Water Cooler Quarterbacks: Disbelieving the Myth

Chris Humphreys-USA TODAY Sports

The WCQs look at the myth that Peyton can't play in cold or wind.

So much has been made -- erroneously in our opinion -- about how Peyton Manning cannot play in cold weather that the future Hall of Fame quarterback was provoked to lash out at those mass media reporters who have created and perpetuated the misperception. It provoked Adam Gase -- Denver's offensive coordinator -- to fire back that the issue has not been the cold, but rather the wind. This gave the Water Cooler Quarterbacks their topic for the week.

Let's recognize that Manning -- who is currently in his fifteenth season as an NFL quarterback -- played the home games of his first thirteen seasons under a roof where the usual temperature was 72 degrees and there was no wind. This meant that, at most, he would only play half his games outdoors where he had to contend with the elements. We say half, because there were some away games that were also played under a roof -- such as visits to New Orleans.

We decided to survey those games that Manning played outdoors with an eye out for cold games (games where the temperature at kick off was 40 degrees or less), windy games (games where the wind speed was 10 or more mph at kickoff) and cold&windy games (games where the kickoff temperature was 40 or less and the wind speed was 10 mph or more). We found 120 of those games. Three games were omitted from the survey because Manning only played one series, or one quarter in them, as they were at the end of the season and the team had decided to rest the starters in preparation for the playoffs. Two games were omitted because the game time weather information could not be found for them. This left us with 115 games for our survey.

We would like to point at, at the outset, that Manning -- in his career, including playoff games -- has a 174-83-0 record. This is a winning percentage of .677. In the 115 outdoor games -- including playoff games -- he has a record of 78-37. This is a .678 winning percentage. Rather remarkable, wouldn't you say? Further, we think it should be acknowledged that 100 of those 115 outdoor games were road games and that nearly one-third of the outdoor losses came during Manning's first three seasons in the league.

Here's a quick breakdown of Manning's outdoor, cold, windy, cold&windy games:

Conditions Games Record Win %
Outdoor 115 78-37 .678
Cold (40 or less) 8 5-3 .625
Windy (10mph or more) 33 18-15 .545
Cold&Windy 12 5-7 .416

This initial look would tend to support Gase's contention that the wind is a bigger factor than the cold as we see a slight drop off when the game is cold, a larger drop off when the game is windy and the largest drop off when the game is both cold AND windy. However, do not stop reading here thinking, "Aha, this validates my belief that Manning struggles in cold games." The situation is a bit more complex than that.

Here is a breakdown of Manning's fourteen and a partial seasons. It includes the team's overall record, games played outdoors, games played in the cold, games played in the wind and games that were both windy and cold.

Season OA Rec OutDoor OD Rec Cold C Rec Windy W Rec Cold&Windy C&W Rec
1998 3-13-0 6 0-6 0 0-0 3 0-3 1 0-1
1999 13-3-0 8 7-1 0 0-0 3 2-1 1 1-0
2000 10-6-0 +WC 9 4-5 0 0-0 2 0-2 2 0-2
2001 6-10-0 6 3-3 0 0-0 5 3-2 0 0-0
2002 10-6-0 8 4-4 1 0-1 2 2-0 3 2-1
2003 12-4-0 +Div AFC 8 6-2 1 0-1 3 2-1 1 1-0
2004 12-4-0 +Div 6 3-3 0 0-0 3 1-2 1 0-1
2005 14-2-0 6 6-0 0 0-0 3 3-0 0 0-0
2006 12-4-0 6 5-1 1 1-0 0 0-0 1 0-1
2007 13-3-0 6 5-1 1 1-0 0 0-0 0 0-0
2008 12-4-0 +WC 7 4-3 0 0-0 3 1-2 1 1-0
2009 14-2-0 +SB 5 4-1 0 0-0 1 0-1 0 0-0
2010 10-6-0 6 4-2 1 1-0 0 0-0 0 0-0
2012 13-3-0 +Div 15 12-3 3 2-1 0 0-0 0 0-0
2013 11-2-0 11 10-1 1 1-0 1 1-0 1 0-1


+WC = played in Wildcard round; Div = Divisional; AFC = AFC Championship game; SB = Super Bowl; all games were played outdoors -- thus, indoor playoff games are not listed.

