Two weeks ago, I began the fifth and final part to the Clutch Enigma study, a look at Peyton Manning's playoff statistics.
As many Colts' fans have been screaming for years, Manning has been one of the best overall playoff quarterbacks in the league over the past few years, with the 2009 run being especially impressive. Only Drew Brees has had better overall playoff statistical performances, and only Brees and Little Brother have better margins between their playoff performances and their regular season statistics.
Of course, we also explored some reasons why Manning's excellent playoff statistics haven't led to more wins (Manning has the worst playoff win percentage of the five QBs). First, Manning has by far faced the better pass defenses in the playoffs, both in scoring defenses and passer rating. Second, Manning has, in general, played in much worse contexts than the other five quarterbacks, such as having the worst average starting field position of any quarterback in the playoffs in the last thirty years. Both of these numbers have led to Manning's touchdown percentages being much worse in the playoffs than in the regular season, while his other statistics stay relatively the same.
But one of the most important trends we took out of Manning's playoff data was his relative transformation after the 2002 season. From 1998 to 2002, Manning was pretty bad in the playoffs, and as we'll see, pretty bad in clutch situations in general. But from 2003 on, Manning has been a very good playoff (and clutch) quarterback, but his stigma originating from his first five years in the league has been tough to shake. As we'll see, Manning went through a similar change in clutch situations overall.
Here are Manning's situational passer ratings (click for larger image):
As we've discussed before, the most important number to look at here is Manning's numbers in the 4th Quarter w/in 7 (4QW7) category. Manning struggled early in his career, but since 2002, his lowest number has been 84.4, which took place in 2010. In fact, Manning has only had two years where he's been under 90 in this category, and only three years where he's been under 95. Overall, he's been fantastic, only Brees has a better rating than Manning's 88.7 for his career (89.3).
But what we are looking for here is the trend. When did Manning become a clutch quarterback? Playoff statistics would tell us 2002, but the data here points to 2001. (Click for larger image)
Obviously, Manning has become a better quarterback in just about every area since 2001, but the biggest statistical jump is his 4QW7 difference, where he averaged nearly 30 points higher from 2002-2010 than he did during the first four years of his career. During those first four years, Manning's average quarterback rating went down over 17 points during clutch situations, but since 2002, it's barely dropped at all. In fact, his -1.84 would be second only to Eli Manning's +1.7. Peyton's 4QW7 rating of 98.02 would easily be the best of the five, with everybody else being under 80.
"Wait a minute!" you say. "You can't just pick and choose where you take Manning's stats from. If you do something like that for all the quarterbacks, they're stats will look a lot better too. Everybody improves with experience."
Even when you do something like that for the other quarterbacks, only Brees comes close to Manning's 4QW7 rating of 98.
Tom Brady has no obvious break where we can make a comparison, but one place that would make sense would be from 2007-2011, easily his best years as a pro. In the six seasons before 2007, Brady never had a season rating above 95, and only had two above 90. Since 2007, Brady has only had a season rating under 105 once: a 96.2 in 2009 (remember, 2008 is omitted for our purposes). But, in that time frame, Brady's clutch performances haven't really improved all that much. His overall QB rating averaged at about 88.5, while his total QB rating since 2007 has averaged at 107.5, easily his peak years. But his 4QW7 ratings only improve slightly, as he averaged 81.08 before 2007, and 85.4 since then.
Eli Manning also has no discernible trends, but he has been known as "clutch" since 2007, where he led the underdog Giants to an unlikely Super Bowl Victory. However, his numbers since 2007 aren't all that impressive either (89.5 4QW7 rating). He has certainly improved tremendously since 2007 though: from 2004-2006, Eli's total QB rating averaged 69.4, as opposed to an 86.3 since 2007. His 4QW7 numbers have improved dramatically as well, going from 74.4 to 89.5. Still, an 89.5 doesn't beat Big Brother.
Ben Roethlisberger has no trends whatsoever, with his 4QW7 ratings being not so great. He had two seasons over 100: 2004 and 2007. Between those years he had an 83.3 and 55.5, and since 2007 heas had three years hovering around 80, and one good year in 2009 (98.2). It's all over the place for Roethlisberger, and for now, his 87.7 4QW7 rating for his career is pretty accurate.
Drew Brees is the only other quarterback in which a clear, impressive trend emerges, and it's linked with his move from San Diego to New Orleans, where Sean Payton's system has allowed Brees to rack up incredible statistics. While in San Diego, Brees' average season was a 83.8 QB rating, as compared to an average of 98.8 in New Orleans. His 4QW7 ratings have improved as well, from 78.6 to 96.4. While the dropoff from total to 4QW7 hasn't improved nearly as dramatically as Peyton's did (from -5.15 to -2.4), it still has improved to an astounding number. Nevertheless, Manning still edges out Brees in both total 4QW7 ratings (Manning: 98.02 vs. Brees: 96.4) and in drop off (Manning: -1.8 vs. Brees: -2.4).
In short, Manning's clutch performances since 2001 have simply been statistically unmatched. While Eli has been the only quarterback to actually raise his performances during clutch situations, Peyton's overall play has been far superior. Of course, as years go on, these lists could change, as Peyton, Brees, and Brady get older and Eli and Roethlisberger come into their prime.
While this type of data and study isn't the end all be all by any means (I'll be conducting some other research throughout the summer on the topic), it still is fascinating how well Peyton Manning stands up to his contempararies, especially ones who are known for their "clutchness."
If you need a lot of writting, tedious research, and knit picking stats to prove clutchness there's a problem. Basically, it comes down two things: finishing clutch drives, and winning playoff games in the last few minutes.
