Writers of Pro Football Prospectus 2008

23 Jan 2013

The Manning Index (and The Brady Effect)

At the risk of starting another irrational Brady-Manning argument... This is an interesting post by Neil Paine over at Chase Stuart's site, looking at which quarterbacks have won more or less in the playoffs than what you would expect based on the Vegas line. It's great to call it the Manning Index because it has a Manning at the top and a Manning at the bottom. Also interesting is that Tom Brady isn't the only veteran quarterback who had a lot of playoff success early, and very little later in his career. He has this in common with Brett Favre, Troy Aikman, and a guy you probably don't think about much, Dave Krieg. Krieg took a 9-7 wild card team to the AFC Championship game in 1983 and went 1-1 in the playoffs in 1984, then was 0-4 as a playoff starter the rest of his career.

Posted by: Aaron Schatz on 23 Jan 2013

137 comments, Last at 30 Jan 2013, 11:55am by Noah of Arkadia

Comments

1
by tunesmith :: Wed, 01/23/2013 - 6:55pm

Any theories here on why Peyton has seemed to underperform in the playoffs? Is it something about his quarterbacking in particular, or is it just one of those things?

5
by Thunderbolt of ... :: Wed, 01/23/2013 - 8:37pm

One theory: except for a few years when the Titans were good, the Manning Colts largely dominated a weak division. Thus, they had more wins heading into the playoffs than one would expect from the strength of their team.

That, and Manning has had some really unlucky playoff games. The Vanderjagt shank and Rahim Moore's matador coverage come to mind.

107
by Mikey Benny :: Sat, 01/26/2013 - 2:12am

Are you kidding? The Steelers kicked their asses the entire game. They only came back because of the Polamalu non-interception and Bettis's freak fumble. The Colts were incredibly lucky to be in a position to lose on a Vanderjagt shank.

115
by steveNC (not verified) :: Sun, 01/27/2013 - 12:51pm

Agree. The Colts got bailed out by the refs on the Polamalu interception despite the use of replay.

6
by Daniel Frank (not verified) :: Wed, 01/23/2013 - 8:39pm

He didn't really underperform any more than any quarterback does. Playoffs are an extremely small sample size to judge any player or team on their ability or to use as an indicator of future/potential success. The Colts as a team suffered from two things in the 2000s. First, they were unlucky. This is not meant to discredit any other teams or say that it was a fluke, just that they happened to have bad games at the wrong time. Every team has them, the Colts just had their's in the playoffs. The second reason is Dungy's long-term philosophy of resting players to prevent injury. Momentum is huge in the playoffs. Not because it is a tangible thing or because in a moment during a game in the playoffs a player is thinking "oh gosh, we have momentum, we must be better than they are," but because it gives the team confidence through the downtime and during practice and creates a mind set of success, something you cannot win without. It is no coincidence that the year the Colts won the Superbowl, they played starters in week 17 and all four rounds in the playoffs.
Earlier in his career Manning played often on the road and had some bad games. But during the latter half of his career with Indy, he played quite well. Games were lost because of poor defense, poor game planning, and poor kicking. All three of these things were reasons the Broncos lost to the Ravens as well.

11
by Will Allen :: Wed, 01/23/2013 - 10:42pm

I agree with your sentiment regarding the limited utility of small sample sizes when making judgements as to quality of play, or making predictions. However, you then claim it is "no coincidence" that x preceded y, based upon a tiny sample size. Now, maybe your theory is right, and maybe it is wrong, but there isn't nearly enough data in the set known as "Peyton Manning's playoff starts as a Colt" to allow us to make any statements regarding the unlikely nature of coincidence.

(edit) If you have a large sample size of playoff games which indicates that resting starters is harmful, it'd be interesting to see.

13
by RickD :: Wed, 01/23/2013 - 10:56pm

People like saying that one game is "an extremely small sample size" but really, is it? It depends on what your unit of sampling is. If the unit is a game, perhaps. But I think it's far more natural to make the play the unit of sampling, just as an at-bat (or a pitch) is the unit of sampling in baseball.

14
by Will Allen :: Wed, 01/23/2013 - 11:12pm

Sure, but when people start using the final score of one game as an indicator, then, yes, one game is a miniscule sample size, especially when the one game takes place in a one and done playoff format. Even if we take passing and running attempts for qbs in a game, however, one game is tiny. Would you really want to judge the quality of a hitter based on 40 plate appearances? Even guys who play in an extremely large number of playoff games have barely more than a season's worth of passing and running attempts in the playoffs.

67
by Roch Bear :: Thu, 01/24/2013 - 6:11pm

That would be interesting, i.e., getting a quantitative measure of the QBs performance on each play and see if he scored better/worse in playoffs. However, the question before the house is weather QB performance, as measured by win/loss of the *team* versus the Vegas line is any measure at all. Given a small number of games won or lost and the 'small' contribution of the QB to the total team (when among the def, special team, coaches, other offensive players) I vote, no.

92
by Danny Tuccitto :: Fri, 01/25/2013 - 4:58am

I don't know why people like to say one game is a small sample size, but the reason you should believe it is that, whether they're based on a sample size of 50 or a sample size of 500, a player's stats are estimates of his "true" ability. For QBs, 500 dropbacks over the course of a season is simply going to produce a more reliable estimate of "true" ability than 50 dropbacks over the course of a game.

How large of a sample size do you need before various QB stats stabilize into reliable estimates of "true" ability? This blog post is required reading. You can find the exact numbers there, but the long and the short of it is that an accurate picture of a QB's ability to avoid sacks emerges pretty quickly, followed soon thereafter by his ability to make accurate throws. On the other hand, it takes a massive sample size of passes before his true ability to avoid throwing interceptions emerges.

126
by Anonymous Jones :: Mon, 01/28/2013 - 2:48pm

I like a lot of what you say in this comment, but the problem you face is hidden deep in your assumptions. Does a quarterback have a 'true' ability? Is this 'true' ability an inter-temporal constant? I think not. Listen, it's really, really, really fun to debate this stuff, but it's generally a good idea to understand our limitations in the quest to dig deeper into what is 'truth.' People change. They are not the same exact person yesterday, today or tomorrow. Yes, at the extremes, it is glaringly obvious that Tom Brady has had much more ability over his adult years than, for instance, Tavaris Jackson, but when the differences become finer, it's not just that the statistics give you only a limited, obscured view into the 'truth,' it's that there isn't one truth that transcends the time period over which these statistics were gathered (even during one particular game in which minor injuries and variable amounts of energy may skew ability from play to play).

Not to put too fine a point on it, as you narrow down the time period to determine what is one's 'true' ability at that point in time, you are going to face larger and larger problems with inadequacy of sample size.

25
by Purds :: Thu, 01/24/2013 - 1:31am

I was always struck by how often the Manning early 2000's Colts lost to the team that eventually went to or won the SB, and I am not talking about losing AFCC's. (This might explain the high 1-and-done numbers, as they didn't lose to chumps, but to teams clearly on a roll at that point.)

1999: Lose to Tenn, who wins 2 more playoff games and then loses in the SB
2003: Lose to NE, who wins the SB
2004: Lose to NE, who wins one more playoff game and then wins the SB
2005: Lose to Pitt, who wins one more playoff game and then wins the SB
2006: Colts win SB
2009: Colts lose SB

In that 11 years, they won only 1 SB, but lost to the eventual SB 4 other times. So, yes, Manning doesn't have a great playoff record, but he also didn't ALWAYS lose to bad teams in the playoffs. Of course, there was that little problem with losing to bad Chargers teams.

119
by Anonymousse (not verified) :: Mon, 01/28/2013 - 12:50pm

NE Since 2004:

2006: Lost to IND, who Lost SB
2007: Lost to NYG in SB
2011: Lost to NYG in SB
2012: Lost to Bal, who are going to SB

Any team that gets into the playoffs, especially with a bye, is going to have a significant percentage of their losses to the team that wins their conference. How much better in the "only getting defeated by the best" than IND would NE look had they lost the SB in 2001,03,04?

2
by Rikki (not verified) :: Wed, 01/23/2013 - 7:39pm

Hey, Independent George, your favorite quarterback is third from the bottom.

