions on how I was actually going to extract meaningful data and how I was going to make sense of it all, it quickly became intensive work. I’ll explain my methodology and maybe you’ll see what I’m talking about.

As you’ll see below, I charted each snap Bridgewater took that was not a rushing attempt. (Although, as you’ll likely notice, I did not include the Hail Mary to end to the first half for obvious reasons.) For each one of these plays, I timed Bridgewater from the moment he took the snap to the moment the ball was out of his hands. On plays where the ball was not thrown, Bridgewater was timed from the moment he took the snap to the point where he was sacked or was past the line of scrimmage. Also, if there were plays where it was obvious that Bridgewater tucked the ball and decided to become a runner, I stopped the time then. This made sense because, ultimately, we are looking to see how long it takes Bridgewater to make a decision. Each play was gauged three times. These times were then averaged to accommodate for some expected, albeit miniscule, human error.

I also wanted to record additional information for each play that I thought may be useful later on. Some of the obvious examples are the quarter, time on the game clock, whether the pass was completed and if so for how many yards. But I also logged the personnel grouping, the formation, length of Bridgewater’s drop and detailed notes for each play.

Finally, for plays that had a longer “time ball held” (or “TBH” from this point forward), I wanted to take some frame captures that could be used to illustrate what was going on in the play. Quickly I learned that these would be used primarily to show receiver options and how covered they were at the top of Bridgewater’s drops.

So, here’s the raw data:

The Data

Note: If you are on a mobile device, I highly recommend viewing the below table using this link. It doesn’t display very well on phones or tablets.

