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Guest Post: QB Playoff Support: Part II

Adam Steele is back, this time with some playoff support stats for eight more quarterbacks. You can view all of Adam’s posts here.

Two weeks ago, I published a study detailing the playoff supporting casts of Tom Brady and Peyton Manning. Today I’m going to look at eight more notable quarterbacks under the same microscope. Below are the career tables for each QB, in no particular order.

Aaron Rodgers:

RodgersRoundOppResultDefenseSp TeamsSupport
2010CCCHIW 21-1413.69-3.739.96
2012WCMINW 24-107.53-0.566.97
2015WCWASW 35-185.95-1.644.31
2014CCSEAL 22-28-2.035.583.55
2010SBPITW 31-252.89-2.460.43
2010DivATLW 48-2111.75-11.450.3
2010WCPHIW 21-16-3.920.99-2.93
2013WCSFL 20-23-11.983.84-8.14
2014DivDALW 26-21-11.271.7-9.57
2015DivARIL 20-26-6.94-3.17-10.11
2011DivNYGL 20-37-12.891.79-11.1
2009WCARIL 45-51-33.993.21-30.78
2012DivSFL 31-45-25.88-5.15-31.03

Drew Brees:

BreesRoundOppResultDefenseSp TeamsSupport
2009DivARIW 45-141.49.911.3
2009SBINDW 31-17-5.828.823
2009CCMINW 31-28-6.366.820.46
2013WCPHIW 26-24-7.512.54-4.97
2013DivSEAL 15-23-0.52-6.46-6.98
2004WCNYJL 17-20-8.31-0.53-8.84
2006DivPHIW 27-24-10.791.49-9.3
2011DivSFL 32-36-0.42-14.14-14.56
2006CCCHIL 14-39-3.01-12.26-15.27
2010WCSEAL 36-41-13.99-4.7-18.69
2011WCDETW 45-28-18.92-0.82-19.74

Eli Manning:

E ManningRoundOppResultDefenseSp TeamsSupport
2011CCSFW 20-171.17.518.61
2007WCTBW 24-14-3.128.765.64
2011WCATLW 24-212.99-8.924.07
2008DivPHIL 11-236.22-2.194.03
2011DivGBW 37-205.25-1.793.46
2007SBNEW 17-141.90.892.79
2007CCGBW 23-200.92-3.86-2.94
2007DivDALW 21-17-7.341.73-5.61
2006WCPHIL 20-23-4.62-1.56-6.18
2005WCCARL 0-23-6.3-1.79-8.09
2011SBNEW 21-17-10.71.47-9.23

Joe Flacco:

FlaccoRoundOppResultDefenseSp TeamsSupport
2011DivHOUW 20-1310.6212.6223.24
2008WCMIAW 27-920.321.2221.54
2009WCNEW 33-1424.38-6.0618.32
2010WCKCW 30-714.72-2.3212.4
2008DivTENW 13-109.981.7311.71
2008CCPITL 14-2312.37-3.139.24
2010DivPITL 24-311.776.448.21
2012WCINDW 24-94.62-0.484.14
2014WCPITW 30-172.72-0.022.7
2012CCNEW 28-13-0.891.670.78
2009DivINDL 3-20-2.951.91-1.04
2011CCNEL 20-23-5.911.42-4.49
2012DivDENW 38-35-0.17-6.13-6.3
2012SBSFW 34-31-8.820.23-8.59
2014DivNEL 31-35-20.041.99-18.05

Ben Roethlisberger:

RoethlisbergerRoundOppResultDefenseSp TeamsSupport
2008CCBALW 23-1423.823.1326.95
2005SBSEAW 21-105.546.9712.51
2004DivNYJW 20-176.784.2110.99
2010DivBALW 31-2415.91-6.449.47
2015WCCINW 18-1610.48-3.856.63
2005DivINDW 21-18-
2008DivSDW 35-24-0.975.124.15
2010CCNYJW 24-191.330.952.28
2008SBARIW 27-23-0.921.910.99
2007WCJACL 29-314.18-4.99-0.81
2005CCDENW 34-17-0.54-2.21-2.75
2005WCCINW 31-17-0.37-3.06-3.43
2015DivDENL 16-235.76-9.9-4.14
2010SBGBL 25-31-7.722.46-5.26
2014WCBALL 17-30-9.650.02-9.63
2011WCDENL 23-29-14.162.17-11.99
2004CCNEL 27-41-13.281.05-12.23

Kurt Warner:

WarnerRoundOppResultDefenseSp TeamsSupport
2001DivGBW 45-1735.13-3.8631.27
1999CCTBW 11-619.31-5.1714.14
2008DivCARW 33-1322-8.1813.82
2008WCATLW 30-247.65-5.592.06
1999DivMINW 49-37-14.0513.62-0.43
2001SBNEL 17-202.76-4.34-1.58
1999SBTENW 23-16-14.149.61-4.53
2000WCNOL 28-31-2.53-2.52-5.05
2001CCPHIW 29-24-2.34-3.3-5.64
2008SBPITL 23-27-4.62-1.91-6.53
2008CCPHIW 32-25-13.12.55-10.55
2009WCGBW 51-45-24.64-3.21-27.85
2009DivNOL 14-45-19.18-9.9-29.08

Russell Wilson:

WilsonRoundOppResultDefenseSp TeamsSupport
2013SBDENW 43-816.329.6625.98
2015WCMINW 10-910.170.9711.14
2013CCSFW 23-172.267.659.91
2013DivNOW 23-151.256.467.71
2012WCWASW 24-149.36-2.267.1
2014DivCARW 31-171.931.183.11
2014CCGBW 28-227.48-5.581.9
2014SBNEL 24-28-13.672.16-11.51
2015DivCARL 24-31-8.35-6.08-14.43
2012DivATLL 28-30-17.640.63-17.01

Philip Rivers:

RiversRoundOppResultDefenseSp TeamsSupport
2013WCCINW 27-109.54-0.539.01
2007WCTENW 17-69.05-3.075.98
2008WCINDW 23-17-3.627.974.35
2006DivNEL 21-247.22-10.7-3.48
2009DivNYJL 14-175.03-9.26-4.23
2007CCNEL 12-21-4.23-4.4-8.63
2008DivPITL 24-35-6.27-5.12-11.39
2007DivINDW 28-24-8.38-3.85-12.23
2013DivDENL 17-24-15.88-0.28-16.16

