Nothing is much more gripping in sports than a late do-or-die drive with the game on the line. My eyes are usually glued to the screen when one play can be the difference between a win and a loss.
Sometimes one throw can also be the difference in a legacy. Think of Eli Manning’s near-impossible deep ball to Mario Manningham in the Giants‘ Super Bowl XLVI win over the Patriots, or Jimmy Garoppolo overthrowing Emmanuel Sanders late in the 49ers‘ Super Bowl LIV loss to the Chiefs.
We’ve seen a ton of clutch opportunities in 2022, a year where the NFL is collectively on pace to break single-season records for close games and game-winning drives.
There aren’t a ton of numbers to support clutch debates, though. Game-winning drives is a fascinating stat, but has serious limitations. It’s actually possible to be credited with a game-winning drive with nothing but a kneel down. And, of course, if your defense gets stops at the end of the game, it’s more likely to hold a lead, and therefore increases the likelihood of its quarterback recording a game-winning drive.
With that in mind, I introduce the Clutch QB Index. I’m not tackling the all-time clutch QB debate, which often comes down to championships in people’s minds. Instead, I seek to answer who is the most clutch QB in the NFL right now based on what they’ve done in their careers, and what they’ve done lately.
Clutch QB Index Criteria
1. QB conversion rate on game-tying/go-ahead drive chances in fourth quarter/OT. (How often does a QB successfully bring his team down the field to tie or take the lead?)
2. Passer rating in fourth quarter/OT of one-possession game. (How well does a QB play in crunch time?)
Both components are split by career, playoff and 2022 performance and weighted equally.
Again, one thing these rankings don’t include is championships, so you can save your Tom Brady “seven rings” argument. More on that later.
Week 11 Takeaways
- Patrick Mahomes‘ legend grew again with two go-ahead touchdown passes to Travis Kelce in the fourth quarter against the Chargers, including one with 31 seconds left in the game. Mahomes had no problem getting Kansas City down the field during the two-minute drill after Justin Herbert had thrown a go-ahead touchdown pass on the previous possession. With Mahomes behind the wheel, was a Kansas City comeback ever in doubt?
- Jalen Hurts moved up five spots from 17th to 12th in the rankings after running in the game-winning score against the Colts. The Eagles snapped a 43-game losing streak when entering the fourth quarter down double digits, including playoffs. Hurts has made the most of his few opportunities in close, late games this season, leading the NFL in passer rating in those situations.
- Zach Wilson came back down to earth in a big way in these rankings, dropping 18 spots from third to 21st after a troubling loss to the Patriots that’s led to his benching ahead of Week 12. The Jets had four drives with a chance to take the lead in the fourth quarter Sunday, and mustered a total of -1 yards.
- Mac Jones has been off the hook lately as the Patriots have won three straight games. But, they’ve scored just two offensive touchdowns in that span, including none against the Jets in Week 11. New England punted three times and gained one first down in the fourth quarter of a 3-3 game. He dropped three spots in the rankings from 24th to 27th as a result.
- The Bears defense isn’t helping matters, but Chicago lost another close game Sunday. Justin Fields overthrew his running back on an easy checkdown, resulting in an interception to effectively end the game.