clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

NY Jets: Is Brady Really Clutch?

New, comments

The stats say something interesting.

Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

Tom Brady is a legendary quarterback.  He has indisputably been an all time great quarterback.  His passing numbers and his Super Bowl rings attest to this.  Brady also has a reputation for being an extraordinarily clutch performer.  However, the numbers here may not support the legend.  Let's take a look.

What numbers might support the claim of a clutch quarterback?  Well, for starters that quarterback would have to be great in the postseason, at least as good as he is in the regular season.  Second, we might look at how that quarterback performs late in games.  We might also look at how he performs on third downs.  Let's see how Brady measures up.

POSTSEASON

For his career Brady has a 96.4 passer rating.  Outstanding.  In the playoffs?  The number there is a rather pedestrian 88.0.  Brady has done well in Super Bowls (95.3 -- still lower than his regular season numbers), but he has done very poorly in Conference Championship games (76.3 --  really, really bad)  Does that sound like an all time clutch performer to you?  Well, you say, playoff defenses are tougher. Fair enough.  But Aaron Rodgers has a 98.2 playoff passer rating.  Drew Brees?  A cool 100.7.  Apparently playoff defenses haven't hampered those guys much.

LATE GAME PERFORMANCE

A clutch performer should raise his game late in the game, when everything is on the line, right?  Brady throughout his career has done the opposite, with his performance peaking in the 2nd quarter and getting progressively worse in each of the 3rd and 4th quarters.  Does that sound like a legendary clutch performer?

Brady

Quarter

QB Rating

.

1st

96.2

2nd

98.6

3rd

96.4

4th

93.1

When we compare Aaron Rodgers and Drew Brees, we see similar patterns, raising questions as to whether clutch even really exists.  If the greatest quarterbacks of our time all perform worse the later the game gets, is there really such a thing as clutch play when the game is on the line, or is clutch itself just a story we tell ourselves to make life more interesting?

Rodgers

Quarter

QB Rating

.

1st

106.5

2nd

104.1

3rd

104.6

4th

100.6

Brees

Quarter

QB Rating

.

1st

98.7

2nd

99.7

3rd

96.6

4th

88.7

LATE DOWN PERFORMANCE

A clutch quarterback should be at his best on 3rd down, right?  Here's how Brady does:

Brady

Down

QB Rating

.

1st

96.6

2nd

98.4

3rd

92.7

And here's how Rodgers and Brees do:

Rodgers

Down

QB Rating

.

1st

102.2

2nd

105.2

3rd

106.4

Brees

Down

QB Rating

.

1st

96.3

2nd

96.5

3rd

95.6

While Brady clearly does his worst on 3rd down, Brees' numbers don't change much with the downs, and Rodgers does his best work on 3rd downs.  Again, not much of an argument for Brady's clutchness here.

LAST 4 MINUTES

Finally let's look at the last four minutes of games.  This is as clutch a time as it gets.  How has Brady done?

Brady

Situation

QB Rating

.

Trailing

83.7

Tied

68.3

Leading

88.3

Here we see that Brady has been very pedestrian in the last 4 minutes of games, with passer ratings in the 80s.  Brees and Rodgers have these charts:

Rodgers

Situation

QB Rating

.

Trailing

75.0

Tied

91.3

Leading

132.2

Brees

Situation

QB Rating

.

Trailing

79.6

Tied

38.0

Leading

85.6

What should we make of all this?  First and foremost, we should probably question the whole notion of clutch.  The numbers pretty strongly suggest clutch is largely illusory, a figment of our collective fondness for dramatic narrative. If anything, as the games get later in the season and presumably more meaningful, the performances deteriorate a bit.  And as the games get later on the time clock, performances tend to deteriorate as well.

As for Tom Brady in particular, nothing here suggests he is in any way more clutch than his great quarterback peers. If anything, the numbers suggest he is slightly less clutch overall than Rodgers and Brees, with Brady's numbers being notably worse in the playoffs and on 3rd down.  In summary, Brady is undoubtedly an all time great quarterback.  Call him the GOAT if you like.  Just don't call him Mr. Clutch.  If clutch even exists, which is somewhat in doubt, Brady's numbers just don't qualify him as being especially clutch. In fact, his numbers clearly show his play deteriorates late in games, on 3rd downs, and in the playoffs.  Whatever that is, it isn't Mr. Clutch.