Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Peyton Manning in the post-season

Currently on a message board I participate on, many of us are mid-discussion about whether Peyton Manning is or is not a choke artist in the playoffs. One person claims he is, and says his Superbowl win was a "fluke." Many flat out don't agree with the point and argue that now that Manning has won the Superbowl that he's simply cemented himself as one of the best ever.

While I agree that now the monkey is clearly off his back, and that Manning cannot be declared a "choke artist", I do think that there is a disparity between his regular and post-season statistics/performance.

Regular season, he's a 64.4% passer, 7.7 YPA, 259.3 YPG, 2.02 to 1 TD:INT ratio, 94.7 rated passer. Take his rookie season out and those numbers only improve. Other than his rookie year, he had only two seasons with a rating lower than in the 90s, one at 88.8, the other at 84.1.

Post-season however, are a significantly different story. He's a 61.6% passer, 7.4 YPA, 280.5 YPG, 1.29 to 1 TD:INT ratio, 84.9 rated passer over 15 games. Five of his 15 games were with under a 70 QB rating, another two in the 70s. (The fact that Manning didn't make the post-season his rookie year - his rookie year obviously an aberration - increases the disparity between these numbers, though not by much.)

The post-season is one game short of a full season's performance. Here's his post season:
348/565, 4,207 yards, 22 TD, 17 INT

Here's his worst regular season performance not counting his rookie season:
343/547, 4,131 yards, 26 TD, 23 INT

His post-season would be his second worst regular season (again, removing his rookie year), not much better than his worst season.

There is a counter-argument that there are better teams in the post-season, and that largely he is facing better defenses. This is of course true, but one would then have to say that it would make sense that most (all?) other quarterbacks would suffer a similar disparity in their regular season and post season numbers since they're facing better defenses.

So compare Manning's regular and post-season numbers to, say, Tom Brady who has never been labeled a playoff choke-artist:
You don't see the disparity between the numbers that you see in Manning's case.

The same can be said of guys like Elway (79.9 rating reg season, 79.8 post), Favre (85.4 vs. 85.2), Aikman (81.6 vs. 89.0) and Montana (92.3 vs. 96.2)...all multiple Superbowl winning QBs in the modern era, all guys who Manning will go down in history in comparison to.

I do think this all makes a compelling case to say that while Manning is possibly the greatest regular season quarterback of all time, one of the greatest QBs of all time, and certainly a decent post-season QB who cemented his place in history with a Superbowl win; it seems clear that he isn't as good a QB in the post-season that he is in the regular season.

Choke artists don't win Superbowls, particularly when needing four games to do it as Manning did in the '06/'07 season. It's never a fluke for a fantastic QB to win a Superbowl...NEVER. But Manning's performing at a lower level in the post-season than he does at the regular season IMO has to be considered one of a few reasons (possibly Dungy's post-season ability, certainly their poor defenses, possibly other players' under performing, etc) that the Colts have historically not done well in the post-season in the Manning era other than the Superbowl year.


  1. Another guy whose playoff stats are lower than his reg season stats, is Steve Young.

    Do you think Manning's post-season stats would look better, and Brady's would look worse, if the Pats D had played for Indy and Indy's D had played for New England?

  2. That's a loaded question that we'll never know the answer to of course. My answer would be, do I think his numbers would be better? No I don't. But I do believe that their post-season record would be better, and that he might very well have more than one Superbowl ring.

    It's not like he totally collapses in every game. Yeah, he's had a few stink-bombs in there (most even great ones do...John Unitas' post season rating was 58.5, and he had only one post-season game rated higher than 77.8), but a lot of games - like this past weekend's - have been close ones.

    The classic example is the Baltimore game from their Superbowl winning year. Very few remember that while Manning was running to cement that place in history, he had one of his "classic choke artist" games.
    50% completion
    5.7 YPA
    0 TD
    2 INT
    39.6 QB rating
    I was at that game, and he in fact had only one memorable pass the whole game...the third down loft to Clark late in the 4th that cemented the drive and win for them.

    But would they have won that game if their defense wasn't having a spectacular post season? No way! They picked McNair off in the end zone. They shut the Ravens offense down cold. Not that that's tough to do, but would they really have been able to hold them to 6 points the whole game if they were playing like the classic Colts defenses from the early '00s?

    Bottom line, it's not like Manning's a terrible post-season passer. I'm not saying that. His 84.9 passer rating in the post-season can only be described as "very respectable" (it's right next to Favre's and better than Elway's). We all know many teams would KILL for an 84.9 passer. That's about an "average" rating in the NFL...about half the teams do better and half do worse.

    But there's no question there's a clear disparity between his post-season performance and his regular season performance. And part of the reason the Colts are such an awesome regular season team is because his greatness overcomes many of the team's short-comings.

    Flip it... If Manning were simply an "average" quarterback in the regular season - as he seems to be in the post-season - do you think the Colts would win an average of 11 games per year as they have done for the past ten years? My opinion is that his performance has personally made them 2-3 wins per year better than they would have been with an average passer.

  3. "We all know many teams would KILL"

    Only Ravens are known for killing.


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