There are several things that leapt out at us. First, Manning's record in his first three seasons in outdoor games was 11-12. This means that only 10% of his wins came in his first three seasons while 32% of his losses came in those same seasons. He had no cold games during those three seasons. He played eight windy games during those seasons which accounted for just 11% of his wins and 40% of his losses in windy games. He had four (or 1/3) of his cold AND windy games in those seasons which accounted for 20% of his wins and 43% of his losses in cold and windy games.

Another way to look at this is to realize that, since his first three seasons, Manning has gone 76-25 (.752) in outdoor games. The cold games have not changed, still standing at 5-3 (.625). The windy games are 16-9 (.640). The cold and windy games are 4-4 (.500). It would seem that Manning improved as he continued to play in those conditions.

In fact, when we look at the first half of his career and compare it the second half, we find:

99-04 05-13
Outdoor 27-24 .529 51-13 .797
Cold 0-2 .000 5-1 .833
Windy 10-11 .476 8-4 .667
Cold&Windy 4-5 .444 1-2 .333

We can see that as Manning's career has progressed, his winning percentage in both outdoor games and cold games has improved. His winning percentage in windy games has likewise improved. His numbers are still not great when it comes to games that were both cold and windy. But again, don't stop here saying, "See, you're still validating the idea that Manning can't play in the cold." Let's look at the yardage Manning has produced in those games.

Yards Outdoor Cold Windy Cold&Windy
<200 15 0 7 4
201-250 26 2 10 2
251-300 27 2 6 3
301-350 35 3 8 2
351-400 8 1 1 1
>400 4 0 1 0

It was interesting to see that Manning did not have any games in cold games where he threw for less than 200 yards, and only two games where he threw for less than 250 yards. Windy games and cold&windy games were more problematic with him having seventeen out of thirty-three games with less than 250 yards in windy games and six out of twelve games in cold&windy games with less than 250 yards. By the same token, Manning has thrown for over 300 yards in four out of eight cold games, ten out of thirty-three windy games and three out of eight cold&windy games.

We noted earlier, that a large percentage of Manning's losses in these games came during his first three seasons. Likewise, four of the seven wind games that saw him throw for less than 200 yards came during his first three seasons, two of the ten wind games with 201-250 yards came during those seasons as did one of the four <200 yard games in cold and windy games.

Another measure of Manning's performance would be the touchdowns he's thrown in these games. If he struggles in cold, windy or cold&windy games, we would expect him to have a relatively high number of games with few touchdown passes. His performance in those games break down like this (the numbers in the chart refer to the number of games that he threw the given number touchdowns under the specified conditions):

TDs Outdoor Cold Windy Cold&Windy
0 14 0 5 5
1 32 2 12 2
2 31 2 8 2
3 27 2 7 2
4 7 2 0 0
5 3 0 1 0
0 0 0 0 0
7 1 0 0 0

If Manning struggled in cold and/or windy weather, it would seem logical to expect that to be reflected in his touchdown passes in those games. Yet, we find that he had only 14 out of 115 (12%) outdoor games where he was held without a touchdown pass. Five of those games came in windy games and five came in cold&windy games. On the other hand, he had multiple touchdown throws in 60% of his outdoor games (69 of 115) with six coming in cold games, sixteen in windy games and five in cold&windy games. Even more striking, Manning threw three or more touchdown passes in 33% of his outdoor games, with four of those coming in cold games, eight in windy games and two in cold&windy games. In other words, there does not appear to be a significant drop off in touchdown passes.