And now, a comparison of all 10 quarterbacks in this study:

CareerW/LSupp/GSupp +Supp -Supp + %
E. Manning8-3-0.316554.5%
P. Manning14-13-2.391833.3%

Remember those days when the talking heads repeatedly asked, “Is Joe Flacco elite?” I have your answer: He’s not. Outside of his miracle 2012 run to the championship, Flacco has been mediocre at best in the postseason, being dragged to numerous wins by the Ravens’ elite defense and special teams.1 Flacco has been an average QB during the regular season and an average QB in the playoffs, and frankly a perfect example of why win/loss record is a ridiculous method for evaluating quarterbacks. His AFC North rival, Ben Roethlisberger, has had a playoff career with any eerily similar trajectory to Tom Brady’s – backed by an elite supporting cast in the early years, then hung out to dry in the second half of his career. Russell Wilson appears to be on a similar track as Brady and Roethlisberger, with the Legion of Boom carrying him to a number of playoff wins at the beginning of his career. It seems inevitable that Seattle’s defense will heavily regress at some point (we already saw signs in 2015), and Wilson will be asked to carry the Seahawks on his back. Even if he continues to improve as a QB, his playoff record will likely decline in the process.

Kurt Warner compiled a 9-4 playoff record with negative support overall, and only benefited from positive support in four out of 13 games. Warner is the rare case of a QB whose playoff record truly is a reflection of his performance, which was excellent by any measure. Despite the ugly -6.01 support average, Aaron Rodgers has had positive support in nearly half of his playoff games, with two complete defensive meltdowns dragging his average down. Philip Rivers has been consistently letdown by his teammates in the playoffs, most memorably by Marlon McCree in 2006 and Nate Kaeding in 2009. He’s been a great regular season QB and a decent playoff QB, but Rivers simply hasn’t benefited from enough lucky breaks to elevate his legacy. Maybe he’ll pull and Elway or Manning and walk out on top in his late 30’s.

I’m fascinated by the case of Drew Brees, as his career highlights the absurdity of how we judge the legacies of great quarterbacks. Brees has been absolutely shafted in the playoffs by terrible defenses; I would venture to guess that historically speaking, only Dan Marino has suffered from more pitiful playoff support than Brees. As a result, despite being a full time starter for 14 years, Brees has amassed “only” six playoff victories and one SB championship. That’s less than half of Manning’s win total and less than 1/3 of Brady’s. Yet somehow, Brees has generally escaped criticism from the same people who tear down other QB’s for their lack of playoff success. Why? In terms of QB legacies, losing in the playoffs is considered a major black mark, and the dreaded one-and-done is branded as a nearly unforgivable sin. Brees has incurred a mere five playoff losses and only gone one-and-done on a single occasion, so he really hasn’t had any memorable postseason failures. Of course, his playoff record ignores the elephant in the room – Brees has failed to qualify for the playoffs in eight of his 14 seasons!

Common sense tells us that losing in the first round of the playoffs is a bigger accomplishment than missing the playoffs entirely. However, common sense evaporates in the backwards world of QB legacy discussions. In Brees’ case, his legacy has benefited immensely from watching the playoffs at home so many times. Here’s a thought experiment: Imagine that instead of missing the playoffs eight times, Brees dragged each of those mediocre teams to the postseason, only to lose in the wild card game every year. He would have a dismal 6-13 record including a ghastly nine one-and-dones. Despite accomplishing more than he has during his actual career, Brees would likely be excoriated as the most prolific choker and underachiever in NFL history. How preposterous is that? In my opinion, QB playoff W/L record is the single worst “statistic” in all of sports, and countless legacies have been unfairly elevated or damaged as a result of its widespread use.

I’d love to hear your thoughts!

  1. Chase note: As somewhat of a counter to this, Flacco was pretty bad in the playoffs early in his career and pretty good recently. That “improvement” gets lost in the averages, although that “improvement” may also be the product of a small sample size. []
  • Tom

    “In my opinion, QB playoff W/L record is the single worst “statistic” in all of sports, and countless legacies have been unfairly elevated or damaged as a result of its widespread use.”

    I’ll jump in here first and say that your last sentence is a gem, and it’s the truth. Sometimes, yes, a QB can “win” a game – meaning, he made a lot of plays that really enabled his team to win. Other times, the team wins despite the QB’s somewhat poor play. The idea that we just attach the “W” to the QB is indeed absurd. Some other quick thoughts:

    Your observation on Brees is spot on, I’ve never thought of his career that way. He escapes criticism because he hasn’t failed that much in the playoffs…but the fact is, he hasn’t MADE the playoffs that much, as you state.

    I’ve got more thoughts on this, in any case, great read, great post.

    • Adam

      Thanks, Tom. Looking forward to hearing your thoughts on this.

  • Corey

    Poor Brees. Since he got to New Orleans, the Saints defense has ranked in DVOA 26, 22, 30, 26, 17, 10, 28, 32, 10, 31, 32 (with the worst defense in DVOA history). So only four years out of 11 have they finished higher than 26th: all four years the Saints made the playoffs, and they won a Super Bowl and made another conference championship game in those years. The other 7 years, they made the playoffs only once (2011, a very odd year when the top 3 offenses all finished 25th or worse on defense).

    Two lessons here:

    – The Saints management has been a disaster, almost completely wasting the prime of a HoF QB by surrounding him with terrible defenses. They got very lucky that they won a title in one of their few good-defense seasons.
    – It doesn’t matter how good your QB is if you can’t stop anyone. A great QB can cover up for a mediocre defense, but it’s hard to win a lot if your defense is downright bad.

    • Adam

      If Brees had merely average defenses in New Orleans, he probably would’ve made the postseason every year, won a lot more playoff games, and would be remembered in the same vein as Brady and Manning. The Saints front office really has failed him miserably.

    • eag97a

      I don’t quite pity Brees’ situation since IMO he has some culpability in bargaining hard for those massive contracts of his which indirectly hindered the Saints FO in surrounding him with talented defenses and ST. With that said Drew has really earned those contracts with his HOF performance and the franchise was rewarded with a SB win as well.

