NFL quarterbacks and the fine line between between lucky and clutch-y
Cold, Hard Football Facts for Feb 06, 2011
By Nate Dunlevy
Cold, Hard Football Facts Roman numerologist
Update: This piece originally ran back in October. Ironically, Aaron Rodgers, the original inspiration, was voted the Most Valuable Players of the Super Bowl on Sunday. This is ironic, because just a few months ago, many were ripping Rodgers for not playing well in the clutch. The Cold Hard Football Facts leapt to his defense, showing that he had played well in close losses, and that there's a lot of luck to winning close games.
Since this piece ran, Rodgers' Packers went 4-2 in one-score games, and he had a passer rating of 101.2 in those contests. Three of those wins came in the playoffs. This performance raised his overall record in close games to 11-16. No one questions his "clutchness" any more. He got it done on the biggest of big stages.
Ben Roethlisberger, on the other hand, had a reputation for clutch performance spring up overnight. Analysts, at a loss to reconcile his poor play with the fact that Steelers kept winning, created a myth that he possessed some special ability to raise his play at the end of games. The Cold, Hard Football Facts perpetuated this story, too.
It no longer mattered how poorly Ben played all game long, he'd get it done when it counted. That was theh storyline. It would have been easier just to say that the Steelers were winning thanks to their defense, but the media loves to give quarterbacks all the credit.
The result was a slew of talking heads spouting about how if they had to pick one player to win one game with one drive, it would be Roethlisberger (CHFF never went that far). It was a stunning turn around, considering that no one would have mentioned him six months ago as the most "clutch" player in the league.
It was all put to the ultimate test on Sunday night. In the end, it proved to be utterly false. Roethlisberger had his chance to win the Super Bowl with a clutch drive, but completed just 2 of 5 passes and turned the ball over on downs.
The result shouldn't have been a surprise. Since this piece first posted, the Steelers went 4-2 in close games (2-1 in the playoffs), but Roethlisberger did not play well, putting up a rating of just 77.8 in those games. He now stands just 25-21 in close games for his career, lagging well behind the only two men who have consistently won tight games since 2005: Peyton Manning (39-14) and Tom Brady (23-12). Roethlisberger, like most of the best signal callers around, is little more than a coin flip to win if the score is close.
In Super Bowl XLIII, he got it done. In Super Bowl XLV, he didn't. As this piece shows, that's how it works for most guys in the NFL. Sometimes you get it done, sometimes you don't.
Winning close games in the NFL still appears to be mostly about luck. Aaron Rodgers finally got some breaks to go his way, and now he's a Super Bowl champion. As for Ben Roethlisberger, we've lost track ... is he clutch or not? The numbers say he's neither. He's just your typical elite quarterback. He's wins some, and he loses some.
As for the media who creates these myths, don't worry about them. They've named Rodgers the best quarterback in the game, because he's right now. Last week, it was Roethlisberger. Last month, it was Tom Brady. A year ago, it was Drew Brees. The week before that it was Peyton Manning. Next year, it will be someone else.
They won't let the Cold Hard Facts stop them from telling us who is and isn't clutch.
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