Best and Worst Quarterback Records in the Clutch Adjusted For Strength of Schedule

Cold, Hard Football Facts for Nov 02, 2012



By Scott Kacsmar

Cold Hard Football Facts’ Comeback King (@CaptainComeback)

This week a fan asked on Twitter what Tony Romo’s record was in fourth-quarter comeback opportunities against teams who were .500 or better.

Comebacks are great, but there is something more special about doing it against a quality opponent. Any type of win over a winning team feels better.

After the latest failure against the Giants, Romo is 6-18 (.250) at comebacks against teams who are .500 or better.

Obviously that does not look very good, but we had nothing to compare it to. Is it the worst record? Your gut, digesting the Captain’s weekly data, should tell you it’s probably Aaron Rodgers or Cam Newton with the worst record.

Well after compiling 807 comeback opportunities for 25 active starting quarterbacks, we now have some data to look at.

Originally a personal punt protector was included in the list, but He was removed for data integrity (and our sanity). The only teams excluded are the five starting rookies, and the two with small-sample sophomores (Blaine Gabbert and Christian Ponder).

Sure enough, the worst records for fourth quarter comeback opportunities against .500+ teams belong to Aaron Rodgers (0-17) and Cam Newton (0-10).

While these records are obviously far from providing the full picture, they do help paint it with more context into why certain players are viewed as being “clutch” or not.

 

The Data

Before the season started we looked at a list of records in the clutch for active quarterbacks. Building off of that an updated list as current as today (November 2, 2012), here is where the 25 chosen quarterbacks stand in fourth-quarter comeback opportunities.

 

Strength of schedule

They are sorted by new data for the strength of schedule (SOS). This is simply the combined regular season record for the opponent in each of the quarterback’s comeback opportunities. Halves are indeed the result of a few pesky ties.

 

Career 4QC Opportunities

Strength of Schedule

QB

4QC Wins

4QC Losses

Pct.

Opp. W

Opp. L

Pct.

Joe Flacco

7

17

0.292

232

135

0.632

Eli Manning

24

24

0.500

455.5

268.5

0.629

Cam Newton

1

13

0.071

105

75

0.583

Matt Schaub

7

21

0.250

260

188

0.580

Peyton Manning

37

44

0.457

718

552

0.565

Michael Vick

12.5

25.5

0.329

317.5

256.5

0.553

Carson Palmer

13

38

0.255

436

353

0.553

Ryan Fitzpatrick

5

20

0.200

212

172

0.552

Aaron Rodgers

4

21

0.160

202

164

0.552

Tom Brady

26

21

0.553

401

327

0.551

Andy Dalton

4

8

0.333

91

75

0.548

Drew Brees

20

36

0.357

471

392

0.546

Philip Rivers

13

31

0.295

370

308

0.546

Ben Roethlisberger

21

26

0.447

392.5

333.5

0.541

Mark Sanchez

10

15

0.400

201

173

0.537

Matt Ryan

13

11

0.542

197

170

0.537

Tony Romo

14

22

0.389

292.5

257.5

0.532

Matt Hasselbeck

16

29

0.356

368

334

0.524

Josh Freeman

8

15

0.348

175

159

0.524

Alex Smith

10

15

0.400

209

191

0.523

Jay Cutler

13

15

0.464

216

223

0.492

Matthew Stafford

8

8

0.500

105

110

0.488

Kevin Kolb

4

9

0.308

87

95

0.478

Matt Cassel

6

15

0.286

144

174

0.453

Sam Bradford

2

9

0.182

61

80

0.433

TOT/AVG

298.5

508.5

0.370

6719

5566

0.547

Again, practically every quarterback has game(s) from 2012, and those records are updated through the first game of Week 9. This data will continue to change each week, though not drastically.

Only five of the quarterbacks have had a SOS against teams under .500. That can help explain why the general public may not be too aware or receptive to the thought that Matthew Stafford and Jay Cutler are great in the clutch, though it sure does fuel the fire that Matt Cassel and Sam Bradford have issues.

If nothing else, this tells us that the average fourth-quarter comeback opportunity occurs against a team with a winning record (.547). Probably already assumed, but good to see the data bear it out.

 

Strength of victory

That was the record and the overall strength of schedule, so let’s look at the caliber of opponent the quarterback was beating for their fourth quarter comeback wins. This is the strength of victory (SOV).

