With the upcoming game against Green Bay, we get an opportunity to see two of the league's top five (at least, in this homer's opinion) quarterbacks take the field. My top five are (not in any particular order):
1) Tom Brady
4) Drew Brees
5) Eli Manning
Matthew Stafford is not on the list. With him, I withhold judgment until we see a greater body of work. He had an incredible season undoubtedly. However, the top five (in my mind) requires some sort of playoff resume. All five quarterbacks listed have a least one ring, and all five listed are in contention to win another this year. Peyton Manning is not active currently, so he has also been omitted.
Yards per game / Completion Percentage / Yards per attempt
Drew Brees (342 / 71.2% / 8.3)
Tom Brady (327 / 65.6%/ 8.6)
Aaron Rodgers (310 / 68.3% / 9.2)
Eli Manning (308 / 61% / 8.4)
Ben Roethlisberger (272 / 63.2% / 7.9)
Drew Brees dominates the league in completion percentage and yards per game. The one area of interest, however, is his YPA, which is lower than three out of the other four quarterbacks in question (Brady, Rodgers, Manning). On that note, what has impressed me most about Rodgers is that his YPA is on par with Peyton Manning in his 2004 record breaking season. To put that in perspective, the only player in recent history to exceed that was Kurt Warner in 2000 (9.9).
For fun, we will give all quarterbacks 657 attempts (what Brees had) and see where that takes us.
Drew Brees (on 657 attempts): 5,476 yards, 46 touchdowns, 14 interceptions
Tom Brady (611 attempts) : 5,235 yards (5,650), 39 touchdowns (42), 12 interceptions (13)
Aaron Rodgers (502 attempts): 4,643 yards (6,044), 45 touchdowns (59), 6 interceptions (8)
Eli Manning (589 attempts: 4,933 yards (5,518), 29 touchdowns (33), 16 interceptions (18)
Ben Roethlisberger (513 attempts): 4,077 yards (5,190), 21 touchdowns (27), 14 interceptions (18)
First, let me start by saying this is not to diminish what Drew Brees did this season. Part of the reason he threw the ball so many times is because his completion percentage is off the charts. Logically, when completing a higher percentage of passes, drives are more easily sustained, and thus, one can have a higher number of attempts.
However, what it does for me, is give an interesting look at the elite passers of today. For starters, one can see how a pass heavy league has led to the unreasonable numbers put up by so many different quarterbacks. And we didn't even factor Stafford in.
Rodgers stat line, on these terms, is ridiculous. It's hard to say that he would sustain such efficiency over another 155 attempts, but one can imagine that the drop-off (if any) would not be too drastic.
Just looking at the numbers, one can assume certain things without watching a single game:
1) Say what you want about what's around him, Rodgers has been a hallmark of efficiency this season.
2) While Brees seems to pile up more yards by completing higher percentage throws, Rodgers completes deep passes like good quarterbacks complete short and intermediate throws.
3) Tom Brady is still Tom Brady.
4) Eli Manning can throw a deep ball with the best of them. His completion percentage is the lowest of the five quarterbacks in question, yet his YPA still ranks third on the list, meaning that he is living (and dying) by the deep pass this season.
5) Roethlisberger has played extremely well despite injury. Not mentioned (up to this point) is the fact that Big Ben has been hurt a great deal this season. To his credit, he has still put up quality numbers despite that, while keeping interceptions per attempt comparable to other top quarterbacks not named Aaron Rodgers.
What is clutch?
Because football is a team game, one might find it difficult to measure exactly how clutch a quarterback is. A quarterback that is dominating games from start to finish will not have many fourth quarter comebacks. So, to look at a couple of different areas in hopes of getting some discussion going on this, I present the following:
Behind (1-8 points):
Drew Brees: 1,349 yards (72.8%) 8.9 YPA with 11 touchdowns, 4 interceptions
Tom Brady: 987 yards (55.2%) 8.5 YPA with 5 touchdowns, 1 interception
Aaron Rodgers: 828 yards (60%) 9.2 YPA with 9 touchdowns, 0 interceptions
Eli Manning: 1,983 yards (60.3%) 8.5 YPA with 15 touchdowns, 5 interceptions
Ben Roethlisberger: 904 yards (55.2%) 7.1 YPA with 4 touchdowns, 4 interceptions
Behind (9-16 points):
Drew Brees: 713 yards (63.4%) 8.7 YPA with 4 touchdowns, 3 interceptions
Tom Brady: 386 yards (72.1%) 6.3 YPA with 5 touchdowns, 0 interceptions
Aaron Rodgers: 265 yards (78.6%) 9.5 YPA with 0 touchdowns, 0 interceptions
Eli Manning: 583 yards (65.7%) 8.3 YPA with 5 touchdowns, 3 interceptions
Ben Roethlisberger: 422 yards (62%) 8.4 YPA with 1 touchdown, 0 interceptions
This sort of comparison makes definitive statements a tough task. Eli Manning has a much greater body of work than say, Tom Brady or Aaron Rodgers, because the Giants have trailed their opponents more often this season. What we can look at is change in efficiency and make some points based on that.
Quarterback Rating (Ahead / Tied / Behind):
Drew Brees: (114.4 / 117.7 / 106.9)
Tom Brady: (107.9/ 99.0 / 106.5)
Aaron Rodgers: (122.4 / 128.6 / 119.8)
Eli Manning: (94.6 / 78.0 / 101.2)
Ben Roethlisberger: (99.6 / 96.9 / 73.2)
One can look at these numbers and assess that all of these quarterbacks are clutch. Ben Roethlisberger is the only one with bad numbers when playing from behind, but playing well with the score ties is indicative of an ability to handle pressure as well. I found it strange that Manning's rating is down in tied games, but it does point to frustrations I've had with play calling and the inability to get the offense going early on. This Giants offense stalls quite a bit at times, whereas the Saints, Patriots, and Packers are juggernauts that simply don't seem to waste any opportunities they are given.
Fourth Quarter Comebacks vs. Game-Winning Drives (2008-2011):
Drew Brees: 11 vs.15
Ben Roethlisberger: 9 vs. 11
Eli Manning: 8 vs. 12
Tom Brady: 4 vs. 6*
Aaron Rodgers: 3 vs. 5
* Tom Brady missed the entire 2008 season due to injury
I used a sample from 2008-2011 as 2008 marked Rodgers first season as a starter. To me, over this stretch, I find it surprising that Rodgers has very few comebacks and game-winners, given the numbers he's posted and the fact that the Packers' offense has essentially been the same. Yes, there is the argument that he has much fewer because he has not played without a lead much of this season.
However, the Packers posted 27-21 record from 2008-2010, so the opportunities were there.
What is certain is that Rodgers has been lights out in any situation this season. If he continues to play like this in years to come, nobody will care about his lack of comeback victories. Not many people give it much thought right now.
So, anyhow, just putting out some a smorgasbord of stats for you guys to consume, regurgitate, and fight over as we look forward to Sunday's game.
One thing I will say is that no matter what the stats say, Eli Manning is the best interception machine in the history of the game.