When the idea for Sackwatch was pitched to me after the 2010 season (thanks Kev), the reason I found it so fascinating was that I’d be able to put what I long suspected — the offensive line isn’t always to blame — and have some data to back it up. I quickly had that notion validated after looking at the film from week one of the 2011 season when sack number 4 was the fault of the quarterback, and sack number 5 wasn’t anyone’s fault.
After my first year breaking down each sack the Chicago Bears allowed on a weekly basis, someone suggested to me that I keep a running tally of where the specific blame lies on every sack. So with the 2012 season I started doing just that, and if you want to see how each Sackwatch ended up from that season through this season you can check out this spreadsheet I did in Google.
The reason I finally decided to get all that data in one place is because I asked Jeff Berckes, the architect of our our Visualize this series here on WCG, to take all my data and work up something fun.
JB gave us a few graphics and I wanted to share them all here...
First the pie chart, because I love pie.
In 10 years of data the five offensive linemen have been responsible for less than 50% of the total sacks allowed, with the quarterbacks making up nearly a quarter of the blame.
Those in-the-know say that a sack is a QB stat, and considering they have final say to set the pass protection if they see something up front they don’t like, and are responsible for the free rusher, I agree.
JB called this next graph a donut, and who doesn't love a good donut?
The Sacks Happen category has been my catch-all for anything that isn’t the fault of a specific offensive player. Defensive coaches are paid handsomely too, so sometimes they scheme up a blitz that an offense isn’t ready for or the secondary locks everyone down.
Other times the offensive play call is just so god-awfully bad that it’s doomed for failure (thanks Matt Nagy).
And then we can’t fault a QB for making the smart play of taking a dive to keep the clock moving in a close game, so those go in Sacks Happen too.
This seasonal bar graph showing the position groups responsible each season was interesting.
For those wondering, that 2013 o-line that only allowed 9.75 sacks was from left to right; Jermon Bushrod, Matt Slauson, Roberto Garza, and rookies Kyle Long and Jordan Mills, and all 5 of them started every single game that season.
Jeff color coded this last one by showing which players were good, average, or bad in a given season by position.
From an individual standpoint, Sacks Happen has been responsible for the most sacks in the 10 years of tracking data with 74 sacks allowed (7.4 per year), which makes sense as that’s the only “individual” that showed up each season.
Here’s the top 10 players most responsible for the sacks from 2012 through 2021.
Player - Sacks - Average per season
- Mitchell Trubisky - 28 - 7.0
- Jay Cutler - 27 - 5.4
- Charles Leno Jr. - 25.83 - 4.3*
- Bobby Massie - 14.83 - 3.0
- Cody Whitehair - 14 - 2.3
- Kyle Long - 13.59 - 1.9**
- Matt Forte - 13.5 - 3.4
- Jordan Mills - 9.25 - 4.6
- Justin Fields - 9 - 9.0
- Jermon Bushrod - 9 - 3.0***
* I only counted Leno’s average for the 6 seasons he started.
** Long only played in 30 total games from 2016 to 2019.
*** Bushrod only had 4 starts his final year in Chicago (2015).
Here are the top 5 worst player seasons in Sackwatch.
Player - Sacks - Year
- Mitch Trubisky - 15 - 2019
- Jay Cutler - 11 - 2012
- Justin Fields - 9 - 2021
- Cabe Carimi - 7 - 2012
- Kyle Long - 6.84 - 2015
There were a few offensive linemen that didn't give up a single sack in a season that I tracked and I wanted to point those out.
- Kyle Long had no sacks allowed in 2014 (15 starts) or 2016 (8 starts).
- James Daniels gave up no sacks as a rookie in 2018 (10 starts).
- Josh Sitton had no sacks allowed his first year in Chicago (2016) in 12 starts.
Center Roberto Garza allowed just a quarter of a sack in 2013 while starting all 16 games.
Any of the numbers in the Sackwatch stand out to you guys?
I know my individual total is off by a half a sack, and I can only imagine at some point there was either a half sack that befuddled me to the point I didn’t assign it, or I refused to place blame for some other strange arbitrary reason that made sense to me at the time.
I also have it on my to-do list this offseason to go back and individually chart all of the 2011 season, which is bad news for J’Marcus Webb.