Tuesday, February 5, 2008

The Clutch Player: Real or Fake?

Nation,

Interesting Super Bowl XLII (42 for those of you who never quite caught on to roman numerals) finish.

A much maligned Eli Manning is now a champion and a celebrated hero in New York. Manning, who has had a career full of criticism from teammates, fans, and media, is now being described by some as a clutch athlete who has "grown so much as a leader and a player".

What?

I personally never thought Eli was a terrible NFL quarterback. I also don't think he is as good or better than Tom Brady, Peyton Manning, or the upper elite QBs of the league.

I think Eli is a average quarterback still with potential development and a lot of seasons left. The reasons for hating or loving this guy are not based on rationale. Was he really worth a first overall pick if his last name wasn't Manning? No. Was he really as bad as everyone thought he was this year during the regular season? He was pretty damn mediocre. To be fair, it didn't help that his receivers dropped the most balls in the league this year.

Let's compare the Super Bowl MVP performance of Manning to that of another super bowl winning quarterback:

Eli Manning - 19 completions, 35 attempts, 2 touchdowns, 1 interception
Quarterback ?- 12 completions, 25 attempts, 1 touchdown, o interceptions

See much of a difference?

The mystery quarterback is none other than Trent Dilfer. Dilfer continues to play in the league as a backup. He is one of the much maligned Super Bowl winner, benefiting from a terrific defense much the same way Manning did.

Was Manning clutch on Sunday? I say no. He gave the same performance he always averages. His defense was its usual brilliant self, and benefited from Manning's offense reducing the turnovers that lead to defending closer to their goal line.

So does the clutch athlete exist? Do you think players in Ultimate are clutch?

If you read the Wages of Wins, you will find even the great Michael Jordan only exceeded his regular season stats in the playoffs twice. The years he did so might surprise you.

I fear we may label players in ultimate as clutch or not clutch based on one particular game or play. Over time, we find that certain players perform game tasks with a certain level of consistency. Assuming everyone gives it their best in every game, we shouldn't have clutch players- we should just have people randomly playing at their top level or people who play below their level for various reasons (nerves, injury, matchup, etc).

Thus, the poll question seeks to look at this topic. Let me know your thoughts on this discussion, I know if I'm wrong my readers will be clutch in correcting me. :)

3 comments:

Aaron said...

Regarding Michael Jordan's playoff stats only twice exceeding his regular season:

Playoff basketball is a whole different game, every player steps up to a whole new level. Greater emphasis on defense. Every single possession is key. Having Jordan on the court opens up holes in the defense as they double team him, others drop and help out, etc. His playoff stats may not show, but he always get the job done. Also he almost always takes the last shot.

Not to take away from Eli Manning's win, but in my opinion he had some unbelievable/lucky plays on the last drive. First Patriot corner back not intercepting the ball near the side line. Second, avoiding the sack (amazing) and lob the ball high in the air to Tyree (2/8 catches that night) in between 4 Pats defender. I won't say Manning's last drive was clutch. He looked desperate the whole drive and he made some ridiculous throws and his receivers made some ridiculous catches. In a game with 2 minutes left down by 1 touchdown, I'd still take Tom Brady over Eli Manning.

Sport Management Steven said...

Aaron,

-Playoff basketball is a different game. Weaker teams are eliminated round by round, and thus the games get tougher and the scores/stats get affected accordingly.

-Even controlling for the expected reduction in points, Jordan's performance was still not better in the playoffs for most of his career, sometimes lower.

-He was called on to make the shots late in games because even though he was not playing above his own level, His sub par game was still better than B.J Armstrong's best. He still looks "clutch" when he was in the finals because he was just that much better.

-I agree with you on Eli.

sharpie said...

Stupid Patriot O-Line.
Stupid Giant D-Line.