Scramble for the Ball
Fantasy football, the Loser League, and general goofiness

Scramble for the Ball: Condition Miami

by Bill Barnwell & Ian Dembsky

(Ed. note: We're suspending the "no Brady/Manning talk" rule in this thread, since that is the subject of much of the article. We are not responsible for the lunacy that is sure to follow.)

Bill: My faith in the media has been shaken, Ian. Take the play of each of the quarterbacks in the Colts-Patriots game from Sunday and reverse it. Imagine that it was Brady who threw the early interception, organized the comeback, and that it was Manning who threw the pick on his final drive with a chance to win the game. Wouldn't that make more sense?

Theoretically, the role of the media in sports is to report on the events that have occurred and, with an educated pen that has access to and understands things on a different level than the layman, provides a context for and interprets the results of a contest. The role, from what I'm able to tell, should not to be to point out bits that would be obvious from a cursory analysis of the box score and offer their opinion in as loud as a manner as possible.

How much of Tom Brady's skill in the clutch has been ascribed to him by journalists? How much of that is because the story of a good-to-very good quarterback mixing some luck (the fumble luck against the Chargers, John Kasay's out-of-bounds kickoff in the Super Bowl) with effective performances in a very small sample size has been told previously?

And likewise, why has Manning's story become, so blatantly, the guy whose all-world skills go away in the clutch? Maybe it's because his defense is worse. You think? You can make points about Manning's salary cap hit and how that hurts the Colts ability to sign players, and it's relevant, but it's not the whole story -- and Brady isn't surviving on chump change, either. Is Manning the third generation of quarterback to get that story told about him? Manning, Marino, Tarkenton. Was there a guy who "just couldn't win the big games" before Fran Tarkenton?

Has Tom Brady lost his clutch ability? He's lost two playoff games! And, on the other hand, has Peyton Manning found his by overcoming the Pats? Does he need to beat the Bears to solidify it?

I'd like to propose an alternate idea. Maybe, all along, it wasn't any magic beans that Tom Brady had or inferiorities that Peyton Manning suffered from. Maybe it was just the media interpreting the results of five minutes or ten minutes of football incorrectly.

A lot of the criticism of sabermetric analysis revolves around the idea that sabermetrics and sabermetricians don't really care about the game, that they reduce the players to paper and are math nerds who don't really love the game and don't want it to be fun. Some of this criticism is from fellow fans, and some of it is from the more traditional media types (I won't name anyone; all I will say is that his name rhymes with Baron Van Raschke). The thing about sabermetrics and about quantitative analysis is that it adjusts for context, looks at performance in a truer, more objective light, and explains what will happen most of the time. Some of the most exhilarating moments of being a fan of any sport occur when things happen that no one could expect -- the famous "Explain how Willie Mays caught that ball, then" criticism -- even sabermetricians.

What the larger media does, in trying to explain these moments, is ascribe simple qualities to players that aren't so simple. Tom Brady's clutch, Peyton Manning's not. David Ortiz is clutch, Alex Rodriguez is not. Sabermetricians offer up a different answer: Tom Brady is a very good player who happened to be in more possible "clutch" situations. Once he was there, he was assisted by some things that are quantifiable as lucky and random, and then from there, anything can happen in a small sample size. One drive out of 170 in a season. Five at-bats out of 700. They don't tell us anything. They're exhilarating, glorious, magical, or miserable and unbearable to think about the next day.

In reality, Peyton Manning isn't any more "clutch" today than he was yesterday, the day or weekend before, a year ago, or when he was eight years old. Tom Brady's not any worse, either. They're simple stories for situations that, in some cases, require a much deeper analysis not feasible on short deadlines; in other cases, though, they're stories created to sell newspapers when the answer is much more simple and wouldn't offer any "insight."

Sometimes, it's just chance and luck.

Ian: Your point is well taken, but I do think it's tough to say that the concept of "clutch" doesn't exist. It's kind of like "being in the zone." Teams hire psychologists to try and figure out what exactly puts a player "in the zone," hoping to keep him there. Remember Michael Jordan's three-point barrage, followed by him shrugging his shoulders as if to say "I don't know why, but I simply can't miss!" These mental things do happen, but at this point, no one really knows how or why. I suppose that a way to define clutch is to say that added pressure on a certain person increases his chances of being in the zone. Quantifiable? Heck no. But do these attributes really exist? I'd venture to say "yes."

One quarterback who needn't be in the zone to carry his team is Rex Grossman. All he has to do, really, is not screw up. He played well for essentially one drive last Sunday, but it's all his team needed to put away the Saints' momentum and their chances of reaching the Super Bowl.

It's truly astounding how erratically Rex plays. His coaches specifically put short passes in the playbook early to ease him into the game action, but he tends to airmail those passes anyways. What I want to know is, how come we're not hearing more talk about Bernard Berrian? The guy is the unsung MVP of this Bears offense. He's got blazing speed and the hands to make you pay if you don't respect his ability to go long. He also makes nice cuts downfield, turning deep coverage into an "easy" 15-yard gain, Reggie Wayne style. Have you noticed that the vast majority of Rex's accurate passes are thrown in Berrian's direction? It's because he knows he's got a reliable stud out there who'll create separation, and thus reduce the defenses chances of swooping in for a pick. Every time a pass is completed to Muhammad, it's usually in relatively tight coverage, and the throw isn't terribly accurate either. Receiver separation is a quarterback's best friend.

One team I would like to give a lot of credit to over the weekend is both officiating crews. There was very little to complain about in either game; it seems that the vast majority of the time they got things right. And in the wake of the Colts' thrilling victory over New England, we're not discussing ridiculous officiating calls. We're discussing how the players on the field performed, which is what this is all about.

Now that I've been nice to all you officials out there, can I make one teeny request? When a player appears to fumble the football, can you guys make up your freakin' minds about what you think happened? One truly disturbing trend in football is that officials never seem to blow the whistle at the end of plays anymore. How many times have we seen a player go clearly down, but the whistle doesn't blow, and when a defender knocks the ball out of the ball carriers hands when he's already on the ground, he goes off running with it in case it's a fumble. Only, it obviously wasn't, but the official didn't bother to blow his whistle to call the play dead. It's strange; the new rule about a fumble after the whistle being recoverable if it's clear who got it should make the officials feel better about blowing the whistle than in the past. Now, even a whistle that was blown incorrectly has the chance to be overturned properly. When a play is over, blow the whistle!

Bill: I'm thinking about the Super Bowl and I'm not really sure if this is a real good matchup for Manning and the Colts offense. The Bears secondary is pretty deep -- in Ricky Manning, they have one of the better (if bitter) nickel backs in the league, and while Marvin Harrison can beat Nathan Vasher, it's not as if Vasher is chopped Roc or anything. In the middle of the field, Lance Briggs and Brian Urlacher can handle Dallas Clark -- Indianapolis is going to have to try really hard to get Clark up against Hunter Hillenmeyer. Alternately, I could see Chicago using five defensive backs in their base defense a lot of the time as they did last week against Reggie Bush.

Ian: When the Bears offense gets on the field, the first thing they should do is not bother with the flare patterns to a fullback, or a quick hitter to the tight end. Rex can't throw them, so don't bother. The Colts are likely to stack up against the run, however, as they usually do. Early on, for reasons I've discussed above, they need to establish Bernard Berrian. Hit him for a few decent gainers, or go long if you wish. Let the Colts know that you're willing to stretch the field, if they're gonna stack the line. Once they help out on Berrian, you've either got Muhammad and Desmond Clark with room to run, or you've got Bob Sanders defending the pass instead of the run. That's when you start pounding with Thomas Jones and Cedric Benson, and when you'll truly be in control.

For the Colts defense, you need to disrupt Berrian's timing by being physical with him up near the line, and giving safety help deep. Take your chances with Rex throwing to Muhammad and Clark early. Stuff the run, stuff Berrian, and you'll have Grossman and the rest of the Bears offense exactly where you want them.


Check out the Football Outsiders comics archive and Jason's wacky Gil Thorp blog.

Keep Choppin' Wood Award

Paging Reche Caldwell ... Paging Reche Caldwell ... This is a pretty obvious choice. Reche's first drop was horrible, but he got bailed out by Jabar Gaffney's amazing catch in the back of the end zone (and for those of you wondering, it was completely clear that his heels never touched the out-of-bounds line). The second catch cost the Patriots dearly. The way the defender was sprinting to Caldwell because of the lack of coverage would have made it easy for Reche to cut back to the inside and cruise in for a touchdown. Instead, a pathetically dropped pass killed the Patriots' momentum at the time and led to Indy's winning points at the hands of Joseph Addai. Caldwell is, without a doubt, this week's Keep Choppin Wood Award winner.

Playoff Fantasy Draft Update

2007 Football Outsiders Playoff Fantasy Teams
  JASON 125 RUSSELL 170 TIM 189
QB Garcia, PHI 28 Brees, NO 35 Rivers, SD 7
RB Tomlinson, SD 30 Lewis, BAL 7 Westbrook, PHI 44
RB Barber, NYG 14 Jones, CHI 42 Addai, IND 32
WR Harrison, IND 12 Muhammad, CHI 5 Colston, NO 15
WR Jackson, SD 4 Horn, NO 0 Stallworth, PHI 26
WR Berrian, CHI 30 Mason, BAL 1 Branch, SEA 8
TE Smith, PHI 2 Clark, IND 27 Heap, BAL 0
K Kaeding, SD 3 Vinatieri, IND 48 Gostkowski, NE 38
DEF Philadelphia 2 San Diego 5 New England 19
  AARON 87 ALEX 182 BILL 129
QB McNair, BAL 2 Manning, IND 40 Brady, NE 46
RB Dillon, NE 20 Alexander, SEA 29 Johnson, KC 5
RB McAllister, NO 31 Bush, NO 33 Maroney, NE 7
WR Owens, DAL 2 Wayne, IND 20 Clayton, BAL 7
WR Glenn, DAL 4 Brown, PHI 14 McCardell, SD 0
WR Henderson, NO 8 Caldwell, NE 23 Burress, NYG 20
TE Gates, SD 6 Stevens, SEA 20 Watson, NE 6
K Carney, NO 11 Stover, BAL 10 Gould, CHI 25
DEF Baltimore 3 New Orleans -7 Chicago 13

There look to be two possible winners in the "Best of the Rest" competition among the readers, who posted their teams in the discussion thread of the original draft article.

Geoff (comment 27) has 102 points, but his only remaining players are Cedric Benson and Desmond Clark. However, Andrew/A.B. (comment 18) has 99 points, with Rex Grossman, Benson, Clark, Mark Bradley, and Indianapolis defense all left. So he's the probable winner.

Next week, Scramble returns with the Annual Prop Bet Extravaganza!

Comments

245 comments, Last at 08 Feb 2007, 12:12am

1 Re: Scramble for the Ball: Condition Miami

Just remember that we were one completion on 3rd & 4, or perhaps the lack of that idiotic 12 men in the huddle call away from 2 weeks of hearing how Tom Brady is Mr. Clutch and Peyton Manning went 3 and out during the biggest drive of the game. Instead, Sanders makes the play and the rest is history.

2 Re: Scramble for the Ball: Condition Miami

Bravo, Bill! Excellent opening on the media and "clutchness." Well argued, well written, and, most importantly, right on. I'll be passing that around to friends.

3 Re: Scramble for the Ball: Condition Miami

Well written argument Bill. Makes you think.

I'll also mention something I read (here or somewhere else, I dont remember). This was the first time Brady had to get a TD to seal the deal in the playoffs, not just a FG. It is quite a bit more difficult to get into the end zone than to just try to get within 35 yards of it.

4 Re: Scramble for the Ball: Condition Miami

"The thing about sabermetrics and about quantitative analysis is that it adjusts for context, looks at performance in a truer, more objective light, and explains what will happen most of the time."

Maybe you could say "explains what happened most of the time", but suggesting predictive powers in such a way is too much of a leap.