Finally, let's look at how his interception numbers have looked in these games. Just as we would have expected a drop in touchdown pass production, we would expect to see a rise in interceptions thrown. Here's what the data looks like:

Ints Outdoor Cold Windy Cold&Windy
0 44 3 14 2
1 39 2 8 5
2 23 1 7 5
3 7 1 4 0
4 1 1 0 0
5 0 0 0 0
6 1 0 0 0

It was interesting to see that there did not seem to be a major increase in interceptions in these games. Manning threw two or more interceptions in 32 of the 115 outdoor games (28%) with three coming in cold games, eleven in windy games and five in cold&windy games. It should be noted that one-fourth (8 of 32) of those multiple interception games came during his first three seasons. Manning had nine games where he threw three or more interceptions with two coming in cold games and four in windy games.

By way of comparison, Manning threw no interceptions in 38% (44 of 115) of his outdoor games. He had interception-free games in three of his cold games, fourteen of his windy games and two of his cold&windy games.

When all was said and done, the Water Cooler Quarterbacks were left with the impression that Manning's "struggles in the cold" have as much, if not more, to do with things like playing on the road, facing a better team, or just having a bad game than they do with the actual weather conditions.

He has had strong games in the cold: i.e. 2013 Week 14 versus Tennessee, 39-51-397-4-0. He has had forgettable games in the cold: i. e. 2003 AFC Championship versus New England, 2347-237-1-4.

He has had good games in the wind: i.e. 2004 Week 8 versus Kansas City, 25-44-472-5-1. He has had less memorable games in the wind: i.e. 2008 Week 7 versus Green Bay, 21-42-229-0-2.

He has had good performances in games that were both cold and windy: i.e. 2003 Divisional Playoff versus Kansas City, 22-30-304-3-0. He has had less gratifying performances in games that were both cold and windy: i.e. 2008 Week 13 versus Cleveland, 15-21-125-0-2.

We tend to be of the opinion that the whole "Manning can't play in the cold" misperception began when some reporter was accurately relating how he struggled in a given cold weather game. A report that was then repeated and misquoted until it became generalized. And, of course, if it's being said in the mass media it must be true (we hope you caught the sarcasm there). This misperception was most recently resurrected when the Manning-led Broncos lost to New England in overtime in a cold game.

A couple of things to remember about that game. Yes, it was cold (22 degrees at kickoff). It was also extremely windy (22 mph at kickoff -- 32 mph is considered gale-force on some wind scales). It can also be argued that that particular game was lost as much by the Broncos' defense allowing the Patriots to score on each of their first five possessions of the second half and by a screwed up punt return in the overtime period, as by any struggles by Manning. It should also be remembered that Manning did drive the Broncos for a tying score to force that overtime period.

Bottom line: the Water Cooler Quarterbacks do not believe in the myth that Manning cannot play in the cold weather. We don't even particularly by into the claim that he cannot play in windy weather.

The Water Cooler Quarterbacks wish you a great week of football.

Go Broncos!!!!!

===================================================


PS - for those who insist on seeing the raw data:

1998-2010 -- All outdoor games were road games.

1998 3-13-0

Wk Tmp Wind Opp W/L Score Stat Line C, W, C&W
2 66 10 NE L 21-33 21-33-188-1-3 W
3 73 8 NYJ L 6-44 20-44-193-0-2
7 58 12 SF L 31-34 18-30-231-3-0 W
10 74 11 Mia L 14-27 22-42-140-1-2 W
12 38 14 Buf L 11-34 14-29-164-1-2 C&W
13 53 5 Bal L 31-38 27-42-357-3-1

1999 13-3-0

Wk Temp Wind Opp W/L Score Stat Line C, W, C&W
2 60 9 NE W 31-28 18-30-223-3-2
3 63 6 SD W 27-19 29-54-404-2-1
6 64 6 NYJ W 16-13 21-35-210-1-1
10 53 12 NYG W 27-19 20-35-237-2-1 W
11 59 2 Phi W 44-17 16-26-235-3-0
13 73 13 Mia W 37-34 23-29-260-1-2 W
16 27 19 Cle W 29-28 27-43-276-0-0 C&W
17 44 14 Buf L 6-31 18-29-163-0-0 W