      • Corey

        This may have been the case after Brees signed his extension in 2012, but his previous contract from 2006-11 was 6/60, which is good value for an elite QB. And the Saints’ D was still pretty bad most of those years.

        • eag97a

          True but the franchise qb market is now correcting but a bit too late to help out Brees and the Saints, Brees just have to make do with what’s in the cupboard bare as it is.

  • Richie

    You mention Marino. The other day I looked up a shocking statistic (and posted in another thread) about some of the bad defense that Marino had to deal with. I just thought I would repeat it here.

    From 1983-1999, the Dolphins allowed 200+ rushing yards 35 times
    (including playoffs). League average was about one 200+ rushing game
    every 14 games. The Dolphins allowed one every 8 games, including 7 of
    their 18 playoff games during that stretch!

    This is the typical chicken-egg thing with rushing yards. But in
    Marino’s 18 playoff games, when the defense allowed over 150 rushing
    yards, they were 1-9. When they allowed fewer than 150, they were 7-1.

    The Dolphins allowed 341 rushing yards to the Bills in 1995 playoffs. I
    believe the 381 rushing yards by the Bears in the 73-0 championship game
    in 1940 is the only playoff game with more rushing yards than the
    Dolphins allowed.

    • Adam

      To your point, Marino began an astounding 23% of his playoff drives down at least three scores. His defense gave him basically no chance in a number of playoff games.

    • Tom

      Those numbers are staggering…I can’t help believing that Marino, Duper and Clayton have at least one ring if those numbers weren’t so bad.

  • Richie

    Aaron Rodgers is an interesting one. I was wondering if he would start to be labeled a choker in the playoffs. Probably impossible, because he won a Super Bowl early and now is permanently a clutch champion. But he seems to have a bunch of playoff disappointments. But your numbers say that “he” has actually outperformed expectation by one game.

    • Adam

      If Rodgers goes the rest of his career without winning another ring, I’ll bet the choker label will be thrown at him by some people. And of course those people will be foolish.

  • sacramento gold miners

    Brees’ six playoff wins are four more than Tony Romo has amassed, plus he won a SB for a struggling franchise. That’s success, and a big difference from the GOAT discussion. And Joe Flacco played well in the 2010, 2011, and 2014 playoffs. My point has always been the postseason does count, and can’t be shrugged off with luck. Dan Marino easily earned the HOF due to the totality of his career, but there’s no doubt a SB win would have enhanced his legacy. Conversely, Jim Plunkett’s great postseason isn’t enough to offset his entire resume to earn a HOF nod.

    • Tom

      I understand you’re point – the playoffs are important, and can’t be brushed aside as pure randomness. But let me as you this question: if a SB win for Marino – and we’re talking about him having a ring, not about whether or not he played well in a SB, which I know is closely tied to a team winning, but we have to separate that for now – enhances his legacy, does a Patriots loss in the 2014 SB detract, by any amount, even if very small, Tom Brady’s legacy? That’s my question for you.

      • sacramento gold miners

        Depends on the context of the conversation. In general, a loss would have had very minimal impact, since Brady has already won three super bowls, and is a lock for Canton. But in the GOAT talk, it gains more traction, and the 2008 SB loss was the worst in Brady’s career. Of course the caveat will be if any evidence pops up about illegal taping in those 2001-2004 postseasons. The Pats did record sideline signals during the preseason during this era, so a reasonable person would assume the possibility exists for postseason taping.

        • Tom

          Well, I’m not concerned with the taping or deflated balls, etc., and I’m not talking about his 2008 SB loss, and yes he’s a lock for Canton regardless.

          I’ll put it another way: if winning the SB “gains more traction” in the GOAT talk, as you say, is it your opinion that if Lynch runs the ball in for the winning TD for Seattle at the end of that game, Brady takes a hit in the GOAT department? The question really being: does our perception of Brady’s performance change because while he was on the sidelines, his team lost the game on the very last play?

          Brady’s Total QBR for that game was 86.0 for that game, which is really, really good. That number does not change if Butler fails to make the INT.

          • sacramento gold miners

            Not a major hit in the GOAT department, at 3-3, if Lynch runs it in. Still count the defeat, but Brady does have the other super bowls.

  • Tom

    Adam – I’ll do some checking on this myself, but the special teams number for Flacco’s Super Bowl game seems low. Jacoby Jones had that kickoff return, which is worth at least 6 EPA, right? I know the 49ers had a good punt return, and there was the safety at the end of the game, but +0.23 seems low.

    Also – are field goals counted as special teams expected points in this analysis?

    • Adam

      I must admit that I have some reservations about the validity of EPA. There are several different versions, each of which is calculated through a black box formula. There were a handful of games I looked at whose EPA ratings seemed counterintuitive, so I understand your skepticism. But despite EPA’s limitations, I think it’s the best available metric for a study of this nature.

      • Tom

        I’m actually a huge fan of Expected Points, and think that is without a doubt one of the best metrics for assessing special teams’ impact on a game. I get skeptical with the numbers for the very reason you stated – there’s a bunch of models out there, all kinds of variants (is a TD worth 7? 6.8? 6.2?), and definitely a “black box” nature to it. To be clear, I’m not skeptical of your use of the numbers, etc., you clearly state where you got your info, so that’s fine. I asked the question about the Ravens SB because it popped into my mind that Jones had that kickoff return TD and I thought the number would be higher. Looking back at the game, the Ravens did have that failed fake field goal, so that would bring that number down a bit as well.

        • Corey

          Looking at PFR the box score, the safety was actually worth +.49, but the kick return on the post-safety free kick was -2.26, so those net as -1.77. The failed fake field goal was -2.13. The Ravens’ punter did not have a very good day: he had three punts, two of which went for touchbacks and netted 22 and 36 yards, and the third of which was returned 32 yards for a net of 11 yards. Those 3 punts have a combined EPA of -.2.31.

          So a) the fake field goal, b) the safety, and c) bad punting add up to a lot of negative special teams EPA (Justin Tucker did have some other positive EPA on field goals and kickoffs). That’s kind of unfair, because the fake field goal is hardly a typical special teams play and the safety was one of those rare situations that due to game context is negative EPA but positive WPA.