5 Re: Scramble for the Ball: Condition Miami

re: #1

I'm so not in the mood to go searching the PBP now, but I'm sure you could make the same case for previous Pats-Colts encounters, except switching sides.

In fact, you could probably make the same case for ANY close game...

6 Re: Scramble for the Ball: Condition Miami

I should also note that the point of what I wrote WASN'T Brady-Manning. It's the media and how it frames all players. Not that will stop some people, but just FYI.

7 Re: Scramble for the Ball: Condition Miami

Maybe you could say “explains what happened most of the time�, but suggesting predictive powers in such a way is too much of a leap.

Why? Retrodiction (which is what you're saying) is when you build a metric out of a data set and compare it to the individual events in the data set. Prediction is when you build a metric out of a data set and compare it to events not in that data set.

Most quantitative measurements of baseball/football are tuned to maximize predictivity, not retrodictivity.

8 Re: Scramble for the Ball: Condition Miami

"Manning, Marino, Tarkenton. Was there a guy who “just couldn’t win the big games� before Fran Tarkenton?"

Y.A. Tittle lost three straight Championship games--don't know if the conversation of the day was "He can't win the big one," though.

Re: Sabermetrics comments

It's a basic element of most human thought to break things down into simple dichotomies; that' why we need real analysis to show that simple dichotomies are usually false.

However, I still think there's an element that statistical analysis cannot get. It's easy for statistical analysts to look at Namath's numbers and say he wasn't a good QB--but many of these analysts did not see Namath in his prime, follow what he meant to his team, or see his performances in their real-life context.

Just as any dichotomy has falsity to it, a debate between sabermetrics and conventional analysis is faulty, too--we don't have to pick a side, and there's value to each view.

"These mental things do happen, but at this point, no one really knows how or why. I suppose that a way to define clutch is to say that added pressure on a certain person increases his chances of being in the zone. Quantifiable? Heck no. But do these attributes really exist? I’d venture to say “yes.�"

Ian makes exactly an argument that I've made (though slightly differently)--there are things to don't fit into a quanifiable statistical system, and recognizing they exist doesn't mean you have to find a way to fit them into a quantifiable statistical system.

10 Re: Scramble for the Ball: Condition Miami

8 - I think there certainly are things that exist that aren't quantifiable (certainly in the relative infancy of advanced football analysis and FO).

I just think that being "clutch" isn't one of them.

11 Re: Scramble for the Ball: Condition Miami

I find it interesting when the concept of clutch is questioned in sports, because in life, most of us recognize that our minds and bodies work differently in situations of different types of pressure. We also recognize that different people handle situations of pressure differently than others.

Are there any of us who haven't experienced this? Clutch may be overblown and misinterpreted by the media, but the concept that some people handle pressure better than others seems fairly indisputable.

12 Re: Scramble for the Ball: Condition Miami

re: 6

And in that regard, I'd put forth the Chris Chambers file. Gotta love the guy's athletic ability, but the media focused on it (and a particular game against Buffalo in which he played great, but also benefitted from a lot of ill-advised prevent defense) so much, to the point he was considered at some point a great receiver... for what, exactly? Yes, the previous regime down in Miami was wrong in extending his contract (and his status, really) to that of a #1 receiver; I also think he's being misused. He could be a great slot receiver... if he just got the chance. Unfortunately, he might never get it, because he might never again believe he's not a #1...

re: 7

I remember Aaron writing (PFP 2006) about how DVOA 5.0 proved itself better, when compared to the previous iterations, in matching up with previous seasons.

Maybe the ultimate goal of DVOA is predictivity, but from what I've read (not only on PFP, but on several DVOA articles) it always looks for better retrodictivity.

Also, is ANYONE going to tell us anything about "the great PBP transcribing project"? Seriously, guys, let's get to it!

13 Re: Scramble for the Ball: Condition Miami

Bill, as a Football fan I evolved from rooting for a specific team to rooting for a specific players (even if they change teams) to supporting whoever is 'lucky' any given Sunday. This 'luck' is the most beautiful aspect of NFL. It always strikes to right the wrong call, punish obnoxious player, reward hard-working palyers. I do not see it in any other sport (not even in collage football).

14 Re: Scramble for the Ball: Condition Miami

Regarding "clutch", I firmly agree with something someone (Aaron, I think?) said a couple of weeks ago. A "clutch" player is not one that gets better in close or critical situations. A clutch player is one who has the ability to continue to perform at their normal level in spite of being in close or critical situations.

So Adam Vinateri is clutch. Brady is clutch. And yes, even Manning is clutch. He's had a couple of bad games in the playoffs (NE in 2003, Pittsburgh last year, vs KC this year), but every QB has a couple of bad games, and sometimes they inevitably come in the playoffs. Sometimes, your teammates pick you up (as happened this year in KC and Baltimore), and sometimes they don't. My impression from watching him in a limited number of occasions is that he doesn't play any worse when the pressure is on, making him "clutch".

Of course, by this definition, the majority of players are "clutch", and it's only the "chokers"--the players whose play measurably declines in important situations (hello, Mike Vanderjadt) that are not clutch.

Brady has another interesting characteristic that I've noticed over the years, that might attribute to his "clutch" reputation, but certainly is not a good thing. He gets sloppy when his team is way ahead. It seem whenever the Patriots have a big lead, Brady starts doing foolish things, or gets more aggressive and starts missing recievers. It happened last Sunday. It happened versus the Jets this year in the first game they played, and versus Detroit. It happened versus Miami the year that Brady gave up the game by throwing an INT from his butt. Maybe one reason why Brady is in more 'clutch' situations is that he relaxes too much when way ahead. Didn't Aaron run a blog entry once that showed that Brady's DVOA was much higher when the game was within a TD either way then when one team or the other was blowing the other out?

15 Re: Scramble for the Ball: Condition Miami

re: 8

What are his stats, compared to his peers? Did he had bad (or average) stats for his time? I'm seriously asking - I have no idea of his numbers.

I do agree that statistical analysis (Wiki tells me Sabermetric doesn't apply to football, and I believe Wiki over all of you hooligans) is best used in conjuction with other kinds of analysis. Just as you don't base your scientific conclusions on a single experiment, you always need support/backup...

16 Re: Scramble for the Ball: Condition Miami

For the Sabermatics vs conventional analysis, I've think the beast way to explain it is Sabermatics isn't meant to replace subjective analysis with statistics, it's meant to replace bad statistics with good ones.

17 Re: Scramble for the Ball: Condition Miami

Re: Namath
Here are his stats:
http://www.pro-football-reference.com/players/NamaJo00.htm

They aren't that good even compared to contemporaries (though was the first to throw for 4,000 yards), but writers who covered him with the Jets use all sorts of words to describe im that statistical analysts would hold in contempt.

18 Re: Scramble for the Ball: Condition Miami

I will never buy that a player is "clutch." Yes, our minds and bodies act much differently in situations of extreme duress - all of our minds.

A field goal can turn into a wild shank with a slight turn in the foot on contact. A pass can become an interception with an infintesimal movement of the wrist or graze of a finger, or a brief misjudgement of large bodies moving at high speeds. The margin between "clutch" and "choke" is so very small, all things considered. Tom Brady and Peyton Manning both experienced the pressure and fear; you can't tell me that Brady's success in pressure situations is easily explained by some supernatural psychological gift or the absence of natural human emotions of fear. Tom Brady simply had the good fortune of a series of fortunate events in pressure situations and Peyton did not. As of last week, we found out that good fortune does not necessarily tie itself inextricably to an individual or team.

What creates "clutch" is the small sample size and nothing more. "Clutch" is success in a highly complex activity in an extraordinary situation. Life doesn't offer us a regression analysis of our abilities, unfortunately, and that's why some people get the label. Then all the media does is report the results as they are, attach a common-sense explanation like "Peyton gets nervous like you do when something important is happening, and he blows it every time," and give people damaging labels for the rest of their natural-born lives.

Ain't sports grand?

19 Re: Scramble for the Ball: Condition Miami

Pacifist Viking (#11):

The big issue that I have with "clutch" (and other 'pressure' comments) is that our normal experience is with the 'average' person - i.e., people in the bell curve. In other words, you expect to meet very few people who can handle pressure, and very few people who utterly collapse under pressure.

I don't think professional sports follows a bell curve in a lot of statistics: I'm sure if you looked at the distribution of 40-yard-dash times, for instance, it probably would look like a bell curve that got smashed against a wall. There's only so fast you can get, obviously. You're already selecting for great players.

So we tend to look for rare "clutch" players, when the truth is that probably the majority of the players are "clutch" players, and only a few collapse under pressure. But our minds, wanting there to be only a few, select out just the few that pop up from the pack due to random blips.

20 Re: Scramble for the Ball: Condition Miami

#17 - You're illustrating my point for me.

Namath had a solid game in the Super Bowl. And he DID predict the victory.

What if he did that now, after 100 people have done it? Would it be the same thing? Would he be as valuable to his team?

What if he had won the big one at the end of his career, not towards the beginning? Would he have had such things written about him by the media? I don't think so. That's my point.

As for your comment in #11, I think we do, certainly. But is it controllable? No. It happens randomly. What's to say that it can't happen in the first quarter, the third quarter, or a meaningless game in Week 6? And why are skill position players the only people who enter into this "clutch" zone? Can an offensive lineman be "clutch"? A defensive tackle? Do you ever hear them talked about as clutch? No.

I think there's sound reasoning behind your argument, but I also think that it's a much more complex issue than how it's written.

21 Re: Scramble for the Ball: Condition Miami

I'm a little disturbed when people complain about the "small sample size" of players' playoff performances when, after all, championships are determined by a small sample size. From a statistical system perspective, it's a small sample size, but clearly it's a small sample size that's more important than other small sample sizes.

Though I do think the athletes that make it into pro sports are the ones that, in general, are able to perform under pressure, since there were certainly a lot of pressure situations that they succeeded through to get to the pros.

How much of this is different in different sports? I know baseball stat guys don't buy clutch much at all, and football guys have a lot of skepticism about it. But I haven't heard a lot of people at FO talk about basketball. In basketball, things are very different. The situations in which to make a game-winning shot are fundamentally different than other game situations (limited time, defenses know this, and they usually know who's going to try shoot). In basketball, a much more individual sport than football, a sense of "clutch" makes a lot more sense. It's still a game of inches, but it's a game in which an individual player has much more freedom to "force" his own performance. Perhaps my willingness to accept the concept of clutch is because I come from a background of basketball (my dad was a coach, I grew up with the game) and it doesn't seem like a lot of other commenters do.

22 Re: Scramble for the Ball: Condition Miami

Better yet is this guy

http://www.pro-football-reference.com/players/TittY.00.htm

In '61 he lost to the Packers in the "Packerland-Famous" Tittletown game. '62 lost to the Packers again. '63 lost to the Bears.

His stats were impressive for the era. His teams couldn't win the big one. No, I don't have the PBP data.

23 Re: Scramble for the Ball: Condition Miami

I just brought Namath up as an example. I would like to go back and find what was written about him in the 60s before he won a Super Bowl to see what was written about him.

I think that all athletes/people can enter this clutch zone, and if anything, the media/fans are at fault for putting it all on a QB. As anybody who would read this site knows, a QB doesn't win a game, he's just the most important player among 45 in helping his team win the game. QB's get too much blame for it (Marvin Harrison's playoff numbers make him look much less clutch than Peyton Manning, and we don't really hear that).

Basically, I accept your contempt of the media treatment of "clutch," and I accept that randomness and luck (as in life) have much to do with it, and I don't believe the concept of clutch belongs in a statistical system, even as I still believe at some level clutch exists.

24 Re: Scramble for the Ball: Condition Miami

The situations in which to make a game-winning shot are fundamentally different than other game situations (limited time, defenses know this, and they usually know who’s going to try shoot)

That's different - you're talking about someone who excels in a situation where the game is altered. Football's the same way, actually - running a two-minute drill is different than running a normal offense.