3
by Michael LaRocca (not verified) :: Wed, 01/23/2013 - 7:41pm

I don't know what happened to Peyton, but just thinking about it gives me a real pain in the neck.

4
by Anonymou (not verified) :: Wed, 01/23/2013 - 8:25pm

He hasn't underperformed. His poor W-L record is a combination of bad luck, poor defense, and bad FG kicking. Manning's own performance in the playoffs is actually quite strong.

23
by RickD :: Thu, 01/24/2013 - 12:30am

Peyton had some real stinker playoff games early in his career. That's undeniable. But on the whole, if you look at his aggregate stats, they are fairly similar to Brady's. Better in some respects, worse in others.

Seems to me that both of them display stats that correlate positively with how good their respective defenses are.

7
by zenbitz :: Wed, 01/23/2013 - 9:12pm

Tables need multiple hypothesis corrected.p-values

68
by Roch Bear :: Thu, 01/24/2013 - 6:20pm

Amen. And while at it, might as well correct the the other multiple hypotheses that would-have-been reported if the data had hinted at them (i.e., the eyeball hypothesis filter feeding correction to data dredging).

8
by Mash Wilson :: Wed, 01/23/2013 - 9:13pm

I've always thought Manning has spent most of his career pulling mediocre teams to 13-3 records, and then losing in the playoffs because he's usually up against a vastly better team, at least on roster spots 2 through 53.

2005 is a case in point. That may have been the best Colts team Manning played for, but aside from the quarterbacks (and Ben Roethlisberger in 2005 was no slouch, for that matter) the Steelers were probably the better team.

9
by JIPanick :: Wed, 01/23/2013 - 10:16pm

I think this is part of it, and the rest is mostly poor luck.

12
by Goo_P (not verified) :: Wed, 01/23/2013 - 10:50pm

I tend to be pro-Manning in these arguments, but it's a little ridiculous to say the 2005 Steelers were more talented. Manning was, by All-Pro/DYAR/whatever you want, easily the NFL's best QB. His RB was Pro Bowler Edgerrin James, who ran for 1500 yds and had one of the 100 best yds from scrimmage years ever. His WRs were Marvin Harrison and Reggie Wayne, two likely future HoFers (Harrison being a slam-dunk) in their primes. His TE was Dallas Clark, who would go on to be an All-Pro. His LT was a Pro Bowler; his center was 1st-team All-Pro. This offense, stacked with the above talent, scored 27.4 PPG -- 2nd-most in the league. Yet against Pittsburgh, they mustered just 18 points at home. I don't know how anyone can sit there and say that wasn't purely a blown opportunity by Manning and the Colts.

15
by Will Allen :: Wed, 01/23/2013 - 11:15pm

Eh, the infamous "protection issues" game. I still wonder what the hell Howard Mudd was thinking when he helped put that game plan together, or whether Saturday simply had a hideous day making calls.

17
by dbostedo :: Wed, 01/23/2013 - 11:27pm

Maybe the Steelers just played that well?

19
by Will Allen :: Thu, 01/24/2013 - 12:10am

They indeed played well. They were also helped out a lot by things like the Colts' attempt to have an uncovered guard pull past the tackle, to pass block a fast rusher on the edge. It was novel, I'll say that much.

60
by dmstorm22 :: Thu, 01/24/2013 - 5:08pm

The worst part is it was all zone-rushes, the Steelers rarely rushed more than 4, and there were still unblocked rushers. Just a mess. Good things came out of it, as Manning made a point to be better throwing on the run after that game.

62
by theslothook :: Thu, 01/24/2013 - 5:20pm

True- I remember that was a clear improvement in his game from that point on. Still, that o line performance was embarrassing beyond belief. Just terrible. A bit like the one the colts went through against the ravens in these playoffs. I want to add, I remember after Manning "threw his o line under the bus" Jaws was asked if he was being unfair. He responded with, "that was the worst o line performance I've seen in 10 years from a playoff team." Probably a bit hyperbolic, but even still, it was pretty awful.

63
by dmstorm22 :: Thu, 01/24/2013 - 5:21pm

What the Giants did in Super Bowl XLII came close, but that was more the Giants guys just flat-out beating the Patriots lineman. This game was just bad line calls and blitz pickups, and free rushers, for the most part.

120
by Anonymousse (not verified) :: Mon, 01/28/2013 - 1:54pm

By 'outplaying' you mean 'having multiple starters go down in the first quarter'.

The Giants were great that day, but they had the benefit of playing against a whole bunch of guys who should have never seen the field.

127
by dmstorm22 :: Mon, 01/28/2013 - 7:35pm

I believe only one starter (Stephen Neal) left that game. On the Patriots final snap of the game, their o-lineman were Matt Light, Logan Mankins, Dan Koppen, Russ Hochstein and Nick Kaczur. '

That's four of their five starters, and Hochstein was often used in previous roles quite capably.

83
by JonFrum :: Thu, 01/24/2013 - 9:48pm

Revisionist history. At the time the games were played, Manning and the Colts were often favorites in the games they lost. And I don't recall Manning playing on bad teams he carried. Edge and Harrison were top NFL weapons, not JAGs. Now that Manning is gone, Indyfan is badmouthing the team all over the interwebs to prop up St Peyton. You'd think he was playing with the Little Sisters of the Poor team for ten years.

89
by theslothook :: Fri, 01/25/2013 - 12:45am

Mid career manning had some very exceptional skill position talent so you are right there.

Heres why the general impression(not just among colts fans) is that Manning seemed to carry the colts. For one, the only way they seemed to win was if the colts got a lead and let their pass rushers go to work. At no time did that defense ever feel trustworthy enough to stop the run(until ironically their sb run when their run defense that year was historically bad). As I mentioned below, Tom Brady has had poor games in the post season but his team has still been victorious. When manning had poor or even just run of the mill good games, they would often lose(again the lone exception being his sb run where he had a really bad day against baltimore and still won).

But it goes further than that. The colts have lost edge and harrison and the offense never really dropped off. Then one year the colts fielded a still pretty good passing game in 2010 despite a plethora of injuries to the wide receivers and an offensive line that was terrible. And finally, the year after he gets injured, the colts go 2-14 and are just plain terrible. All of this has built into the general impression(right or wrong) that Manning carries his otherwise mediocre teams. I don't always agree with that impression, but there is some evidence to make that suggestion.

Finally- notice what you are kind of doing. manning had great players and yet the playoff losses are all on him. Is that fair? Do we just assume harrison and wayne and edge and the o line and the defense all played well and it was just manning that sucked?

10
by Will Allen :: Wed, 01/23/2013 - 10:39pm

This is a good thread to also note again that if you take away a 46 yard field goal, a long field goal in a blizzard, and a db stupidly failing to fall down after an int at the end of a game, Tom Brady loses 7 playoff victories, and picks up two playoff losses, and his playoff record is talked about in entirely different terms. Yes, he also could have gained a few victories, and avoided some defeats, if he had some breaks go his way, breaks that have nothing to do with qb performance, but that just makes the point as well. A small number of playoff games, where there is a one and done format, is a really poor way to evaluate qb performance, especially when you are looking at the final score to provide insight.

18
by MJK :: Wed, 01/23/2013 - 11:57pm

And you can just as easily note that if a ball doesn't get glued to a helmet, a reliable Pro-bowl WR doesn't drop a ball while wide open, Brady would have two fewer losses, two more victories, and two more rings. If the NFL had end-zone cameras installed properly or instructed its referees correctly regarding "face guarding" rules (or the lack thereof), Brady could have another playoff victory or more.

The point is that the playoffs (usually) pit two teams that are both very good, and the smallest break either way can decide who wins, regardless of how awesome or elite the QB of either one is. Combine that with small sample size and the fact that one loss ends your chances to compete more in the same season, and it's pretty easy to conclude that playoff win-loss has very little to do with how good a QB is.

21
by Will Allen :: Thu, 01/24/2013 - 12:25am

I did note it, and I agree with you.