PlayQtr.TimeDown & DistancePersonnelFormationHeld Ball Avg.Drop LengthPass Comp.YardsNotesImage
1.11(14:55)1st & 1010Shotgun1.161Yes2Quick WR screen to the left side to Stefon Diggs. Holding call on Kalil negates 2 yard gain.
1.21(13:15)3rd & 1111Shotgun1.903Yes12Bridgewater sees very soft coverage pre-snap on the right side of the field. Probably makes the decision before the snap to get to Wright short and underneath on the right.
1.31(12:38)1st & 1011Singleback1.153Yes9Bridgewater takes his first read on an inside slant to Stefon Diggs. The Packers rush 5 leaving Diggs with man coverage and an easy decision for a nice gain.
1.41(11:08)2nd & 412Shotgun1.423No0Quick out to the right to Mike Wallace. Bridgewater likely noticed the CB playing off Wallace approximately 6 yards and knew it would be an easy completion. The ball hits Wallace in the hands near the sideline but is dropped.
1.51(11:05)3rd & 420Shotgun1.363Yes2This play is designed for Bridgewater to just check it down to the back swinging left out of the backfield. (In this case, McKinnon) The two WRs on the left side essentially run fades to create space for the check down. On this play however, GB's CB reads it perfectly and is able to stop McKinnon 2 yards short of the 1st down marker.
2.11(3:11)2nd & 813Singleback3.217Yes47A long 7-step drop for Bridgewater here. By the time he reaches the end of it, he's completely under siege. GB rushes 8 defenders so, in theory, in this max protection formation, everyone should be accounted for. However the linebacker who blitzes through the gap completely steamrolls Peterson. Bridgewater does a nice job of climbing the pocket while keeping his eyes down field. The GB safety comes down to cover Rhett Ellison dragging across the middle. This leaves Rudolph in a one-on-one situation in a post route. Bridgewater is able to connect with a perfectly placed ball over Rudolph's shoulder. Obviously, Teddy holds on to the ball longer here than in previous plays but that is solely due to the length of the drop and the time it takes Rudolph to complete his route.
3.11(1:37)1st & 1011Singleback1.255Yes2WR screen to Diggs on the right side. This play, by design, takes a little longer to develop than your typical WR screen. GB only rushes 4 and the LBs do a job of quickly diagnosing the screen allowing them to hold Diggs to just a 2-yard gain.
3.21(0:44)2nd & 1312Singleback2.333No0There are a lot of things happening on this play. This is the first time Bridgewater scrambles from the pocket. GB rushes just four defensive lineman and manages to collapse the pocket pretty quickly. However, Bridgewater does have a pocket to work in. He goes through his reads, his first being Pruitt who is covered. His second read is Diggs on a curl route on the right side but Bridgewater quickly sees that Diggs is covered pretty closely. It would be quite the risky throw. Wallace also runs a curl route on the left side of the field and appears to be open. However, the pocket had pretty much collapsed on the left side and I'm not sure Bridgewater, even if he had seen Wallace open, could have gotten to ball there. It doesn't look like he would have had much room to step into his throw. Bridgewater makes the decision to scramble for five yards before he slides and is downed. It should be noted here that when calculating the time held on to the ball, I have decided to stop the stopwatch as soon as the decision is made to become a runner. (When the quarterback tucks the ball and runs.) This will not include instances where the QB scrambles from the pocket to avoid pressure but still remains a passer. In those instances, the QB will be timed until he has thrown the ball or passed the line of scrimmage (where he is no longer able to throw the ball).
3.32(15:00)3rd & 811Shotgun2.605No0Similar to the play above, by the time Teddy gets to the end of his drop, the pocket has pretty much collapsed around him. Every receiver is covered tightly down field which forces Teddy to tuck the ball and run. After making the decision to run, it looks like Diggs breaks off his route to try and find open space and be an outlet for Bridgewater. However, by that point, he has almost crossed the LOS in his run. Matt Asiata who runs into the left flat from out of the backfield is wide open with about 15 yards to the nearest GB defender. If Bridgewater is able to hold on just a half second longer, he may have seen Asiata and hit him for a big gain. However, as the image for this play shows, it is pretty clear all of Bridgewater's options downfield are completely covered. And it's difficult to be upset about the decision when it resulted in a first down.Still
3.42(14:16)1st & 1011Shotgun3.895No0GB rushes only 4 this time and still manages to get to Bridgewater pretty quickly. (It's 2.40 seconds before the pressure forces him to spin and flee the pocket.) Sullivan is literally put on his rear allowing #90 a free run at Bridgewater. There looks to be a miscommunication between Clemmings and Peterson on who is going to cover #95 Datone Jones on the edge. Peterson does not pick this rush up and instead runs a route into the flat that Bridgewater never has the time to throw to. Clemmings decides to assist in what is already a double team instead of picking up Jones. By the time Bridgeater is forced to run, he has no one downfield to throw the ball to. I highlighted Diggs in the middle as "open" although it would be an incredibly risky throw especially considering he would not be able to step into it. Bridgewater also has Peterson in the flat for probably a 5-yard gain but never even looked his direction. It's not completely unreasonable to say Bridgewater should have fell to the ground in the pocket and still taken a sack but for much less yards. However, the evasive maneuver he performs here that ultimately results in a big loss is also one that, more often than not, allows him to escape from the pocket and either make a throw downfield or rush for a positive gain. It's worth noting that Kalil was flagged on this play anyway so had Bridgewater somehow got the ball through a miraculous pass to Diggs, it would have been negated.Still