Baseball's not the same - in baseball, the game doesn't really change much in an endgame situation for a hitter if a team's down 10 or a team's down 1.

In those cases, you're attributing something to "better under pressure" (clutch) when it would probably be easier explained by "better in an endgame scenario."

25 Re: Scramble for the Ball: Condition Miami

Yes, the two-minute drill is a lot different, with different expectations from offense and defense (I've argued this before on Free Darko). And yes, in basketball, with the situation different, it is the scorers who can created their own shots who end up being the better performer (and not surprisingly, usually they're the players that are better for the entire 48 minutes). But there's still similarity, and when shooting a basketball, there are so many things in ones' form that must be perfect and are very easy to screw up in a pressure situation. And in basketball, when shooting, what your mind is doing has a lot to do with it--if you're thinking about it too much, there are problems. I don't think it's just an endgame scenario that's different, but something mental that is different. Having played a lot of basketball it seems this way to me.

26 Re: Scramble for the Ball: Condition Miami

Re: 11

True enough--for most people. I would think that for those in ultra-competitive positions (athletes, entertainers, etc.) the "chokers" would never make it to the highest level to begin with. For most of us, "choking" on the job isn't terminal because there aren't thousands of eager people willing to take our place at any given moment.

27 Re: Scramble for the Ball: Condition Miami

#25: Well, basketball actually does offer a baseball analog, if I had thought about it - free throw shooting. The easiest way to test the "clutch" hypothesis is to look and see if there are players that are statistically better at free-throw shooting for a game-winning point than in normal situations. You then try to see if those players continue to be better outside of the data set you used to find them.

If there aren't any players like that, then it seems odd to say that pressure control plays a role in one case, but not others - especially when performance in an endgame scenario can be explained via changes in the game rather than pressure control.

That's the big problem with "clutch": it's just Occam's Razor. There's no need to invoke a magic extra variable if it's not needed, even if you believe it should be there. The fact is, it might be there, but it might be such a minor effect on everything that it just doesn't matter.

28 Re: Scramble for the Ball: Condition Miami

It's a reasonable question--and one that deserves further study--to what extent are professional athletes fundamentally different than everybody else? Clearly physically they are, but is there something psychologically different?

They're human beings of course--do they just have the same foibles and virtures as all humans, just on a grander scale? Or do they have or lack something different?

Think of Greek Tragedy. The tragic figure could never be a common man--he was a king or some other great figure, and that's where the tragedy came. However, this great figure's tragic flaw was supposed to show all of us something about ourselves. It wasn't assumed that as king there was something fundamentally different about him as a human being (well, there was, but not in this sense)--it was thought that he had human frailty, but on a grander scale.

I would like further exploration of the psychology of pro athletes, rather than just assuming they're able to withstand pressure better than the rest of us (as I assume myself).

30 Re: Scramble for the Ball: Condition Miami

Oh, and #21: The reason that small sample size matters in a 'clutch' discussion is that there's no real merit to giving someone a quality like 'clutch' if it appears and disappears like magic, with no consistency.

It's kindof like playoff records: Bill Cowher goes from having 13 years of "bad playoff coach" to "one of the greatest coaches in our generation" due to 1 year. Scramble his career around, and suddenly that "bad playoff coach" designation never would've appeared.

Likewise, right now, Tom Brady and the Patriots just aren't clutch. Oh, but before, they were. Scramble their seasons around, and no one ever talks about the magic clutch Tom Brady.

If "clutch" can be here one year, gone the next, there's no real point to it.

31 Re: Scramble for the Ball: Condition Miami

Evidently, FT% in basketball tells us clutch does exist to an extent.

Further, from 82games.com:

"Indeed, clutch playoff shooting shows some extra drama -- doing the same exercise of calculating how many clutch FT's each player should have made based on their non-clutch playoff shooting, it turns out the league should have shot .776 but hit only .642!! That's a huge -13.6% change under pressure!"

32 Re: Scramble for the Ball: Condition Miami

I think it would be hard to scatter three Super Bowl wins in six years and not have positive superlatives applied to the winning QB.

The Cowher point is well taken, though.

33 Re: Scramble for the Ball: Condition Miami

Dumbest article I've seen on this website in a long, long time. No numbers, no stats, just a couple of goobers and some opinions.

Here are the clutch numbers, as I recall from earlier in the season. I am going by memory - I'll leave it to those whose WEBSITE IS SUPPOSEDLY DEVOTED TO STATISTICAL ANAYSIS to track down the real numbers and start an intelligent discussion.

Brady had won something on the order of 76 of his first 100 starts (the numbers have improved since then, despite the playoff loss). Of those victories, there were something like 23 victories where his team (Patriots) was behind entering the 4th quarter - or almost 1/3 of his victories being come-from-behind 4th quarter wins.

Now, instead of just blathering on about how bad the media is, while engaging in the same knee-jerk, unsubstantiated reaction as the aforementioned bad media - how about doing some research and number crunching boys, to - you know - add what we call FACTS to the discussion. Novel idea, I know.

I would expect to see these numbers dissected and compared to other QBs. Should also see how many losses a QB had where his team was ahead late in the game. The time frame can be changed, perhaps to victories in final 2 minutes, or what have you. And I would expect that some of the discussion would have to center on a teams success in that situation, perhaps regardless of who the QB is (as not all victories are strictly a function of the QB play).

In any case, the last thing I expect to see from this website is yak-yak-yak with no facts-facts-facts.

34 Re: Scramble for the Ball: Condition Miami

#29: Yah, they're not correcting for sample size or looking for predictivity, though. Cassell, for instance, at 42 of 44, is consistent with his normal free-throw shooting percentage 5% of the time. There's way more than 20 players there, so obviously, you expect guys like that (Note that the biggest outliers are the ones with the smallest sample size, for the most part).

No one on that list is statistically very far from their normal percentage. It's all 5%, 6% - things you would completely expect. If you did a distribution, it would look exactly like you're just graphing a binomial variate, I imagine.

(Interestingly, the low-end guys are a bit more off the curve - 1%, 2%, etc. So if anything - and it really isn't anything - there's more evidence for bad clutch performance, rather than good clutch performance.)

35 Re: Scramble for the Ball: Condition Miami

#31: Like I said, they're not checking to see if that would happen just due to the fact that a random weighted coin wouldn't produce the same results. It likely would.

Percentages aren't exact. Saying that someone shoots "95.5%" when they made 42 out of 44 shots isn't really correct. You couldn't've even measured anything between 93.3% and 95.5%, and 95.5% and 97.7%, for one.

37 Re: Scramble for the Ball: Condition Miami

"What I want to know is, how come we’re not hearing more talk about Bernard Berrian? The guy is the unsung MVP of this Bears offense."

I thought the MVP of the Bears offense was Devin Hester.

38 Re: Scramble for the Ball: Condition Miami

You would expect droppoff to be greater than improvement--the league average for FT% is in the .700s, so as the article says, it's harder to do better than it is to do worse. When you're already making most of your shots, it's not easy to improve.

In the article's text, it says that leaguewide, clutch FT% goes down 2.3% in the regular season. Even with a large sample size, that's not terribly significant. In the playoffs, with an admittedly smaller sample size, it goes down 13.6%.

There is something to this. Yes, I think it suggest that there's more of a "choke" scenario than a "clutch" one--but that still shows that the players react differently to pressure. As I suggested, this might be more prevalent in basketball--no matter how great the athlete, FTs are a matter of form and mental concentration.

You said, "The easiest way to test the “clutch� hypothesis is to look and see if there are players that are statistically better at free-throw shooting for a game-winning point than in normal situations. You then try to see if those players continue to be better outside of the data set you used to find them." It looks like the first part is covered, but I don't know about the second part--yet. There is variance between shooting FTs in pressure situations and non-pressure situations.

39 Re: Scramble for the Ball: Condition Miami

It looks like the first part is covered,

No, it's not: hitting 42 out of 44 free throw shots when you normally hit 86.3% of them is not statistically more. Given that there are around 60 guys in that list, you'd expect somewhere around 3 of them to be in the "outside of 5%" range. There's 1. You'd expect around 3 of them to be in the "low end" within 5%. There's 4.

It's completely consistent with flipping a random weighted coin. There's absolutely no difference between those distributions. It's all explained by statistics.

40 Re: Scramble for the Ball: Condition Miami

#38 - The problem with the aggregate data is that it could be explained by (a) players performing differently in the playoffs; or (b) different players performing in the playoffs (I assume that (c) random chance is ruled out by the 13.6% drop).

(b) makes sense, too--teams may well foul more often, and more often target bad foul shooters, in the playoffs.

41 Re: Scramble for the Ball: Condition Miami

No, look at those that get WORSE rather than those that get better.

Paul Pierce has 129 samples of clutch free throws and thousands of non-clutch free throws in the sample size, and he makes 12.3% less free throws in the clutch situations.

There needs to be further work (comparing to other random sets to see if there's a significant difference), and I'm not citing this evidence as "See! I'm right, clutch exists!" I'm citing it to say that there is some evidence it exists, that I can at least look at this and reasonably believe it exists.

Also, what do you mean by "outside of 5%" range? There are 5 players that have a 5% difference improvement, and 21 that have a 5% difference decline.

42 Re: Scramble for the Ball: Condition Miami

Actually, let me correct that: there's no evidence there that anyone shoots better in "clutch" situations than in "normal" situations. It looks completely random. There's little evidence that anyone shoots worse. There's maybe one player who's far off the curve: Pierce - there's about a 1-in-2000 chance of getting that result with random flipping. But he's the only one there, and again, that's on the "negative" side. So the next thing to do would be to look at a subsequent year, and see if Pierce also stands out again.

43 Re: Scramble for the Ball: Condition Miami

For those people who think that clutch doesn't exist, that it's simply variations on a very small sample size, I say "phooey!" Are you telling me you've never known anyone who either strives under pressure, or anyone who crumbles under it? It could be someone who does poorly on big tests in school, or someone who can saty calm in a business situation when everything's on the line. It exists, and manifests itself in sports when the clock nears all zeroes.

44 Re: Scramble for the Ball: Condition Miami

#41: If you flip a coin that lands "heads" 86.3% of the time 44 times, 5% of the time you'll get 42 heads. Given the fact that there are 60 players there, you'd expect to get 3 5% outliers or so.

If you flip a coin 40 times, you don't get 20 heads and 20 tails. You get somewhere between 12 and 28 heads 99% of the time.

45 Re: Scramble for the Ball: Condition Miami

Re #33: Bill and I need to clarify this every once in awhile... Scramble for the Ball is not number heavy like the rest of FootballOutsiders. We're not a column devoted to statistical analysis; we're devoted mostly to fantasy football, gambling, and our personal football commentary. In other words, we're devoted to "yak-yak-yak", as you so eloquently put it. So, you're 100% correct. If you're only at this site for the number-related analysis, feel free to skip Scramble in your weekly dose of FBO. Thanks.

46 Re: Scramble for the Ball: Condition Miami

Put me in the Pacifist Viking camp. But in either case it does seem like the media is rather indiscriminate about who they term as not clutch.

Like Matt Hasslebeck, why isn't he considered not clutch? He's had some pretty devastating playoff losses. Anyone remember the "We want the ball and we're going to score!".

47 Re: Scramble for the Ball: Condition Miami

"Theoretically, the role of the media in sports is to report on the events that have occurred and, with an educated pen that has access to and understands things on a different level than the layman, provides a context for and interprets the results of a contest."

I don't agree. Their assignment each week is to elevate unknowns to the status of heroes, to exaggerate the facts so that they look poetic... a la Florio, to state that every single play is the greatest... play... ever. You certainly could argue that it's a wrong thing to do, but you can't deny that it has greatly helped the game of football to become as popular as it is right now.