2000 10-6-0

Wk Temp Wind Opp W/L Score Stat Line C, W, C&W
1 86 5 KC W 27-14 22-32-273-1-1
5 60 9 Buf W 18-16 16-27-187-2-1
6 50 14 NE L 16-24 31-54-334-1-3 W
7 46 5 Sea W 37-24 20-30-281-1-0
10 46 8 Chi L 24-27 26-39-302-1-1
12 26 10 GB L 24-26 25-44-294-3-1 C&W
14 29 10 NYJ L 17-27 27-51-339-2-2 C&W
16 77 8 Mia W 20-13 21-28-206-1-0
WC 56 10 Mia L 17-23 17-32-194-1-0 W

2001 6-10-0

Wk Temp Wind Opp W/L Score Stat Line C, W, C&W
1 76 12 NYJ W 45-24 22-32-231-2-2 W
3 55 22 NE L 13-44 20-34-196-1-3 W
7 48 16 KC W 35-28 19-30-201-2-0 W
8 48 14 Buf W 30-14 17-27-199-1-0 W
12 50 7 Bal L 27-39 27-48-310-2-1
13 76 11 Mia L 6-41 19-32-173-0-3 W

2002 10-6-0

Wk Temp Wind Opp W/L Score Stat Line C, W, C&W
1 82 14 Jac W 28-25 19-31-211-3-0 W
7 44 4 Pit L 10-28 32-48-304-1-3
8 58 8 Was L 21-26 21-32-214-2-2
10 63 12 Phi W 35-13 18-23-319-3-0 W
12 27 13 Den W (OT) 23-20 27-44-229-0-1 C&W
14 35 6 Ten L 17-27 26-42-297-1-3 C
15 36 14 Cle W 28-23 20-34-277-2-1 C&W
WC 34 17 NYJ L 0-41 14-31-137-0-2 C&W

2003 12-4-0

Wk Temp Wind Opp W/L Score Stat Line C, W, C&W
1 65 4 Cle W 9-6 27-43-211-0-2
5 78 4 TB W (OT) 38-35 34-47-386-2-1
9 77 11 Mia W 23-17 23-37-266-1-1 W
10 69 23 Jac L 23-28 28-45-347-2-2 W
12 56 12 Buf W 17-14 26-42-229-0-0 W
14 35 3 Ten W 29-27 22-34-228-0-0 C
Div 40 16 KC W 38-31 22-30-304-3-0 C&W
AFC 31 8 NE L 14-24 23-47-237-1-4 C

2004 12-4-0

Wk Temp Wind Opp W/L Score Stat Line C, W, C&W
1 71 14 NE L 24-27 16-29-256-2-1 W
2 67 10 Ten W 31-17 24-33-254-2-0 W
4 82 8 Jac W 24-17 20-29-220-2-1
8 53 10 KC L 35-45 25-33-472-5-1 W
11 42 8 Chi W 41-10 17-28-211-4-1
Div 27 14 NE L 3-20 27-42-238-0-1 C&W

2005 14-2-0

Wk Temp Wind Opp W/L Score Stat Line C, W, C&W
1 69 4 Bal W 24-7 21-36-254-2-0
4 75 6 Ten W 31-10 20-27-264-4-0
5 58 15 SF W 28-3 23-31-255-1-2 W
9 56 17 NE W 40-21 28-37-321-3-1 W
11 46 4 Ten W 31-28 22-38-258-3-0
14 57 10 Jac W 26-18 24-36-324-2-0 W

2006 12-4-0

Wk Temp Wind Opp W/L Score Stat Line C, W, C&W
1 72 10 NYG W 26-21 25-41-276-1-1 W
4 66 13 NYJ W 31-28 21-30-217-1-0 W
8 55 14 Den W 34-31 32-39-345-3-0 W
9 40 7 NE W 27-20 20-36-326-2-1 C
13 38 10 Ten L 17-20 21-28-351-1-2 C&W
14 56 12 Jac L 17-44 25-50-313-0-1 W
Div 54 7 Bal W 15-6 15-30-170-0-2
SB 66 7 Chi W 29-17 25-38-247-1-1