          • Tom

            Yep, you’re right, especially about the safety at the end…kind of a funky thing – the boxscore says “safety” and they lose 2 points (and more EP), but there should be an asterisk that leads to the comment “Done on purpose”!

            Using Burke’s numbers (I’ve got a spreadsheet with his EP numbers for every state), I come up with +1.4 for the Ravens’ special teams. No doubt this difference comes from the fact that PFR has the value of a TD at 7, and Burke has it at 6.58 (because he’s taking into account the following EP loss after kickoff).

            In any event, yeah, some poor Ravens special teams play and a punt play that resulted in a safety, done on purpose, somewhat wiped out Jones’ return TD.

            • Richie

              Yeah, I think EP and Win Probability break down a bit when end game strategies are in play.

              For instance, I don’t think if Win Probability knows how many timeouts are remaining. Big difference between being down 7 on your own 20 with 1 minute in the game: with 3 timeouts or with 0 timeouts.

              • Tom

                Exactly. The other issue end game issue is that WP can’t tell the difference between being down 2 or 3 (or 5 or 6, etc.).

                That being said, it’s a fantastic tool…if you use, you just have to “massage” some of the results.

                • eag97a

                  Agree. I really like WP and EP as evaluation tools. There is quite a bit more info captured by these metrics than traditional stats. Still incomplete but better than everything else to date.

  • Four Touchdowns

    Would another way to measure support be to look at wins and losses by passer rating? Whenever one of these players had a poor game, can their team bail them out? Either via defense or special teams or on offense with a good rushing attack?

    Or is that too unsound? I’m not really a statistician or anything.

    • Four Touchdowns

      Okay, I decided to use the info from Pro Football Focus to conduct my little experiment. When I Googled “average passer rating”, the top result was an excerpt from a Wikipedia article that stated the average rating in 2008 was 83.2. Since that’s roughly the middle of their careers thus far, I figured it was a good baseline.

      I’ve decided to use Tom Brady and Peyton Manning as the subjects of this experiment, as the original article was comparing the two and they’re the two most compared QBs I can think of.

      Now using a QB’s passer rating as a very simple way to determine whether he played well or played poorly, I am looking for two things. How many times has the QB played poorly and his team won? Conversely, how many times has the QB played well and his team lost? Both are indicators of the support he received to win games.

      So, I decided on two arbitrary but round numbers to determine whether the passer rating would be good or bad — that way, no one can really accuse me of choosing an overly specific passer rating that would skew the results either way. I decided to make a passer rating of 80.0 or below a “below average to poor” performance, since it’s right under the average passer rating as described above — it’s not necessarily bad, but since both QBs have career ratings above 95 or so, I think we can agree that 80 or below is well below their average as well. Essentially, they’re not the Tom Brady or Peyton Manning we think of when we think of both players.

      Conversely, I decided to make 90.0 or above my “good to great” performance. It’s still below both players’ career average, but it’s much higher than the 2008 NFL average of 83.2. And again, it’s a round number, so no one can accuse me of choosing, say, 88.5 to skew the results in either players’ direction.

      For the purposes of this casual and impromptu comparison, I’m happy with these being the criteria. So what did I find out?

      Manning has 29 wins (out of 200) with a rating below 80.0 and 29 losses (out of 92) with a rating above 90.0. (These numbers are skewed by the 2015 season, but I’m going to just let the record stand as it is.)

      Brady has 39 wins (out of 194) with a rating below 80.0 and 13 losses (out of 60) with a rating above 90.0.

      This means that 14.5% of Manning’s and 20.1% of Brady’s wins have been during below average performances, while 31.5% of Manning’s and 21.7% of Brady’s losses have come when they are playing well.

      Obviously, passer rating is an imperfect measure of QB performance, so take from that what you will — I don’t personally have a game log with DVOA, ESPN’s QB Rating, or PFF scores from their entire careers to drawn upon, so passer rating will have to do.

      • Adam

        I generally like the method you used; thanks for compiling the numbers for Manning and Brady. The primary drawback is the issue of arbitrary endpoints, which can be argued with no matter what cutoffs you choose. In this instance, the effects of weather and opposition can distort the definition of a good or bad statistical game. Playing in a dome vs. a terrible defense would seem to require a passer rating of 110+ to be considered good, while playing in a wind storm against a great defense might only need a 60 rating to qualify as a good game.

        All that being said, the stats you cited for Manning and Brady closely match my subjective opinion of their respective careers, so over a large enough sample I think the distortions mostly even out.

        • Four Touchdowns

          Thanks! It’s not really meant to be a complete or exhaustive study — there are times when a QB’s passer rating is low for reasons outside his control, such as receiver drops, poor pass protection, needing to take risky throws because the defense has allowed too many points, etc., so passer rating is an imperfect metric to use, but is the only one available to me that factors in yards, TDs, completions, INTs, etc.

          Is there a metric you feel would be better that is available for free?

          • Tom

            The stat that’s used a lot around here for QB’s (and passing offense/defense in general) is ANY/A – Adjusted Net Yards per Attempt:

            (Yards + (20*TD) – (45*INT) – sack yards)/(attempts + sacks)

            There’s a post somewhere on this or some other site that shows that ANY/A “works better” than passer rating (or something along those lines).

            Pro Football Reference uses this stat in their tables, so it’s readily available (and totally free).

            • eag97a

              ANY/A does work better than passer rating as a measure of passing performance and as a significant component of overall qb performance.

          • Adam

            As Tom said, ANY/A is the best public metric. However, PFR inexplicably omits sacks from their game logs, which makes ANY/A unavailable for specific games. The best alternative is AY/A which adjusts for TD and INT but ignores sacks.

            The best game logs are actually at nfl.com, as they include both sacks and fumbles. But then you’ll have to calculate the rating formula on your own.

            • Tom

              Adam –

              What do you mean PFR omits sack data? I just used the “Play Index” to search for pass data for this year’s Super Bowl and it shows the number of sacks and yardage. Is there another “game log” you’re referring to? Hope this helps you if you haven’t seen it!

              • Richie

                He’s talking about the individual game logs:

                • Tom

                  Ahh, I see. Thanks Richie.