So why do writers prefer to point out OBVIOUS bits? Because, thus, they can concentrate on exaggerating and glorifying them. Find me a columnist's opinion about a game without reading a detailed description of what happened in it. It's not just saying, "Brady again brought his team back in the playoffs with only two minutes remaining". Writers feel compelled to describe exactly how it happened, assuming, I believe, that nobody watched the game. Into those descriptions, they place pre-assorted phrases like "He put the ball in a place where only his receiver could catch it" to explain things that, well, just didn't happen. These pre-assorted phrases rise the players to the status of heroes, and, well, heroes do not make mistakes.

Writers NEED to glorify moments, just like in history the winners' version is brutally exaggerated on the good things and the losers are transformed into a bunch of evil guys who acted merely on the devil's behalf. Please don't forget that, as fast as writers are to glorify some players, they're even faster crucifying other ones. Rex Grossman is a great example of this. During the regular season, first, when people didn't know about Berrian's ability to gain unholy separation and opposing D's were stacking eight in the box, he was elevated to heroe. Later, when it was discovered how bad he handled the blitz, he was virtually declared dead and every columnist in the world wanted him backing up Griese. The playoffs come and his team goes to the Super Bowl, and suddenly, it doesn't matter that he's still playing horribly: now he's Clutch Rex.

I'm sorry, Bill, but if you're expecting them now to change this and really learn something about football and educate their pens... well, put in Dr. House's memorable words, I'd tell you that dogs shouldn't lick themselves, and they still do. What we CAN do about it is having a place as great as FO to do the real job: analyze games and come up with real discussions. Sock puppets can hype up the game, while we watch and understand it.

48 Re: Scramble for the Ball: Condition Miami

There was actually one horrid call that in all likelihood cost the patriots the game..
that call being the defensive pass interference drawn by reggie wayne in the end zone on 3rd down..face guarding is not illegal..and the nfl has admitted the officials made a mistake.

that call doesnt get made and the game doesnt end up tied 21-21.

49 Re: Scramble for the Ball: Condition Miami

#38, #40: Oh, I forgot to point out, as well: you actually can't do what they did regarding the league-wide shooting bit. They averaged all of the "clutch free throw percentages" and "regular free throw percentages" - you can't really do that, because each of the percentages has different error. Just averaging them blindly means that the average is going to be pulled by the small-numbers outliers.

Basically, while it looks like that 2.3% might be significant (on 5000 attempts), it's not - the error is much, much bigger on that "0.776" number than on the "0.753."

Think of it this way - imagine he didn't put a cutoff at 30 free throw attempts, and someone only got 1. That person can only have a 100% or 0% free throw average. In a sample of, say, 200 people, he'll yank the average 0.5% up or 0.5% down for absolutely no reason whatsoever, as his 1 attempt is statistically unimportant compared to the others.

51 Re: Scramble for the Ball: Condition Miami

Re 33: "WEBSITE IS SUPPOSEDLY DEVOTED TO STATISTICAL ANAYSIS"

Do three things and you're right on:
1. Turn capslock off.
2. Correctly spell "analysis."
3. Replace "statistical" with "football."

Aaron's stats are the most popular feature on this site, but they're not the only way we analyze football around here. You can analyze football with stats, you can analyze football by breaking down game tape, you can analyze football by cracking jokes about the absurdities that come out of the announcers' mouths, etc. If the only type of analysis you like is the kind that uses stats, that's fine, and we've got great stats here. But stats in and of themselves aren't the sole purpose of the site. The purpose of the site is to look at football in a unique way. Scramble is one of the many features that does that.

52 Re: Scramble for the Ball: Condition Miami

Re #45, quoting Mr. Dickens, the first speaker is Marley's ghost:
"What evidence would you have of my reality, beyond that of your senses?"

"I don't know," said Scrooge.

"Why do you doubt your senses?"

"Because," said Scrooge, "a little thing affects them. A slight disorder of the stomach makes them cheats. You may be an undigested bit of beef, a blot of mustard, a crumb of cheese, a fragment of an underdone potato. There's more of gravy than of grave about you, whatever you are!"

I'm not sure I believe in "clutch" as the media commonly ascribes it. If it does exist though, it should be able to be documented objectively and most "documentation" of "clutch" is purely subjective opinion by biased observers.

I do believe that confidence affects performancein the ways that Ian describes it in his comment. Is that "clutch"? Or is that something that affects performance in every situation but is only noticed in pressure situations?

I also believe that confidence, especially in a perceived leader (like a qb), affects everyone around the leader and their confidence affects their performance. There is probably some analogy here to a "placebo effect", which can be a measurable physical effect purely from a psychological belief.

It is also possible that "clutch" reflects more focused effort - that when a person is focused, that person does perform better by coming closer to their optimal performance - that in fact, "clutch" is really a reflection of performing at less than their best most of the time (as one poster suggested about Brady's stats in blowouts).

Finally, "clutch" could be related to physical factors like adrenaline, which makes performance possible that is impossible in its absence.

I'd like to believe in "clutch", I'd just like to see it proven objectively.

53 Re: Scramble for the Ball: Condition Miami

Re: 48

The Wayne PI call occurred on 2nd & 7, not 3rd down.

The biggest call of the game that nobody has written one word about was the Pats up 21-3, inside the Colts 30, they pick up a 3rd & 5 or something, but Troy Brown gets called for OPI away from the play (he basically set a pick and made it far too obvious). It was the right call, but it's not one you see a lot of at the NFL or college level.

55 Re: Scramble for the Ball: Condition Miami

Re: The Media, I've yet to see a single reporter commenting on the Pats/Belichick mismanaging the clock during the last 2 minutes. Yet if Andy Reid had made the same mistake, I'm sure we'd be hearing about how he always screws up clock management.

56 Re: Scramble for the Ball: Condition Miami

"#48: Where’d you see that the NFL admitted it was wrong?"

Click on my name for a link. Read the third question and answer.

57 Re: Scramble for the Ball: Condition Miami

#56: Yeah, I'd like to see a better (more official) source than that. That's really surprising though, since the NFL doesn't usually allow officials to comment on things like that off the cuff.

Not that I don't believe it, mind you. That's just the first time I've ever heard someone quote a league official criticizing the on-the-field call by name. (It should be noted that he's the only one reporting that, so I'm not sure if the source he's quoting is even allowed to make those judgements.)

58 Re: Scramble for the Ball: Condition Miami

You are wrong about defining "clutch". Check Lazerus on fox and he does an excellent job of not only defining it but quantifying it as well. I have wondered what his rankings would look like blended with your own.

60 Re: Scramble for the Ball: Condition Miami

I was going to "comment" (read: berate) the idiot troll talking about what FO should and shouldn't be about, but Ian and MDS covered that ground much better that I would have anyway. But since when has that ever stopped me?

I love when people start complaining, but the more you read what they're writing, the more obvious it becomes that they have absofreakinglutely no idea what they're talking about.

Hey Shedd, how about before you make another post you take your own advise and do a little research?

61 Re: Scramble for the Ball: Condition Miami

How can you possibly say that Brady was not clutch on that final drive? He was only running the play that they had been practicing for weeks and ran successfully against SD the previous week. Only this time Troy Brown failed to strip the ball from Sanders to gain the first down. Troy should be ashamed of himself and is possibly the most un-clutch sports professional in any sport.

64 Re: Scramble for the Ball: Condition Miami

> "That’s just the first time I’ve ever heard someone quote a league official criticizing the on-the-field call by name. (It should be noted that he’s the only one reporting that, so I’m not sure if the source he’s quoting is even allowed to make those judgements.)"

Agreed; as far as we know it's only one man's opinion, and as far as I'm concerned unless the statement is coming directly from VP of Officiating Mike Pereira, it's not "official". However, as we talked about elsewhere, this opinion on the call is accurate-- this was an incorrect (if not horrible) pass interference call. Noticeably, Pereira didn't address the call in his NFL Network segment, but I've noticed in the past that he doesn't like to deal with pass interference in general, given that it's probably the most subjective call in football.

In an "NFL Replay" game insert, Ellis Hobbs also described his involvement in the play exactly as I saw it-- paraphrased, I had my back turned, was playing Wayne's eyes, and batted the ball away, but never touched the guy.

65 Re: Scramble for the Ball: Condition Miami

Has Tom Brady lost his clutch ability? He’s lost two playoff games! And, on the other hand, has Peyton Manning found his by overcoming the Pats?

Being "clutch" or performing under pressure, which is probably a better description, isn't about being perfect. Tom Brady, it is obvious, has that quality. That doesn't mean he is going to do it every single time and anyone eluding to that is simply being foolish.

As for Manning, no he was not "clutch" in the past. The pressure did seem to get to him. Earlier in the year, however, when the pats first play the colts I did notice something different in him. He seemed somehow about to handle things better when things went wrong. He was becoming clutch. This culminated in the AFC championship game where he was making throws that he never would have in the past. Throws with pressure in his face. Smart throws where he allowed his fellow players to make plays. Anyone that thinks that he is the same quarterback he was three or four years ago is short changing him. He has improved and he has become "clutch".

As for the notion of whether clutch is improving play in pressure situations or not making mistakes in pressure situations, I think it is a bit of both. The old addage, not losing your head when those about you are losing theirs comes to mind. For one it means that you keep calm and can approach things the same way you always have. But it also means stepping up, being a leader and ensuring that those around you do what they are supposed to be doing.

66 Re: Scramble for the Ball: Condition Miami

The game had several problems with the officiating, not just the phantom Hobb's PI call. A Colts defender essentially tackled Caldwell in the endzone, but drew no flag (obviously Bill Polian didn't intend in his annual plea for officials to call pass intereference that such things should apply to *his* team). On the next Patriot's possession, another Colts defender blatantly grabbed Daniel Graham from behind well before the arrival of the ball. Contact is allowed within five yards, but not, to my knowledge, grabbing from behind in order to prevent the receiver from playing the ball. The Troy Brown call was more questionable than correct. Certainly there was a collision, but it was so far from the ball I really can't believe it was a pick. Who precisely initiated contact? It's hard to say.

Still, all of this stuff is water under a bridge. The Colts won; the Patriots lost. Maybe, though, one good thing can come out of this officals' mess - perhaps we'll never have to hear Bill Polian complain again about 2003. This year was payback with a vengeance .... Here's hoping, but I doubt it somehow.

67 Re: Scramble for the Ball: Condition Miami

DB: The clutch rankings on foxsports are basically an amalgamation of the 2 minute drill and the 4th quarter with some other stuff (some of which is kind of similar to DVOA, like % of yds towards 1st Downs, plus conventional things like comp. pct. and yds/att) but they don't take score into account. Also the guy admits every week that various things skew the rankings because of the small sample size, which of course happens sometimes with DVOA also.

"Clutch" seems like it would be almost impossible to define in football, where on every single play there are many things happening and all of them are intrinsically linked. For a QB to lead a great 4th quarter comeback he needs help from many places; his linemen must protect him, the OC must effectively playcall (unless he's Manning and he's calling the plays himself), his receivers must get open, the opposing defense has to collapse since they presumably played well enough to build up and hold a lead, and on and on. As Bill noted, do you ever hear about a clutch block by Jonathan Ogden? Undoubtedly some people perform better under pressure than others, but every professional athlete is under pressure on every single play of every game. Whenever I hear about "clutch" performances, one thing I always wonder is why a TD scored in the last minutes of the game is more important than one scored on the opening drive of the 1st half. The same thing is true in baseball, where David Ortiz has a garnered a reputation for hitting GW HRs, but his team would also win if he hit those home runs in the 4th inning.

I think the definition of clutch as someone who can continue to perform at a steady, even keel at all times is closer to the truth than anything, but even that is lacking. Clutch is an invention of the sports media more than anything and I don't begrudge it. I enjoy great comebacks as much as the next guy, but I think that sports journalists want to craft a mythology interwoven with epic heights and valleys and peopled by heroes and goats and to do that they stretch the truth, although it does get insufferable when those embellishments are incessantly pounded into my skull when it comes to, for example, Manning and Brady, especially when hordes of hacks desperate to meet deadlines churn out the same stale slop for the millionth time.