3.52(13:18)3rd & 2710Shotgun1.593Yes9Not much you can do on 3rd & 27. A screen to Asiata on the left is called and delivered immediately by Bridgewater. GB drops 7 into coverage as soon as the ball is snapped to keep everything in front of them and behind the first down marker.
4.12(9:34)2nd & 612Shotgun1.671Yes16Bridgewater hits Diggs on a curl route on the right side. By the time Bridgewater can throw this timing route, Harris has already been pushed back into Bridgewater threatening the throw even being made. Bridgewater knew before the snap he was going to Diggs which is a good thing because it doesn't look like he would have had much time to make it through his progressions.
4.22(8:40)1st & 2012Singleback6.617No0Bridgewater is sacked again on this play although this time it's for no loss. Bridgewater's time in the pocket is shortened because I feel he unnecessarily climbs the pocket when it may have been more beneficial to stay at the end of his drop. Climbing the pocket puts the offensive line in a harder situation because there backs are turned to Bridgewater and aren't aware that adjustments need to be made to the direction they are blocking. However, there is no one open down field. GB has two or more people covering every one of Bridgewater's options. Once again, Bridgewater's check down is open (Peterson in the right flat). Bridgewater actually almost throws the ball twice on this play. He pumps once to Wallace who is coming across the middle deep. It is a very good thing Bridgewater decides not to throw this ball considering he is double covered and there is really nowhere Bridgewater can place this ball where it's not at risk of being intercepted. The second time is actually while a defender is trying to wrap up Bridgewater's feet and he pumps to Peterson in the flat. By this point, Peterson is pretty well covered as well. Bridgewater manages to escape the defender at his feet and get back to the line of scrimmage for no loss. It's also worth noting that had Bridgewater decided to tuck and run sooner, he has a ton of room to the left side for a big gain. It wouldn't get the first, but would likely result in 10 yards.Still
4.32(7:51)2nd & 2012Singleback2.717Yes6PA pass delivered to Peterson in the left flat. Bridgewater probably had a little bit more time in the pocket with some clever manuevering. However, once again, by the end of his drop he's being pressured. I do feel like Bridgewater could have had Diggs deep down the left if he wanted to take the shot. But I do feel like this play was designed to pull all the defensive backs deep and dish it off underneath to Peterson. Peterson looks to be his first read. I feel like there are more and more examples of plays that are deep drops for Bridgewater coupled with WR and TE routes that are 10-15 yards deep by the time Bridgewater has finished his drop. The image for this play shows you how wide open the middle of the field is. It's a decent play design that results in a decent gain for Peterson. It looks like Peterson could have gained another 3-5 yards had he not stopped when confronted by two defenders.Still
4.42(7:01)3rd & 1520Shotgun2.845Yes1Not a great play for Bridgewater. He doesn't hold on to the ball for an extended period of time. However, it does look like he misses two open receivers and instead checks the ball down. The most threatening pressure is a result of the man Ellison releases to run to the flat as a check down option. Bridgewater takes the check down and the play only results in a yard. Wright runs a dig route across the middle and is open underneath. Had Bridgewater chose him it's not like it would have resulted in a first down on 3rd & 15 but would have gained a few more yards than the 1-yard check down to Ellison. Bridgewater also has Asiata pretty wide open in the right flat but never looks that way.Still
5.12(2:59)2nd & 1322I-formation4.027No0Another PA pass. Bridgewater is looking down field on a long down and distance. However, nobody is there. He should get rid of the ball just a second sooner to Line who runs an out from out of the backfield. Line is open and although the play would likely only result in a 5-yard gain, it would have been better than taking a 2-yard loss and a hit that resulted in an injury.Still
6.12(0:06)1st & 1011Shotgun1.975Yes5This play is designed to get the ball out of Bridgewater's hands as soon as possible and out to the sideline for a short, quick gain. With only 6 seconds left, the Vikings are trying to get within field goal range. Bridgewater does not hold the ball and go through downfield progressions because, as previously mentioned, there isn't the time to do so.