108
by Rick S (not verified) :: Sat, 01/26/2013 - 5:43am

Very well said....Manning has certainly choked at times in playoffs when he should have had things going for him (terry porter), but he's also been very unlucky....

Take away the missed FG that forces OT against Pitt, a Buckneresque mistake by Rahim Moore and he is in two more conference championship games.

16
by blackmallard (not verified) :: Wed, 01/23/2013 - 11:16pm

If you just look at the names on the index I feel confident saying that while it is interesting, it has not gathered any information about these quarterbacks. Eli Manning, Joe Montana, Joe Flacco, and Trent Dilfer do not share some subtle quality that is key to winning superbowls. I do believe that the article comes to that exact conclusion, that these numbers tell you nothing.

20
by John Courage :: Thu, 01/24/2013 - 12:20am

Well this settles it.

Eli > Flacco > Dilfer > Sanchez > Delhomme > Brady > McNabb > Marino > Moon > Peyton.

Brought to you by the makers of Worthington's Law.

22
by theslothook :: Thu, 01/24/2013 - 12:27am

This notion that playoffs people choke is just bs. It really is. Think of what the narrative of Manning would have been if Denver had stopped that deep pass. By that point, Manning would have had 3tds and 1 int(which was the result of an uncalled defensive holding). Instead, the game extends and he throws a terrible int to effectively end it.

I think Brady is the shinning example of why judging people by playoff performance can be so damn meaningless. Again, anyone arguing brady of 01 is in the same timezone as brady of 2011 is just an idiot. Bill Simmons conveniently labeled brady's prime going from 2003 to 2008 and the rest his "decline". It makes me wonder if he's even watching the same patriots.

24
by DoubleB4 (not verified) :: Thu, 01/24/2013 - 1:20am

Bill Simmons knows next to nothing about football. He's admitted as such in print.

And you bring up the signature point. The Brady from 2000-2005 is clearly worse than the Brady from 2006-present. Yet according to the "rings" metric, the former Brady was better than the latter.

The correct conclusion is that the New England Patriots from 2000-2005 were better than the New England Patriots from 2006-present. Why it all gets put on the QB is beyond me. It's crappy analysis.

26
by Purds :: Thu, 01/24/2013 - 1:58am

I agree, and Brady's career is the ultimate poster boy for this. He is so clearly a better QB in the second half of his career, and yet he won all his rings in the first half. If you rank QB's purely by SB wins, then you have to say that Brady has gone downhill, which he has not.

So often with these QB's, they highly influence the game, but just one 50-50 play (or unlucky play) going the other way, and who knows. For example, when you look at TB and PM, you get this list of events which "change the narrative" of their abilities based on events they had no influence over:

1) PM watches MV miss a 49-yard FG in OT which would have beaten Miami. Colts lose on ensuing possession.
2) PM watches Big Ben tackle, on a fumble return, a guy whose wife stabbed him in the leg the night before, leading to ...
3) PM watches MV shank a 46-yard FG in a dome, failing to tie the playoff game as time expires.
4) PM's teammate, a bench warming WR with a hot wife, can't hold onto the on-sides kick to start the second half against NO. Might not have changed the game completely, but was a huge play that PM had no control over.
5) PM watches his now Broncos give up a 70-yard TD bomb with 35 seconds left because a safety can't judge the ball.
6) TB watches AV hit a 45-yard FG (in the snow) to win playoffs leading to eventually ...
7) TB watches AV his a 48-yard FG as time expires to win SB against Rams.
8) TB watches AV hit a 41-yard FG as time expires to win SB against Carolina.
9) TB watches Baltimore's kicker shank a 31-yard FG to tie 2011 AFCC game in the last second.

Obviously, you could fine 10 others that flip the script to even better TB success and PM failure, but man, that is quite a list of 50-50 plays in close games that create a narrative.

27
by theslothook :: Thu, 01/24/2013 - 2:42am

Are the early era patriots really better than these late era pats? I'm not so sure. Its easy to say in hindsight that they are worse, but think about what the narrative was of the pats coming into their playoff losses. 07 was the greatest team I've still ever seen(going back to 1998). 2010 NE had one of the greatest offenses of all time and what was(at that point) a massively improved defense. 2012 ne had an average defense but again an excellent offense. The fact that they lost is really to me more of an indication that so little meaning can really be drawn from the playoffs with regards to how good a team really is.

Take the 49ers against the rams this year. The first game ended in a tie with both team's posting excellent offensive dvoas but poor defensive dvoas. In their rematch(again going into OT), the script was switched, with both offenses posting negative dvoas and the defenses doing well. Or think of the 07 giants when they faced the pats. First game is an offensive explosion. The next game is a grind it out defensive struggle.

The point? Game to game performance even among rematches is so incredibly volatile that it makes you realize how much the game of football itself is so random. One has to wonder, is 16 games even a large enough sample size to accurately gauge a nfl team? Considering that all the other major sports have 82 and 162 games, 16 games might honestly tell you nothing.

In short, imo, clutch doesn't exist. Choking doesn't really exist. guts glory whatever you want to call it. SB wins are nice, but even they don't tell you much if you really dig deep. Sometimes, you just need the dice to roll your way.

30
by BJR :: Thu, 01/24/2013 - 7:38am

Clutch and choking undoubtedly do exist (at least as concepts), its just that they are so often and so obviously overused and misused, particularly in team sports where any individual player can only exert so much influence on proceedings.

But I've definitely witnessed, for example, tennis players who are able to consistently elevate their game at crucial moments, and others who consistently fall short at these moments.

33
by Will Allen :: Thu, 01/24/2013 - 9:06am

I'm very suspicious regarding the existence of "clutch performance", if that means someone whose performance consistently gets better when the stakes are biggest. I know for aa fact that choking exists, if "choking" means someone whose performance declines when experiencing the anxiety of playing for the biggest stakes. I doubt that anyone is clutch, but I know everyone chokes, some more reliably than others.

42
by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Thu, 01/24/2013 - 11:13am

I don't see why clutch can't exist. Some people don't truly focus unless the stakes are high, at which point they stop wasting talent and actually perform. Some people just really like the limelight.

Granted, these people are usually disasters in their personal lives, but there's no reason it cannot exist.

43
by Will Allen :: Thu, 01/24/2013 - 11:30am

Well, I didn't say it cannot exists. I just don't see much evidence of it among elite athletes. In contrast, I see choking all the time. I think the phenomena is most interesting among the elite of the elite, as they age. They begin to lose the absolute confidence they once had in their physical abilities, and then, when the anxiety builds, they completely fall apart, and look like a beer league weekend bumbler.

44
by nathan d (not verified) :: Thu, 01/24/2013 - 11:39am

Sure, there are people who only really focus when the pressure builds. The thing is, those people don't get to play professional sports, because their regular performance isn't good enough.

45
by Noah of Arkadia :: Thu, 01/24/2013 - 11:52am

I agree with BJR that both of them exist. Take chess, which is purely mental and therefore and excellent example. I also used to play at a relatively high level, so I can tell you from first hand experience that many players elevated their performance when under great pressure (I mean when they were running out of time to make plays). That, in turn, made them intimidating, which had the effect of causing them to appear as if they had a "winner" aura -which they felt themselves, turning it into a "vicious" circle. They also had ability and preparation, of course, but they point is that not all talented players were able to do the same. And some, like me, certainly choked.

I've given the matter some thought and I have come to the conclusion that, under heightened pressure, some people disconnect their minds and enter a particular state of being where their abilities flow effortlessly -you might equate it to meditation. Others are unable to disconnect their minds under similar circumstances. Meanwhile, a third group experience doubts -possibly as a result of intimidation or some sense of unworthiness- which cause them to fail (choke).

The funny thing, in my case, is I suffered from philosophy at crucial moments. See here: Trolls and philosophy

------
FO posters are a peacock. You got to let us fly!

47
by Will Allen :: Thu, 01/24/2013 - 12:08pm

Well, I can't speak to chess, but in two types of competition in which there are decades of detailed information to examine, among the elite of elite competitors, baseball and golf, there is extremely little evidence to supoort the proposition that clutch performance exists. I doubt that the phenomena could be absent in those two types of competition, and exist in other types of competition.