68 Re: Scramble for the Ball: Condition Miami

67: As Bill noted, do you ever hear about a clutch block by Jonathan Ogden?
Jonathan Ogden throw a clutch block? As if. He is sooooo totally not clutch it is not even funny.

69 Re: Scramble for the Ball: Condition Miami

40: "teams may well foul more often, and more often target bad foul shooters, in the playoffs."

Though the offenses target getting the ball to the good shooters; I'm not sure to what degree this balances out.

52: "If it does exist though, it should be able to be documented objectively"

that assumes that everything in life can be documented objectively. I know mathematicians would like to think so, but it simply isn't the case.

65: What a lot of people noticed in the past about Manning and pressure is that against a pass rush, he just wilts. He wouldn't stand in the pocket or scramble, he'd just go down. What I've noticed, and what other commentators have noticed, is that in 2006 Manning seems to handle a pass rush differently--he'll move, he'll stand and wait, but he won't just fold over.

Pat: When talking about clutch, my guess is the sample size will always be too small for people to be convinced completely (particular statistical analysts). My goal in an argument or discussion is never to make people think what I think, but just to make people think that what I think is not entirely unreasonable. the FT% stats may not convince you, and that's fine; but it gives some evidence that pressure leads to choking.

70 Re: Scramble for the Ball: Condition Miami

re:56

That quote isn't entirely correct. 'Not playing the ball' is part of the rules. The instance here would fall under the following rule (Section 8.2.5, Defensive Pass Interference)

"(e) Cutting off the path of a receiver by making contact with him without playing the ball."

Now the question of whether this happened or not is certainly valid, I'd have to go back and look at the play, but the not playing the ball part does matter.

71 Re: Scramble for the Ball: Condition Miami

I do think there is something about being clutch. However, what the media has described as clutch has almost nothing to do with it. The crux of this article was that the media does an absolutely horrible job of accurately conveying what has happened in the game. Their use of "clutch" is simply one example.

What I find amazing is how stupid the media can be. Unfortunately, Peyton Manning and Tom Brady are almost perfect examples of the two sides of the media idiocy coin. According to the media, "Manning has never won a big game", "Manning always chokes in the playoffs" and "Tom Brady always plays great in the playoffs".

The problem with these themes is that they are totall crap. And when one of these guys plays contrary to type which is quite often, it just disappears down the media memory rathole. Listening to Chris Collinsworth doing the Colts-Chiefs, you'd think Manning had never once played a good playoff game in his life (instead, he's put up the two best playoff games ever played by an NFL QB plus another that's top ten). Anyone who actually paid any attention knows that Manning played pretty well against KC.

As bad as Manning was in the 2003 AFC title game, Tom Brady played worse. Despite airtight protection the whole game, he couldn't get it done. The numerous bad passes he threw included 3 thrown right at Colt defenders which they dropped (but each of the passes was a far bigger mistake than any Manning threw). At the end of the game, Brady's near fumble was one of the most incredibly stupid plays in NFL playoff history. The media never noticed. It didn't fit their pre-ordained mold.

Can you believe there were writers who wrote about how great Brady played vs. SD this year?! One even wrote that his play was "flawless" against the Colts right up until that interception at the end! These are people who aren't paying any attention to what the hell is actually happening on the field.

The whole "never won a big game" theme is where you really see how bad the media is. If the Colts lose to the Steelers in the first round of the playoffs, the media theme is "Manning loses big game". If the Colts win in the first round of the playoffs, it doesn't count as a big game. With that kind of scorekeeping, is it any wonder that we have such disdain for these clowns?

The problem with media is not that they use "clutch" incorrectly. The problem is that they construct these crazy myths and stick to them regardless of the evidence. Some clearly do it out of bad faith. Most are just too stupid to pay attention.

72 Re: Scramble for the Ball: Condition Miami

#33: "Dumbest article I’ve seen on this website in a long, long time. No numbers, no stats, just a couple of goobers and some opinions."

Sounds like someone's a little grumpy that his untouchable hero is being called out a bit... hey that's sports. This is nothing more than the ol' "what have you done lately" thing in action.

Want statistics? Go quantify all the times Brady has had to drive for winning TDs in the playoffs, not just field goals. Just to confirm the results empirically, note that he also threw a pick the previous week in a similar situation, vs. San Diego.

Want some more opinions? Brady partially gets off the hook because of his public image (his looks, what actress or model he's dating, and all those other things the man-crushed Patriots fan loves to brag about so much). The media simply CANNOT have their golden boy held up to too much criticism.

73 Re: Scramble for the Ball: Condition Miami

"Clutch" may or may not exist, but what people forget is that before 2001 the Patriots were a cursed franchise. Brady broke the curse.

And don't tell me curses don't exist. I'm a Cubs fan, and curses most certainly do exist, or God is very, very cruel.

74 Re: Scramble for the Ball: Condition Miami

In order to move away from Brady or Manning examples of the media adopting a theme regardless of the facts, let's look at Joe Montana. He is glorified for "the catch" game, but he really didn't play all that well. The throw to Clark was not a good throw. Two plays earlier, (from around the 10) he had Freddy Solomon wide open in the end zone. Despite a really easy pass, he threw it 10 feet over his head. If Clark doesn't bail him out with a great catch, Montana is the guy who choked away two chances at the winning TD.

The year that Theismann took the Redskins to the Super Bowl, Montana absolutely sucked in the NFC title game. He was bouncing throws and overthrowing passes the way Brady was against SD. He was awful. Good pass pro, just bad pass after bad pass after bad pass. What's clutch about that?

I'm not saying Montana wasn't a great player. He was. Certainly far, far better than Brady has been to this point in his career. I'm just saying that the media created a theme for Montana and all the evidence which didn't accord with the theme has simply disappeared.

75 Re: Scramble for the Ball: Condition Miami

Let's be honest, though: "the media" can't win. I suspect that if a lot of members of the media brought out the criticisms, some FO writers and commenters would be criticizing "the media" for being so fickle and short-sighted, and make fun of it for turning on their beloved. I don't think any of us will ever be satisfied with the sports media, and at this point most of us are so cynical of it that whatever it does we'll make fun of it.

76 Re: Scramble for the Ball: Condition Miami

68: I can't tell, are you kidding or serious?

Pacifist Viking: "That assumes everything in life can be documented objectively."

Well obviously that's not true because nothing is totally 100% objective but I think that's a semantical argument when it comes to statistics. If you believe that there are unquantifiable elements then no numbers are going to convince you otherwise as by their very definition those elements are intangible. That's taking the argument in a metaphysical direction and there's nothing wrong with that but it's a different argument.

BTW, since you brought up Freedarko I'd like to point out that FO and FD are pretty much polar opposites. Obviously they cover two different sports with dissimilar charcters but in addition FO is devoted to measuring the game by all which is quantifiable and using those measurements to analyze and predict. FD is devoted almost entirely to the intangible side of basketball, its' psychology and style, things that cannot be translated onto a spreadsheet. Both approaches are valid and offer different paradigms and I think they're both great, but it seems like you're kind of inserting a FD discussion onto an FO thread.

77 Re: Scramble for the Ball: Condition Miami

74: I was just thinking of Montana in relation to Brady. If we went back to 85, 86, and 87, would we find articles criticizing Montana's lack of clutch ability? Once a guy has established his reputation as clutch, it becomes fairly unshakable. As one commenter said, a player being "clutch" doesn't mean he's going to come through every time and magically pull wins out of nowhere.

78 Re: Scramble for the Ball: Condition Miami

76: I agree, FO and FD are opposites, and I read and love them both. I think there's validity in both sides.

And I wasn't actually inserting a FD argument into FO; I was bringing up an argument I made at FD once that wasn't really a FD type argument.

But regarding the intangible/metaphysical side, you're right--but I'm saying it's OK to go to that different type of argument/thought. Maybe a place for statistical analysis is not that place, however. Even if clutch does not fit into a statistical system, it may in fact exist and might be worth talking about. And it seems OK to discuss that here (see Ian's comment #43). If our goal is to better understand the sport, that doesn't mean relying solely on numbers.

80 Re: Scramble for the Ball: Condition Miami

Scratch that--I recognize that FO isn't usually the place for those intangible arguments. However, when an article begins by specifically talking about the nature of "clutch," then it seems reasonable to bring different perspectives on it to the comments.

82 Re: Scramble for the Ball: Condition Miami

75,

Another example would be Ray Lewis. "Best LB is football". Maybe once, but not for a long time.

Brett Favre isn't a good QB anymore. But he could play like crap for another 5 years and there are some media whackos who would still be talking about how great he is playing.

Steve McNair -- can anyone believe how often some talking head talks about him as a future hall of famer? A great defense, solid kicking game and a good running game carried him to a Super Bowl (where he butchered the two minute drill that left them a yard short at the end). In 2003, the best pass pro you may ever see and a solid receiver corps led by Derrick Mason helped lead the league in passer rating, but anyone who watched that season saw him consistently fail to play well to win the games they needed to win the division.

Is that enough to get in the hall of fame? Yet, somehow he's been labeled an outstanding QB without ever having played very well.

The two minute drill thing is another great example. How often have we seen a QB screw up repeatedly, waste time like crazy, only to salvage the score on the last play? (Can you say Byron Leftwich?) But the media theme is that he played great in bringing the team to victory in the last two minutes. Having a WR bail you out with a great catch to overcome your brain farts is not the same as running clock offense like Johnny Unitas.

83 Re: Scramble for the Ball: Condition Miami

Can you believe there were writers who wrote about how great Brady played vs. SD this year?! One even wrote that his play was “flawless� against the Colts right up until that interception at the end! These are people who aren’t paying any attention to what the hell is actually happening on the field.

It also goes both way. Manning had a horrific first half and some of his series in the second half were equally as bad. No QB plays perfectly in any game but that is not the standard of good or even great play.

84 Re: Scramble for the Ball: Condition Miami

“(e) Cutting off the path of a receiver by making contact with him without playing the ball.�

That doesn't apply because Hobbs wasn't cutting off the receiver's path (he was cutting off the ball's path) and there was no contact [observed by the official].

85 Re: Scramble for the Ball: Condition Miami

But there are some QBs who didn't have to win in the playoffs/SB to be considered true greats, and who didn't have their clutchness questioned. Interestingly, Marino was revered without having to win the big game. It seems like HE always got credit for being awesome on flawed teams. Same with Dan Fouts. Anyone here old enough to remember Bert Jones? (OK his teams did suck, bad example perhaps). Seems to me like Manning has been somehow held to be more responsible for the whole team than a lot of QBs, not sure why...

86 Re: Scramble for the Ball: Condition Miami

77, P Viking,

I don't think that anyone expects a guy to pull it off every time or lose his "clutch" label. And I agree that there is such a thing as clutch. Most of the debunking of "clutch" has been done in baseball and hitting is just so dependent on luck that I think it would be impossible to use as an example.

That said, I played with too many guys in football, hoops and baseball in HS and college and baseball as a pro not to have seen clutch. Some guys want the ball in crunch time. Some don't. Some panic. Some get more focused.

The problem with QBs, football and "clutch" is that the media doesn't discriminate between the noteworthy and the not worthy. Example -- SD and NE at the end of the 2d Q. Chargers went brain dead and went to prevent defense. Pats drove down and scored. Brady being clutch? Not unless you can show me the great throws to tightly covered receivers with pressure in his face. It was just a case of SD making a stupid strategic decision.

87 Re: Scramble for the Ball: Condition Miami

Steve McNair — can anyone believe how often some talking head talks about him as a future hall of famer? A great defense, solid kicking game and a good running game carried him to a Super Bowl (where he butchered the two minute drill that left them a yard short at the end).

Which Super Bowl were you watching? That two-minute drill by McNair was one of the greatest individual efforts you will ever see. McNair's certainly not a HOFer, but that was an incredible drive that fell just short.

Ian & Bill: great job, intelligent discussion of "clutch". MDS, thanks for sticking up for the writers of the article. Pat, please cool it. You seem to worship the statistics that fit what you already believe to be true, then simply discount all other evidence, all the while demeaning those who disagree. No one likes a know-it-all (a little advice from one know-it-all to another).

