I was planning on looking at how quarterbacks play in the playoffs compared to the regular season, but after discussing it and reviewing my interviews, I found that I wouldn't include that since many don't tie it to clutchness. Having said that I did want to write a quick review of the previous articles. Here is a quick review of the past few articles as well as previewing the last article in this series:
- How coaches and players view the clutch
4th quarter comebacks
- This one is most commonly associated with clutch, and while not perfect, should be included in any study
Improvement in the 4th quarter over the first three quarters
- As mentioned above the 4th quarter is tied to the term clutch, and the level of play of a quarterback in the 4th compared to the first three should be looked at.
Performance on 3rd down
- How a player performs on a 3rd down is key, and is one of the most pressure-filled situations in game.
Today I'll just be looking over these four studies and compare the data and interviews and see if any quarterback does well in all of the areas, and which quarterbacks struggle.This likely won't be nearly as data heavy as the past articles, rather it's meant for me to give my opinion and hope to hear yours.
So I'll be ranking my top 5 clutch QB's based on my coaches interviews as well as this research. Now going into this I fully expect people to disagree with me, which is completely fine, I actually expect most fans would all have varying lists. Now obviously I just didn't purely base this on rankings, Tebow isn't more clutch than Elway because Elway had a much larger sample size. I also created a KEY STATS grouping of statistics which are more important for each situation, and there are nine total. I'll give a quick explanation for why I chose who I did, and hope you enjoy:
*Note: For numbers 4-6, they are pretty much a tie since they are so close overall*
Honorable Mention: Tony Romo, Drew Brees and Aaron Rodgers
- These three young QB's all have the makings of a top 10 clutch quarterback, but they need to finish another season or two (and if you are Romo you need a ring).
10. Otto Graham and Bart Starr
- In my mind Otto Graham is in a competition for the best quarterback of all time, while Bart Starr is in the Hall. But the issue for these guys is they plays so long ago, and just couldn't be close to Unitas overall. Graham could easily be in the #1 spot because of his playoff success, which rivals that of Tom Brady and Joe Montana, actually it could be better. Sadly my lack of data of how these two did on 3rd down and in the 4th quarter hurts how I can rank them. My youth also hurts them since Graham was WAY too long before my time and while I've gotten the chance to see a few games of both players, the games I've seen couldn't lift either player higher. This spot is more like a "Need More Data" because while I think this is where Starr belongs, Graham could be much higher if I had more games to watch.
9. Roger Staubach
- While I don't have a ton of numbers for Staubach, the ones I do place him here. Having watched nearly as many games of Staubach as I have these other QB's, he's just very well rounded, able to do everything he needed to do to win. While not the efficiency guy like Young, he was a guts guy. so calm under pressure, really was just so cool and just played out like a sports drama. While he had a lot of failed comebacks (13th in comeback success rate) but he was good that when he did comeback, he was perfect. So many great comebacks for this player, he's on the edge of being above Young.
8. Steve Young
- Possibly one of the most underrated quarterbacks of all time, which is hard for a Hall of Famer to get that title. He ranked 12.8 on average and ranked in the top 5 of my KEY STATS three times, that's tied for best. He has the playoff success and is among the most efficient players of all time, if not the most efficient. Low turnover and high touchdown numbers seal the deal for why he's here. And the strange thing is despite this efficiency, Young was among the guttiest and toughest players I've seen play the game, he was just crazy at times. The only thing holding him back is his career was too short to collect the overall numbers the guys above him had.
7. Tom Brady
- Well what can you say about Brady, some think he belongs higher and other think lower, and I'm leaning on him being higher. His playoff success is matched only by Joe Montana. He averaged 11.8 in my rankings and finished in the top 10 of my KEY STATS five times. He's great on 3rd down, great in the playoffs, and great overall, but his play in the 4th quarter leaves a bit to be desired. He's still among the best in success rate (10th) and comebacks (10th), and could be higher by the end of his career, but I have trouble with him topping the Middle Three (Marino, Elway, Peyton).
6. Dan Marino
- Marino has the legacy, stats and the ring... oh wait. The only thing holding Marino back was that ring. He had an average rank of 11.6 and finished in the top 10 of my KEY STATS five times and in the top 5 three times. He was far and away better than Elway in most categories so maybe I'm actually ranking Elway too high, but who cares, I'm a Broncos fan.
5. John Elway
- The only explanation I should give is why Elway is this low. Sadly legacy really doesn't matter in this so I went of rewatching some games, what coaches said about the clutch and the stats. Now many will think of 5th as bad, but it's not, Elway had an average rank of 13.5 and finished in the top 10 of my KEY STATS three times. His best areas were total comebacks and rating on 3rd down and in the 4th quarter. But his struggles for the first half of his career in the playoffs and 3rd down turnover and sack numbers really hurt him more than most people care to remember. Elway is among the most clutch QB's, but considering this is a Broncos site, many won't like the Manning brother's being ahead of Elway, but I did my best to separate my personal homerism from this.
4. Peyton Manning
- This was tough considering how great Manning is overall. He averaged 10.6 in all the categories, and finished in the top 10 five times in my KEY STATS. Finished 8th in adjusted comeback success rate, 3rd in total comebacks, 5th in completion percentage on 3rd down, 2nd in sack percentage in his career and on 3rd down, and 9th in 3rd down conversion rate. And while his record in the playoffs hurt him, but his actual play is still among the best.
3. Eli Manning
- Eli is quickly becoming a favorite for this title, though a year ago I was called crazy for saying this, Eli is among the most clutch quarterbacks in history. Eli ranked 9.4 overall and finished in the top 10 five times of my KEY STATS area and finished in the top 5 three times. He plays fantastically in the playoffs, 3rd downs and in the 4th quarter. He ranks 2nd overall in 4th quarter comeback success rate behind Unitas for quarterbacks with over 100 starts. He has EVERYTHING you want in a clutch QB. If it wasn't for his age and how people rely on legacy, most everyone would have him at thisspot. By the end of his career, if he continues his playoff and 4th quarter success, he could be fighting for that #2 or #1 spot.
2. Joe Montana
- Montana is considered #1 by many, and for good reasons, great in the playoffs, and ranks 8th on average for my rankings, and finished in the top 10 six times in my KEY STATS area, 2nd to only Unitas. His only area he was "bad" was completion percentage and that's mostly because of era. Montana, like Unitas, has everything you look for when it comes to a clutch quarterback.
1. Johnny Unitas
- This one is clear, far and away. Unitas averaged 2nd in all my rankings that I had for him, coming in the top 5 every time. Has the numbers, efficiency and history to back this up, Unitas just fills every category of clutch, both seen and recorded. Has the championships, stats and work ethic to have this spot.
Eli might be what bothers the most people, but I stand by that, and I think in five years, it will become more clear. So let me know what you think, and remember, everyone has their own list, I did my best to remove bias from this and just rely on watching the games, listening to the coaches and reviewing the stats. Hope this series was interesting and educational, thanks for those who made it through this with me.