 

4QC Oppt.

Strength of Victory

QB

Opp. W

Opp. L

Pct.

Eli Manning

209.5

148.5

0.585

Michael Vick

92

75

0.551

Joe Flacco

55

49

0.529

Tom Brady

215

193

0.527

Drew Brees

162

150

0.519

Alex Smith

82

78

0.513

Peyton Manning

293

282

0.510

Ben Roethlisberger

161

166

0.492

Matt Hasselbeck

112

126

0.471

Kevin Kolb

22

25

0.468

Tony Romo

100.5

114.5

0.467

Mark Sanchez

70

81

0.464

Matt Ryan

87

104

0.455

Matt Schaub

50

62

0.446

Carson Palmer

82

108

0.432

Ryan Fitzpatrick

34

46

0.425

Philip Rivers

88

120

0.423

Josh Freeman

54

74

0.422

Jay Cutler

83

116

0.417

Matthew Stafford

40

63

0.388

Andy Dalton

24

40

0.375

Cam Newton

5

11

0.313

Sam Bradford

7

17

0.292

Aaron Rodgers

16

39

0.291

Matt Cassel

24

63

0.276

TOT/AVG

2168

2351

0.480

Notice how some of the usual suspects with the worst overall records (Cassel, Rodgers, Newton, Bradford) show up at the bottom here with the “least impressive” wins. What would there records look like without getting past some of the chumps?

Meanwhile there’s Eli Manning (.585 SOV) coming out on top again for a list about fourth quarter comebacks. He has the volume, and does it against some of the best teams in the league.

 

Records vs. best and worst teams

Here is the breakdown of how everyone has done against teams who were .500 or better, and teams who had a losing record.

 

4QC Oppt.

Versus .500+

Versus Sub-.500

QB

Opp. W

Opp. L

Pct.

Opp. W

Opp. L

Pct.

Kevin Kolb

3

3

0.500

1

6

0.143

Tom Brady

16

17

0.485

10

4

0.714

Eli Manning

15

20

0.429

9

4

0.692

Peyton Manning

25

35

0.417

12

9

0.571

Alex Smith

7

10

0.412

3

5

0.375

Ben Roethlisberger

13

21

0.382

8

5

0.615

Matt Ryan

6

10

0.375

7

1

0.875

Matthew Stafford

3

5

0.375

5

3

0.625

Matt Hasselbeck

10

19

0.345

6

10

0.375

Jay Cutler

5

10

0.333

8

5

0.615

Mark Sanchez

5

10

0.333

5

5

0.500

Michael Vick

8.5

18.5

0.315

4

7

0.364

Drew Brees

12

27

0.308

8

9

0.471

Joe Flacco

5

14

0.263

2

3

0.400

Tony Romo

6

18

0.250

8

4

0.667

Philip Rivers

7

24

0.226

6

7

0.462

Carson Palmer

7

27

0.206

6

11

0.353

Josh Freeman

2

10

0.167

6

5

0.545

Matt Schaub

3

18

0.143

4

3

0.571

Andy Dalton

1

7

0.125

3

1

0.750

Ryan Fitzpatrick

2

15

0.118

3

5

0.375

Matt Cassel

1

11

0.083

5

4

0.556

Sam Bradford

0

4

0.000

2

5

0.286

Cam Newton

0

10

0.000

1

3

0.250

Aaron Rodgers

0

17

0.000

4

4

0.500

TOT/AVG

162.5

380.5

0.299

136

128

0.515

Against the good teams, the quarterbacks won just under 30.0 percent of the time. Against losing teams, it has been 51.5 percent. That makes sense.

While you might think a one-score game can go either way in the fourth quarter regardless of opponent, we still see the good teams prevail over 20 percent more often than losing teams. Remember, this can be about a drive with 15 minutes left in the game.

It is uncertain what would happen if we broke the games down into drives that only happened in the final five or even two minutes. With a lesser margin for error, would we see the gap for winning percentage close between the good teams and bad teams? In the future, this will be answered definitively.

More on Kevin Kolb later, but with Tom Brady, the Manning brothers, Ben Roethlisberger and Matt Ryan in the top seven of the list of best records against winning teams, that gives some validation to what the record is showing.

Finally, here is a look at the largest increases in win percentage when having a comeback opportunity against a losing team compared to a non-losing team.