As far as finishing Clutch drives, he's got the AFCC comeback vs the Pats which is huge, but then he's got that awful pick-6 that lost the superbowl. Eli Manning has two superbowl winning drives, and Brady has 3. I don't think either of those two guys have a monumental choke like the pick-6. Legacies are made by finishing clutch drives in big games, and not choking. Brady, and Eli have done that. Peyton still has a lot to prove in terms of clutchness in the playoffs.
@PeyForPlay You keep mentioning Eli, but in between those SB's, what clutch drives did Eli have in the playoffs from 2008-10? He made the playoffs one time in those three years, and he played poorly in a home loss. That's pretty bad.
Peyton actually gets penalized for making the playoffs almost every season, and no matter how weak the team was (those 2002, 2008 & 2010 Colts were especially weak). Someone like Drew Brees misses the playoffs despite favorable circumstances or expectations in 2002, 05, 07 & 08, so he doesn't do anything to hurt his record those years.
You lose one playoff game, and now the next time you have to win at least two games just to get back to .500. And two playoff wins means either a Super Bowl or at least a Conference Championship appearnace, and those are hard to come by.
Bah, Manning really gets screwed from every angle on this clutch playoff stuff. I know exactly what I want to say to explain it, but I don't feel like typing it all. I almost need an audio rant to get it out there and be done with it. That 19 game sample is really incredible in the way things happened.
@PeyForPlay So basically, when numbers and reality don’t suit the traditional narrative, just scale back all the context and logic to make it fit.
I guess it doesn’t matter that two of Peyton’s game winning/tying drives have ended in shanked kicks? How many times has that happened to Brady? Or that all breakdowns of the pick 6, second by second, including by none other than Steve Young, have shown Wayne being the culprit by running the wrong route on the play (before you argue that, just look at the breakdown at http://www.dawgsbynature.com/2010/2/19/1302008/rufios-playbook-breaking-down and address something from there). Or that Brady has just as many or more clutch failures as successes (which, incidentally, have never required going all the way to an opponent’s end zone)? Or that Eli essentially did throw the game-losing interception in the Super Bowl only to see it sail through Asante Samuel’s fingers?
There are so many individual downs that go into all of these drives that have so many different individual players bailing guys out or f*cking them over it’s ridiculous. And it's all in an incredibly small sample size. You have to take it on a case by case basis, and when you look at individual games combined with the numbers to back it up, it’s pretty obvious that Peyton is right there with the other guys when it comes to clutchness.
I read the breakdown, the guy did a good job with it. Yeah Wayne really messed up on that play, I will give you that. Plus the Saints defended that play perfectly. I think that was a play the Colts used to call a lot in those situations, so Porter probably knew what was coming. They went to that well one too many times and it was dry on that last one. Maybe Manning will get more opportunities in Denver. He needs a really clutch drive in the superbowl to really shake that reputation of lacking clutchness in the playoffs, in my opinion. But he'll play another five years so he has time. Maybe he'll retire with 3 Rings.
@PeyForPlay Sadly, you're probably right (from a big picture, media perspective that is). I think it's unfortunate that despite so often outdueling the opposing QB in a loss, more often than not the team has shot him in the foot. Not that he's been perfect; while he played well in the second Super Bowl, had he known when to run we may have come away with the W. And I don't want to even think about 03. But Brady and Eli and Joe and Ben and Aikman and everyone else has been able to fall back on their teammates far more often then Peyton has, and that's just given them so many more opportunities. Frustrating.
What do we know about the evolution of Manning's offense? I'm thinking he had less control early on, with regards to changing plays at the line. Did Manning's grip on the offense come about concurrently with his grip on opposing defenses? I wonder if he grew into his expanded role or if it was decision that Moore and Dungy just made one day to turn him loose
It'd be interesting to see a breakdown like this on Brady. He's had a really odd career: first four years as a starter he was a solid but not spectacular QB with a reputation for coming up huge in the clutch with three Super Bowl wins and 9-0 in the playoffs. But since then he's put up Hall of Fame stats, but no more Super Bowl victories and a 7-6 playoff record.
@ECB Brady has had to do more since 2004, and his play in clutch situations has never been as good as people claim. Arguably, he's been the least clutch of these five QBs.
@ECB Look in the archives. He was one of the first in this series. Maybe January?
By the way Kyle, in Nate's BR post on you, in the accompanying picture you look just like Andrew Luck. (Hope that works out for you in picking up chicks.)
Great work Kyle.
However, 'm sure it is me... but in all your figures and research, I can't find the category that takes in consideration "makes future Hall of Fame Coaches go for it on 4th and 2 at their own 21 yeard line instead of punting it". I know it must be in there somewhere, but I just can't find it.
@DougEngland You know, just the other day I was looking for the "crap-if-I-don't-gamble-my-season-on-a-beginning-of-the-third-quarter-onside-kick-this-guy's-going-to-eviscerate-us" category and couldn't find it. Pretty sure they're related.
@Fondue Exactly right. I'm sure that both categories are lumped together somewhere in Kyle's voluminous research. (Hopefully, he will add a footnote.)
2002 was Dungy's 1st year w/ the Colts... hmm that's interesting. Manning must have picked up something from him that made him more comfortable, confident, or what have you.
@Westhoff Or it could have been... CALDWELL, who became Manning's QB coach in 2002 (Heads explode).
His rookie season was really brutal from a clutch standpoint, but he rebounded immediately with an incredible season in 1999. 2000-02 weren't as good, but they weren't that bad either when looking at the drive results. 2003-onward, he just went on another level that I'm not sure anyone has ever matched from the standpoint of "gave his team a chance to win every single week for a long number of years."
Before Dungy, I think Peyton was forcing things too much because he had absolutely no faith in the defense.