The sack may be the most depressing end to a down in the game of football — at least for the offensive line, quarterback, and the rest of that team’s fans and supporters — save perhaps death, grievous injury, or the appearance of Bob Costas. In the clinical sense, it’s a loss of yardage, putting a team farther away from the end zone than it was at the start.
In the emotional sense, it means that the defense has successfully rattled the quarterback, as well as the offensive coordinator and the O-line. Protecting the ball — and by extension, the guy who throws the ball — is of paramount importance toward winning football games. The sack is the utter antithesis of that.
It’s hard to see how a team that lets its quarterback get sacked with any kind of frequency can mount a serious attempt at making it all the way to the Super Bowl — it’s part of the reason Denver was willing to entertain signing Richie Incognito — and that makes perfect sense. If you can’t keep your signal caller upright, how can you put points on the board?
And so, here we are, examining the most-sacked quarterbacks through Week 14. All data are courtesy of Pro-Football-Reference.
7. Russell Wilson, sacked 33 times
The Seahawks are 9-4 and are hanging out on the outskirts of the playoffs, looking in. You could say that part of the reason for their relative failure — at least, compared to their Super Bowl-winning year a season ago — has been that Russell Wilson is getting knocked down more than usual. His 2014 numbers are already matching his total from 2012, but he’s still sitting at 11 sacks below his total from last season. The jury, as it were, is out.
6. Ryan Tannehill, sacked 34 times
The Miami Dolphins, by contrast, are not a particularly excellent NFL team, even if they have been a pleasant surprise up to this point in the season, with a shot at finishing out the year above .500 for the first time since 2008. While the Dolphins haven’t indicated whether they have faith in Ryan Tannehill as their long-term starter, they’re not doing a particularly good job of keeping him out of harm’s way.
5. Cam Newton, sacked 36 times
Before the season started, we found ourselves in a conversation with some friends about whom Cam Newton was going to throw to, now that he’d lost Steve Smith to Baltimore and Brandon LaFell to New England. Could he, we wondered, be allowed to throw the ball down the field and then run out and try to catch it? (Note: this is against the rules in professional football.) Either way, Newton hasn’t had much time to think about the fact that no one has ever heard of his receiving corps, because he’s spent much of the last season in poses like the one you see above.
4. Alex Smith and Blake Bortles [tie], each sacked 38 times
This is a tie neither player is in much of a rush to break. Bortles, the rookie quarterback in Jacksonville, technically has the edge (which is bad) in this matchup, since he’s only started 10 games to Smith’s 13. This makes sense, because the Jaguars are still struggling to reach the competency of Kansas City. Neither team is slated to make much, if any, noise in the playoffs. Stop snickering, please.
2. Matthew Stafford, sacked 39 times
In some ways, this has not been an awesome year for Matt Stafford, and a lot of that has to be laid at the feet of the laid-up Calvin Johnson, although he’s not to blame for Stafford’s penchant for getting laid out this season. Second only to another wunderkind quarterback (although Matty S. definitely has more of a “rocket arm”), in fact. Despite that, the Lions have posted a 9-4 record as of this writing and are quietly putting together one of their best seasons in years.
1. Colin Kaepernick, sacked 43 times
Poor Colin Kaepernick. Not only did he suffer the indignity of losing to the Oakland Raiders and the indignity of (probably) losing video games to Russell Wilson, as well as the looming indignity of losing the only good head coach he’s ever known, but he’s also getting tossed around like a rag doll out there. Now he’s getting called a chump by relatively unknown linemen and watching his playoff dreams get dragged through the mud. Which is appropriate, because he’s also being dragged through that very same mud. Sometimes it’s grass, too.