28

September

Cory’s Corner: Clutch stats are synonymous with luck

Aaron Rodgers is 5-17 in games decided by four points or fewer.

Aaron Rodgers is 5-17 in games decided by four points or fewer.

After the Bengals came back to beat the Packers, the fourth quarter statistics came pouring through like a poorly constructed dam.

Coach Mike McCarthy is now 9-20 in games decided by four points or fewer and Aaron Rodgers is 5-17.

I realize those numbers look pathetic. Nobody wants to be under .500 in this league at anything.

But a good barometer for the “clutch” statistic is Eli Manning. When the Giants inched into the 2007 playoffs with a 10-6 record he engineered fourth quarter or later comebacks from the divisional playoff all the way to the Super Bowl.

I say that luck is a pretty good synonym for clutch. Did Manning have anything to do with forcing Brett Favre’s interception? Of course that set up the eventual 47-yard game-winning field goal and put the Giants in the big game. Once there, Manning needed a 3rd and 5 completion to David Tyree — who is no longer in the league — to keep the hope alive.

But as you remember, it wasn’t just a completion, Tyree caught the ball against his helmet with defenders draped all over him. New York ended the Patriots’ march to perfection and it was all because Manning led a clutch drive that saw him heave up a 32-yard desperation pass that somehow found enough helmet to be hauled in.

Taking it one step further, Rodgers is 5-24 when he’s got the ball in the fourth quarter trailing by 1-8 points.

How many of those were missed field goals, a dropped pass, a blown coverage or a bonehead penalty? Any one or a combination of those things can quickly turn a definite win into a loss.

“You can throw a bunch of numbers into a can and sort them different ways and come up with strengths and weaknesses and you can believe what you want to believe,” McCarthy said on Monday. “I think you really have to stay in tune with individuals especially in a team sport where you have 11 people on the field at once.”

To prove how silly the clutch stat is, Jay Cutler has a better clutch winning percentage than Peyton Manning. Now I don’t think anyone is crazy enough to think that Cutler is a better overall quarterback than Manning, who is cutting through defenses with so much meticulous-like precision that he reminds me of a surgeon.

Let’s also not forget that Rodgers owns a 53-28 record as a starter. The last time Rodgers threw two picks was Oct. 24, 2010. That tells me that he’s still the most efficient quarterback in the game and hasn’t lost the recipe on how to win in the new pass-happy NFL.

Rodgers is arguably the best quarterback in the league right up there with guys like Peyton Manning, Drew Brees and Tom Brady. That’s pretty good company.

Yet for some reason, before the scoreboard lights at Paul Brown Stadium were turned off, Rodgers detractors brought up his fourth quarter numbers and continue to use that as kryptonite to fuel the argument against Rodgers.

Rodgers is the reason the running game doesn’t even have to be visible for the Packers to be successful. Rodgers is the reason that defenses break out in night sweats with trepidation on how to stop him and the deadly back shoulder throw.

I know Rodgers is not naïve enough to think that his fourth quarter numbers are good by any means. But it’s not like he’s morphing into a JV player when the scoreboard puts up a big number 4.

Not looking at his completion percentage — which has been north of 63 percent every year he’s been a starter — his sack percentage, which is at 7.6 and his playoff record which is 5-3 is negligence.

All those things give a clearer picture of who Rodgers is. Simplifying a cerebral quarterback into a single category isn’t just wrong, it’s irresponsible. I’m not saying the fourth quarter numbers can’t be brought up, but they shouldn’t be used to paint a picture as to what kind of quarterback Rodgers really is.

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Cory Jennerjohn is from Wisconsin and has been in sports media for over 10 years. To contact Cory e-mail him at jeobs -at- yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter: Cory Jennerjohn

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12 Responses to “Cory’s Corner: Clutch stats are synonymous with luck”

  1. tim says:

    Cory, you hit the nail right on the head. The thing I don’t get is there are so many Rodgers detractors. Rodgers is a really great quarterback, period, they don’t make them much better. The Packers might not see another one like him for decades, or ever, after he gone from the pack. As a packer fan, I’m going to appreciate his contributions.

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  2. Max says:

    Plus there were a few times Rodgers has led a comeback only to see the defense give it right back up on the next drive

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    • That’s why I’m so annoyed with this statistic being applied only to the quarterback. It’s a team sport for a reason.

      Solid analytic research on this statistic would include individual game studies on how the game was lost. Did the defense give up a final drive? Did a RB fumble away the ball? Did the QB throw an INT? Or did the kicker miss a game-winning or tying FG?

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  3. Outis says:

    “Winning isn’t everything; it’s the only thing.” – Vince Lombardi. AR may currently be the best QB in the NFL, or the best the Pack ever had, but it doesn’t mean a thing if the team doesn’t win.

    Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 6 Thumb down 2

  4. Tundraboy says:

    As if anyone else would be as good with a O line in training year in and year out. Please

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  5. tim says:

    Who is the last great Vikings, bears or lions quarterback? Fran Tarkenton? Bobby Lane? Sid Luckman? All hall of famers. Would you rather have them or Aaron Rodgers?

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  6. mark in Portland says:

    Perhaps the most famous moment in Packer history is the Ice Bowl drive. AR will always have Starr’s ghost looking over him. However, if we look at the stats for that year, Starr had an off year and the Packers were lucky to even be in that game. Also, their defense was outstanding and kept them in the game. I watch the drive on youtube once in a while and I am amazed by it. However, there is much more to winning than that. If the offense had played better early on they wouldn’t even have been in that position.

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  7. toolkien says:

    The Packers in the MM/AR era seem to either be on for a game or off. If they’re on, they could stay on all game but usually decide to take the foot off the gas, and if they’re off, they stay off and lose.

    Also, being “clutch” only really matters if you’re on the playoff bubble, or to sustain a playoff run. The Packers generally have not had trouble making the playoffs, ironically the exception being the 2010 SB year where they won the tie breakers based on the 5th tie break – strength of schedule. And, unfortunately, in the playoffs, if they’ve been down, they’ve been down pretty far, usually due to plenty of give aways, so no clutch situation arising. Again, if they’re on they’re on, and when they’re not, they’re not.

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  8. NYPACKER says:

    Shouldn’t definition of “clutch” be how you play in the biggest games? If so, no games are bigger than single elimination
    playoff games. In those games AR ranks third all time in Quarterback rating, while such “media darlings” such as Brett favre & Peyton Manning rank 10th & 13th.

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  9. Since '61 says:

    Here’s what you need to understand about Rodgers. With a few exceptions like the colts, pats, saints, and Denver, every team in the league would trade their existing QB plus at least a #1 pick to get Rodgers. Ever Denver and NE might make the trade due to Rodgers being younger. Not sure what atlanta would do. In any case, the Packers are fortunate to have Rodgers. He is a better player than either Starr or Favre. He is smart like Starr and he doesn’t hurt the team, which were Starr’s strengths, yet he has a strong arm like Brett. We have the best of both worlds. Forget the 4th quarter stats. Rodgers can play against any team from any era. He is as good as there has been. Rodgers, thankfully is not one of the Packers problems. Put Rodgers on the 9ers or on Lombardi’s Packers or any team with a strong OL and you would be seeing a once in a lifetime player. Thanks, Since ’61

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