6.22(0:02)2nd & 510ShotgunNo0This hail mary at the end of the half will hurt the averages and I may consider not including it. Bridgewater holds the ball as long as possible to allow his receivers to get downfield for a hail mary. However, Bridgewater ends up being forced to scramble the pocket and kills the play. It would have been a 70 yard heave to the endzone. And considering none of his receivers were even there, can't blame him for just throwing the ball away. It's worth noting that the Vikings kept 6 players back to help with protection against the 4 that GB rushed. The double teams worked, however Clemmings allows his defender to get free which forces Bridgewater to bounce outside and extend the play while his receivers try and get open.
7.13(9:31)2nd & 1010Shotgun1.763Yes6Not much to analyze here. Bridgewater makes a very quick drop from the shotgun and immediately hits Rudolph on a short curl route underneath.
7.23(8:55)3rd & 411Shotgun3.113No0GB rushes 4 and manages to get to Bridgewater within 2.5 seconds. At this point, Bridgewater finds himself, once again, in a very tight pocket and likely sacked within a hundredth of a second and no open receivers down field. Wright, who is running a 9 route, is the most open but still pretty well covered. It would be a risky throw for Bridgewater with a safety looming just beyond Wright. Bridgewater puts a nifty spin move on Clay Matthews and manages to scamper for a first down and slide before being hit. Hard to blame him for the decision considering the collapsed pocket and lack of open targets downfield.Still
7.33(7:34)2nd & 1301Shotgun3.223No0There are 1.5 seconds before Bridgewater has an unblocked safety (Clinton-Dix) blitzing from the edge. One would expect Bridgewater to recognize this blitz and maybe try and hit a the receiver deep who has one-on-one coverage and no safety over the top. Jarius Wright is that player on this play. However, by the time Wright has his guy beat on a nine route, Bridgewater is already being tacked by Clinton-Dix. It actually looks like Teddy even diagnoses the safety blitz before the play. He walks up to the line of scrimmage and points in that general direction. Bridgewater doesn't have much room to avoid the blitz considering Clemmings is also beat by his defender. I do feel however this is the second instance I've seen where it would have been Bridgewater to just fall down and take the sack as opposed to trying to avoid it and moving further back. It should be noted again that there are no receivers (of the 5 who ran routes) open. Had Bridgewater taken the sack as opposed to avoiding it, the time he held onto the ball would have been 1.95 as opposed to 3.22. Not a huge difference but a difference nonetheless. Still
7.43(6:51)3rd & 2311Shotgun3.825No0GB rushes only 4 and manages to collapse the pocket almost fully within 2.12 seconds. However, I do believe Bridgewater has (2) open receivers he could hit on this play. They would be difficult throws considering the lack of space in the collapsed pocket but Diggs on a dig route and Wright on an out route that materializes rather late. However, Bridgewater decides to tuck and run shortly after the 2.12 seconds and manages to [surprisingly] almost pick up the 23 yards needed for a first down. Granted, he takes a pretty nasty hit in the process but Bridgewater likely knew how important it was to the game to move the chains on this drive. Shortly before passing the LOS, Bridgewater looks left to Asiata in the flat and either considers throwing to him or does a good job of selling it to open up more space for himself. It actually may have not been a horrible idea to throw it (or lateral, actually) to Asiata. Asiata looks to have a little more space not to mention it would keep Bridgewater from taking a hit himself. For the recorded time on this play, I timed Bridgewater until the point he passes the line of scrimmage. It's difficult whether Bridgewater fully committed to becoming or a runner or if he was still a passer (as shown by his pump to Asiata in the flat). This actually adds approximately an extra second to the time Bridgewater holds on to the ball.
8.13(4:37)1st & 1012Singleback2.767Yes17PA pass with a long drop for Bridgewater. By the top of the drop, Bridgewater is pressured due to the 6 defenders GB rushes. Clay Matthews comes in on somewhat of a delayed blitz and really brings the heat. That's okay though because by the top of his drop, Bridgewater has already identified Diggs is open on a deep dig route.
8.23(3:59)1st & 1012Shotgun2.555Yes33Bridgewater quickly releases a deep pass to Rudolph who is pretty well covered on a fade route down the middle. It actually looks like Bridgewater looks off the high safety by keeping his eyes on Ellison who is running a post route across the middle. It's a good thing Bridgewater released quickly here because if he holds the ball a second longer, he's getting sacked by Kalil's defender.
8.33(3:14)1st & 1001Shotgun1.771Yes7Bridgewater hikes the ball with an empty backfield, barely drops and immediately looks to Diggs who is running quick inside slant. Diggs is covered closely but it's hard to tell if Bridgewater ever even intended to go there or if the quick look to the right is intended to freeze the safeties and give Line some more space on the far left side of the field. Line ultimately ends up receiving the throw after Bridgewater pivots left. The time Bridgewater held the ball is still very quick. He isn't really able to get his feet properly set due to pressure up the middle but still manages to get the ball to Line, although the ball does float a bit.
