FanPost

Clutch Differential -- It's all about the W's

"Winning isn't everything, it's the only thing."

It's amazing how many people seem to think that they are somehow achieving excellence by merely repeating that mantra about other people's achievements. I take great exception to the people that seem to think they are somehow superior because they only cheer for champions and consider everyone else chumps. We have a word for those people-- "bandwagoners". The worship of the cult of success can be a frightening thing in its extremes and as much as I think the world can always use a good dose of Ayn Rand, there's no denying that objectivist philosophy can get a little scary, and perhaps no more so than when people confuse deriding and denigrating others' lack of achievement with obtaining their own.

Nonetheless, there is a point underlying their madness: no amount of statistical success, flashy moves, or style points can ever overcome a Loss. At the end of the day, success or failure comes down to one, and only one, thing: did you achieve your goal?

With that in mind I am taking another look at "clutch quarterbacking", from a very simple perspective. I have done a statistical analysis of the number of games a QB has lost by error compared to the number of games won by key performance in tight situations.

In the one corner I am using the Pro-Football-Reference.com play index to look at all 4th qtr/OT turnovers occurring with +/-8 points of score differential in which the game was lost. While this is not a specific "this turnover caused that score" measurement, I think it's fair to say that if you turn the ball over in the 4th qtr of a one score game, you've probably caused the loss. Another weakness of this measurement is that it is, of course, possible that a QB may have turned the ball over multiple times in the 4th qtr of a one score game (Romo's fumble and INT against the Jets, for example), but I believe that treating each turnover as a "game lost" simply balances things by giving more weight to drastic "meltdown" type games.

For the positive side, I took two different measurements: 4th qtr comebacks and game winning drives. Both are times when a QB has stepped up and taken control of a game to put his team in the win column. I would've just used game winning drives, but I believe there's an implication shown by 4th Qtr comeback numbers-- to wit, QBs with weaker defensive teams have most of their game winning drives as 4th qtr comebacks.

After getting raw numbers, I subtracted games "lost" from games "won" to get a differential. I think the total differential is useful for ranking career achievement, and longevity counts. To normalize the stat, however, all that needs to be done is divide by career starts to get a per game effect, which is basically a difference between the percentage of games "won" and games "lost" by the QB, presuming other games to be more a matter of team play.

I looked at 13 QBs generally considered to be in the top half of the NFL right now, but left out recent QBs like Newton, Luck, and RGIII because I felt their careers were too recent to have balanced numbers.

Here are my results:

GWD differential, raw:

  1. P. Manning +26
  2. Brady +20
  3. Ryan +17
  4. E. Manning +12
  5. Roethlisberger +11
  6. Brees +10
  7. Romo +7
  8. Stafford +6
  9. Cutler +5
  10. Flacco +4
  11. Schaub +2
  12. Rodgers +1
  13. Rivers -7

GWD differential, normalized:

  1. Ryan, +22.1%
  2. Stafford +13.6%
  3. P. Manning +12.5%
  4. Brady +11.4%
  5. E. Manning +8.8%
  6. Roethlisberger +8.7%
  7. Romo +7.5%
  8. Brees +5.9%
  9. Cutler +5.3%
  10. Flacco +5.0%
  11. Schaub +2.3%
  12. Rodgers +1.2%
  13. Rivers -5.9%

4QC differential, raw:

  1. P. Manning +15
  2. Ryan +10
  3. Brady +9
  4. E. Manning +8
  5. Romo +6
  6. Stafford +5
  7. Roethlisberger +4
  8. Cutler +1
  9. Brees -1
  10. Flacco -1
  11. Schaub -1
  12. Rodgers -3
  13. Rivers -10

4QC differential, normalized:

  1. Ryan +13.0%
  2. Stafford +11.3%
  3. P. Manning +7.8%
  4. Romo +6.5%
  5. E. Manning +5.9%
  6. Brady +5.1%
  7. Roethlisberger +3.2%
  8. Cutler +1.1%
  9. Brees -0.6%
  10. Flacco -1.2%
  11. Schaub -1.2%
  12. Rodgers -3.8%
  13. Rivers -8.9%

I am not one to say that "clutch" is the be all and end all of Quarterbacking. For example, I am consistently amazed by just how good a QB Aaron Rodgers is and I still believe he's the best QB in the game today, despite the fact that he actually shows very poorly on this list. I think it's explained by the fact that he simply doesn't play many close games, and when you look at his overall QB play, especially his TD/INT ratio (which is ludicrously high) it's easy to see that his excellence is a great part of the reason he has such mediocre "clutch" numbers--- he usually wins games well before the 4th Qtr, and a tendency to play with a lead, especially a larger lead, is not at ALL a bad thing.


But if you are really into the crunch time saga of the QB putting the team on his shoulders to win (or choke away) the game, I think these are numbers that will interest you.

Another user-created commentary provided by a BTB reader.

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