That's undoubtedly true, but it's also something that is rarely studied. So to get a better idea this year as part of the weekly looks at line play, I'm logging the time the quarterback had for every sack. The time is measured from the snap to the point where the quarterback is first hit (even if the quarterback shrugs off the first hit, it's fair to say that the play has broken down at that point). In general, the average sack occurs around 2.7 to 2.8 seconds after the snap of the ball. Consider that the internal clock a quarterback must have--while the timing can depend somewhat on whether it's a four-man rush or an all-out blitz, in general if a quarterback holds the ball for more than three seconds, he's in trouble. If he gets rid of it in less than 2.5 seconds, he will rarely find himself on his back.
|The 10 quarterbacks who have held the ball the longest on their sacks|
Time Of Sack
|GETTING RID OF IT
|The 10 quarterbacks who have held the ball the shortest on their sacks|
Time Of Sack
For now, the numbers are very much affected by small sample size -- Brady Quinn's decision to hold the ball for an amazing 8.28 seconds before being sacked against the Vikings skewed his stats, although he also has three other sacks where he held the ball for more than three seconds.
But while these stats will become more useful as the season moves along, it's still worth sharing them, partly to note who doesn't show up on the top 10 or the bottom 10. For all the talk about Roethlisberger's tendency to hold the ball forever, he ranks in the middle of the pack with an average time of sack of 2.9 seconds, which ranks 19th out of the 33 quarterbacks who have been sacked this season (wide receiver Antwaan Randle El was sacked, but I'm not counting him since it was a gadget play).
Looking at the stats, Carson Palmer and Marc Bulger come across as the quarterbacks who have been the most under fire. Three of Bulger's four sacks came on plays where he was hit less than 2.5 seconds after he took the snap, while two of Palmer's five sacks came less than two seconds after the snap. Only one of Palmer's five sacks took longer than three seconds.
And for all of the complaints about Byron Leftwitch's extremely long throwing motion he's only been sacked twice, and in both cases he was hit less than 2.5 seconds after the snap.