9.14(14:43)1st & 1011Shotgun4.225Yes18This play is kind of a head scratcher to me and is a good example of a reoccurring issue that I'm seeing. Bridgewater is in the Shotgun and takes a quick 5-step drop. By the time he reaches the top of his drop, he's looking on the right side of the field where he has, I believe, Diggs running a deep fade and Wallace running a deep fade/post. Neither of these guys are close to finishing their route by the time Bridgewater reaches the top of his drop. Furthermore, neither guy is open. Diggs maybe has a slight step on his man in single coverage. Wallace has a little space in the middle of the field after he is released by a linebacker. However, he isn't looking for the ball as his route is nowhere near completion. By the time it is, he's covered by two deep safeties. By the time their routes are complete or it's clear they are covered, Bridgewater is forced to scramble from the pocket due to pressure. Before crossing the LOS, he hits Ellison who is open by 5-yards in the middle of the field. Ellison manages to convert the play for a first down and then some.Still
9.24(14:10)1st & 1010Shotgun2.315No0GB blitzes a corner as soon as the ball is snapped. He goes untouched and hits Bridgewater within 2.2 seconds of snapping the ball. Bridgewater is not able to step in to the throw he makes to Rudolph deep down the right side and the ball is short. No issues holding on to the ball too long here. However, Bridgewater should do a better job of diagnosing the corner blitz either with a pre-snap read or as soon as he snaps the ball and take advantage of the free receiver it creates. In this case, it was Ellison who was well open on a short dig route to the left (the other side of the field from his first read).Still
9.34(14:04)2nd & 1012Singleback3.407No0Once again, we have another instance where there is a deep drop and, by the time Bridgewater reaches it, he is completely ambushed by a GB all-out blitz (1.99 sec.). Ideally in this situation, Bridgewater would have a receiver or running back who could bail him out with a quick route underneath. However, once again, Bridgewater is already scrambling in circles before any of his receivers finish their routes. Bridgewater is forced to throw the ball away and take an incompletion (on what is arguably intentional grounding). It's worth noting that GB rushed 7 on this play and the Vikings kept 7 in for protection. That did not matter, however. Notice in the image we have offensive lineman participating in a triple team while other defenders run free, untouched. Upon further review, it's actually just a really well designed blitz scheme that completely befuddled the line.Still
9.44(13:52)3rd & 1010Shotgun2.495Yes16Every receiver but Wright runs a deep fade to create some room underneath. Wright runs a quick dig route and Bridgewater quickly hits him.
10.14(10:19)1st & 1011Shotgun1.633Yes18Bridgewater hits Wright on a quick curl route to the right. Bridgewater does a good job here of seeing the safety blitz on the edge and looking to the void created by it. Wright shows some elusiveness to get some yards after the catch and make it a bigger gain.
10.24(9:50)1st & 1011Shotgun1.975Yes6Another quick hit from Bridgewater. This time to Diggs who ran a short dig route on the left.
10.34(9:25)2nd & 411Shotgun5.103No0All 4 receivers ran curl or comeback routes downfield. None of them were open. GB defense is able to get to Bridgewater quickly. The only possible option for Bridgewater was Peterson, his check down, in the left flat. He was just hit too quickly to get it there, however. The time Bridgewater held on to the ball this play is slightly extended due to the fact that the defenders hold him up and push backwards as he's sacked. I counted about an extra 2.47 secs. before the play is whistled dead. If you remove this time, the average time Bridgewater held the ball on this play is 2.63 secs.Still
10.44(8:49)3rd & 1210Shotgun3.905No0Same story, different play. By the time Bridgewater is forced to flee the pocket, nobody downfield is open. Shortly after this point, Ellison becomes free in a tight window but Bridgewater is already scrambling. Bridgewater does have Wright underneath but throwing it there would be about 10 yards short of the first down. Considering it's third down, Bridgewater is trying to extend the play to maybe get away from the pressure and give someone time to get open past the sticks. It's worth noting again that there's about an additional second that passes while Bridgewater is being sacked. If you remove this time, the average time Bridgewater held the ball on this play is 2.61 secs.
11.14(6:17)1st & 1010Shotgun2.115Yes4Quick short dig route to Wright across the middle for 4 yards. It took Bridgewater 2.11 seconds to get the ball out of his hands. The same amount of time it took for him to be head on with a defender.
11.24(5:53)2nd & 510Shotgun2.285Yes10Bridgewater keeps his eyes downfield and there isn't much there. But at this point, I think it's more about taking the stuff underneath and getting out of bounds to stop the clock. This is the first time in a while where Bridgewater actually has a relatively clean pocket to work with and isn't under siege.
11.34(5:20)1st & 1011Shotgun2.535No0Bridgewater diagnoses the blitz pre-snap. GB rushes six but the pocket holds up relatively well during Bridgewater's drop and creates more space for him to throw than he's had in a while. Acknowledging the blitz, Bridgewater decides to take advantage of the 1-on-1 coverage Wallace has. He goes deep down the right sideline but just puts a tiny bit too much on it. Some said they saw Wallace slow down. It's hard to say... We're literally talking about a hundredth of a second.
