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Joe Flacco led the league in holding on to the ball

You hear announcers say it all the time: “That sack was on the quarterback.”

So which quarterbacks hold on to the ball the most? According to a report by J.J. Cooper of Fanhouse, Joe Flacco was the biggest culprit in terms of self-inflicted sacks in 2010, with Ben Roethlisberger an unsurprising second.

Cooper watched every sack from the 2010 season, and counted how many times the quarterback held the ball longer than three seconds.   Granted, this isn’t scientific.  But quarterbacks know they have to release the ball in three seconds or they will be toast.

(SI’s Peter King wrote a great column on this topic before the season.  The average quarterback releases the ball in 2.4 seconds.)

Flacco led the league with 25 sacks in which he held the ball over three seconds.  Flacco needs to get rid of the ball quicker, although we’d argue Baltimore’s slow receivers are a major cause of the problem.  The rest of the top five doesn’t contain many surprises: Roethlisberger, Jay Cutler, Michael Vick, and Jason Campbell.

Getting rid of the ball is definitely a skill.  Consider that Roethlisberger only took 12 sacks where he held the ball three seconds or less.  That’s fewer than Eli Manning and Peyton Manning took.

While Flacco and Roethlisberger took 45 combined sacks where they held the ball for more than three seconds, the Manning brothers only had one apiece.

That’s on the quarterback.

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49 Responses to “Joe Flacco led the league in holding on to the ball”
  1. jc1958cool says: Feb 23, 2011 7:20 PM

    can’t throw it if your (stone feet) no pun intended rex, receivers can’t get open!

  2. urfinished says: Feb 23, 2011 7:22 PM

    As a Redskins fan, I’m not sure how Jason Campbell isn’t # 1. In fairness, he had below receivers in Washington and now has them in Oaklan, but it looked like he was playing in slow motion sometimes. He is a great guy and wish him the best…but seemed very slow.
    On second thought…being a Redskins fan…all the other teams look faster.
    [Tear rolls down face]

  3. kevo126 says: Feb 23, 2011 7:22 PM

    this is stupid. flacco threw 10 ints.

    its way better to hold on to the ball and take a sack rather than throw a pick…

  4. ravensfreak00 says: Feb 23, 2011 7:23 PM

    I’m shocked (sarcasm).

  5. Canyonero says: Feb 23, 2011 7:25 PM

    Huh, guess he IS top 10..

  6. 4evrnyt says: Feb 23, 2011 7:28 PM

    Talk about a useless statistic. It doesn’t take into account that maybe Flaco’s offensive line is so good that he can take an extra moment or two to find his receiver.

  7. rooneyusa says: Feb 23, 2011 7:30 PM

    Flacco and Roethlisberger’s combined interceptions were less than either Manning. Maybe the Mannings shouldn’t be afraid to get hit.

  8. pwnpatrol says: Feb 23, 2011 7:33 PM

    Or it’s on the protection.

  9. Kaz says: Feb 23, 2011 7:36 PM

    I would have guessed. Plus he a statue. No wonder he struggle. I’m not sold on Flacco. I’ve watched my squad dominate him…. and anytime you let the Bengals routinely get the best of you, you got some problems. I’m not sure what the love affair with him is….

  10. leftcoastnative says: Feb 23, 2011 7:47 PM

    It is not just a matter of holding the ball for more than 3 seconds and then saying the fault rests with the QB. Maybe the QB had nowhere to go with the ball. When these sack gurus were evaluating the QB’s ability to get rid of the ball in a “timely” fashion, who was open when they decided the QB should have released the ball? Design sometimes plays a decisive factor in sack plays. If a QB does not have underneath receivers who have free releases from the LOS, there are no guarantees that he will get the ball out before being sacked if his deeper threats do not come open. A better indication of a QB’s vulnerability to a sack is to look at the down and distance of the sacks. If the majority of sacks occur on long yardage situations, then what the offense is doing on earlier downs is cause for concern. If sacks are occurring on 1st down or 2nd and medium or 2nd and short, then design would help for the QB to have somebody to whom he can lay off the ball. How many sacks are protection breakdowns or coverage sacks?????

  11. kom2k10 says: Feb 23, 2011 7:47 PM

    Everyone blamed Big Ben’s line, but I’ve always believed the sacks were on him (at least most of them)… He holds on to the ball for so long and eventually the pressure gets to him, then all the media talks about how bad the Steelers O-Line is.

  12. villagoo says: Feb 23, 2011 7:53 PM

    This post is just painful. How can you not acknowledge the fact that Ben’s entire game (on the field) is based on holding onto the ball and making things happen. For every sack he probably has 3 broken tackles and a 20+ yard plays down field.

  13. voxveritass says: Feb 23, 2011 7:54 PM

    I’d be curious to see what the completion statistics and yards per attempt for Roethlisberger are for attempts where he held the ball over 3 seconds.
    It may not be flattering but I’m curious.

  14. burntorangehorn says: Feb 23, 2011 7:57 PM

    Slow receivers who are open are still open, and the Ravens’ receivers are pretty good at getting open despite their lack of top-end speed. To Flacco’s (and Zorn’s) credit, though, at least Flacco cut down on a lot of much more critical mistakes than he made in the past.