                  • Adam

                    Not only the individual game logs, as Richie mentioned, but the Player Game Finder also excludes QB sacks. For example, it’s impossible to search for “Highest ANY/A in a playoff game”. This is such a weird quirk in the PFR database, because you can query QB sacks at the season level and play-by-play level, but not at the game level. I’ve emailed PFR several times begging them to fill in this gap, but they ignore my pleas.

  • WR

    This comment might fit better in Adam’s last article, because it’s Brady-Manning. But I took a closer look at the data he has compiled to see if the narrative that the play of their teammates explains the disparity in Brady and Manning’s postseason achievements, holds up.

    Brady has 14 playoff wins with positive support from his teammates. One was the game played in Pittsburgh in 2001, in which Brady got hurt and Bledsoe came off the bench. Of the other 13, seven were games in which Brady performed well. Six were games in which Brady had a passer rating above 100, and in the other he was at 92.2. So are the other 6 games proof that Brady wins by leaning on his defense and special teams?

    -In the 2001 SB against St. Louis, Brady had a mediocre performance, but saved the game with a GW scoring drive in the final minute, after his defense blew a 14 point lead in the 4th quarter.
    -2013 against the Colts, Brady had weak numbers because NE emphasized rushing offense, but the Patriots won in a blowout
    -2003 vs. the Colts, Brady plays OK in poor weather, but thoroughly outplays Manning, who has 4 INTs
    -2001 Raiders, the tuck rule game in which comes up huge late in the game
    -2006 Chargers, when Brady again leads a GW scoring drive late in the game, and plays very well after the McCree fumble
    -2007 Chargers, Brady is bad, and relies on his defense and ST to win the game

    So of the games on that list, only one is an example of a truly poor performance by Brady. But what about Manning? Does he normally lose because his teammates let him down?

    Manning has 12 losses with negative support from his defense and ST, which is a lot. Let’s take a closer look.
    -Manning was genuinely bad in the losses to the Jets in 2002, the Titans in 1999, the Patriots in 2004, the Seahawks in 2013, and the Colts in 2014. Of the other 7 games on the list, how many were examples of Manning playing well, and being victimized by bad support? I would argue three. The 2010 loss to the Jets, the 2007 loss to the Chargers (though Manning threw 2 costly picks in a close game), and the 2008 loss to the Chargers. In the 2005 loss to Pittsburgh, Manning’s numbers were good, but that was after a big 4th quarter that included two world-class breaks for the Colts.

    The other games are the SB loss to the Saints, in which Manning threw a killer pick 6 late, the 2012 loss to the Ravens, in which he had another crucial INT, and the 2000 loss to the Dolphins, in which Manning was OK, and Vanderjagt was blamed for missing a long FG.

    Does that convince you that support, or lack thereof, from teammates explains the disparity in the postseason achievements between the two QBs? It doesn’t for me. When you factor in that Manning’s two SB wins involved huge support from his defense and special teams, and that Brady has played much better than Manning in the playoff seasons in which each has won Super Bowls, the answer seems clear. Support from teammates is woefully insufficient to explain Brady’s superior playoff record.

    • Donkey Kong

      I think your takes on some of these performances seem a bit biased in Brady’s favor. I’d like to add my 2 cents to a number of these games by both of these GOAT level players.

      -2001 SB against St Louis, worth mentioning that the Pats lone offensive TD started on Rams 40 after a fumble return. Also, Adam Vinatieri’s 37 yard FG was set up by the Pats Otis Smith intercepting Kurt Warner and returning it to the Rams 33. So the Pats offense generated 13 pts total with the TD(40 yard drive) and a FG(13 yard drive) coming off short fields.
      -2003 Brady plays poorly in bad weather but the Colts defense drops numerous potential interceptions, while the Pats defenders hang on to Manning’s mistakes
      -2001 vs Raiders, tuck rule game. Brady is stripped of the ball while looking left and inexplicably gets a tuck ruling even though the ball was stripped at about his waist. Offense wins the game with 16 points on 14 drives… Brady threw 1 int and fumbled 2 times(recovered one himself and the other was “tucked”)
      -2006 Chargers Down 21-13 Brady is intercepted with about 6 minutes left, however Pats WR Troy Brown forces Chargers DB Mccree to fumble and the Pats recover and go on to score a TD + 2 pt conversion. The Pats add a FG to take a 3 pt lead, and the Chargers Nate Kaeding’s 54 yard FG is missed in the final seconds to seal a Patriot victory

      -2007 Chargers, One of those INTs came near the goal line on a screen pass to the Colts backup RB; it went straight through his hands and Eric Weddle picks it with one hand while getting pancaked by a Colts blocker(I shit you not, incredible play). Marvin Harrison also lost a fumble at the Chargers 22 yard line. The Colts defense allows Chargers back up QB Billy Volek to lead an 87 yard game winning TD drive in the 4th quarter. The Colts last drive ends with back to back drops by Reggie Wayne(hit hard, but no harder than say Chancellor blowing up Edelman a couple yrs ago) and Dallas Clark.
      -2012 Ravens, the pick-six Manning threw was an accurate pass that went straight through Eric Decker’s hands(appeared to be an uncalled DPI on the play, in Decker’s defense), the fumble was a borderline tuck rule play that went against Manning(hilarious), and the excellent Broncos defense allows a quasi hail mary. Manning’s 2nd INT was terrible but it took some awful luck to be in OT in that game in the first place.
      -2000 Dolphins, Manning had his 2nd TD pass dropped by Jerome Pathan and had to settle for a FG(I think it was him, not 100 percent sure on this one), the Colts also had a fake FG snuffed out(would have been a 45 yard FG attempt) and missed the game winning 49 yard FG in OT

      You asked if I think “support, or lack thereof, from teammates expleains the disparity in the postseason achievements between the two QBs?”

      I would say yes, more or less anyways, and I would expand our concept of support to include coaching staffs, and front offices too. Brady and Manning have both played well in the playoffs, I think it’s clear one guy got a bit more timely help and support in the big games. Maybe that’s just me though.

      • Four Touchdowns

        I think it’s obvious to anyone who isn’t a Patriots fan or someone who likes to base performance on simple-minded analysis (more ringz equals more better).

        • WR

          Do you really think I made a ringz argument? Because that’s not what I said at all. donkey kong’s arguments are the same ones I’ve heard from Manning fans before. Brady outplayed Manning in the 2003 afc championship, and there’s really no way around this. Even if you want to pretend Brady had 4 picks, it still wouldn’t get Manning off the hook for a terrible performance.

