By: Bill Tewes
There is a ridiculous notion going around that Aaron Rodgers is not “clutch”. Yes I am referencing the article Bob McGinn wrote this morning referencing a statistic from Pro Football Reference that ranks Rodgers 94th all time in “game winning drives” and also suggesting that Rodgers did not deliver against the Falcons Sunday afternoon.
Where McGinn misses the mark (just like many others) about Rodgers is that he puts the team in positions to win games. Rodgers does deliver, but other variables such as the defense blowing a lead or poor play calling result in Rodgers’ poor fourth quarter comebacks ranking.
If this game is the reason for people to bring up the old (and tired) discussion of Rodgers “clutchness”, then I would have to seriously ask what Aaron Rodgers did to not be clutch yesterday? Was it the final drive where he was asked to drive 40+ yards in 30 seconds? What about the four touchdowns to zero interceptions he threw yesterday? Sounds to me like Rodgers did enough to win the game for the Green Bay Packers yesterday.
About the only thing Rodgers could have done yesterday to win the game was line up in the secondary and prevent an easy touchdown and perhaps maybe shave some more time off the clock for their final touchdown drive. The reality is, at least in this instance, Rodgers did more than enough to win the game. He was asked to come back with less than 35 seconds on the clock and put the team in position to win, no easy task. Green Bay’s defense got shredded and Defensive Coordinator Dom Capers is going to have to answer for why plodding linebacker Jake Ryan was covering speedy receiver Mohamed Sanu on the final touchdown drive that put Atlanta ahead.
It is difficult to place value on what being “clutch” brings to the table. What does clutch mean to a quarterback like Kurt Warner who only had nine fourth quarter comebacks throughout his career (according to Pro Football Reference) but is a two-time MVP and won a Super Bowl. Dan Marino on the other hand had 36 total fourth quarter comebacks according to Pro Football Reference and has never won a Super Bowl. Matt Ryan, the quarterback who completed a comeback Sunday against Green Bay has 25 fourth quarter comebacks to his credit but also blew a 17-0 lead in the 2012 NFC title game and Atlanta has been notorious for monumental collapses over the years. Being clutch is extremely subjective and I honestly believe Rodgers has the body of work to prove that his clutch-less performances can be explained away.
Rodgers has shown his clutch ability in many games in which Green Bay was either not expected to win, or faced a difficult comeback. Two specific examples are on the road against the Seahawks in the 2014 NFC Title game as well as on the road against the Arizona Cardinals in 2009 Divisional Round. The Seahawks game was one in which if Green Bay managed the game better down the stretch, we would be talking about what Rodgers did to win us that game in a hostile environment. The Arizona game Green Bay was down 21 points and Rodgers (along with JerMichael Finley) forced overtime.
Last year’s playoff game against the Cardinals witnessed Rodgers pull one out of nowhere with a hail mary toss to receiver Jeff Janis and even though they lost, is further proof of Rodgers’ comeback ability. While the sample sizes are small, I think they still suggest that the clutch “trait” is again subjective and open to a lot of interpretation as to what value it really has.