88 Re: Scramble for the Ball: Condition Miami

bsr: If Harrison doesn't let a Manning pass go thru his hands and off his facemask perhaps Manning doesn't have a "horrific" half? Plus, the last drive of the 1st half was a thing of beauty and there was a DPI that should have been called over-ruled in the end zone. Take away that 'clutch' :) last drive and perhaps the colts lose the game.

Manning threw one 'horrific' pass, but all in all what happened the 1st half was a team problem, not his.

89 Re: Scramble for the Ball: Condition Miami

Citing luck as the source of clutchness is as empty as citing clutch behavior. Indy had a lucky opportunity to beat Pittsburg in a game it had no business winning last year, but couldn't get it done. The Indy-NE game had plays on both sides of the field that could be called lucky (heck, OL on both sides scoring TDs).

During the game, some stat flashed that Brady had led more 4th quarter comebacks since 2001 than any other QB. Another stat suggested the Patriots led the league in points scored in the final two minutes of halves. Brady started his playoff career 10-0 and had to engineer winning drives in the waning minutes of the Tuck Bowl and the 01 Super Bowl. In the first half of '06, David Ortiz had a shocking number of walkoff RBI. Yes circumstances had to align for them to achieve in the way they achieved and these stats are more fluky than predictive. But the fact is when the opportunity presented itself at the end of games, Brady has performed at an unusually high level. The media did not arbitrarily label Brady as clutch. He has performed very well in meaningful moments of meaningful games.

I don't think calling Brady clutch becomes a problem until you start comparing him to Manning. Manning is statistically one of the best QBs ever. His performance leads his teams to wins and his team is built to make him a statistically more successful QB (the money players are on the field when he takes the snap). The Colt strategy of building a team runs contrary to the Patriots, who have more of their money on the field when Brady is on the sidelines, particularly when you discount the QB's paycheck. Manning also came into this post season with a 3-6 record in the playoffs.

Maybe if Brady had been on the Colts the last 5 years throwing to All-Pro receivers and handing off to an All-Pro running back, maybe he puts up significantly better passing stats. Maybe if Manning is on the Patriots the last five years, maybe he has more jewelry and recognition for clutch, but never sniffs a league MVP because his starting receivers include 7th round picks and street free agents, as is the right half of his O-line. It is an empty exercise to play "what if" with football accolades, where a QB's performance depends on his coaches, his RBs, his WRs, and his o-line as well as his defense. Manning has been one of the best quarterbacks in the history of the NFL and Brady has been one of the most clutch players in the history of the NFL. Lets enjoy them for what they've been rather than what they might've been under different circumstances.

90 Re: Scramble for the Ball: Condition Miami

86: That's what I mean. The media shouldn't suddenly turn on Brady for some poor playoff performances, just like they shouldn't have turned on Montana for few poor playoff performances (if they did or didn't, I don't know). Once a player proves himself consistently, he should really have to suck for a while to get trashed. (however, analysis of a particular performance should always attempt objectivity and perspective--if a player sucked in a particular game, he deserves criticism, of course).

87: Agree on McNair. He constantly avoided sacks on that last drive. Most other QBs wouldn't have come up short of the goal line with no time left because most other QBs would have had their team in a 4th and 20 well before that play.

91 Re: Scramble for the Ball: Condition Miami

#85 - Marino always was and continues to be lambasted for not winning it all. Thats where the comparisons of Manning to Marino have come from. He did not receive any sort of free pass. I will say this though. Other then offensive line, Marino had little to no talent on the teams, especially the offensive skills positions. Probably the best "passer".

92 Re: Scramble for the Ball: Condition Miami

85: Bert Jones is a great example. An acknowledged great qb, but beat to death behind a terrible line on a terrible team. Archie Manning, of course, is another example.

93 Re: Scramble for the Ball: Condition Miami

SD and NE at the end of the 2d Q. Chargers went brain dead and went to prevent defense. Pats drove down and scored. Brady being clutch? Not unless you can show me the great throws to tightly covered receivers with pressure in his face. It was just a case of SD making a stupid strategic decision.

The actual TD throw on that drive came after being flushed out of the end zone and a perfect pass. Your being less then objective if you can't admit that Brady makes good throws.

94 Re: Scramble for the Ball: Condition Miami

As I think Jim Klobuchar said of Tarkenton, it wasn't that he couldn't win "the big game": he won all sorts of big games just to get to the Super Bowl three times. The same goes for Marino--he so consistently performed at a high level with games on the line that it seems odd to hold it against him that he was never on a championship team. He was always ranked high in fourth quarter comebacks--it's just that too often in the playoffs the Dolphins were far overmatched and he never even had a chance at a comeback.

96 Re: Scramble for the Ball: Condition Miami

#88 - No, alot of what happened in the first half fell directly on him. He made poor decisions. He continually tried to force it to his WRs when the underneath stuff was open. He also made several bad throws. And I am not even claiming he had a bad game. He adjusted, he improved, he came through in the clutch. Overall his good outwiegehed his bad and that is all you can ever ask for.

97 Re: Scramble for the Ball: Condition Miami

I think the people complaining about the refs forget there were several times when it seemed like PI should have been called against the Pats where it wasn't as well - they just happened in the first half.

98 Re: Scramble for the Ball: Condition Miami

89,

Wow! With that performance, you could write for one of the NE papers. Or go on ESPN. It's tough to include so many cliches and so much conventional wisdom in one post.

It read like Sean Salisbury on his worst day reading material written by Tom Curran.

99 Re: Scramble for the Ball: Condition Miami

Re: 67
I believe that it is, red zone, 2 minute drill, 3rd down conversion, 4th quarter and drives when you are behind by less than seven (catch up) and ahead by less than 7 (put aways). Manning was #1 in catch ups, Huard was #1 in put aways. Also, is the opposite of "clutch" "choke"?

100 Re: Scramble for the Ball: Condition Miami

RE 97:

Very true. There were at least two times where the Patriot DBs had their hands firmly on the Colts' receiver's arms holding them down so that the receiver could not get their hands up into position to catch the ball. Each time there was no call. Overall, the officiating was pretty fair in terms of not being biased in favor of one team over the other, even if the calls were not 100% accurate.

101 Re: Scramble for the Ball: Condition Miami

#97 - Which plays?

#98 - I thought it was an actually balanced post. I think you meant to say that it wasn't written by an obvious blatant manning homer.

102 Re: Scramble for the Ball: Condition Miami

Pacifist Viking (#69):

When talking about clutch, my guess is the sample size will always be too small for people to be convinced completely (particular statistical analysts).

Isn't that just a little bit convenient? I mean, yeah, there's a reduction in data set, but there should be at least one sport that shows some effect. I mean, statisticians were able to determine that field goal percentage goes down somewhat when "icing" the kicker. Minor effects can be seen.

but it gives some evidence that pressure leads to choking.

Really, no, it doesn't. There's one singular person in that data set that's abnormal. One person in an entire league doesn't exactly convince me that pressure leads to choking to any significant degree. At least, not anywhere near the amount media gives it as an explanation.

103 Re: Scramble for the Ball: Condition Miami

RE 101:

The play immediately preceeding the DPI call against the DB covering Wayne in the end zone (I can't remember if it was the one that was waived off or not, but that narrows it down to one of two possible plays), the DB held the left arm of Dallas Clark, but there was no call.

104 Re: Scramble for the Ball: Condition Miami

Once a player proves himself consistently, he should really have to suck for a while to get trashed

Shouldn't he have to suck (well, suck under pressure) for exactly the same amount of time that he proved himself to be consistent over? In other words, Brady's got one more year?

105 Re: Scramble for the Ball: Condition Miami

74 - The year that Theismann took the Redskins to the Super Bowl, Montana absolutely sucked in the NFC title game. He was bouncing throws and overthrowing passes the way Brady was against SD. He was awful. Good pass pro, just bad pass after bad pass after bad pass. What’s clutch about that?

Montana threw for almost 200 yards and 3 TDs in the 4th quarter in that game to rally the 49ers from a 21-0 deficit, which almost anyone would consider clutch.

106 Re: Scramble for the Ball: Condition Miami

I am not sure exactly how to define "clutch" or the "It" factor commonly associated with championship level quarterbacks. And it is unfair to boil down a quarterback's legacy to just one game or a series of games. But history remembers QB's not just through statistics, but performances in Championship games that the QB wins. No one remembers Warren Moon's great games against Buffalo and Denver, just that the Oilers blew big leads. No one remembers Steve McNair's miraculous play to set up 1st and goal in the SB, only that Dyson fell one yard short. And 20 years from now, no one will remember Big Ben's horrendous performance in SB XL, just that he was a winning quarterback. Manning now has one of those performances.

I use that to reference the real "clutch-less" qb, Dan Marino. Without research, can anyone point to a big performance Marino had in a major postseason game? It was not as if Marino was in a tough conference, the AFC won Super Bowls in only 3 of his 17 seasons. After his third seasion, when most qb's should be entering their primes, Marino made the play-offs 7 times, going 5-7. Only once did his team get to the title game, an embarrassing HOME loss to Buffalo. Is the difference between his regular season and post season stats explainable by the Phins facing better teams, or is there another factor? Even if all 7 losses came to better opponents, its difficult for me to believe that a truly great qb would not be able to overcome the odds and get to at least one more conference title game.

107 Re: Scramble for the Ball: Condition Miami

elway was always the guy who couldn't win the big one, the tortured one. marino's teams were only championship level, if i remember correctly, from about '83-'86. after that, any time they might have won they'd have been huge underdogs. the supporting cast will always play a huge role in this. it seems like more of a story because of the element of drama rather than any actual validity of the argument. go peyton!

108 Re: Scramble for the Ball: Condition Miami

re: Manning's similarity to old QB's and their perceived clutchness:

IF the Colts win this Superbowl, the guy most similar to him would probably be Elway. EVERYBODY said "that guy can't win the big one, even though he's usually so clutch!"

As for the similar guys pre-Tarkenton, Tittle fits the bill if Manning never wins the SB. Tittle had some truly outstanding regular season statistical performances on teams that came up short in the postseason. If Manning wins the SB, then the most similar old 60's codger would be Jack Kemp. Great for the Chargers in the early 60's, kept losing in the playoffs, moved to Buffalo, SD won the championship after he left with old man Tobin Rote and young punk John Hadl sharing time. Kemp eventually got his championship in Buffalo.

Bert Jones is an interesting cat, 3 straight division titles, 3 straight losses in the first round (2 badly and 1 37-31 in OT) followed by several years of severe beatings on a bad team. Kind of a proto-Marino, actually.

Broadway Joe was Broadway Joe before he ever took the Jets to the playoffs, but it was for his lifestyle moreso than for his play. He was a shooting star who burned out early (bad knees, mostly).

Montana DID seem to lose some of his "clutchness" by getting hammered 3 straight years in the playoffs, but recovered it all and then some in SB XXIII.

In closing, I'll come up with a comp for Brady as well from days gone by. Roger Staubach is a guy whose name you never seem to hear anymore, but was always known for being Mr. Clutch and an all-american boy. He also replaced a veteran QB (Craig Morton) who had previously failed to win the big one for his team, including a bad SB loss, and lead the team to glory in his first year with the job.

109 Re: Scramble for the Ball: Condition Miami

re 106:

Marino played two good games in '84 to get to the Super Bowl (his second season and statistically best) and rallied his team from 21-3 to beat the Browns 24-21 in 1985 to advance to the conference championship.
Later on, his (playoff) teams' philosophy changed to being more heavily dependant on the running game and defense than solely on his throwing, but you're right that he didn't put up great playoff performances much after '85.

110 Re: Scramble for the Ball: Condition Miami

Stan, WTF are you talking about.
Montana has gone on and on about that stupid play for 25 years now.
According to him thats how it was practiced.
If you watch it again Walls (24) has no chance.
Sometimes espn shows it as a classic game.
Bill Walsh has said the same thing.

oh and by stupid play I mean I was a Cowboy fan watching it at the time.