          Talking about the Tuck Rule, which the NFL office agrees with me was called correctly, is an attempt to get around what happened afterwards. Brady played very well down the stretch. Look up the stats for yourself. Donkey Kong’s description of the 2006 SD game doesn’t remotely do justice to Brady’s performance at the end of that game. Who do you think led the scoring drives at the end of the game?

          I think the discussion of the 2000 Colts-Dolphins game is very telling. Manning is unlucky because Vanderjagt missed a 49 yard field goal? That’s interesting, because it seems that when Manning gets his kicker a long FG try, he’s expected to make it. But when Brady sets up his kicker for a long FG that is converted successfully, that’s an example of him leaning on his teammates? How come we expect Vanderjagt to make those kicks, but expect Vinatieri to miss? It’s a useless double standard, designed to shift blame away from Manning.

          Adam Steele made note of the fact that through the 2004-05 playoffs, Manning was outperforming Brady satistically. This is a great example of stats not telling the whole story. Manning had some very good games, and Brady was much more consistent. But Manning’s worst games in that stretch were terrible, and his repeated bad performances were a huge reason why the Colts didn’t win the SB in that era. Showing that Manning was ahead by adj yards per att is an attempt to gloss over Manning’s worst games.

          For reasons I explained in the comments to Adam’s last article, I think Brady is significantly ahead of Manning in the postseason. You could argue that all six of Brady’s SB performances are better than any of Manning’s four performances. For a QB making a claim as the best of all time, Manning’s postseason resume is stunningly weak.

          • Adam

            There’s a reason people keep mischaracterizing your comments. While most of us here are brainstorming and searching for truth, you’re arguing like a lawyer who just wants to win a case. Almost every one of your posts has carried an “us vs. them” undercurrent, similar to a typical argument. You’ve made at least a dozen derisive mentions of Manning supporters (Manning Mafia), and gone out of your way to interpret everything as a conspiracy against Tom Brady. That rubs people the wrong way and causes them to question your credibility.

            I’m saying this because I like you and think you have plenty to contribute to these discussions. But the antagonistic tone is not doing you any favors; the people you disagree with don’t have to be treated as the enemy.

            As far as the topic at hand, I commented in the thread of my last article that I believe Brady has been better than Manning in the playoffs. I’m not attempting to gloss over anything or push an agenda. Please stop interpreting everything as a slight against your guy.

          • Richie

            “How come we expect Vanderjagt to make those kicks, but expect Vinatieri to miss?”

            I don’t think that’s the expectation.

            No, the point is that Manning has had multiple games where his kicker let him down. While Brady has had multiple games where his kicker made the critical kick.

          • Donkey Kong

            I’m not trying to get Manning off the hook for his terrible AFC championship game against the Pats. My point was Brady was essentially just as poor, but his mistakes were repeatedly dropped by the Colts secondary. Brady’s teammates capitalized on Manning’s mistakes, and Manning’s teammates flubbed Brady’s. Seems silly to credit Brady and criticize Manning when they both threw the ball to the other team so often.

            I’ve watched all these games that you are telling me to look up the boxscore for. I watched Brady lead these game winning scores. Credit to him no doubt, but he doesn’t have the chance to lead these game winning scores without his teammates and coaches playing well enough to keep things close.

            His offense scored 16 points on 14 drives against the Raiders and won the game. He threw an INT with 6 minutes left while down 21-13 against the Chargers and got the ball right back when the DB fumbled. We can praise the game winning drive while also acknowledging that Brady got a fair amount of support in these games. Without that support, no game winning drive opportunity. In fact his defense and special teams contributed a combined +20.11 in these 2 games.

            Richie has already provided a quality rebuttal to your comment on Vanderjagt and Vinatieri. I would also like to point out again in that 2000 Colts v Dolphins game that it never should have come down to a game winning FG in OT, however Manning’s WR dropped a TD(settled for a FG) and the Colts fake FG(45 yards) was stopped. Manning’s support for the game: -4.11

            “For a QB making a claim as the best of all time, Manning’s postseason resume is stunningly weak”

            Considering that in the playoffs, traditional and advanced stats for Manning and Brady are very comparable(and that’s with a washed up Manning in 4/27 PO games bringing his #s down), maybe there are other factors at play here.. like support maybe?

            And if numbers aren’t your thing, for what it’s worth Manning had better PFF grades every year from 2007-2013, and had significantly out-graded Brady in the playoffs over that time-frame.

            I don’t know who played better in the playoffs between the two, but I think it’s clear that Brady and Manning’s “resumes” are really different despite similar levels of performance.

            • WR

              As a general response to the other comments here, Donkey Kong, I agree that a lot of the credit for QB wins goes to his teammates. It’s a team game, after all. But in games like 2001 Oakland and 2006 SD, Brady had a huge impact on the outcome down the stretch, and I think that should be recognized. I’m also arguing that the diff in Brady and Manning’s W-L records in the playoffs is due to several factors, but things like Brady’s higher rate of converting GWD opps and fewer costly turnovers are a big part of the answer. I”m not saying Brady is ahead of Manning in the playoffs by a mile. But I do think he’s produced more value overall. As for the PFF grades, those are hugely subjective. Traditional stats indicate that Brady was better than Manning in 2007 and 2010, and 2015. Brady had one of his best years in 2011 when Manning was hurt. He was very close to Manning’s level in 2012 and 2014. The only years I see as a clear advantage for Peyton are 2009 and 2013. Stats like anypa+ and passer rating+ show that Brady has been the best QB in the game since the start of 2007, and if it’s not Brady, it would be Rodgers.

              Now I’ll address the FG question. I don’t see Brady’s SB winning FG drives in 2001 and 2003 as the same thing as Manning’s loss to the Dolphins. You have to remember how little time was left in the game on the GW kicks by Vinatieri. I don’t think it’s unreasonable to give a QB credit for producing a SB winning drive in the final seconds. A much better comparison with the Dolphins game for Brady is the win over Tennessee from 2003. Brady got a GWD in that game, but did very little to make that FG happen. I wouldn’t dream of suggesting that the Tennessee game was an example of a great clutch performance, it wasn’t. And if the roles were reversed, and Manning had two sb winning FG drives on his resume, and Brady had something equivalent to the Miami loss, I wouldn’t suggest that those situations were the same. If you’re going to say that Vinatieri winning the SB for NE is an example of Brady relying on his teammates, I think you’re missing the context in which those kicks took place.