  15. burntorangehorn says: Feb 23, 2011 7:57 PM

    *that he made in the past

  16. sowcrates says: Feb 23, 2011 7:59 PM

    I can’t decide what to make of this statistic.

    I think there are too many factors leading to a sack when a QB holds the ball 3+ seconds.

    -3rd and long, 4th and 12 and 4th and 17 isn’t going to make a big difference
    -WRs running deep routes
    -Play action fake (suppose they faked to a RB running a cutback or counter)
    -Designed roll-out
    -Nobody open and no room to get out of the tackle box to throw it away

    Of course, a QB failing to get the ball out on time is a factor, and I’m sure it led to some of these sacks, but that total number might not mean much.

  17. beelicker says: Feb 23, 2011 8:07 PM

    I can’t decide whether you’re worse at math or syntax. 24 + 12 =45? Roethlisberger at #2 had 12, which is fewer than the Mannings, who had 2 total (1+1)?

    I guess it’s a good thing it wasn’t a “scientific” survey … I can’t imagine how you’d even begin to process that!

    >>>Consider that Roethlisberger only took 12 sacks where he held the ball three seconds or less. That’s fewer than Eli Manning and Peyton Manning took.

    While Flacco and Roethlisberger took 45 combined sacks where they held the ball for more than three seconds, the Manning brothers only had one apiece.

  18. getweird4u says: Feb 23, 2011 8:11 PM

    Oh wait but he is a top 10 qb on his way to top 5 right…joke he and lilben hold on to the ball too long ben is just a beast to bring down,the common denominator they are both overrated because the defenses for both these teams carry them put either guy on the texans and i doubt lilbens numbers are as good as schaub and i know flaccos arent…

  19. johntonioholmes says: Feb 23, 2011 8:26 PM

    To an appreciable extent, Flacco is the victim of slow receivers. To a, perhaps, lesser extent Roethlisberger is a victim of every route being 20 yards long. The smartest thing Bruce Arians did this season was shorten up some of the routes…emphasis on some.

    Both qb’s still get the job done. At least well enough for each team to being vying for second seed in the AFC north with 1 game left to be played.

  20. laxer37 says: Feb 23, 2011 8:27 PM

    Flacco also led the league in most ridiculous uni-brow.

  21. 7370355q says: Feb 23, 2011 8:27 PM

    Why does Joe get dissected more than any other young qb in the nfl, when he is either equal or better than the other trio of ryan, freeman, and sanchez statistically and/or in terms of winning?

  22. johntonioholmes says: Feb 23, 2011 8:30 PM

    That should be second see in the AFC (get rid of the word north).

  23. 7370355q says: Feb 23, 2011 8:32 PM

    People may reject this comment but Flacco is developing very similar characteristics to that of Roethlisberger, in that he holds the ball and shrugs off tacklers much like Roethlisberger in order to buy time for his receivers to get open. I saw that a lot more from Joe this season.

  24. commandercornpone says: Feb 23, 2011 8:50 PM

    his wideouts dont get open.

    and if open, they dont stay open.

  25. touchdownroddywhite says: Feb 23, 2011 9:10 PM

    I like Flacco, but I can understand why the Ravens are threatening to go QB in the draft.

  26. bullybirds says: Feb 23, 2011 9:14 PM

    Flacco in Cams system doesn’t have any short throws (Air Coryell). Put him with three possession WR’s and a suspect OL missing its best tackle, you get held passes. In other news the kid is tough as nails by missing no starts, but getting hammered every game isn’t a stat.

  27. nevermore52 says: Feb 23, 2011 9:17 PM

    How about this – The kid just wins – He has an awesome laid back demeanor (see Joe Montana), he’s tough as nails (zero missed starts in 3 seasons), he has a rocket launcher for an arm and he’s played in the most hard hitting division in the entire NFL for his entire career – I think it’s about time all the nit-pickers cut the guy some slack and realize that he’s one of the next great QBs in the league and he’s going to be winning playoff games and maybe SuperBowls for the next 10 years or more…

  28. rcunningham says: Feb 23, 2011 9:23 PM

    So you’re calling him the next Drew Bledsoe?

  29. palinforpresidentofnorthkorea says: Feb 23, 2011 9:25 PM

    Flacco did exactly what Cam Cameron told him to do.

    Did the “brilliant researchers” miss that possibility?

  30. jhorton83 says: Feb 23, 2011 9:35 PM

    Jason Campbell would have led this category if he had played the entire year. He still came in 5th despite splitting time with Gradkowski. I could cook a meal in the amount of time it takes him to throw the football. And then when he finally does, it’s usually a checkdown pass.

  31. qj1984 says: Feb 23, 2011 9:37 PM

    This is stupid. Holding the ball to long does not always equal over 3 seconds. A better thing to watch for would be when the first rusher is let go by the OL or the rusher is in the backfield without the risk of being impeded by a blocker.

