Kyle Rodriguez moves to Eli Manning in his continuing evaluation of clutch quarterback play.
While "Little Brother" has shown flashes of the Manning genes in the past, he's generally been seen as inconsistent, frustrating player. However, after his stellar season in 2011, capped off by an incredible Super Bowl run, Eli's legacy has been vaulted to near Hall of Fame worthy levels by some members of the media (and fans). Critics point to Manning's mediocre career totals, while proponents point to his two Super Bowl rings and clutch play (a.k.a. "He just wins big games").
That second part is the part that's questionable, and the part that would vault Manning to the upper echelon of quarterbacks during this era. So, has Manning's play in pressure situations truly been exceptional, or is this merely another misconception?
To answer that question, we'll again look at Manning in two parts, his playoff performances and his situational statistics. Today will be just the playoff performances, with the situational statistics and a final conclusion coming later this week.
Regular Season Statistics
|Year||Games||Comp. %||Y/A||Yards/Game||Touchdowns (%)||Interceptions (%)||Sack Rate||QB Rating|
|2004||9||48.2%||5.29||115.9||6 (3.05%)||9 (4.57%)||6.19%||55.4|
|2005||16||52.8%||6.75||235.1||24 (4.31%)||17 (3.05%)||4.79%||75.9|
|2006||16||57.6%||6.21||202.75||24 (4.6%)||18 (3.45%)||4.57%||77|
|2007||16||56.1%||6.31||208.5||23 (4.35%)||20 (3.78%)||4.86%||73.9|
|2008||16||60.3%||6.76||202.4||21 (4.38%)||10 (2.09%)||5.34%||84.6|
|2009||16||62.3%||7.90||251.3||27 (5.3%)||14 (2.75%)||5.57%||93.1|
|2010||16||62.9%||7.42||250.1||31 (5.75%)||25 (4.64%)||2.88%||85.3|
|2011||16||60.95%||8.38||308.3||29 (4.92%)||16 (2.72%)||4.54%||92.9|
|Totals||121||58.43%||7.03||227.9||185 (4.72%)||129 (3.29%)||4.71%||82.1|
|Totals w/o 2011||105||57.98%||6.80||209.4||156 (4.68%)||113 (3.39%)||4.75%||80.2|
|Year||Games||Comp. %||Y/A||Yards/Game||Touchdowns (%)||Interceptions (%)||Sack Rate||QB Rating|
|2005||1||55.56%||6.28||113||0 (0%)||3 (16.67%)||18.18%||35|
|2006||1||59.26%||5.96||161||2 (7.41%)||1 (3.7%)||3.57%||85.6|
|2007||4||60.50%||7.18||213.5||6 (5.04%)||1 (0.84%)||7.03%||95.7|
|2008||1||51.72%||5.83||169||0 (0%)||2 (6.9%)||0%||40.7|
|2011||4||65.03%||7.48||304.75||9 (5.52%)||1 (0.61%)||6.32%||103.3|
|Totals||11||61.52%||7.07||228.7||17 (4.78%)||8 (2.25%)||6.56%||89.3|
|Totals w/o 2011||7||58.55%||6.72||185.3||8 (4.15%)||7 (3.63%)||6.76%||77.73|
Now, normally I have a problem with excluding parts of a player's career when analyzing them, but I think it's important to realize how good Manning's 2011 playoffs were.
But we'll get to that. When you look at Manning's stats, it's clear to see that the last four years have been his best, yet he has only led his team to the playoffs in two of those years. His play (overall) was slightly below average for the first four years of his career, but since 2008 it has been above average.
When comparing Manning's playoff stats to his regular season stats, it seems at first that he has performed better in the playoffs than in the regular season, with over a seven point advantage in quarterback rating. However, when one looks at the playoffs without 2011, Manning's numbers in the playoffs look much worse, and worse than his already mediocre career numbers for the regular season.
Looking specifically at his playoff games, Manning has gone to the playoffs five times. Three of those occasions, the Giants lost the first game. On two of those occasions, (2005 and 2008) Manning was terrible, posting ratings of 35.0 and 40.7. In 2006, Manning was decent, and even led his team on a game-tying touchdown drive in the fourth quarter. But the Giants wouldn't see the ball again, and the Eagles kicked the game winning field goal as time expired.
That leaves 2007 and 2011 as the two remaining trips to the playoffs. In 2007, Manning had two great games against the Bucs and Cowboys, and then mediocre games against the Packers and Patriots. Of course, Manning was very good in the fourth quarter of those games, going 15/24 for two touchdowns (both in the Super Bowl). In the Green Bay game, he led the team on two potentially game winning drives, but Lawrence Tynes missed 36 and 43 yard field goals. Fortunately, he made a 47 yarder in overtime (where Manning did nothing) to win.
In 2011, Manning was great in every game but the NFC Championship, where he was decent against a very good defense. The playoffs Manning had in 2011 were fantastic, and came, fortunately, in just the right time for the team to win a Super Bowl.
So, Manning had two great playoff runs in eight years. Those runs were fantastic, but it really just indicates just how streaky Manning's career has been. When he gets hot, he can be one of the 5 best quarterbacks in the league. When he's not, he's inaccurate and makes bad decisions, and is a detriment to his team. The difference in Manning's 2011 season is that he was able to be much more consistent. In the playoffs (as well as in 2007), Manning was able to continues doing what he had done all season, while being careful with the football and limiting his turnovers.