              Manning has also gotten help from his kickers in some of his playoff wins, and Vinatieri missed two FGs in the Panthers SB before the game winner. So I’m not really sure how useful the Miami and Vinatieri examples are in the big picture, anyway.

              There’s a lot of work in the analytics community that appears to be designed to help Manning’s case, whether it’s Scott Kacsmar’s dishonest, misleading nonsense, Oremland’s unconvincing case for Manning as the best QB in history, or Ben Morris publishing graphs at fivethirtyeight that don’t illustrate Manning’s greatness in the way he says they do. I want to see all QBs rated fairly. I think using the Vanderjagt miss from 2000 is a small, but instructive example of an attempt to shift blame away from Manning when he has lost in the playoffs.

              And I don’t mean to be antagonizing people, it’s just my style. I tend to employ a no-frills approach focused on substance, and I could probably learn a few things about how to better package the message, so sorry about that.

              • Donkey Kong

                I don’t understand your take on the Colts v Dolphins game. Manning threw for 47 of the 51 yards gained on the Colts only drive to set up a game winning FG in OT. Vanderjagt missed and Manning never got the ball again. Manning also had a TD pass dropped, and the Colts passed on a 45 yard FG attempt to try a fake that didn’t work. Yet you claim that stating these facts is an attempt to shift blame away? It’s what happened… How is this loss on Manning? He was unlucky to be in OT, does his part to lead a game winning drive(which you claim is part of what distinguishes Brady from Manning in the POs btw) and losses.

                After reading your criticism of the work of Kacsmar, Oremland, and Morris I think we’re just going to have to agree to disagree. Have a good one.

                • WR

                  You have to remember that this whole discussion is within the framework of an attempt to show that Brady’s greater playoff success is a product of support from his teammates. I think you’re applying an unfair standard when discussing the field goals. You said that Manning “does his part” when he sets his kicker up for a 49 yard fg to win the game. Well if we apply that standard to Brady’s performance against Carolina, Brady did his part to help NE win the game. You made mention of Manning’s poor support against Miami, but Brady’s support from defense and ST against Carolina was even worse, so that example doesn’t work.

                  But let’s look at it from the other direction. If Brady winning because his kicker makes a GW FG is an example of him relying on his teammates, then what would you say if Vanderjagt had made the FG against Miami? If Manning gets the credit when his kicker wins the game with a 49 yard FG, then Brady has to get the credit when his kicker makes a shorter kick to win. You can’t have it both ways.

                  Here’s what Richie wrote about the kicks: “the point is that Manning has had multiple games where his kicker let him down. While Brady has had multiple games where his kicker made the critical kick”. But this position is way too simplistic, and ignores the context in which those winning kicks took place. Brady played well against Carolina, and put together 3 huge scoring drives in the 4th quarter of that game. The Pats had to settle for a FG at the end because there wasn’t time available to go for the end zone. Same thing with the Rams super bowl. Although Brady’s overall support was better in that game, when you look at how it played out, it isn’t fair to say Brady rode the coattails of his teammates. His defense blew a 14 pt lead in the 4th, and Brady had to produce the winning FG attempt with very little time and no timeouts. These games are terrible examples to use if you’re trying to establish that Brady wins because of support from his teammates.

                  So the point is, if it’s not clear that support from teammates explains Brady’s better record, what does? Whatever the answer is, it’s unlikely to reflect well on Manning. Yes, Manning has had worse support overall, but some of his worst support games have been blowouts like 43-8 to Seattle and 41-0 to the Jets, in which his teams probably still lose even if his teammates performed better. Is Manning’s weaker support a factor in some of his losses? Of course. But it doesn’t explain everything, and claiming that it does is another example of shifting blame away from Manning, and onto the shoulders of his teammates.

                  • Richie

                    Do you think Manning has had worse luck with kickers making important kicks than Brady has had?

                  • Donkey Kong

                    I never mentioned Brady’s game against the Panthers so I’m not sure where you’re going with that one. And what can’t I have both ways? I give Brady credit for those GWDs, just like I give Manning credit for setting up Vanderjagt. You also seem to ignore the other issues from the Miami game(dropped TD, TO on trick play, -4.11 support) as if these factors weren’t part of why the Colts lost.

                    As to your claim that Brady’s SB against the Rams is a terrible example to use to prove that his teammates support is part of why his PO record is so good… I couldn’t disagree more, the Pats D held the greatest show on turf to 17 points(12 drives) while scoring on a pick-six, intercepting Warner again and returning it to the Rams 33 to set up a FG, and forcing and recovering a fumble that was returned to the Rams 40 that set up the Pats lone offensive TD. Brady got 6.61 in support. His offense produced 13 points on 11 drives and 2 of those 3 scoring drives started on the Rams side of the field because of a defensive play.

                    As to your conclusion, I never claimed that Manning’s weaker PO support explains everything. Manning played poorly in some of his losses, no doubt. However he usually played well in the POs and more often than not got negative support from his D and special teams. When examining Brady and Manning in the POs, what separates these two men the most is not their individual performances or the production of their offenses; it’s the performances of the D and special teams around them that stands out the most.

              • Adam

                I find it quite ironic that you criticize Kacsmar for being dishonest and misleading, considering your analysis style is nearly identical to his! Scott has already decided that Manning is better, so he selectively publishes data that supports his opinion. You have already decided Brady is better, and selectively pick the facts that confirm your opinion. How are you any different than Kacsmar? His posts are always pro-Manning are yours are always pro-Brady. Two sides of the same coin.

                Why do think the analytical community is systematically biased in Manning’s favor? Give me one good reason why that would be the case. Could it be, that after performing rigorous analysis, the majority of evidence comes out in Manning’s favor? I get the impression that you will label anyone who supports Manning over Brady as being biased or unfair.