11.44(5:13)2nd & 1010Shotgun2.145Yes85 step drop and delivered. No other options really on this play outside of Rudolph on a short dig route across the middle. Not sure it matters as you can tell it was Bridgewater's first read anyway.
11.54(4:46)3rd & 211Shotgun1.961No0Quick 1 step drop for Bridgewater out of the Shotgun. He looks left to Wright on a slant but pumps instead and goes to McKinnon short over the middle. However, the ball is tipped at the LOS by a defender. It was likely designed this way as Wallace is already blocking his defender before the ball is thrown.
11.64(4:43)3rd & 211Shotgun4.395No0Bridgewater has a 5 step drop from the shotgun. His first read is to the left where there is no one open. He never looks to the right where he has McKinnon open for probably a 7-8 yard gain. Bridgewater has a pretty clean pocket but climbs it which causes Ellison's defender to shake lose and ultimately bring him down. Bridgewater manages to get the ball out and throw it away before being brought down.Still
12.14(4:10)1st & 1011Shotgun2.385Yes8Bridgewater releases quickly to Pruitt on an out route. The defenders are playing quite off and once again we see Norv use a play design (not that's revolutionary or anything) where the two wideouts on that side run fades to create space underneath. Unfortunately, Pruitt isn't able to get out of bounds to stop the clock as intended.
12.24(3:45)2nd & 311Shotgun1.763Yes13Nothing new here. Dink and dunk plays right now. McKinnon has a good amount of space and manages to pick up 13 yards. However, the throw is to the middle of the field which hurts the clock management.
12.34(3:19)1st & 1011Shotgun7.325No0Bridgewater could have taken a shot down the field at either sideline on this one. It wouldn't have been an easy throw, but it looks like both Wallace and Diggs might have their guy beat. And it doesn't look like the safety on either side would be able to get there on time if the ball was thrown well. Bridgewater climbs the pocket and holds on to the ball when finally the pocket collapses and he is forced to scramble. He manages to escape the pocket and get rid of the ball. He probably should have just thrown it out of bounds sooner as opposed to trying to stiff arm the defender (although, he does have a nice stiff arm!). This is one of the few plays I've seen where Bridgewater does hold on to the ball longer than he should and doesn't pull the trigger on an opportunity.Still
12.44(3:09)2nd & 1010Shotgun2.735No0Thielen and Diggs both run crossing routes through the middle. Both of them are "open" but with very little separation. Bridgewater could have likely hit Diggs here but the looming linebacker would have kept the gain to just a few yards. Thielen alters his direction of travel at the end of the route which allows him to get open. Bridgewater makes the throw slightly behind Thielen. It's hard to tell if he put it in the spot Thielen was supposed to be or if the was designed for Thielen to change direction. There weren't a lot of other options for Bridgewater on this play despite the protection being decent. Rudolph down the seam would be dangerous considering a looming safety and could result in a pick. He did have Peterson (again) in the flat which likely would have resulted in more yards and allowed Minnesota to stop the clock.Still
12.54(3:04)3rd & 1020Shotgun2.485Yes16Diggs is able to find a soft spot in the GB defense behind the corners but a good distance in front of the safety. Bridgewater does a good job of noticing it quickly and getting the ball out.
12.64(2:58)1st & 1011Shotgun6.465No0All wide receivers running fades. Bridgewater stays in the pocket and goes through his reads, left to right. Rudolph is somewhat open on a short route to the right but by the time he gets there, it's somewhat of a risky throw. The defender looks to be in good position to jump the route. Bridgewater feels the pressure form his left and scrambles to the right when all hell breaks loose. Bridgewater retreats in chaos, delivers what is now becoming his trademark stiff arm and heaves the ball out of bounds. Ugly play. But once again, there is a very obvious lack of separation with our receivers. People are all for a risky play thrown up for a wide out to "go get it" until it results in an interception in the waning minutes of a losing game.Still
12.74(2:48)2nd & 1011Shotgun2.155No0Poor throw by Bridgewater into blanket coverage. Desperate times, desperate measures…?
12.84(2:43)3rd & 1011Shotgun2.453Yes7Bridgewater has a nice pump left to Diggs right after the snap. Looks to freeze a blitzing corner. Diggs may have been an option on this route and would have allowed the team to get out of bounds. Instead, Bridgewater hits Rudolph over the middle for a short gain behind the sticks.
12.94(2:18)4th & 211Shotgun2.943No0Bridgewater snaps the ball and has some pressure immediately up the middle. He moves to the left which pulls the corner covering Diggs forward. Diggs is running a fade route down the left side of the field. Bridgewater begins to scramble to get himself in a better position to throw it to the wide open Diggs. He is forced however to make the throw awkwardly without his feet being planted. The throw is a poor one. Game over.
Total TBH Average: 3.00 seconds
Total TBH Median: 2.48 seconds