48
by BJR :: Thu, 01/24/2013 - 12:30pm

I should have noted that mostly my observations were subjective and anecdotal. But, again using tennis as an example (this is one of the sports I am most familiar with) it is known that Roger Federer wins more end of set tie-breaks than he ought to given his ordinary point win %, over a fairly large sample size. Pete Sampras was also well known for his recurrent trick of cruising through a set, just making sure he held serve, then stepping up his game when it really mattered. Statistically, he broke serve more often than he should have done at the end of sets.

Perhaps these players are able to simply maintain their normal high level of play, whilst their opponents suffer from 'choking'. Is this enough to define an athlete as 'clutch'? I don't know. It's a pretty inexact term.

50
by Will Allen :: Thu, 01/24/2013 - 12:54pm

Somebody with the statistical chops (in other words, not me) should engage in a cross-sports study involving tennis players, and hitters and pitchers in baseball, to examine the phenomena. Golf is a bit easier to examine, because the golfer is pitted against geography, and not directly affected by another competitor's performance. Not surprisingly, it is the competition where choking is most obvious, and every last golfer, even the greatest of the great, choke with some frequency.

An example that I always remember is Jack Nicklaus in his late forties, not to far removed from his 6th Masters win, in contention, on the 1st tee of the U.S. Open, for, I don't remember clearly, the 3rd or fourth round. He addresses the ball, and then proceeds to make a nervous snap hook swing worthy of a 20 handicap amateur, playing in front of a crowd for the very first time. Pure, anxiety-based choking, from the greatest champion in the history of the sport.

58
by theslothook :: Thu, 01/24/2013 - 4:35pm

I want to echo something will said. Sure, clutch and choking exist in real life. I don't deny that. But, I actually think in terms of sports at the nfl level, they do not and here's why. To actually make it to the nfl, you've had to go through a gauntlet of things that inevitably weed out those who aren't made of the right "stuff"(lack of a better word). By the time you have a player that's even in this position in the nfl, hes pretty damn good and use to the pressure situations. Thus, at that point, you aren't dealing with just average guys not use to these things.

74
by BJR :: Thu, 01/24/2013 - 7:47pm

But as Will also points out, you frequently see tour level golfers, even past champions, noticeably folding under extreme pressure. Now you don't make the PGA tour unless you can hit a darned good golf ball, and have already excelled at lower levels. The garbage has been well and truly weened out by this stage. That doesn't prevent obvious displays of 'choking' on an almost weekly basis.

77
by zenbitz :: Thu, 01/24/2013 - 8:29pm

How can you say that it was the pressure that made them fail?

73
by BJR :: Thu, 01/24/2013 - 7:24pm

I'm not a huge golf fan, but Ive watched enough to be able to recall that when Tiger was at the height of his powers, his most amazing attribute was the ability to hole seemingly every critical 8/10 foot putt that came along. Again, perhaps he isn't elevating his game under pressure, but is merely better able to replicate under extreme pressure what he (and probably every other PGA tour pro) is able to do under no pressure on the putting green prior to their round. If pushed, I'd probably describe that as 'clutch' performance.

76
by Will Allen :: Thu, 01/24/2013 - 8:28pm

He was just as good a putter on the 1st hole as he was on the 72nd. He just rarely choked. Choking is so common in golf that the lack of choking seems as if the player is actually playing better in the critical moments, compared to the less critical moments, but that really isn't true.

85
by Jerry :: Thu, 01/24/2013 - 11:55pm

Is it possible that "choking" exists, and that what we call "clutch" is just not choking?

97
by Will Allen :: Fri, 01/25/2013 - 8:57am

Sure, that is how I would define a "clutch performance". There are lots of people, however, who have defined it as actually performing better than the competitor normally does, when the competitor is in the moments of the highest stakes.

93
by Danny Tuccitto :: Fri, 01/25/2013 - 5:26am

Hey everyone, just a reminder that yours truly has a master's in sport psychology. If you'd like me to quickly explain how all this "clutch" and "choking" stuff works, let me know. Don't feel like typing it all out if no one actually gives a damn. For now, I'll just say that they do demonstrably exist, and can be predicted relatively decently from a handful of factors.

94
by theslothook :: Fri, 01/25/2013 - 5:31am

Danny, for football, are there ways to accurately control for situations so that you are properly identifying clutch and choking? I mean, if there's an example of it, I don't know what it is.

104
by Danny Tuccitto :: Fri, 01/25/2013 - 5:06pm

Well, I'm not aware of (or at least can't remember) any controlled studies involving football, but I haven't been immersed in the research since 2008. Most studies involve things like basketball free throws, golf putting, driving simulators, dart throwing, etc., i.e., things that are highly controllable by experimenters.

Regardless, we can extrapolate from these kinds of studies to other sports like football the "why" of performance failure/success under pressure.

95
by Andrew Potter :: Fri, 01/25/2013 - 6:20am

I can't speak for others, but I'm certainly interested to see what you say from a sports psychologist's perspective.

96
by Will Allen :: Fri, 01/25/2013 - 8:57am

Damnit, what's wrong with you FO people, holding out content on us? Whattaya' have, lives or something?

Seriously, I'd really like to see a piece on the topic from someone trained to talk about it.

98
by Dean :: Fri, 01/25/2013 - 9:07am

This might be worth its own XP if you're willing to devote the time.

99
by Bright Blue Shorts :: Fri, 01/25/2013 - 10:07am

One thing that occurs to me is that Brady and Manning may not be chokers but their teammates could be!

It wouldn't take many of the rest of the team to perform a little below par to lose against another playoff team. Welker's two drops (in the SB & CC) seem uncharacteristic. That said, Brady's feet first sliding kick at Ed Reed(?) would also seem like a player who is losing his cool.

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by Will Allen :: Fri, 01/25/2013 - 10:57am

It's just so damned hard to isolate and measure individual performance in football, even if you obtain large sample sizes, which you frequently cannot, given the nature of the sport, that trying to identify who chokes more frequently than others becomes almost prohibitively problematic. Yeah, you get your outrageously visible examples, at certain positions, at certain moments, but that's a long way from being able to say, with accuracy, "Gosh, that guy's really a choker!".

Compared to, say, a relief pitcher in major league baseball, it's just really difficult, perhaps impossibly so.

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by Anonymousse (not verified) :: Mon, 01/28/2013 - 2:08pm

Welker was 2nd in the league in drops this year. This absolutely is characteristic of him. His hands aren't nearly what they were a couple years ago.

as to Brady's slide, I'm not going to judge intent here. It looked to me like a guy putting up his leg to keep the defender from landing on him. He slid, Reed shouldn't be jumping over him.

128
by Jerry :: Mon, 01/28/2013 - 7:38pm

Um, what should Reed be doing? He's flying in to make the play, and has to find a way to not hit Brady once he slides.

129
by theslothook :: Mon, 01/28/2013 - 11:29pm

First of all, welker is also targeted a ton vs other players. Like other stats, his drop rate would be more informative. I'm too lazy to look, but I suspect its not anywhere near as bad as to suggest hes a consistent dropper.

As to brady's slide, I can't understand for the life of me your logic on that. Ed reed should have done what exactly? He saw brady slide and in that split second, tried to avoid the hit by leaping over him. We'll never know brady's intent, nor do we have any evidence, but i suspect it was a dirty move. I've NEVER seen any qb slide and stick their foot out like that. On top of that, you can kind of see the foot aiming toward Reed. I won't call brady a dirty player or anything, it was probably heat of the moment, but just because its brady doesn't mean hes not capable of doing bush league stuff.

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by theslothook :: Mon, 01/28/2013 - 11:29pm

First of all, welker is also targeted a ton vs other players. Like other stats, his drop rate would be more informative. I'm too lazy to look, but I suspect its not anywhere near as bad as to suggest hes a consistent dropper.

As to brady's slide, I can't understand for the life of me your logic on that. Ed reed should have done what exactly? He saw brady slide and in that split second, tried to avoid the hit by leaping over him. We'll never know brady's intent, nor do we have any evidence, but i suspect it was a dirty move. I've NEVER seen any qb slide and stick their foot out like that. On top of that, you can kind of see the foot aiming toward Reed. I won't call brady a dirty player or anything, it was probably heat of the moment, but just because its brady doesn't mean hes not capable of doing bush league stuff.