    If the OL can give the QB 4 or 5 seconds to throw the ball, not saying the Ravens or Steelers OL did consistantly, why wouldnt the QB hold the ball longer than 3 seconds.

  32. sportsjustice says: Feb 23, 2011 9:43 PM

    I’ve said it once and I’ll say it again, Joe Flacco is Drew Bledsoe 2.0 he’s a little faster, but still Drew Bledsoe none the less. Bledsoe wasn’t bad, he was among the best who played in the 1990’s. But he was never special and Joe Flacco is remarkably as unspecial.

  33. leksington says: Feb 23, 2011 9:46 PM

    A QB in an Air Coryell offense is going to hang on to the ball longer then a QB in almost any other system.

    Only a idiot would blame the QB for holding on the ball, without looking to see how often he is asked to make a 7 step drop or an elaborate playfake.

    Flacco may lead the league in seconds holding the ball, but I bet he also leads the league in 7 step drops.

  34. skinsdiehard says: Feb 23, 2011 9:48 PM

    Not surprised to see Jason Campbell on this list. Thank god he is gone.

  35. ggbblue says: Feb 23, 2011 9:59 PM

    @rooneyusa, Or maybe, just maybe, Ben and Flacco should learn to read the freaking defenses better and faster!

    “Getting rid of the ball is definitely a skill. Consider that Roethlisberger only took 12 sacks where he held the ball three seconds or less. That’s fewer than Eli Manning and Peyton Manning took.”

    Faulty logic there, Rosenthal, considering that Ben–being one of the QB’s that holds the ball way too long–probably threw it within 3 seconds A LOT LESS TIMES than BOTH Mannings who BOTH threw for over 4000 yards.

  36. snukenukem says: Feb 23, 2011 10:22 PM

    Lmfao what’s the problem 4/5 of that top 5 were in the playoffs and had good years

  37. zaarnak says: Feb 23, 2011 11:09 PM

    During some of the games I watched this past season, I thought that Flacco was somewhat bewildered by the action unfolding before him. I wonder how fast he thinks and decides. If he can correct that, it would make all the difference, no matter how slow his receivers are.

  38. 7370355q says: Feb 23, 2011 11:28 PM


    The Ravens aren’t threatening to go QB in the draft, the Ravens front office and coaches love Flacco and how he’s performed. The only reason they would draft one would be for backup purposes since marc bulger may leave for a starters position since he won’t get it in Baltimore.

  39. roscoepcoaltrain86 says: Feb 24, 2011 12:29 AM

    This disturbed me as a chief fan. Because I’m feeling like the connection is Jim zorn. Who the chiefs just hired. Flacco and Campbell both students of zorn. Cassel holds on to the ball enough on his own. He doesn’t need Zorn to teach him that. My oh my we better land another WR to even this crap out.

  40. realfootballfan says: Feb 24, 2011 1:06 AM

    Funny, before I saw Roethlisberger as number 2 on the list, I was going to write up a comment that of course Flacco holds it too long since he’s Roethlisberger Jr. on the field….minus the big wins. It’s no wonder he can’t beat him head to head.

  41. msadpoet says: Feb 24, 2011 1:58 AM

    There is only one stat. And that is wins. If the team wins everything else is just not that important.

  42. timegambit says: Feb 24, 2011 2:40 AM

    If Favre had held this record the Vikings would be champions!

  43. xtb3 says: Feb 24, 2011 4:34 AM

    In the final regular season game with the Steelers had Flacco would have just held ON to the ball (or threw it away)with 2 minutes left when he dropped back 20 yards from midfield in a game the Ravens easily were on their way to winning, the Ravens would have won the division and everything else might have ended up so different.

  44. bucks12965 says: Feb 24, 2011 5:55 AM

    must have been Zorn’s fault

  45. coopsxx says: Feb 24, 2011 6:59 AM

    Freeman’s 19 sacks is damn impressive behind that O-line.

  46. heyzeus143 says: Feb 24, 2011 9:08 AM


  47. dukemarc says: Feb 24, 2011 9:35 AM

    Flacco should take a look at tape of Aaron Rodgers from 2009 to 2010. More than likely he needs to make quicker decisions on his pre-snap reads. That might have been the biggest improvement in Rodgers game this past season.

  48. PCa Survivor says: Feb 24, 2011 11:08 AM

    rooneyusa says:
    Feb 23, 2011 7:30 PM

    “Flacco and Roethlisberger’s combined interceptions were less than either Manning. Maybe the Mannings shouldn’t be afraid to get hit.”

    Perhaps one of the best comments ever on PFT. Surprised it wasn’t deleted.

  49. roflcoptermason says: Feb 24, 2011 12:47 PM

    I’m a steelers fan and ben drives me nuts sometimes. But usually he gets it done. USUALLY! super bowl xlv doesnt count <.< (and screw william gay btw) but I always hate playing flacco. It seems like our linebackers rough him up yet he never gets hurt! Anyway flacco is without a doubt way better than freeman ryan and sanchez. Really who cares how long him and ben hold the ball. Cause both teams were 12-4 this year and dominated in the playoffs. As long as they win. It's not a problem.

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