Making Sense Of It All

So, what does this all mean? Good question. In fact, it’s one I asked myself just after completing my all-night all-22 bender, struggling to keep my eyes open and head throbbing from data overload.

There’s a lot to digest. So, let’s start with the easiest number to understand – the total average time Bridgewater held on to the ball. Insanely enough, this number is a round 3.00 seconds flat. (Which actually kind of blows my mind considering that of the 47 plays measured, none of them were measured a whole number.)

According to a somewhat similar study done by David Giller, a football analytics enthusiast and Vanderbilt University economics savant, in 2013, the average “drop and pass time” of an NFL quarterback is 2.7 seconds. (It’s worth noting here that Giller’s film study was of 2011 film and his dataset was extracted from a PFF article for their “time to throw” signature stat.) Giller also found that the average “time until sack” is 4.3 seconds. Bridgewater’s TBH of 3.00 seconds in the Packers game puts him just slightly above Giller’s average but still well below the average “time until sack.”

I was curious to see what Bridgewater’s median TBH was because it became apparent quickly that the total average time could be getting skewed by few extreme values. This means the average time could be less representative of the majority of values from my measured times making the median a better representation of the real tendencies. Bridgewater’s median TBH was just over 0.50 seconds less than his average time – 2.48 seconds.

When compared against Giller’s average “drop and pass time,” Bridgewater’s performance in the Packers game is neither damning nor favorable. His average time is slightly more than 2.7 seconds while his median is slightly less. However, it seems pretty clear that the raw data alone doesn’t really point to Bridgewater having a serious issue with holding the ball too long.

So, there! Are we all happy now? Yeah, me neither. So I kept digging…

I wanted to compare more closely my findings from this single game of Bridgewater’s against other NFL quarterbacks. One route would have been to quit my job, abandon my family, lock myself in a dark basement somewhere and perform the same study for 3-4 other quarterbacks. (Yeah, no.) Another path was to use data someone else had already given up days (months?) of their time to gather. Hooray!

I found an amazing article by Pro Football Focus where they ranked NFL quarterbacks from the 2013 season by how well they performed for various intervals of time that the ball was held. So, for example, how did the quarterbacks rank by PFF grade when they held the ball for 2.1 to 2.5 seconds? While the PFF grade really didn’t matter much for my purposes, the provided number of drop backs for each interval was very useful. It allowed me to chart the percentage of plays Tom Brady, for example, had where he held the ball for more than 3 seconds. Or what percentage of plays Russel Wilson was able to get rid of the ball before 2 seconds. I could create these same percentages for Bridgewater (albeit for just one game) using the data I recorded and make some comparisons.

NFL Quarterback Ball Held Times 3 sec
Percentage of plays where the ball was held for less than 2 and 3 seconds for NFL quarterbacks. (2013 data used for all quarterbacks other than Teddy Bridgewater.)

As you’d expect, Peyton Manning and Tom Brady topped the list when ranked by the percentage of plays less than 3 seconds. Teddy Bridgewater, though not near the top of the list, isn’t in bad company within 1% of Drew Brees and Tony Romo. Furthermore, Bridgewater ranked higher than Andrew Luck and Alex Smith. 70.21% of the time against the Packers, Bridgewater either had the ball out of his hands (or was sacked) in under 3 seconds. That actually seems pretty impressive.

When sorted by the highest percentage of plays less than 2 seconds, Bridgewater does even better and finds himself above guys like Matt Ryan, Drew Brees and Tony Romo. In fact, his percentage of plays where the ball is held less than 2 seconds is just 1.22% less than Tom Brady.

NFL Quarterback Ball Held Times 2 sec
Percentage of plays where the ball was held for less than 2 and 3 seconds for NFL quarterbacks. Sorted by percent less than 2 seconds. (2013 data used for all quarterbacks other than Teddy Bridgewater.)

After seeing the numbers for other quarterbacks and how they all ranked against each other, I started to ask myself, “Does this really mean anything?” Does any of this make one quarterback better than another? Does it make you a better quarterback if you have the highest percentage of plays less than 2 seconds? After all, by this logic, Andy Dalton should be one of the best quarterbacks in this league. Matt Cassel has comparable percentages to Tom Brady. Russel Wilson, a Superbowl-winning quarterback, finds himself at the bottom of both lists. Is it possible that there are other external factors that play into how long a quarterback is holding on to the ball? Factors like the length of the drop, formation, personnel, wide receiver route depth, the coverage of wide receivers, defensive pressure, etc.

I mean, that seems to make sense, right?

Not only does it make sense, but it’s true. These external factors play a huge role in how long a quarterback holds the ball. Wide receiver route depth, coverage downfield and pressure on the quarterback require watching the film to analyze. However, the length of the quarterback’s drop is something we can easily chart against the TBH. (Especially since I had the foresight to record it when doing my review!)

Drop Length vs TBH
Drop length vs. the time the ball is held for Teddy Bridgewater against the Packers on November 22, 2015.

As you’d expect, the deeper the drop, the longer Bridgewater held the ball. And this makes sense, right? I mean, if it takes approximately 1.83 seconds for Bridgewater to get to the top of a 7-step drop and he averages holding on to the ball for a total of 3.78 seconds, that leaves him with 1.95 seconds to find a receiver and get rid of the ball. That’s not very long at all. And again, that average time is skewed by a few extreme values. (Bridgewater’s median time for 7 step drops was 3.30 seconds.)

So it looks like it’s pretty safe to say in this instance, Bridgewater’s TBH is heavily influenced by the length of his drop. But what about those other external factors? You know, the ones that require closely watching every play?