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by dbostedo :: Fri, 01/25/2013 - 11:07am

This absolutely deserves its own XP!!

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by Noah of Arkadia :: Sat, 01/26/2013 - 10:31pm

There's so much talk around here about how these things don't even exist because NFL players have somehow become immune to pressure, exactly like theslothook maintains, that I often wonder if people think these players have transcended human emotional and psychological states. Psychological distance -which makes it natural to idealize our gridiron heroes- and the statistical complexity of the game, plus a healthy reaction against talking-headedness, seem to be the main reasons for this belief. I've often wondered why FOF doesn't run a sports psychology article to bring perspective to the discussion.

For myself, I'm pretty sure that 98% of professional players are ordinary guys with highly specialized skills, nothing more -just like 98% of people are ordinary guys, and the rest fall above or below the norm. But it would be really cool to see how my intuitions match up against real science.

------
FO posters are a peacock. You got to let us fly!

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by theslothook :: Sat, 01/26/2013 - 11:32pm

Personally, its not that they super human. I think my overall point was, to get to where they are, you have to have experienced pressure pretty often and pretty consistently. Succeeding in football is pretty make or break throughout much of your time. Only the best highschool players get to make college teams and only the best college players make the nfl teams and so and so forth. Thats why I imagine they are use to this sort of atmosphere.

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by Noah of Arkadia :: Sun, 01/27/2013 - 11:57am

I think they are familiar with the pressure, but not immune to its effects. Otherwise homefield advantage wouldn't mean much. As it is, even the stress of a long coast-to-coast flight has an effect on performance. And no matter how often any person flies, I don't think they ever stop experiencing the consequences -in fact, the opposite is more likely.

I know, I'm equating pressure to stress. Maybe incorrectly, though I suspect there's a close connection between the two.

------
FO posters are a peacock. You got to let us fly!

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by PatsFan :: Mon, 01/28/2013 - 12:16am

I think they are familiar with the pressure, but not immune to its effects. Otherwise homefield advantage wouldn't mean much.

That's assuming homefield advantage is due to pressure on the away team.

From what I've read, studies make a good case that homefield advantage is due to pressure -- pressure on the refs. Not that the refs are consciously bowing to the crowd, but rather that the crowd essentially moves the refs' "setpoints", resulting in them unconsciously favoring the home team.

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by Noah of Arkadia :: Wed, 01/30/2013 - 11:55am

I remember reading about that, but not the details. Anyhow, it stands to reason that refs would be affected by pressure. But that doesn't prove that the players aren't. In fact, isn't it a well-established betting fact that teams traveling to the opposite coast are particularly bad bets? That cannot be laid on the refs, that's all on the players (if it can indeed be proven to be true).

------
FO posters are a peacock. You got to let us fly!

121
by Anonymousse (not verified) :: Mon, 01/28/2013 - 2:02pm

"I'm very suspicious regarding the existence of "clutch performance", if that means someone whose performance consistently gets better when the stakes are biggest."

I agree with this in concept, but not in application. I don't think anyone gets better in higher stress, but there are certainly people who are affected more by the stress.

IE, in baseball, if Hitter X gets 5% worse in high stress, and the league on average is 10% worse in high stress, he is in essence getting better when the stakes get higher. Not on an absolute, but at a relative level, and everything in sports is relative.

If the hitter is staying the same, and the pitcher gets worse, you're going to see better numbers.

28
by RedDog (not verified) :: Thu, 01/24/2013 - 2:52am

That is about as dumb as it gets a statistic, tweaked to make Peyton look bad and the stats look "unexpected".

Besides it being crappy from a statistical standpoint, posting such crap here tells something about FO.

Unsubscribed.

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by corrections (not verified) :: Thu, 01/24/2013 - 12:58pm

You do realize the point of the piece was to show that this type of analysis is meaningless and tells you very little?

29
by Podge (not verified) :: Thu, 01/24/2013 - 6:36am

Gosh, it's almost as if you need a good defence as well as a good offence to win in the postseason.

31
by nat :: Thu, 01/24/2013 - 7:57am

It's a Manning Excuzapalooza!!!

Actually, after starting at a blistering pace of more than one excuse for a Peyton loss per post, things have calmed down a bit. I was wondering if his fans could keep it up.

It's a silly stat, if you follow it with "therefore X suks and Y rulz" - or with excuses and "therefore X really should be counted as winning almost every game he lost and a few he never got to play.". If you just treat it as "who has experienced the most playoff surprises of whichever type for whatever reason" it's not too bad. And for that, the "Manning Index" is a great name, if only to stir up arguments at Manning family reunions.

Me, I'd only consider a one-and-done playoff a real disappointment. Everything else is gravy. As noted before, winning playoff games is hard. Even a cupcake playoff draw is harder to get a run of wins against than the toughest of regular season schedules.

Anyone know who holds the record for one-and-done playoffs?

32
by Purds :: Thu, 01/24/2013 - 8:59am

Guess who leads FO in being a predictable jackass?

34
by nat :: Thu, 01/24/2013 - 9:46am

I was guessing Y.A. Tittle at 0-4. Are you a Tittle fan?

37
by nat :: Thu, 01/24/2013 - 10:23am

More seriously, it would have to be someone who had a long and successful regular season career. While it doesn't surprise me that you would assume this was about Manning, I suspect there are others with as many or more one-and-dones. But I honestly don't know.

Even if not, it's kind of a trivial record that doesn't mean much. Something else to imagine Eli using at the family reunions, which is a fun image when you think about it.

As for "jackass": Over-sensitive, much?

FO is a place for discussing football stats and player accomplishments. This particular thread seems widely acknowledged to be more about accomplishments, records and trivia than about judging quality of play or character. I can't think of a better time or place to ask a question about QB playoff win-loss records. It's exactly on topic.

So, please, stop being a jerk. Stop trying to suppress any topic that violates your rules of worship of your one true football god. The grownups around here would like to discuss all aspects of the game of football. It's annoying to have to walk on eggshells because one QB has attracted a bunch of tear-prone fans who feel they have to make personal attacks against anyone touching on particular topics.

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by Will Allen :: Thu, 01/24/2013 - 10:53am

You may garner a tone and type of rhetoric, from those who respond to you, that you claim to prefer, if you would examine those qualities in your own posts, and adjust accordingy.

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by nat :: Thu, 01/24/2013 - 2:37pm

I suppose you're right. Pointing out the avalanche of excuses was a might obvious. But the excuses were fairly counted, and were spoiling what could have been a good thread. I thought Excuzapalooza was a humorous, silly, apt neologism for the occasion.

If you're objecting to my comments on the futility of assigning too much importance to playoff records, or trying to rewrite history about them, we'll simply have to disagree. I think I'm right about that. And I'm pretty sure that pointing it out isn't uncivil.

If you're complaining about the one-and-done topic, don't you agree that going out in one game is vastly worse than advancing and losing later? Should I have avoided the topic to spare the feelings of the faint-hearted? I don't see why.

I honestly didn't know how badly Peyton had that record sewn up. I wasn't even certain he had the record. Why should it be a forbidden topic?

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by Will Allen :: Thu, 01/24/2013 - 5:45pm

"Excuzapalooza" was also reasonably interpreted as an attempt to ridicule a point of view that you found lacking. I suspect you are bright enough to grasp that, and also bright enough to grasp that when you engage in what other people can reasonably interpret as ridicule, hostile rhetoric will often be the response.

I do wonder if you understand that what you label an "excuse" others will simply call, sometimes accurately, a more complete representation of events, in an effort to give the full context of what produced a tiny set of data points, that are too often assigned extraordinarily too much explanatory power. In other words, your use of the term "excuse" entails a conceit on your part, pertaining to what actual knowldege you have regarding the motivations of others. You really don't know why people are posting the facts, ideas, and assertions that they choose to post here, and when you employ words which falsely imply that you do, people will, with some frequency, react in a hostile manner.