111 Re: Scramble for the Ball: Condition Miami

db: If you correct about the set of stats measured in the foxsports "clutch" ratings then I am mistaken.

However, I'm still not comfortable rating QBs on their "clutchness" based on their individual stats, at least with where statistical analysis of football is right now. As I said earlier, how can you differentiate between the QB's reads and throws, the WRs' route running and catches, the line's pass pro, and the play of the defense? Even when actually watching games it's hard to assign value to those things because without extensive film study the average fan only sees a fraction of what's actually happening; even with endless film study it's an imperfect science. Basically talking about "clutch" in football (and that means of course QBs, kickers and pretty much no one else) is far messier than baseball, where you can dissuade such a notion easily because hitting is an individual act and so dependant on chance.

112 Re: Scramble for the Ball: Condition Miami

Thad: Stan is saying that's it ludicrous to judge Montana postively or negatively by one fairly poor throw that his receiver bailed him out in with a great catch. He's using it as example to illustrate how sports journalists and the public incorrectly bestow labels like "clutch" onto players. He even went out of his way to mention how great Montana* was. The point history often judges players unfairly based on single moments in time outside the context of their entire careers and refuses to relinquish its' initial judgements even when those players prove otherwise.

*While reading the Blind Side I was pretty shocked to see how much of an impact Bill Walsh's system had on all the QBs who played in it, not just Montana and Young. I was born in 84 so I missed all the great 49ers teams of the 80s but it was pretty fascinating reading about the coach/QB dynamic and how guys like Bradshaw were outraged when Walsh wanted to replace Montana with Steve Young.

113 Re: Scramble for the Ball: Condition Miami

You guys have really been obsessed this season with the "contrarian" idea that Brady isn't as clutch as his reputation would have you believe while Peyton Manning isn't as big of a choker as his reputation would have you believe.

Brady did lead last minute scoring drives in two Super Bowls and the famous "tuck" game, right? Wasn't that clutch? If not, why not?

This kind of shallow analysis that says "well, it was only one drive out of 170" kind of misses the point. None of those drives were simply average drives with average pressure levels. It's like they say - everybody hits 50 yard FGs in practice.

As for Peyton Manning, this is what Wikipedia has to say:
"In the 2002 postseason, facing a higher-seeded 9-7 Jets team on the road, Manning threw two interceptions and had a career low 31.2 passer rating. The next year, he faced New England in the 2003 AFC Championship Game and threw four interceptions with a passer rating of 35.5. A year later, he faced the Patriots again, and the Colts scored three offensive points."

It's well documented in human psychology that first impressions become disproportionately emphasized in one's opinion about a person. The first impressions of Tom Brady in the media and the public were a player who just kept winning football games. His team won all their games in his first three postseasons! No other QB in history can say that. (Well, at least not in the Super Bowl era.)

In contrast, Peyton Manning's teams famously tanked in his first few years, and he was notorious for throwing a lot of picks. All of these things really happened!

It is true that Peyton Manning has picked up his game in the past two years. It's also true that he's still thrown a lot of picks this offseason, including two more passes to Ty Law and one to Assante Samuel. He should get credit for playing two quality quarters out of twelve thus far - let's keep this in perspective!

As for Brady, he's had a few moments of brilliance this off-season - most notably the last-minute drive in the first half of the Charger game. But no, he wasn't as impressive this year as he was in the first three post-seasons. And, quite frankly, a lot of us suspect some kind of injury must have been involved. He was missing wide-open receivers in game after game, and that was not something he had ever done in previous seasons.

So, say what you will about "clutch" performance. I think it's a bit too easy to dismiss its importance. It's a bit too easy to say "small sample size" and dismiss a clutch outcome as the result of luck as opposed to steady nerves. So let's not get too into patting ourselves on the back for contrarianism.

114 Re: Scramble for the Ball: Condition Miami

Brady did lead last minute scoring drives in two Super Bowls and the famous “tuck� game, right? Wasn’t that clutch?

Brady also threw game-killing interceptions in the playoffs in the last two years. Isn't that choking? Why not?

115 Re: Scramble for the Ball: Condition Miami

"And likewise, why has Manning’s story become, so blatantly, the guy whose all-world skills go away in the clutch? Maybe it’s because his defense is worse. You think? You can make points about Manning’s salary cap hit and how that hurts the Colts ability to sign players, and it’s relevant, but it’s not the whole story — and Brady isn’t surviving on chump change, either. Is Manning the third generation of quarterback to get that story told about him? Manning, Marino, Tarkenton."

If you mean to suggest that defense was Tarkenton's problem, I beg to differ.
1973: D is #2 in points allowed. Vikes lose 24-7 in super bowl.
1974: D is #3, Vikes lose 16-6 in SB.
1975: D is #3, Vikes lose 17-14 in div. round.
1976: D is #2, Vikes lose 32-14 in SB
1977: D is #13, Vikes lose 23-6 in Championship game
That looks to me like 5 straight years the offense didn't get it done, though admittedly I neither watched the games nore looked at stats or accounts. Still, those are some pretty strong defenses Tarkenton had going for him.

117 Re: Scramble for the Ball: Condition Miami

#113: It's somewhat shocking to see something you would never say with your name attached to it. Perhaps we can be Good Rick and Bad Rick.

I'm definitely Good Rick because I've seen those drives from 2001 recently and I wouldn't go out of my way to call them "clutch". They were more like checking down to the wide open back or TE under the coverage. Again and again and again and again.

But to each their own.

120 Re: Scramble for the Ball: Condition Miami

#113: It’s somewhat shocking to see something you would never say with your name attached to it. Perhaps we can be Good Rick and EVIL Rick.

I’m definitely EVIL Rick because I’ve seen those drives from 2001 recently and I wouldn’t go out of my way to call them “clutch�. They were more like checking down to the wide open back or TE under the coverage. Again and again and again and again.

But to each their own.

121 Re: Scramble for the Ball: Condition Miami

"One team I would like to give a lot of credit to over the weekend is both officiating crews. There was very little to complain about in either game; it seems that the vast majority of the time they got things right."

Um, what about the "fumble" on the kickoff return by the Saints in the first quarter? You know, the one where the player was down by contact, then the ball was stripped, and the ruling on the field was upheld despite all logic?

122 Re: Scramble for the Ball: Condition Miami

Re: 87

Pat, please do not cool it. Regardless of whether I agree with you, I know you'll always have something insightful to say.

123 Re: Scramble for the Ball: Condition Miami

#

Is stan a troll?

Not a Pats fan here. I’ve probably seen 4-6 Pats games / yr the last several years, and (prior to this year) have been completely blown away at how accurate he was. If you’re used to watching NFC East QBs and then you tune in to a Pats game, you just have one of those “V-8″ moments where you go, “Oh… Right! That’s what an NFL quarterback is supposed to look like!�

:: Carlos — 1/18/2007 @ 7:27 pm

>.I don't value other peoples opinions because
>the vast majority of the time they are ill-informed,
>and lack any thought or logic behind them - is not my problem
>nor does it fall under the scope of manners. It does however fall
>under the scope of politically incorrect, and if anything that must
>mean I'm more right than I thought.

1) You have just defined the very meaning and the psychology of a troll better
than anything I have read online in the last ten years.

2) If you place no value on other peoples' opinions, then you cannot possibly
derive anything from your company on this group, since it is contingent upon
that premise. Nothing anyone here says can mean anything to you since you do
not value their opinions.

As stated: a troll who only comes in to cause furors and annoy people for his
own amusement without any interest in a real conversation.

Hey, Jay...can somebody introduce this guy to the workings of a moderated
group?

He may not like it much, but the thing about not valuing other peoples'
opinions is that it gives them the right not to value yours

that is courtesy of JMSNEWS

Does that answer your question Carlos?

124 Re: Scramble for the Ball: Condition Miami

#122: Ha! I didn't even read that. I usually completely gloss over criticisms like that. Although it's amusing to think of a church with giant numbers or something. It should be noted that he's saying that I'm worshipping the binomial distribution. :)

It should be noted I'm not against the whole idea of "clutch" or anything. I can't stand it when people say "you can't just up and say it's small sample size." Yes, in fact, you can. That's the entire point of statistics. You wouldn't believe the arguments that people have in sciences trying to figure out whether or not small-number effects are significant. And they almost always turn out not to be.

125 Re: Scramble for the Ball: Condition Miami

Question to all:

Are we even having this Brady/Manning discussion if the Tuck Game ended the way it should have? With Brady fumbling the ball away at the end of the game (how clutch of him). That one PLAY would drop his postseason record from 12-2 to 9-3 with 2 Super Bowl wins. My guess is that this topic becomes a lot less heated if that's the situation.

This game with the Colts was only the second postseason game I can remember where the offense needed to really win it for them because the defense was D-O-N-E in the 2nd half (the first being the Carolina Super Bowl) and Brady didn't get it done despite the incredible effort of the special teams to set him up. He has been truly blessed his entire career with a great defense, a great special teams, and arguably the best head coach in NFL history.

126 Re: Scramble for the Ball: Condition Miami

116,

The DB is not anywhere close to making the play. The ball is caught by fingernails. He could have thrown it much, much lower and completed it. Remember, it was 4th down. It was NOT a case of "throw it where only my guy can get it and if he can't, we get a FG".

He has to throw a catchable ball, even if he risks an INT.

127 Re: Scramble for the Ball: Condition Miami

Insofar as Baseball Prospectus has a groupthink position on this issue, it is summarized thusly:

"Clutch performances exist. Clutch players don't."

I have seen it postulated that this is for two reasons:
1. In baseball, it has been repeatedly demonstrated that the same guy who hits .500 in the playoffs one year and wins the final game "single-handedly" is just as likely to have hit .250 and ground out weakly to the shortstop the year before. In other words, a player's clutch performances - almost no matter how you measure them - don't correlate from year to year, and certainly not over a long career.

2. In baseball, as in most professional sports, anyone who "chokes" with the game on the line gets weeded out well before they hit the big stage. Professional atheletes are selected for their skills/talents *and the ability to consistently use them* at every level, multiple times - while we all know people who want the ball with the game on the line, damn near everyone in the pros IS that guy. And so's the guy across the line, and everyone standing next to him. The guys who vapor-lock never got drafted, or never cracked the starting lineup in college.

Professional atheletes are the very, very small end of a very big bell curve. All the "common experience" arguments for their confidence, or lack thereof, don't necessarily hold water - in a lot of ways, they're really not like us.

128 Re: Scramble for the Ball: Condition Miami

#123:

stan is obnoxious, overbearing and irrationally defensive about Peyton Manning. That does not make him a troll. Chasing him from one thread to another and posting quotes over a week old in an attempt to start a flame war, however..........

#125:

It may defy perception or common sense, but the "tuck rule", as has been pointed out several times, WAS called correctly. You may not like the rule, but it was the rule, and it was called as written. And, as anyone on the boards can tell you, I'm not a Patriots fan, so please leave the reflex "homer" response alone. The Tuck Game did end the way it should have; calling it a fumble would have been the wrong call.

129 Re: Scramble for the Ball: Condition Miami

#114 - Read my post #65. Being clutch does not equate to being perfect. If that were the case nobody would be clutch. If Heath Evens isn't on the field then it was quite possible that is a three and out is Peyton's last posession of this year. It wasn't however, and he ended up getting one more chance to do something. So was Peyton clutch or lucky? I would say he was clutch. I guess you would say he was lucky?

130 Re: Scramble for the Ball: Condition Miami

#114 - Read my post #65. Being clutch does not equate to being perfect. If that were the case nobody would be clutch.

So when do you lose "clutch"? Shouldn't you lose "clutch" when you "choke" in as many situations as you've "clutched" in before?

Isn't it about 'high stakes', though? So when Brady "chokes" in as many high stakes games as he "clutched" in before, doesn't that make him "clutch-neutral"?