Yeah, let’s talk about those.

What The Film Shows

It became clear pretty quickly that plays with larger TBH had a lot happening completely out of Bridgewater’s control. There were only a couple of plays where it clearly looked like Bridgewater held the ball too long while there were options downfield to target or that he hesitated to pull the trigger on guys that were open. And consistently, there were three issues I kept noticing.

  1. Receiver route depth – The Vikings receivers run a ton of late developing routes. I don’t have any numbers to back that up – we’re talking strictly film review now. But on plays ran out of the shotgun with 5-step drops or plays with even longer 7-step drops, by the time Bridgewater is being pressured (which happens about every 2 of 3 plays), his receivers have not finished their routes. And I know that just because they haven’t finished the route doesn’t mean Bridgewater can’t anticipate where they are going to be but… We’re talking not really even close to finishing their routes. It seems that a lot of the Vikings play designs consist of everybody running deep fade routes to create room underneath for someone on a short dig or to check down to a running back in the flat. So, if this player underneath is for any reason covered (or if the Vikings find themselves in long down and distance situations where an underneath route isn’t going to cut it, which… surprise, happens quite often), Bridgewater’s other receiver options are midway through their route 20 yards downfield. What’s worse? Not only are these routes taking forever to develop and typically only materializing once Bridgewater has been sacked or scampered away to save himself, but also…
  2. Receiver coverage – The Vikings receivers are typically not open. It was pretty striking how often on plays with higher TBH receivers have very little separation. (Make sure to take a look through the frame stills linked in the data table above. I tried to make sure I provided a capture for plays with higher TBH or plays that resulted in a negative outcome. Red circles obviously indicate receivers who are not open while yellow typically indicates receivers who are.) The Packers consistently had 7 defenders in coverage resulting in multiple occasions where multiple receivers are double teamed with safety help over the top. But even in plays with one on one coverage, the Vikings receivers are still having a difficult time finding space. So now, we have a situation with Bridgewater where we have these deep drops where not only are receivers not finished with their deep routes but they are also blanket covered. And why are teams able to drop so many players into coverage creating risky situations for a quarterback who is consistently risk adverse? Because…
  3. Poor offensive line play – The Vikings offensive line is not good. And it may be worse than you think. It’s no secret by this point that the Vikings offensive line had one of its worst showings of the year against the Packers. More often than not, simply by rushing four defenders, Green Bay was able to get pressure on Bridgewater within 2-3 seconds. This is a quick sack time. And more often than not, Bridgewater is having to evade this pressure by any means necessary to either give his receivers time to finish their routes or give them time to get open. (Or more frequently – both.) As a result of this, what we saw on multiple occasions against the Packers is Bridgewater being pressured quickly, him scrambling from the pocket and dancing around while stiff-arming a defender once or twice and ultimately throwing the ball out of bounds or taking a sack. Are you starting to see what the problem here?

Conclusion

Bridgewater is not holding the ball for a length of time that should reflect poorly on his play. The data shows that Bridgewater is about average when looking just strictly at the numbers. The tape shows a quarterback who really doesn’t have a lot of options other than holding on to the ball. When Bridgewater is presented with a quick 1- or 3-step drop and his receivers run routes with lengths complementary to the length of his drop, it typically results in Bridgewater finding a relatively open receiver, making a quick decision and getting the ball there accurately. When Bridgewater is faced with longer developing plays behind an offensive line that’s a sieve and receivers who are running lengthy routes while closely covered, he tries to make a play himself. Sure, there were a couple of plays during the Packers game where it may have been a better decision for Bridgewater to take a sack when initially pressured and saving the yards he lost by scrambling backwards. However, it’s difficult to chastise him for trying to create plays when they aren’t there when it doesn’t work and applauding him when his evasiveness, deadly stiff arm and surprisingly effective spin move result in a big play.

Bridgewater has been far from perfect this season. But after this extensive exercise, I can comfortably say that the amount of time Bridgewater is holding on to the ball should not negatively reflect on his performance considering the above mentioned external factors.

Brett Anderson (Founder) is a passionate Viking fan hailing from Sin City, Las Vegas. He can remember, as a child, scraping his knee on the playground and his friends being completely shocked by the purple blood trickling from the wound. When Brett isn’t scouring the Internet for some semblance of Vikings news, he enjoys blindly putting money on them to beat whoever their opponent may be, and daydreams about being their next Tight End. Brett graduated from UNLV with a degree in Architecture and specializes in web/graphic design; he hopes to provide this site’s visitors with the best Vikings experience on the net.