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by Noah of Arkadia :: Sat, 01/26/2013 - 11:05pm

Very well said. In short, whenever you get a hostile response, look at your own post and you'll likely find some sort of hostility there to begin with.

------
FO posters are a peacock. You got to let us fly!

35
by JonC :: Thu, 01/24/2013 - 9:55am

I do not care whether Peyton Manning or Tom Brady is a choker.

But I thought that it was an accepted truism on this and related sites that one cannot evaluate quarterbacks (or any other position) via team wins/losses. This is what the article does. Given that people call Manning etc. "chokers" because they lose in the playoffs when they are favored or facing teams with worse records...this article tells us nothing that people don't already "know."

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by nat :: Thu, 01/24/2013 - 10:42am

Try actually reading the article:
In other words, this basically means we should avoid forming any opinion of a quarterback’s clutchness from his playoff W-L record. Period.

All you should judge from a QB's playoff record alone is his playoff record. It's quite fair to say "Brady had a much better playoff record than Y.A. Tittle" or even "Y.A. Tittle holds the record for the worst total playoff record." Ditto for other quarterbacks. But it is not as clear cut to draw conclusions about overall quality of play. It's much better to look at DVOA and DYAR for that (I suggest this), or to give up on judging the quality of play in individual games or even seasons (go watch baseball).

For all that the article uses the words "clutch" and "choke", it does so to disprove the concepts, not to advance them.

36
by Ryan D. :: Thu, 01/24/2013 - 9:58am

Mark Sanchez and Jake Delhomme: BIG GAME QUARTERBACKS!

38
by DenverCheeze (not verified) :: Thu, 01/24/2013 - 10:41am

There are other factors involved that mean considering playoff wins is totally bogus for determining 'clutchability'. Primarily, salary cap. A QB does great in his first few seasons, then demands a super high salary forcing the team to spend less $$ on supporting cast (such as Defensive playmakers)which has significant impact on the team's ability to win, and nothing to do with the quarterback's ability on the field to make a great throw on 3rd and 12 that reaches the first down.

Analyzing drives and situations where the QB needs to perform are a much more meaningful way to evaluate 'clutchness'. This article is cr@p.

40
by DenverCheeze (not verified) :: Thu, 01/24/2013 - 10:43am

Just to add to my earlier post...Peyton Manning was NOT on the field when the Broncos lost in the playoffs this year. This helps prove my point.

46
by nat :: Thu, 01/24/2013 - 11:55am

Win/loss playoff records:

Wins: Brady (17)
Losses: Favre, P. Manning (11)
Wins with 0 losses: Kaepernick!, Reich (2!)
Losses with 0 wins: Tittle (4)
Super Bowl Wins: Bradshaw, Montana (4)
One-and-done: Manning (8)
Best percentage, multiple seasons: Bart Starr (.900, 9-1)

It's quite a collection. Even the dubious records for losing indicate a great deal of success in the regular season, and don't mean the QB can't win the big one...

...except Y.A. Tittle. What a choker!

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by DenverCheeze (not verified) :: Thu, 01/24/2013 - 12:47pm

Bart Starr...best QB ever in history...of all time...no contest...the stats don't lie.

53
by nat :: Thu, 01/24/2013 - 1:59pm

Well, no. Or at least you shouldn't base that solely on his great playoff record.

But if you're talking about the best playoff accomplishments, he'd be in the conversation with Brady, Bradshaw, and Montana, and a maybe few QBs who didn't top any one category.

He did more in the post-season than Johnny Unitas, although Unitas may have been the better QB over all. As much as we complain about small sample sizes in today's playoffs, back in the day the sample sizes were tiny. It was a huge accomplishment just to play in 10 post season games, not to mention winning 9 of them.

Was it random variation? Who knows, or cares really? It was great.

52
by turbohappy :: Thu, 01/24/2013 - 1:53pm

One thing I didn't see mentioned in the "loss of clutch" argument, if there really is something there besides statistical noise, is just pure age. Is it possible that after a long season an older player is just flat tired by the time the playoffs roll around?

54
by QCIC (not verified) :: Thu, 01/24/2013 - 2:27pm

Stopped reading when quarterbacks and wins were mentioned in the same sentence.

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by TTJ (not verified) :: Thu, 01/24/2013 - 4:00pm

I agree that the playoffs of one season are an extremely small sample size, but what about all of the playoff games combined in a career? It seems that 20 playoff games would be a large enough sample size, as in the case of Peyton Manning.

While I don't know exact win/loss ratios, I do know that his teams have won much more in the regular season than in the playoffs, in terms of winning percentage, and by a very large margin. I also know that his passer rating is a lot lower in the playoffs and in my opinion by actually watching his games, he has played much worse in the postseason compared to the regular season. Yes he has played very well on occassion, but for the most part his performances have been subpar.

I almost expected that horrible interception he threw against Baltimore on second down because he has done that consistently througout his career in the playoffs. Take his interception against the Saints in the Super Bowl as another example (another throw I expected him to make). Just look at his td/interception ratio in the regular season compared to the playoffs and it's a similar story.

Contrast Manning against Brady, Montana, or Elway and I'm sure you will find that their stats and winning percentages in the playoffs are more closely aligned with what they achieved in the regular season. Not exactly aligned but a lot closer.

Obviously none of these metrics will tell a complete story but they are a guide and the fact is that I will bet against Manning in the playoffs most of the time. I still think he is one of the greatest qb's ever, but for whatever reason his teams consistently lose more than they win in the postseason, but by no means do I put all of the blame on him.

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by theslothook :: Thu, 01/24/2013 - 4:32pm

You know what I've come to expect? I've come to expect tom brady to play lousy in at least one playoff game every year and still win. It all started back in 06, when he played lousy against the chargers(remember that pick fumble that somehow netted him a first down)? They won. Remember that terrible afc champ game the very next year? they won. Remember that last year's afc title game against the ravens? He won again. This year, I was stunned. He was lousy again but they LOST???? Geebus what happened?

Look, I've seen Brady and Manning play poorly in many many playoff games(some they've even won despite their play, others they've lost, a couple they've even been blown out in), but even still, I don't think I ever go into a game expecting them to play horribly. That is just plain stupid. Do I expect them to hang 4 tds and 300 yards every time? No, the level of competition increases. But to expect someone to play poorly just because they are "chokers" is stupid.

Oh, as for manning: I thought Manning played well in his loss to Baltimore. He was under pretty good pressure, his run game gave him nothing, and some of his throws(his two td throws) were pretty amazing. Rewatching all 22- they completely took away DT and decker rarely got any separation. That said, his int at the end was just an awful terrible throw- but its amazing that we bash him for this one single play out of the many other good ones he made.

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by TTJ (not verified) :: Thu, 01/24/2013 - 7:01pm

I think we bash Manning for that one single horrible throw because the margin of error is so small, maybe especially so in the playoffs. I agree that he played a really solid game against Baltimore up until that throw. I think he played a brilliant game against the Saints in the Super Bowl until his pick six at the end. Maybe he didn't choke, but the only other explanation that I can come up with is that he is so competitive that he believes he can make any throw and an incompletion in those circumstances is unacceptable to him. I saw Russell Wilson in a similar situation against Atlanta deliberately throw the ball into his receivers feet, rather than make an ill advised throw against his body to a receiver that wasn't open. Who knows why Manning made that throw but I am inclined to believe that in a crucial part of the game, he panicked. So while I have typically expected Manning to play solid on the whole, I have also simultaneously expected him to make bad mistakes in important situations where there is little to no room for error, especially an interception.

Every player will have subpar games in the regular season and playoffs, but I don't believe sheer randomness will explain the large spread in Manning's stats pre and post season. It's very likely they won't be quite as good, but his practically fall off a cliff. I just flat out don't believe he plays as well in the playoffs, period.

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by theslothook :: Thu, 01/24/2013 - 7:23pm

I am curious, how do you then reconcile Tom Brady and the dramatic shift in his playoff performances after his last superbowl win? He was 10-0 to start his career and has dramatically fallen off from there. This is especially odd since he's an infinitely better player. Again, how do we explain this and what narrative do you take? Its ironic but, the larger the sample, the more confusing the results are it seems.