 

4QC Oppt.

Diff.

QB

Pct.

Andy Dalton

0.625

Matt Ryan

0.500

Aaron Rodgers

0.500

Matt Cassel

0.472

Matt Schaub

0.429

Tony Romo

0.417

Josh Freeman

0.379

Sam Bradford

0.286

Jay Cutler

0.282

Eli Manning

0.264

Ryan Fitzpatrick

0.257

Matthew Stafford

0.250

Cam Newton

0.250

Philip Rivers

0.236

Ben Roethlisberger

0.233

Tom Brady

0.229

Mark Sanchez

0.167

Drew Brees

0.163

Peyton Manning

0.155

Carson Palmer

0.147

Joe Flacco

0.137

Michael Vick

0.049

Matt Hasselbeck

0.030

Alex Smith

-0.037

Kevin Kolb

-0.357

TOT/AVG

0.242

This is not a list you want to rank too high on. You also do not want to be negative, such as Alex Smith and Kolb are. That means they somehow do better against good teams than bad teams.

Here, being average would really be ideal. That basically runs from Brady through Eli, which sounds about right.

 

Individual Observations

We will wrap up with some closer looks at the data for fourth-quarter comeback opportunities for these 25 quarterbacks.

Aaron Rodgers: What more can we say? The 0-17 record against teams .500 or better is unfathomably abysmal. It also means 17 of his 25 games have been against pretty good competition, though his overall SOS is ninth because he has had the second lowest SOV (.291). Rodgers’ four comeback wins have come against the infamous 2008 Lions (0-16), a season sweep of the 2009 Bears (7-9), and the struggling 2012 Saints (2-5).

Alex Smith: Along with Kolb, a strange split where he has a better record against good teams (7-10) than he does losing teams (3-5). Smith actually started his career 4-4 at 4QC opportunities before going 0-8. Enter Jim Harbaugh as coach last season, and Smith is 6-3 with five wins over teams .500 or better.

Andy Dalton: After starting his career 3-2, Dalton is 1-6 in his last seven opportunities.

Ben Roethlisberger: After a five-game clutch winning streak that included a win in Super Bowl XLIII and on opening night 2009, Roethlisberger is only 5-12 since then.

Cam Newton: To his credit, Newton’s historically poor 1-13 overall record could partially be explained by one of the toughest SOS’s (.583), featuring 10 teams with a .500 record or better.

Carson Palmer: He has had 4QC losing streaks of five, five, seven, and at one point from 2010-2012, 12 games in his career.

Drew Brees: A bit surprising to not see Brees’ name more prevalent in the good portions of these tables, but he has had five losing streaks of at least four games in the clutch in his career.

Eli Manning: He has been given a lot of attention as the “most clutch” quarterback in the league today, and this data helps support that notion. Consider Eli’s great 24-24 record comes with the second toughest SOS (.629) and the best SOV (.585) as he’s led comebacks over eight teams with 12 or more wins (four in the postseason).

Jay Cutler: Don’t look now, but Cutler is 6-2 at 4QC’s since 2010. Only one of those games was against a team with a winning record (2010 Packers), and it involved a Devin Hester punt return touchdown and 18 Green Bay penalties, but oh well. Cutler’s SOV (.417) is below average.

Joe Flacco: We have written in the past that Flacco deserves some more credit for his seemingly poor 4QC record. No one has had a tougher SOS (.632). Flacco started 2-11 in his career, but that was against nine playoff teams and a solid 2009 Steelers team (9-7).

Josh Freeman: Gained an early reputation for being a “comeback kid”, especially with impressive wins over the 2009 Packers and Saints. But those are Freeman’s only two wins over winning teams (2-10). He had that great 2010 season, but it did come against a lot of suspect competition. Worse, Freeman is 0-7 in his last seven comeback opportunities.

Kevin Kolb: You have seen his name show up in strange places in the tables, but it is about the small sample size. Two of his four wins over teams .500 or better have come this season against the Dolphins (4-3) and Seahawks (4-4). Both of those teams may prove to be frauds, balancing out Kolb’s records in the process.