131 Re: Scramble for the Ball: Condition Miami

If "clutchness" exists, it must be some distinguishable characteristic, like being right-handed or able to lick your own elbows. Right? Right.

Therefore, a hypothetical: say you have two kickers, both of whom have had careers identical to Adam Vinateri circa 2004: good accuracy, two Superbowl wins off last-minute field goals.

Now say only one of these guys is "clutch", and the other is simply an accurate kicker who got lucky at the right time. What would you test for to tell which kicker is which?

132 Re: Scramble for the Ball: Condition Miami

Re: 125

I'm aware that the technical ruling on the field was correct, but everyone who watched that game knows Brady fumbled the ball. He got away with it on a pretty obscure technicality. He gets inordinately awarded for "winning" that game, when by his intents he should have lost it. The point is that if the call on the field that evening isn't overturned, I don't believe we are engaging in this entire Manning/Brady debate.

133 Re: Scramble for the Ball: Condition Miami

I think the effect of the "media" is way overblown here. I don't know anyone in my regular life who thinks Brady is an infallible god and Manning is an awful choker..And I live in the Boston area....Most people genuinely understand that they are both excellent QBs and for the past few years NE has had the better all around team. The stereotype that you are railing against isn't really so widespread.

134 Re: Scramble for the Ball: Condition Miami

Take a dozen exactly equivalent Joe Montana clones. Let's say that on average, a typical Joe Montana clone wins two Super Bowls during his career.

It's very unlikely that each of them wins exactly two, though. What's more likely is that one of them wins four or five, while a couple never win, despite being awesome. Something like 5, 4, 3, 3, 2, 2, 2, 1, 1, 0, 0, 0 is a typical distribution. A lot of people would try to retroactively ascribe some quality to the one that wins five Super Bowls, and say that the ones that never win don't have that quality. (Montana Clone #7 just wins, baby!)

Now suppose "clutch" exists. Let's add a clutch Montana clone to the mix. The clutch one averages four Super Bowl wins instead of two per career, despite having the same regular season stats as his nonclutch counterparts. Now we have thirteen quarterbacks. Let's say that in this experiment, the thirteen quarterbacks get 5, 4, 4, 4, 3, 3, 3, 2, 2, 1, 1, 0, and 0 championships. Which is the clutch one? Maybe it's the five win guy. Maybe one of the four win guys. Maybe the clutch player had an unlucky career, and through no fault of his own won only two Super Bowls despite being clutch. You don't really know, do you?

Clutch is something that people invent retroactively to explain results. It doesn't predict results, simply because we don't have enough data to figure it out.

If Brady and Manning both had 1000 year careers, and by the end of them, Brady had 256 rings and Manning had 103, that would mean something. We don't have that kind of data.

135 Re: Scramble for the Ball: Condition Miami

Kellerman,
Bert Jones a proto-Marino? I don't know.... was Marino prone to tantrums on field? He surely had better touch on his balls (ahem), and never had a pro-bowl RB like Mitchell. Jones hawked soap (Irish Spring? Ivory? I forget) and Marino sold Isotoners with a semi-sports-related commercial theme. Score one for Danny.

The Colts had a pretty complete team in Jones's years (not sure about the OL--IIRC, LG Mike Barnes was a human offsides machine), their downfall was their conference--Steelers and Raiders and not much chance for air. Not unlike the Colts of 2003-2005, come to think of it.... (I mean that regarding the better teams in their conf beating them inthe playoffs, not about being a complete team). During Marino's years (when he had a better cast around him), were there truly dominant AFC powerhouses? I'm thinking Oakland and Denver had some solid years there. It was largely an NFC dominance era, wasn't it? As a Colt fan, I was more or less in hibernation and denial those years.

136 Re: Scramble for the Ball: Condition Miami

I think there are a few separate issues here.

1) Does "clutch" exist?

2) What is "clutch"?

3) Is it permanent? Temporary?

4) What makes a player clutch? Can he go from being un-clutch to clutch or vice versa?

I think a lot of the focus is on 1 when the more interesting issues, I think, are 2-4. I knew when writing the piece that I wanted to express my opinion about 1 but I didn't want it to be the focal point.

And just to throw in my own opinion, I don't think Pat or Pacifist Viking should change one bit -- I'm a big fan of them both. Now #33 on the other hand...

137 Re: Scramble for the Ball: Condition Miami

"1. In baseball, it has been repeatedly demonstrated that the same guy who hits .500 in the playoffs one year and wins the final game “single-handedly� is just as likely to have hit .250 and ground out weakly to the shortstop the year before. In other words, a player’s clutch performances - almost no matter how you measure them - don’t correlate from year to year, and certainly not over a long career."

I don't see this as an argument that clutch does not exist but that rather humans change. A player can be clutch one year then for a variety of other reasons not be the next year (injuries, older age, etc) Lack of clutchness one year in no way indicates the lack of a player being clutch in a particular year or whatever. Humans change so it is unreasonable to expect their "clutchness level" to remain constant throughout their lives.

-I think the best examples of Choke are seen in the famous meltdowns of Jana Novatna (Wimbledon) and Greg Norman. Both blew gigantic leads in Major moments that I would likely bet they never did in lesser events. It was apparant even watching them what was going on. Conversely it is hard to believe that a "choke" facotr exists but that on the opposite side there is not a "clutch ability"

-I'd also define "clutch" as outperforming one's regular performance. If a .200 hitter hits .300 during the playoffs he could be clutch whereas a .400 hitter hitting only .300 would be choking. In my opinion, Clutch performers are ones who have their best statistical games and/or outperform their regular performances in the playoffs/championships. For example Steve YOung throwing 6 TDS in the SB far exceeded his regular or even very good performances. Likewise Dwyane Wade averaging almost 40 points per game vs Dallas after averaging like 27 during the regular season greatly exceeded his typical performance

139 Re: Scramble for the Ball: Condition Miami

Re: 137 I don’t see this as an argument that clutch does not exist but that rather humans change.

That's why the argument goes that “Clutch performances exist. Clutch players don’t.� The person who performed well one year is not a "clutch player", he just had a "clutch performance".

Re: Novatna and Norman

It's a lot easier to separate out those performances in individual sports. You can see what they are doing independent of anyone else's actions (especially in golf). In football, you're completely dependant on your teammates. In baseball, you might not get the chance to be "clutch", e.g. you don't come to bat in the 9th down one, or you come to bat down 2 with 2 outs, hit a home run and the next guy gets out.

I’d also define “clutch� as outperforming one’s regular performance.

I like Aaron's definition better: someone whose performance doesn't go down in pressure situations. I don't think hitting .300 should ever be considered choking or clutch, especially in one series. The other examples you gave are far too dependant on the defences those players faced.

140 Re: Scramble for the Ball: Condition Miami

Bert Jones had a good team around him for 3 years, then it fell apart (in particular the O Line). After that he was a human sack target, and wound up just getting physically destroyed. Before the team fell apart, his passing was astonishing. OK, I was young during those years, but in my (albeit fuzzy) recollection, he did have a knack for the game winning drive. During his MVP year he pretty much played as well as any QB I've ever seen. Here's a guy who on a good team might have been a legend, but he got so physically destroyed that Elway refused to be a Colt. Had Elway gone to the Colts it wouldn't surprise me if he'd survived about 3 year in the NFL.

141 Re: Scramble for the Ball: Condition Miami

"That’s why the argument goes that “Clutch performances exist. Clutch players don’t.� The person who performed well one year is not a “clutch player�, he just had a “clutch performance"

To me a "clutch performance" describes 1 game. If a player during a year repeatedly excels in the biggest/most important moments then that moves beyond "clutch performance" into "clutch player"

143 Re: Scramble for the Ball: Condition Miami

Brady also threw game-killing interceptions in the playoffs in the last two years. Isn’t that choking? Why not?

Denver, yes, but he had a great game against Indy. Not as good as Manning, but good. What was his QB rating?

144 Re: Scramble for the Ball: Condition Miami

#126 The DB is not anywhere close to making the play. The ball is caught by fingernails. He could have thrown it much, much lower and completed it. Remember, it was 4th down. It was NOT a case of “throw it where only my guy can get it and if he can’t, we get a FG�.

"The Catch" came on 3rd and 3, not 4th down.

I can't wait for stan's next argument against Joe Montana's greatness. Was the pass to John Taylor too close to the back of the end zone?

145 Re: Scramble for the Ball: Condition Miami

Re: 141 To me a “clutch performance� describes 1 game.

I think the main argument is about the playoffs. In baseball, for example, hitting well for two weeks (or 4 days, if it's just one series) is enough to earn you the label of "clutch", but it's really a matter of a "clutch performance". You had the opportunities and, for at that time, you took advantage of them. Being a "clutch player" would involve having some magic beans that enable you to take advantage of those situations year after year.

146 Re: Scramble for the Ball: Condition Miami

Bobman, I agree that no player is a perfect comp for any other player, but I think the similarities are there for Jones and Marino in a gestalt perspective. Looking back it's clear Marino wound up with a far better career than Jones, but was that just a product of the Colts' total failure to reload in the late 70's and early 80's as opposed to the Dolphins' less steep decline of the late 80s? From the perspective of 1983-85, a strong case could've been made that Marino was having a career very much in the mold of Bert Jones and I think even more so when you extend it to 1989 as the Dolphins endured their 4th straight non-winning and non-playoff season which was a longer drought than any experienced in the team's history up to that point. In fact, they only had one losing season between 1969 and 1986 (6-8 in 1976, which was also the Colts' peak under Jones at 11-3). In 1990, of course the Dolphins turned it around to 12-4 with guys like Richmond Webb and Sammie Smith. Those early 90's also happened to coincide with the Bills' peak, of course. Also, remember that Jones' biggest years came immediately before the introduction of the 16-game schedule and the liberalization of the passing rules, which would make his best years look a little more like Marino's. Incidentally, if people don't understand the impact of those rules, just compare Bradshaw and the Steeler offense pre-1978 and post-1977.

Actually I forgot all about those classy Bert Jones soap commercials. I do remember the cover of SI in 1982 showing a grinning Bert snuggling up with Georgia Frontiere captioned "Georgia gets her man!" The story of the Rams and their 15 straight years of changing starting QB's is a story for another day.

147 Re: Scramble for the Ball: Condition Miami

#143: His rating was 79.5 - and that was against the Colts D. Admittedly it was a lot better than his rating against them in the regular season, but his stats - 21/34 for 232, 1 TD, 1 INT - aren't exactly mindboggling.

And DPAR had him around 4, IIRC. Manning, by comparison, was around 15.

149 Re: Scramble for the Ball: Condition Miami

Tell Jana Novatna that there's no such thing as "clutch."

Malcolm Gladwell wrote a great article about the difference between choking (Novatna) and panicking (JFK Jr).

www.gladwell.com

150 Re: Scramble for the Ball: Condition Miami

Jason: That's exactly the point. How can you define "clutch" if it varies from year to year and even game to game? Sure, you could just say that all athletes have a "clutchness factor" that goes up and down, the same way I could claim that "invisible evil trolls" have been stopping Alex Rodriguez from hitting well in the postseason the last couple years. You can't disprove my claim just like I can't disprove yours; you can certainly claim that it's a ridiculous idea but I can say the same of the widespread notion that some athletes are somehow more "clutch" than others.

Like some other people have said, I'm not totally against the idea of clutch players but it bothers me that fans and journalists latch on to results that may be largely influenced by luck, the play of teammates/opponents, officiating, opportunity and a host of other factors and decree that one player is more "clutch" than another without actually examinining that claim. I still think the closest definition of clutch for me is the ability to perform steadily under pressure (or, if you prefer the ability to not "choke").

Also for the several commentators who've been insinuating that saying that Montana's throw on the Catch was a bad one is somehow denigrating Montana; get over it. He was a great HOF QB who made many great throws in his career. That particular throw wasn't up to his usual standards and Dwight Clark bailed him out with a great catch.