My general point is, there's no real conclusion you can draw from the post season. Sometimes, you just get unlucky and lose and the post season run is over before you have a chance to accumulate wins.

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by dmstorm22 :: Thu, 01/24/2013 - 7:48pm

His numbers most certainly do not fall off a cliff, and he retains more of his regular season value than Brady does, or Roethlisberger.

He doesn't play as well, but when you adjust for the fact that defenses are better in the playoffs (especially the defenses he's had to play). In Manning's 20 playoff games the average pass defense DVOA ranking for his opponents has been 9.25. More amazingly, he's played a Top-10 pass defense 13 times, including 8 against a Top-5 pass defense.

Peyton Manning has been incredibly consistent in the playoffs recently. In his last six playoff losses ('05 PIT, '07 SD, '08 SD, '09 NO, '10 NYJ, '12 BAL), his lowest passer rating in any of those losses was 88.5, which was against Baltimore (and that was over 100 before OT).

The idea that Manning plays worse in the playoffs is true in totality, but when you remove a really bad start in his first three games, it isn't nearly much of a drop-off.

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by Will Allen :: Thu, 01/24/2013 - 5:39pm

No, 20 data points is not enough, not even close, to form a judgement of any confidence, even if the data points were wholly the result of the performance of one individual. Hell, to say otherwise would allow you to ridiculously conclude that Billy Martin proved he could handle the challenge of playoff baseball hitting better than Ted Williams. In football, where the data point labeled either "win" or "loss", is produced by 44 starters, plus special teams, plus auxillary players, interacting in very complex ways, with variance in coaching, and randomness thrown in by referee variance, weather, an odd shaped ball bouncing in strange ways, etc., etc., etc., to say that 20 such data points can give you meaningful insight into one player's performance is just obviously wrong, and I haven't even addresed how the one and done playoff format distorts the data points called wins and losses.

The most you can say is that a qb who appeared in 20 playoff games is quite likely a very good player.

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by TTJ (not verified) :: Thu, 01/24/2013 - 7:12pm

In this case, 20 data points would be equivalent to 1.25 seasons. That, I believe, is a relatively large sample size.

You used baseball in your example. How many baseball players play so many postseason game that it equates to 1.25 seasons?

Relative to his regular season games, Manning's stats fall drastically. Again, I don't believe one can blame that on randomness.

80
by Will Allen :: Thu, 01/24/2013 - 8:43pm

We don't use w-l records in a baseball season to evaluate hitters, and nobody who knows anything uses them for starting pitchers anymore, either. We use the 500- 600 plus plate appearances in a season for hitters, and a couple hundred innings, or even more hundreds of batters faced, for pitchers. In this case you are talking about 20 actual data points, the wins and losses in playoff games, which the player in question only had a fraction of the responsibility for. It really tells us next to nothing.

Now, if you want to discuss all the passing and rushing attempts a qb make in playoff games, then adjust for opponent strength, and then compare those numbers to the regular season numbers, then after 20 or so playoff games, you might have adequate data points to begin a discussion, but really, just barely. If you look at, again, Ted Williams' career as a hitter, you'll see some years where he was measurably worse, with his 500-600 plate appearances, than other years. Did his Clutch Fairy go hide in a Boston saloon that year, only to appear the next spring, or were we just seeing some random variation? I'm betting on the latter.

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by Anonymousse (not verified) :: Mon, 01/28/2013 - 2:16pm

Will, there are plenty of things in baseball that have completely stabilized in under 100 PA.

131
by Will Allen :: Tue, 01/29/2013 - 9:14am

So Billy Martin would have been a better hitter to have on a World Series roster than Ted Wiliams?

59
by bhauck :: Thu, 01/24/2013 - 4:52pm

Wouldn't it make more sense to figure out the points Vegas expects a team to score through the equations [Favorite] + [Underdog] = [Over/Under]; [Favorite] = [Underdog] + [Spread]; [Favorite] + [Favorite] - [Spread] = [Over/Under]; [Favorite] = ([Over/Under] - [Spread])/2, then figure out how QBs' offenses compared to that? Doesn't account for defensive and special teams touchdowns, but cuts out the rest of defense.

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by steveNC (not verified) :: Sun, 01/27/2013 - 1:09pm

Should be [Favorite] = ([Over/Under] + [Spread])/2

124
by Anonymousse (not verified) :: Mon, 01/28/2013 - 2:20pm

No, because field position matters in football. Taking one side would make sense in baseball, but in any game where what the defense does sets how hard it is to score for the offense, attributing points earned/points lost to one side or the other is just silly.

When Tom Brady throws a pick in the end zone, and Champ Bailey runs it back to the 1 yard line, and then the Broncos offense runs it into the end zone a couple of plays later, should that really not count against Brady?

61
by Bright Blue Shorts :: Thu, 01/24/2013 - 5:18pm

Does anyone else feel that perhaps that being the star effect is behind these losses?

If you go back to John Elway when he actually finally won the Super Bowls in 1998-99 - the team was no longer built around him. Terrell Davis was a highly effective runner. Whereas the late 80s Broncos were fairly one dimensional.

Brady is clearly a better QB now than when he actually won SBs. Therefore does his team rely on him too much now that he is the star name? Does it lead to overconfidence in the rest of the team that he will bail them out, or just plain less talent around him that he can drag far enough into the playoffs.

I can't really say whether that is true for Peyton Manning as well but I suspect it's the case.

65
by Will Allen :: Thu, 01/24/2013 - 5:42pm

I think it is probable that by the time a HOF qb candidate gets into his third contract, and perhaps even his second, he starts consuming so much cap space that keeping talent around him starts to get really hard, absent some phenomenal drafting luck.

69
by theslothook :: Thu, 01/24/2013 - 6:25pm

Well then that raises the interesting question of- is it worth it to let a qb eat up so much roster space that you can't afford to employ as many great players?

The answer is probably, though what choice do you really have? Its hard enough finding great players that when you get them, you absolutely have to resign them.

Which brings me to another question, which positions should be paid the most based on what value they bring?

I believe qb, wr, pass rusher are the big ones, less so are corners, o linemen, and rbs.

78
by Will Allen :: Thu, 01/24/2013 - 8:30pm

I would put pass rusher ahead of wide receiver.

79
by theslothook :: Thu, 01/24/2013 - 8:34pm

Would you rather have von miller or Calvin Johnson? I guess JJ watt i would rather have, but a standard pass rusher over Calvin? I might rather have calvin. And i think Moss was the best non qb player I've ever seen(though marshall faulk can also make a case for that).

81
by Will Allen :: Thu, 01/24/2013 - 8:45pm

Let me put it this way. The first career I would take for my team, if not a qb's, would be Reggie White's.

82
by theslothook :: Thu, 01/24/2013 - 9:13pm

Why not randy moss? And when I say randy moss, I want to make the assumption that you get happy camper try hard randy moss, not mercenary malcontent moss.

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by Will Allen :: Thu, 01/24/2013 - 11:49pm

A few reasons. At his best, White could more reliably, compared to Moss at his best, affect the outcome of a game, independent of the performance of other players, including teammates. A blown up line of scrimmage, by one player, resulting in the opponent with the ball getting clobbered in 2 seconds, is not dependent on other teammates performing their jobs. White's performance was not affected nearly as much, in a negative fashion, by weather, or by playing on the road. White could not be discouraged out of competing for 60 minutes, in the fashion I saw Moss get disocuraged on occasion, even when his overall performance within that season was great.

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by MJK :: Fri, 01/25/2013 - 12:02am

Really? REggie White over Lawrence Taylor? White was not even unarguably the best player of his type of his day (there are still some die-hard Bruce Smith proponents out there). I don't think ANYONE argues that LT wasn't game changing.

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by Will Allen :: Fri, 01/25/2013 - 12:29am

I didn't say LT wasn't game changing. He was, and was a great, great player. LT also was not as effective against the run as White, was not as positionally versatile, and heavily depended on talented, and most importantly, highly disciplined teammates, which allowed him to play largely without any responsibility other than chasing the ball.

