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The best and worst NFC quarterbacks against major coverage schemes in 2020: Aaron Rodgers, Tom Brady and more

Dec 20, 2020; Atlanta, Georgia, USA; Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady (12) throws a pass against the Atlanta Falcons in the second half of a NFL game at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

Before the 2021 NFL season kicks off, let’s do one final review of the 2020 season at the quarterback position. We'll be giving out quarterback superlatives for each team’s main starting quarterback from the 2020 season, split by conference.

Today, we will be looking at NFC starters from last season. Specifically, we'll examine quarterback play versus each type of coverage, quarterback play for different formation types and quarterback play under pressure.

Let’s first look at which quarterbacks were the best versus each zone coverage. To measure this, we will use each quarterback's average expected points added (EPA) mark versus each coverage. The four coverages used in this analysis are Cover 2, Cover 3, Cover 4 and Cover 6. Cover 3 Seam was incorporated into Cover 3 for clarity and because of how similar each coverage is.

Cover 2

Top 3 Quarterbacks
  1. Jimmy Garoppolo, San Francisco 49ers
  2. Tom Brady, New England Patriots
  3. Matt Ryan, Atlanta Falcons
Bottom 3 Quarterbacks
  1. Jared Goff, Los Angeles Rams (now Detroit Lions)
  2. Dak Prescott, Dallas Cowboys
  3. Kirk Cousins, Minnesota Vikings

Garoppolo finds himself atop the Cover 2 leaderboard, but he took the fewest such dropbacks (10), which makes it hard to truly assess his play. Brady being at No. 2 does confirm the idea he had a very good year in Bruce Arians' vertical passing scheme. Because the holes in Cover 2 are behind the cornerbacks on the sideline and splitting the safeties behind the middle linebacker, Brady had to be precise with his throws and possess touch on the ball. 

On the flip side, it wasn’t surprising that two quarterbacks who play in an outside zone scheme found themselves in the bottom three. Both Goff and Cousins excel at using play-action bootlegs, which work versus single-high safety coverage but not necessarily versus split safety coverages.

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