                • WR

                  I understand that my positions are not popular in forums like this one, but that doesn’t make them wrong. I’m working to correct the distortions in the standard pro-Manning narrative that people like Kacsmar always present. If you take a look at his work on Brady-Manning, there’s no way you can consider it neutral. I think the guy is genuinely deluded, and may believe what he is writing. But that doesn’t mean anyone who is open-minded should take it seriously. The fact that someone like Kacsmar is treated as a respected figure in the analytics community hurts the credibility of that community as a whole. When Scott says that Manning is always unlucky, and Brady always lucky, it’s child’s play to refute that argument. I’ve tried to reason with him at other sites, to no avail.

                  I don’t make arguments like he does. You may choose to disagree, but you can’t say that my arguments lack substance. But what about some of the things you have posted on here? A few weeks ago, you said that Gronkowski, and not Brady, was New England’s MVP this year. There’s no way you believe that. NE had the number one offense by ppd for most of the season. Brady touched the ball way more often than Gronk, and it’s not close. Over 90% of respondents on the Patriots reddit page chose Brady as the MVP. Even allowing for small sample size and repeat votes or whatever, there’s no way all those people can be wrong. I think you’re letting yourself get caught up in the pro-Manning, anti-Brady hype.

                  Oremland leaned on the diff between Brady and Manning before 2005. He was comparing 7 years of Manning to 4 years of Brady, which is unfair. But even if we focus on rate stats and not totals, Manning through 2003 isn’t significantly ahead of Brady through 2004. Including Manning’s fantastic 2004, but none of Brady’s best seasons in the pre-2005 sample totally skewed the results. I also believe he ranked Brady 7th because he wants to establish that Manning is the best of his era. If he ranks Manning first, and Brady third, reasonable people will ask, are we sure Manning is really the better QB? By rating Brady lower than he deserves, Brad is trying to eliminate those doubts.

                  Morris published a couple of graphs at fivethirtyeight. One supposedly showed that Manning was the king of comebacks, but the graph was plotted in a very weird way that rewarded Manning for having more comeback opportunities. When you looked at the success rate of converting comebacks, Brady was ahead of Manning, but that’s not how it was presented. He also published a graph that compared Denver’s offense in one of Manning’s seasons to the 2011 Denver offense, to show that acquiring Manning made a monumental difference. But what he didn’t tell the readers is that the 2011 Broncos were the Tim Tebow team, and finished as a well below average offense. So all the graph really showed was that Manning’s offense was significantly better than a below-average offense. So what?

                  These are examples of what I’m talking about. I can provide links if you want more details. I know most people don’t devote as much time and energy to this stuff as I do, but it bothers me when no one else points out how misleading these arguments are.

                  • Adam

                    I’m not saying you’re wrong, and I agree that the analytics community could use a counterbalance. But I do think you’re unreasonably certain in your arguments; it seems as though you believe you’re 100% right and anyone who disagrees with you must be wrong or biased. Maybe you don’t really feel that way, but that’s how it comes across.

                    I also challenge your assertion that your arguments are all substance and no frills. Last week, you made subjective claims about Manning with zero factual evidence:

                    Manning is a bad teammate
                    Manning is selfish
                    Manning should’ve played an individual sport because he’s not good with the team concept
                    Manning makes too many commercials which proves he only cares about himself
                    Manning’s defenses have failed him because his teammates don’t respect his leadership

                    Completely baseless, speculative claims. Sounds like the type of “analysis” you’d find at Pats Pulpit. Now I’ll bet if someone had made similar subjective claims about Brady, you’d be screaming from the rooftops about how biased and agenda-driven that person must be.

                    Yes, I really believe Gronk is the Pats’ MVP. Why is that so ridiculous? When Gronk missed half the season in 2013, played injured for the first month of 2014, and missed a couple games in 2015, New England’s offense fell off a cliff in every instance. Gronk is the engine that drives them. I don’t think the drop off from Brady to Garoppolo would induce such a steep decline by the offense.

                    • WR

                      Thanks for your response, Adam. I guess we just disagree on Gronkowski. The 2013 Patriots suffered massive losses in the receiving corps. After Gronk got hurt, none of the Pats five leading receivers from 2012 (best off in the league) were available to Brady. And in 2015, Gronk didn’t actually miss a lot of time, and the Pats offense again had massive injuries. I’ll give you 2014, though I think improved line play was also a huge factor in that team’s improvement. Gronkowski is obviously very valuable to New England, I”m just not convinced he’s as valuable as Brady.

                      I won’t deny being firm in my convictions, though I don’t think I’m 100% right all the time. The comments I made about Manning’s career and commercials, etc. were speculative opinions, and weren’t intended to be taken as anything more than that. My position about the missed field goals, and value of kickers to each player, are also opinions, though in a case like that they’re based on stats and observation of the game situations in question. My opinions on Manning’s value as a teammate are based on more superficial impressions, and perhaps I’m wrong.

                    • Adam

                      You’re right about all the injuries in 2013, so that makes it hard to separate Gronkowski’s individual impact. Honestly I’m basing this off the eye test as much as anything, because the Pats’ offense looks so different with and without Gronk. My impression is that they run like a well-oiled machine with him and sputter like a car running out of gas without him. Maybe this is totally unfair, but I think prime Brady minus Gronk resembles the Brady of `01-`06; a very good to great player, but not an all-timer. Of course that’s ignoring the fact that Brady has made obvious improvements in his game (like speeding up his release), so I guess it’s all just speculation.

      • eag97a

        Well judging qbs by playoff performances and results is a bit sketchy due to sample size issues and the single-elimination format also distorts analysis IMO. Much better to use this for the regular season and on another note Scott Kacsmar published playoff drive stats in Football Outsiders (http://www.footballoutsiders.com/stat-analysis/2016/quarterback-postseason-drive-stats) which was more illuminating with regards to qb playoff performance.

        • Donkey Kong

          Oh I agree. I still think it’s a worthwhile effort to give credit where it’s due in the POs though

          • eag97a

            The problem with giving credit is divvying it up and assigning percentages of credit to specific positions. A team game such as football is almost reductive-proof but I still hope that we make some more progress analyzing it.

            • Donkey Kong

              What you wrote is true, but sometimes you can identify who played well and did not by simply watching the game + all 22 film. But ya, ultimate team game and that’s without even trying to divvy up credit between coaching staffs, front offices, players, etc. Impossible