From the Vault: Brady vs. Manning, Superclutch

On the cusp of football season, a look back at a comparison of two of the all-time greats. This was the second post in a two-part series,  originally published on January 25, 2012. 

In the last post, we improved on the “game-winning drive” metric by looking at 4th quarter drives when the game was tied or within one score. That post examined drives starting between the 1:00 mark and the 15:00 mark of the 4th (and OT). Let’s define “Super Clutch” drives as those starting in the last five minutes. (Again, excluding desperation drives starting under a minute.)

Below are the Super Clutch results for Peyton Manning and Tom Brady. Included are the other MVP-level QB’s of this era, Drew Brees and Aaron Rodgers:

Super Clutch Years Drive Pts/Dr TD% Score% Avg. Yds Avg. Start Avg. Time TOL % at Home
Tom Brady 03-07, 10-11 19 3.95 47.4% 68.4% 47.6 33.0 02:29 1.68 26.3%
Peyton Manning 03-10 31 3.52 38.7% 64.5% 44.6 32.5 02:31 1.84 45.1%
Drew Brees 06-11 17 2.94 35.3% 47.1% 47.5 26.1 02:55 1.29 41.2%
Aaron Rodgers 08-11 16 1.63 18.8% 25.0% 28.3 27.8 02:57 1.94 25.0%

NB: If New Orlean’s placekicker had converted all of his field goals, Brees would boast a 64.7% score rate and 3.47 points per drive.

So Brady has been better — otherworldly, really — in the final moments of games. This, despite playing mostly on the road. Manning continues to look amazing as well, and so does Drew BreesAaron Rodgers has a long way to go in this regard.

And for those in the mood for some small-sampled data, here are the Big Three QB’s performances on regular clutch drives in the postseason:

Clutch Playoffs Years Pos Pts/Dr TD% Score% Avg. Yds Avg. Start Avg. Time TOL % at Home
Tom Brady 03-07, 10-11 9 2.89 22.2% 66.7% 37.3 33.3 07:06 2.78 11.1%
Peyton Manning 03-10 11 2.09 18.2% 45.6% 33.2 25.3 05:23 2.73 81.8%
Drew Brees 06-11 7 4.14 42.9% 71.4% 36.0 36.1 10:13 2.00 28.6%

And alas we see where Manning earned his (unjustified) reputation as coming up short in the postseason. It’s unjustified because, as anyone who has read this blog knows, the sample size is too small to conclude anything, and these figures don’t control for defensive strength. Brees has been magnificent, scoring on five of seven playoff clutch drives, and Brady has failed on only three postseason drives: early in the 4th against the Colts (2006), the Giants (2007) and in the final minute against Indianapolis again in the 2006 AFC championship.

One final note: After examining a number of clutch performances in basketball, it’s particularly interesting to observe that these quarterbacks seem to perform so well in clutch (and super clutch) situations. In basketball, shooting and scoring typically decline later in games. Yet, at least with Manning and Brady, they’ve performed as well (or better) than the best offenses in NFL history in these situations.