Mark Sanchez: He started 0-5 his rookie year, but has been 10-10 since. He had a stretch in 2010-11 where he was 7-3, only bookended by losses to the future Super Bowl champion (2010 Packers, 2011 Giants). If there’s something Sanchez does a decent job at…

Matt Cassel: Good lord. Cassel’s SOV is a pathetic .276. His only win against a team better than 5-11 was over the 2009 Steelers (9-7), who had a strong habit for playing fourth-quarter leads that year. Cassel is just 1-11 against teams with a .500 record or better, yet he still has the second easiest SOS overall (.453).

Matt Hasselbeck: The forgotten veteran with some recent comebacks for the Titans, Hasselbeck has been very streaky at 4QC’s. Check out this career pattern: 0-4, 3-0, 0-11, 5-1, 0-3, 2-0, 2-2, 0-6, and 4-2.

Matt Ryan: Has gone 10-5 at 4QC’s since early in the 2010 season. Knock for no playoff wins could be translated here as he is not in the elite category for wins over the good teams. But he still finds impressive ways to win games late.

Matt Schaub: Why do people still question Schaub in the clutch? The 7-21 record is not flattering, but the 3-18 record against teams .500 or better will not sit well with people either.

Matthew Stafford: We know Stafford likes to put up big numbers when he has a clutch win, but that may also be due to the lack of good opponents he’s beaten. The SOV is only .388. None of Stafford’s eight comeback wins have been against a team currently with a winning record.

Michael Vick: Another streaky player. From 2005 to that Green Bay game in Week 1 in 2011, Vick was 0-11 at comebacks. He then went 4-0, ending with that ridiculous 21-point comeback in New York. But things hit a rough patch, going 0-5 before starting this season 3-0. Lost a comeback in Pittsburgh after the defense could not hold.

Peyton Manning: How’s our all-time record holder for 4QC look here? The fifth highest SOS (.565), Manning has played an absurd 60 games with a comeback opportunity against a .500+ team, going a strong 25-35 (.417) in the process. One of seven quarterbacks with a SOV over .500.

Philip Rivers: We have bashed Rivers for his recent decline, but he actually has always been streaky in the clutch. From 2006-2009: 0-2, 4-0, 0-5, 2-2, 0-6, 4-0, 0-2, and then a great win in New York. But starting with the playoff loss to the Jets, Rivers is only 2-14. It’s not like the schedule has been a huge factor in the 2-14. The SOS is currently at .535.

Ryan Fitzpatrick: After starting his NFL career with an incredible comeback, Fitzpatrick went 1-12. He then had a four-game stretch with three more great comeback wins, and has been 0-7 since then.

Sam Bradford: Easiest SOS (.433), yet a 2-9 record because nothing comes easy for the Rams these days. After going 0-4 his rookie season, Bradford is 2-5 since.

Tom Brady: Obviously Brady has the best overall record at 26-21, and while his SOS has been about average, his SOV (.527) is still the fourth best.  Ignoring Kolb, Brady’s 16-17 (.485) record against .500+ teams is the best in the league. The crazy part is should Seattle and Arizona continue to falter, Brady’s record there will actually improve to 16-15 seeing as how he had failed comebacks against those NFC West teams this year.

Tony Romo: Alphabetical order gets us back to where we started with this one. Romo did not slip under .500 until the playoff loss to the 2007 Giants (4-5). He has never been over .500 since, though that is hard to do. Only 5-12 in his last 17, though that included a 7-game losing streak he snapped in San Francisco last season with a great win. That means 5-5 in his last 10, even if it seems like the Cowboys always blow these games lately.

But that’s what the Cold, Hard Football Facts are for.

 

Scott Kacsmar is a football writer/researcher who has contributed large quantities of data to Pro-Football-Reference.com, including the only standardized database of fourth quarter comebacks and game-winning drives. You can visit his blog for a complete writing archive. Please send any questions or comments to Scott at smk_42@yahoo.com, or you can follow him on Twitter at @CaptainComeback.


From our partners




Join Insider Today!
Must See Videos
2014 NFL Combine Winners
2014 NFL Combine Most Impressive Performances
2014 NFL Combine Losers

Team Pages
AFC East NFC
South
North
West

Connect With Us
Sign up for our newsletter to recieve all the latest news and updates...
Privacy guaranteed. We'll never share your info.




The Football Nation Network

© Copyright 2014 Football Nation LLC. Privacy Policy & Terms of Use
Some images property of Getty Images or Icon/SMI