This really isn't criticism, and one thing I hate about these debates is that it tends to make you sound like you are ripping a historically great player. That isn't my intent. I just think White could be really dominant in a wider variety of settings than Taylor.

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by theslothook :: Fri, 01/25/2013 - 12:51am

You could argue reggie white can get doubled and chipped by tight ends and the like. You could also argue teams can scheme away from his side of the field or just adjust your play calling to mitigate his involvement- ie screens and short passes.

I think Moss had such a unique skill set that he brought far more utility to a team's offense than white did with the defense. Moss really could outleap people so consistently that you didn't even necessarily need to be a great deep thrower to be effective. Whats more, his sheer presence enhanced just about every other part of the team's offense because he dictated personnel to a large degree. Wes Welker was at his most frightening when moss essentially forced defenders away from welker, who then killed you with a thousand short routes.

Again, all this hinges on Moss being the motivated determined player he should be. I fully concede that if I had to take the realistic Moss, I would lean to White. But on pure talent and utility, I think Moss edges out White.

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by Will Allen :: Fri, 01/25/2013 - 1:28am

You seem to imply that doubling White was a guarantee that he would not blow up a play in about 2 seconds. This was not the case. Also, as good as Moss was, the failure of other teammates could absolutely negate his performance, in a way it did not for White, just due to the nature of the positions; the performance of a receiver is simply inherently more dependent on teammates than the performance of a defensive lineman. Again, this is not a criticism of Moss.

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by theslothook :: Fri, 01/25/2013 - 9:27pm

You know Will,

I wonder what you think of Allen. There are a few non sack related things that make really have a high impression of Allen. First, when he left the chiefs, that chiefs team set a record(i think) for the fewest sacks in history. On top of that, ray edwards looked great next to allen and no is cut. Similarily, both everson griffin and brian robison have looked good next to allen. This doesn't even factor in allen's ridiculous production.

I think Allen is a shoo in for the hall but I wonder if he'd be labeled as an all time great if he had some post season magic, or rather, his team had some post season magic that really pushed his narrative further. As it is, he probably will be underrated historically someday.

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by Will Allen :: Sat, 01/26/2013 - 1:07am

I think Allen is very close to being an obviously worthy Hall of Fame inductee, like about 2 more productive seasons away. The guy respected his responsibility to defend the run, while piling up sacks and pressures, and just played extremely hard all the time. The Pro Football Hall of Fame is a complete joke, as far as the induction process, however, so who knows what will happen?

(edit) To add on, I'd take Allen on my roster, over recent inductee Chris Doleman, every single day of the year.

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by Anonymousse (not verified) :: Mon, 01/28/2013 - 2:24pm

" Also, as good as Moss was, the failure of other teammates could absolutely negate his performance, in a way it did not for White, j"

This just isn't true at all. It doesn't matter if White blows by one tackle if the play is to the other side and the other tackle pancakes his opponent. Everyone on a football field is reliant on their teammates.

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by Will Allen :: Tue, 01/29/2013 - 9:41am

Apparently, you never saw Reggie White destroy a play that was designed to go to the other side, and was well blocked to that side. It was known to happen. In contrast, if a ball dos not arrive in a defined area, Randy Moss has no effect on a play.

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by theslothook :: Tue, 01/29/2013 - 4:06pm

You might have overall convinced me will to side with White, but your statement "if a ball dos not arrive in a defined area, Randy Moss has no effect on a play," is false. Randy Moss dictated defensive personnel. People absolutely shaded his side, making everyone else's job easier. The opposing receivers had an easier task, the qb probably got more predictable coverage looks, the running backs probably had less stacked boxes to run through.

Still, a great pass rusher can single handidly blow up a play at any moment. If there's one game that I saw recently(fairly recently anyways) that really reminded me of the power of a great de, it was the 2009 vikings against the carolina panthers. The vikes were a significantly better team, but that game, McKinney(and his backup Hicks I believe) was completely overwhelmed by peppers all night. In essence, peppers single handily and quite literally brought favre and the vikes passing game to there knees.

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by Will Allen :: Tue, 01/29/2013 - 4:29pm

The ball still has to arrive in a defined area, no matter which receiver is targeted. Yes, running the ball was made easier when Moss was on the field.

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by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Fri, 01/25/2013 - 10:58am

I'd take Bruce Smith.

Nearly the same career AV as a 3-4 end, versus a 4-3 end.

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by Will Allen :: Fri, 01/25/2013 - 11:22am

It's really fodder for another irrational thread. I wouldn't try to make strong delineations between the two. I'd take either guy's career for my team over L.T.'s, which again, is not meant as criticism of Taylor, but is an attempt to recognize the more varied ways that White and Smith were valuable.

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by Will Allen :: Fri, 01/25/2013 - 12:29am

misplaced

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by Rick S (not verified) :: Sat, 01/26/2013 - 12:25pm

Tom Brady has gained a reputation as a clutch QB, with some of that beng earned, but much of it amplified by good luck. Peyton Manning's reputation has also been earned, but he has also had bad luck. Not to mention Brady has generally had a more complete team. To say that Brady is more clutch than Manning is a fair statement, but to say that Peyton is a chocker would be an unfair statement given the circumstances of some Peyton's losses and Brady's wins.

CLUTCH/CHOKE
BRADY = SB drives against Rams And Panthers
MANNING = Pick 6 in SB

LUCK
BRADY = Long FGs made in bad conditions
MANNING = Key FGs missed in a dime
BRADY = Tuck Rule
MANNING = Saftey allows 70 yd TD with historical bad play
BRADY = SD def back fumbling late interception
BRADY = Balt AFC Champ game; dropped TD and missed FG

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by theslothook :: Sat, 01/26/2013 - 6:04pm

How do you define clutch?

I can't imagine why Manning's drive against the pats in 06 doesn't get the clutch label. Unless clutch is specifically meant for sb's only. Also, against the jets in 2010, Manning got them the lead, only to his defense, with 1 minute to go, give up a game winning fg to MARK SANCHEZ of all people. Even against the ravens, he scores a go ahead td, then when his offense gets the ball back, he runs three straight times to kill the clock, effectively forcing baltimore to need a td to tie the game with something like a 1:14 to go. If the safety didn't screw up, that might be considered a clutch drive. All of this gets of course gets forgotten though and we are left with just his losses as the primary narrative. I guess if brady loses another 4 playoff games in a row, we may finally begin to unravel these ridiculous narratives. However, what will most likely happen is the world will just say it was giselle that corrupted his clutch nature and made him a choker.

Finally, it continues to mystify me why people think brady had a great game in his sb against the rams.(since I don't want to come off as a brady hater, he did have an awesome game against the panthers tho). In that rams sb, he and the offense scored a measly 13 pts, the same point total that he matched in his recent loss to the ravens. A point total, btw, that has people now wondering if hes a choker. See what a superlative defensive performance and a ty law int return for a td can do for your legacy as a clutch player?

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by Jerry Garcia (not verified) :: Mon, 01/28/2013 - 10:03am

So if Tony Romo or Peyton Manning can get you to the post season, you need Mark Sanchez to pull the trigger and actually win in the post season.

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by Chase (not verified) :: Tue, 01/29/2013 - 1:29pm

As usual, some very good discussion. I'd just like to alert you guys that we've also now published the same list for coaches, although it goes back to 1950 instead of just 1977.

I think this method works better for coaches than quarterbacks but the results are still a little, well, quirky. Of course, that's the point: you can get burned using small sample sizes. Bill Cowher was a choker until he wasn't. Ditto Tony Dungy.

http://www.footballperspective.com/the-schottenheimer-index/

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by nat :: Tue, 01/29/2013 - 5:10pm

Win/loss playoff (coaching) records:

Wins: Landry (20)
Losses: Shula (17)
Wins with 0 losses: George Wilson (2!)
Losses with 0 wins: Mora (6)
Super Bowl Wins: Chuck Noll (4)
One-and-done: Schottenheimer, Shula (9)
Best percentage, multiple seasons: Lombardi (.900, 9-1)

Despite the dubious loss records, Shula was quite creditable in the playoffs, with an overall winning record; Mora and Schottenheimer, not so much.