FanPost

Ball speed vs arm-strength/throwing distance (more of a question)

Unless there is an organized QB challenge where all the (NFL) QBs throw for distance, it would be difficult to give an accurately ordered list of the "strongest arms" in the NFL. However, I've been doing some research and have found some reliable numbers (or at least consistent on the internet) on the MPH of throws (by radar gun) from the NFL combine. Note: I do not know the details on how it was measured. Whether it was done while the QBs were performing specific passing drills, or if it was isolated and they were told to throw as hard/fast as possible. If the former, I might imagine the strongest arm QBs might not have been going at 100%, while weaker armed QBs might have been, making the MPH reading not quite an accurate comparison.

What my question is -- are these 2 things (ball speed vs arm-strength/distance thrown) unrelated? Or CAN they be unrelated? I ask because I've encountered some interesting results and am having a block on how they could be unrelated. That is, I would expect since the balls are the same size/weight, and if the release angle was the same, that the faster traveling ball would travel further -- and thus we would label that passer as having the stronger arm. (ie: higher MPH = stronger arm).

Often it holds up, like Jay Cutler throwing 60mph & also having one of the strongest arms (proven on the field)....but not always. The example that caused me the confusion was of 2011 QBs. Andy Dalton was listed as having a 56mph pass. This was the same speed as Cam Newton, and 2 MPH faster than Jake Locker (a noted strong armed passer, also a fast pitcher in baseball. Though I will say observed inconsistencies in Locker's footwork (a "baseball stance") may have reduced his throwing ability at the combine). Everything I saw/read prior to the 2011 draft said that Dalton had an "ok" arm, but was going to find his success on his decision-making & accuracy. On the other hand, it would not be crazy to describe Newton & Locker's arms as "cannons".

So...does Dalton actually have a pretty strong arm & many scouts were wrong, or is there someway that ball speed & arm-strength/distance thrown can be unrelated? My only guess (^besides the "not going 100%" thing) is a loop-hole of sorts, that the "known" strong-armed QBs are able to consistently achieve those MPH even throwing off their back foot, on the run, etc, because they can generate the force with just their torso/arm/shoulder. While the "average or less" armed QBs need to have their feet perfectly set & go through the whole "wind-up" of a throw.

I just have to think either Andy Dalton (& other QBs) does have a strong arm, or the MPH reading for the strong-armed QBs aren't their max. Because on the field you can see a difference. The max I've seen Philip Rivers (known not-strong-arm) throw it (in-game) was about 60-63 yards in the air, and he needed a perfect wind-up and angle/arc. While physics alone says Cutler's 60mph pass can ideally travel 81 yards in the air. Then you have those feats like Kyle Boller or Jamarcus Russel throwing huge distances from their knee/butt. Can anyone explain this "Dalton Inconsistency"?

Some extra examples:
Colt McCoy (noted "weaker armed" passer in reports): 56mph (this one came from Sports Science, so I know it's accurate)

Joe Flacco (noted strong armed QB) 55mph
Flacco threw it 74 yards in a college QB challenge (and claimed he'd thrown 80 before), which in a ballistics equation equates to 57.3 MPH (this one makes me think the strong-armed QBs aren't showing their full potential to the radar gun. The McCoy one is still confusing because I've never heard him described as having an arm anywhere near as strong as Flacco's).

Mark Sanchez: 57mph - faster than Flacco & Cam Newton...this just doesn't seem right.

John Skelton (known huge arm) - 50mph, but on (ESPN's) Sports Science he was measured at 61mph (makes more sense). This one definitely is making me lean towards the "they're just randomly radar-ing passes at the combine and the cannon armed guys aren't going all-out" theory.

UPDATE: I found an old Ravens.com blog-entry that said Flacco was actually measured at 58MPH at the combine, which while only 3mph diff, just compared to other QBs this makes more sense to me. Joe said in the interview for the piece that they threw off of 3-step drops, so the throw wasn't as hard as it could be off a 5 or 7-step drop - while I've never played football myself, I would imagine the drops wouldn't matter in a in-shorts situation. That you only drop deeper to get further back from the pass-rush (for more time), but at the combine it wouldn't matter (though it especially doesn't matter if all QBs were doing 3-steps, making it equal........unless the canon-armed QBs would be more limited by this (if a 5/7 wouldn't make much more diff. for the weaker arms...but I digress).

This FanPost was written by a member of the Bolts From The Blue community and does not necessarily reflect the views of the Bolts From The Blue editors or SB Nation.

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