When you combine that with an opportunistic defense getting hot at the same time (Manning has never won a playoff game where the opposing team has scored more than 20... and has never lost when they've scored 20 or less) and you get some pretty incredible playoff runs.
Let's put it this way. Clutch situations exist, which create clutch situational stats, and selective memory can create clutch (or choke) players. It's as real as any other stat, in that you have average performances, you have elite-end performances, and you have poor performances.
The problem is the sample size is much smaller than normal stats, so you can easily give a player a false reputation on the basis of something you saw happen a few times. A QB like Drew Brees is incredibly accurate, but if you see him throw a few duds in a game, you don't go around saying he can't throw accurately, because over the course of a season he's going to have 600+ attempts that prove otherwise.
For clutch situations, the QB may have only 5-6 games in a season to show his worth in that situation. And we're obviously not talking about 5-6 full games. We're talking about what might only equate to 8 or 9 DRIVES in a season. Sometimes it could come down to one drive, such as Super Bowl XLIV.
And from one drive, in terms of the QB that could come down to one third down play, should they run the ball the first two snaps. That's how delicate this stuff can be. Over the course of a career you should have enough evidence to judge a player fairly in clutch situations, but the knee-jerk reactions to what can happen in one game are a bit crazy. Look at Tony Romo for a great example.
From my research on Eli, I think he has always been a clutch QB that really does seem to get better in these moments. Throw in my quote about "starts games like Archie, but can finish like Peyton."
@ScottKacsmar It also depends on how you define "clutch" situations. Is it the whole fourth quarter? The last two minutes? The last drive?
@ScottKacsmar Eli definitely seemed to play better in "clutch" situations earlier in his career. I think it is kind of like the Brady thing, where his actual improvement as an all-around QB is following his reputation instead of preceding it. Eli Manning didn't become a very good regular season QB until 2008. He was a good "clutch" qb since before then.
If you watch every one of Eli Manning's games, then he does not confuse you in the least. In fact, you might be one of those fans that believe he is a flat out GREAT QB who is grossly under rated.
If, however, you only catch the highlight reels and are a fantasy football buff who only reads the stat lines, then, yes, you are one of those fans/so-called analysts that insist Eli is an enigma. He makes no sense to you because you only see the numbers. And then you miss out on discovering just why this guy is so damn special.
He elevates his team. He mentors young receivers. He possesses almost otherworldly patience in one of the most complicated offenses in the NFL. And now he has matured to a point where he makes great decisions and can read defenses like a book. Eli is not a 2x SB MVP (one of only five multiple MVP winners in NFL history) because of some fluke. He is a BOSS. The Giants are lucky to have this guy.
@Mke He's a good quarterback, but look at his career. The guy cost the Giants multiple games in 2010, just a year ago! That's not elevating your team. This past season was probably his best season to date and he still arguably wasn't even one of the top 5 quarterbacks in the league. He's a franchise quarterback to be sure, but you're over rating his career.
You either maintain confidence and concentration when the moment gets big, or you don't. The rest is a function of chance, from any single player's POV. The "myth of the hot hand" has been debunked over and over. I think of "clutch-ness" the same way.
I don't have the link, but there was a pretty decent pro football focus study that showed how QBs performed in the 4th quarter while down, and Eli came right at the top of the list. (Peyton was in the top 10, and Brady was sort of middling.)
I only say this because the stats used in this post seem to be overly broad strokes to attack a fairly nuanced problem.
@towel This is merely a look at comparing his playoff stats versus his regular season. A look at his situational stats is coming on Thursday.
@towel There was a really good FO study that showed the same thing (this was right before Super Bowl XLIV). Eli has shown a propensity to do better in "clutch" situations than in normal ones, but I think it is more than he should be better during non-"clutch" situations.
@towel @dmstorm22 That is similar to my view on things. It's more having the daring to take the chances. For example, Eli is known for his clutch drives in the two Super Bowls. The highlight throws are a lucky heave/miraculous catch in 2007 and a precise throw/catch in 2011. By contrast, Eli took those same chances in 2010, but most of them got intercepted and the Giants ended up missing the playoffs because of it.
@dmstorm22 Charles Barkley and Kenny Smith, who I paraphrase as saying that the guys who are clutch are merely the guys who are willing to take chances in "clutch situations" again and again and again.
i.e. Kobe Bryant's percentage on game winning shots isn't anywhere near his career field goal percentage, but he'll always take that shot... so he'll make a lot of clutch shots and gets the "closer" label by pure volume. of course, in comparison, the NFL has almost insurmountable sample size issues, but I think a similar idea might apply. Eli will take a ton of chances, and a lot will be misses, but because he's willing to take so many, some of them will come up big.
this, of course, leads to the great mystery of Peyton Manning, who should be considered "clutch by volume" if ANYONE in the NFL can.
I still do not have a clue as how to rate Eli.
But that he has helped twice beat the Pats in the Super Bowl gets in him my personal Hall of Fame.
@DougEngland Above Jim Plunkett, Bob Griese (Evansville QB, holla!) and Joe Namath. Probably below everyone else in the HOF plus Ken Anderson. IMO if he gets elected without getting significantly better then it cheapens the HOF. Though he WAS responsible for the second sweetest football game of my life.
Giants got a bye the year after they won the Super Bowl "2008-09 Season".They went 12-4 and were the #1 seed in the NFC.That was the year they started 11-1 and Plax shot himself and the whole season collapsed