Tom Brady failed to win that game yesterday against the Saints. Twice.
That should be the storyline of New England vs. New Orleans. After the Saints converted a 3rd and 20 for a touchdown with under 4 minutes to go to take the lead, Tom Brady came onto the field only needing a field goal for the win. One of the greatest quarterbacks of our generation, having gotten the reputation of being one of the most “clutch”, came to lead his offense to victory. The result was going 1 for 4 for 4 yards and a turnover on downs.
The Saints would kick a field goal to make it a 4 point game with just over 2 minutes to go. Once again, Tom Brady came into a one-score game with a chance to prove his reputation in the spot in which he is at his best. His first play from scrimmage was an ill-advised bomb that was easily intercepted. It was a pass that we would expect of Mark Sanchez – a bad decision + a bad throw to end the game. At this point with the game on the line, Tom Brady was 1 for 5 for 4 yards and an interception. The Patriots would be unable to perform late, costing them the game.
Except the Saints were determined to give him more chances. After 3 running plays and negative-2 yards of offense, the Saints punted the ball back to Brady. And finally, after missing a couple of wide open plays just before, Tom Brady threw the game winning touchdown with 5 seconds to go. Instinctively, the nation turned to social media to praise the late game heroics of Tom Brady. Tweets poured out like this one from NFL.com’s Jeff Darlington (which has since been deleted…probably because of its knee-jerk nature):
@JeffDarlington Saints fans will surely take this loss hard, but that’s not a representation of any Saints’ woes. It’s an example of Tom Brady’s greatness.
Here’s the thing, I am not trying to be a Tom Brady hater. He is legitimately one of the greatest quarterbacks of this generation. No arguments there. If you give him enough chances, he will make you pay. What I AM saying is that the whole idea of pro athletes being “clutch” or “not clutch” is silly. Nothing more than an arbitrary topic for sports talk radio hosts (and Skip Bayless) to troll their listeners with.
The fact of the matter is that these athletes are just the cream of the crop of their profession. They spend their entire lives becoming the top 1% in the world at what they do. If you give them chances, eventually they will be successful at the end of games – just like they are at the beginning and in the middle of games.
Consider basketball, where you hear this topic more than any other sport. Basketball is a sport that focuses on the final 2 minutes more than any other so it makes sense it has become the ultimate “clutch vs. no clutch” stage. Players like LeBron James for years were called “unclutch” from the mountaintops by media personalities just looking for face time. It was the popular thing to do. Conveniently ignoring his Game 2 buzzer beater vs. Orlando in 2009.
But the thing about basketball is that good field goal percentages, in general, hover around the 50% range. So taking time and situation out of any shot – you are looking at a 50/50 proposition. Without even adding in the fact it is typically going to be a more contested shot than one in the 2nd quarter, you have a 50% chance of being clutch or the goat just by the very nature of the sport and the fact that it is really hard to put a ball into a hoop suspended ten feet in the air.
When you have the best in the game given multiple chances at the end of games, sometimes they will miss. Sometimes they will hit. It’s 50/50 and yet after just one falls one way or the other, we want to permanently label that player. It’s silly. Michael Jordan, the greatest basketball player of all time, was also known as the most clutch. But why is it so hard to just say he was always good. Just so happens that always being good every now and then occurs at the end of a game.
The top of pro sports are there because they are the best at what they do. Even the guys who aren’t household names have worked their entire lives to reach the pinnacle league of their sport. And yet we continue to throw out this arbitrary topic about whether or not these elite performers are clutch based on pretty much nothing or ignoring the examples that are contrary to our stance.
If Tom Brady’s “clutchness” going 1-for-3 in “clutch” situations in a span of 4 minutes doesn’t show you how ridiculous this topic is….well then I guess I am not very clutch.