On Friday afternoon, NFL Gameday’s official Twitter account put out an interesting poll question.
“You’re down. Seconds left in the game. Your team has the ball. Which QB you takin’ with the game on the line?” the Twitter account asked. They then attached a poll featuring four of the best quarterbacks in the game: Tom Brady, Drew Brees Aaron Rodgers and Matt Ryan. As of 1 p.m. ET on Friday, Aaron Rodgers led the poll with 42 percent of the vote, with Brady just behind with 39 percent.
You're down. Seconds left in the game. Your team has the ball.— NFL GameDay (@NFLGameDay) September 15, 2017
Which QB you takin' with the game on the line?
Tweet us WHY below! ⬇️⬇️⬇️
Obviously, it’s a bit striking that the NFL Network show completely left off Matthew Stafford, whose highly-publicized eight fourth-quarter comeback wins in 2016 earned him a lot of respect throughout the league.
While the four quarterbacks listed are clearly some of the best passers in the league, some aren’t exactly known for their clutchness. Rodgers notoriously has a 0-35 record when trailing by more than a point in the fourth quarter against teams with a winning record. Matt Ryan certainly isn’t considered all that clutch considering the Falcons’ historic collapse in Super Bowl LI.
So I tapped Pro Football Reference to see just how clutch these four quarterbacks were in comparison to Matthew Stafford. PFR has an excellent splits breakdown for every player, and as luck would have it, they even have career statistics in clutch situations. PFR keeps track of each quarterback’s stats when they’re trailing in fourth quarter with less than two minutes left.
Here’s are those stats for the four quarterbacks listed in the poll and Matthew Stafford:
Matthew Stafford: 97-177 (54.8%), 1167 yds, 13 TDs, 4 INTs, 90.3 passer rating
Matt Ryan: 76-152 (50.0%), 954 yds, 6 TDs, 6 INTs, 66.6 passer rating
Tom Brady: 84-159 (52.8%), 963 yds, 9 TDs, 4 INTs, 79.7 passer rating
Aaron Rodgers: 35-68 (51.5%), 461 yds, 2 TDs, 3 INTs, 64.6 passer rating
Drew Brees: 143-249 (57.4%), 1756 yds, 20 TDs, 15 INTs, 81.0 passer rating
As you can see, Stafford has a passer rating well above any of the other four quarterbacks, is second in completion percentage among the group, and has the best TD-to-INT ratio by far.
It may be true that some of these statistics are during garbage time, especially early in Stafford’s career, and that likely explains why Stafford has so many more attempts than the other quarterbacks. He has also found himself behind on the scoreboard more often than everyone but Brees, and Drew has an additional 125 games on Stafford.
However, 2016 proved that Stafford’s excellence in the final two minutes of the game can lead to serious wins. Not only did Stafford and the Lions have eight fourth quarter comebacks last season, but six of those included a go-ahead or game-tying score in the final two minutes of regulation or overtime.
As for the poll leader, Aaron Rodgers? He is actually the worst of the bunch, throwing for just two touchdowns, three interceptions and the worst passer rating of the group: 64.6. Though, admittedly, he’s had the fewest opportunities of any quarterback in the poll.
There is one quarterback who has Stafford bested, however, and he’s also not included in the poll. Oakland Raiders quarterback Derek Carr has put up astonishing stats in the high-pressure moments:
33-44 (79.6 %), 368 yards, 6 TDs, 1 INT, 131.6 passer rating.
In spite of that, Carr is only entering his fourth season. If he keeps up this level of play in the clutch, he's definitely deserving to be involved in this conversation. Until then, Stafford's track record and statistics show why he's the best there is when the game's on the line.
There is a changing of the guard happening at quarterback. And while the national media may not see it yet, we do. Progress is slow, and people are still just becoming aware of Stafford’s ability in the fourth quarter, but they’ll eventually become keen to the type of player he is in high pressure situations.