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The Case For or Against Michael Vick Not Getting Calls Has Not Been Made

Michael Vick was frustrated on Sunday after injuring his hand following a hit. He caused a stir when he complained about not getting calls like other star quarterbacks. The ever-present Mike Pereira initially called Vick’s complaints “bull” and then came out yesterday and said that the facts show Vick gets more calls than star quarterbacks like Brady or Manning, and was 9th in the league in roughing the passer penalties per 100 passes.

The problem with Pereira’s facts is that they don’t address the issue (well, that, and he doesn’t include unnecessary roughness penalties which are part of the same issue). Some quarterbacks get rid of the ball quicker, and some lines protect better. It doesn’t surprise me that, if we look at it in relation to passes thrown, Peyton Manning ranks low. He has always been among the league leaders in sack rate, and rarely takes hits. Similarly, Jay Cutler isn’t near the top of this list because he is favored by referees; he took a lot of hits and sacks last year, and he should have a higher rate of penalties against when a percentage of those are a little late. Once you account for his being sacked almost twice as often as most other starting quarterbacks, his Roughing the Passer penalties are about average.

If you look at Pereira’s list, you see a pretty good correlation between the penalty rate per 100 passes, and the quarterback’s sack rate. I couldn’t find any reliable public info on quarterback knockdowns, but ideally, if we were to look at this issue with facts, we would want to know how many times a quarterback took a hit, versus the number of times he drew a penalty for taking a late hit. Sacks can be a proxy for this, but it’s not perfect–some quarterbacks may get rid of the ball at a higher rate right before getting hit, while others may eat it more frequently when defenders close in.

A blog, Hemmerling For Mitchell, did some analysis, and using roughing the passer penalties and unnecessary roughness penalties, divided by total quarterback hits (runs, sacks, and qb hits per the play by play – h/t: Ben Morley and Iggles Blitz). Now, I question whether fully counting sacks alongside QB hits is entirely appropriate. You can have an unnecessary roughness on a sack (say, a body slam, or a helmet to helmet hit), but I would guess that most roughing the passer penalties are after the ball is released. Counting sacks may go the other way if we are already including hits, and make the heavy sack guys seem to under-penalized.

Still, I think it is better than what Pereira trotted out, and can be used as a balance to his numbers. Vick shows up in the bottom quarter of passers listed (bottom chart), ahead of Brady, Favre, Flacco, Rivers, Rodgers and Schaub. Still, there doesn’t seem to be any star treatment here, as some top ones show up high, and some low. Vick takes a lot of hits. Maybe he merits a few more penalties, but that case cannot be proven or disproven with either of these. Someone has to finish below average. It also, though, doesn’t disprove Vick’s complaints, like Pereira tried to do.

Oh, and it appears the person that has the strongest case to complain is Ben Roethlisberger, who drew only one roughing the passer penalty over the last two seasons, despite taking numerous hits and being among the league leaders in sacks taken.

[photo via Getty]

 

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