2007 13-3-0

Wk Temp Wind Opp W/L Score Stat Line C, W, C&W
2 64 5 Ten W 22-20 28-42-312-1-1
7 75 8 Jac W 29-7 23-37-259-1-1
8 57 9 Car W 31-7 14-30-255-2-0
10 59 5 SD L 21-23 34-56-328-2-6
14 39 5 Bal W 44-20 13-17-249-4-0 C
15 48 6 Oak W 21-14 22-39-276-1-1

2008 12-4-0

Wk Temp Wind Opp W/L Score Stat Line C, W, C&W
7 50 14 GB L 14-34 21-42-229-0-2 W
8 50 13 Ten L 21-31 26-41-223-2-2 W
10 41 10 Pit W 24-20 21-40-230-3-0 W
12 60 4 SD W 23-20 32-44-255-2-1
13 34 10 Cle W 10-6 15-21-125-0-2 C&W
16 67 2 Jac W 31-24 29-34-364-3-0
WC 54 7 SD L 17-23 25-42-310-1-0

2009 14-2-0

Wk Temp Wind Opp W/L Score Stat Line C, W, C&W
2 85 9 Mia W 27-23 14-23-303-2-0
5 54 7 Ten W 31-9 36-44-309-3-1
11 45 6 Bal W 17-15 22-31-299-1-2
15 60 17 Jac W 35-31 23-30-308-5-1 W
SB 61 10 NO L 17-31 31-45-333-1-1 W

2010 10-6-0

Wk Temp Wind Opp W/L Score Stat Line C, W, C&W
3 85 6 Den W 27-13 27-43-325-3-0
4 80 1 Jac L 28-31 33-46-352-2-1
6 70 7 Was W 27-24 25-38-307-2-0
9 52 1 Phi L 24-26 31-51-293-1-2
14 35 6 Ten W 30-28 25-35-319-2-0 C
16 58 5 Oak W 31-26 16-30-179-3-2

2012-13 Sixteen outdoor games were home games.

2012 13-3-0

Wk Temp Wind Opp W/L Score Stat Line C, W, C&W
1 85 1 Pit W 31-19 19-26-253-2-0
3 84 1 Hou L 25-31 26-52-330-2-0
4 72 6 Oak W 37-6 30-38-338-3-0
5 54 4 NE L 21-31 31-44-337-3-0
6 78 7 SD W 35-24 24-30-309-3-1
8 59 5 NO W 34-14 22-30-305-3-0
9 48 1 Cin W 31-23 27-35-291-3-2
11 62 3 SD W 30-23 25-42-270-3-1
12 52 5 KC W 17-9 22-37-285-2-1
13 64 4 TB W 31-23 27-38-242-3-1
14 57 7 Oak W 26-13 26-36-310-1-1
15 53 7 Bal W 34-17 17-28-204-1-0
16 51 1 Cle W 34-12 30-43-339-3-1
17 35 1 KC W 38-3 23-29-304-3-0 C
Div 13 8 Bal L (OT) 35-38 28-43-290-3-2 C

2013 11-2

Wk Temp Wind Opp W/L Score Stat Line C, W, C&W
1 83 7 Bal W 49-27 27-42-462-7-0
2 70 3 NYG W 41-23 30-43-307-2-0
3 64 16 Oak W 37-21 32-37-374-3-0 W
4 76 8 Phi W 52-20 28-34-327-4-0
6 59 7 Jac W 35-19 28-42-295-2-1
8 69 8 Was W 45-21 30-44-354-4-3
10 78 6 SD W 28-20 25-36-330-4-0
11 43 6 KC W 27-17 24-40-323-1-0
12 22 22 NE L (OT) 31-34 19-36-150-2-1 C&W
13 55 4 KC W 35-28 22-35-403-5-2
14 18 5 Ten W 51-28 39-59-397-4-0 C
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