Monday, December 08, 2008

Drew Brees, Peter King, MVP, and "Clutch"

In week 13 against the Buccaneers, Drew Brees threw an interception at his own 17 with 2:33 left in a tie game.  Then Brees threw an interception with 1:45 left when down by three.  

Let's be clear here.  Late in a tie game, a Drew Brees interception gave the opponent an easy field goal to take the lead.  Then, with the ball back and needing a scoring drive, Brees threw another interception.

For that week, kicker Ryan Lindell was Peter King's goat of the week, not Brees.  King had Brees 3rd in his MVP ranking, and but to be fair did note:

"In many ways, he's having the best year at the most important position in football, even with a bummer Sunday in Tampa. But it'll be hard for me to hand the MVP to a guy who won't be playing in January, especially after how he played down the stretch in yesterday's must win, throwing picks on the final two possessions."

Normally I'd be less inclined to blame the QB for his team's record (the Saints rank 24th in points allowed and 21st in yards allowed, they play in a strong division, yada yada yada), but Brees clearly bares a big responsibility for the Tampa loss.  But even so, he's not King's "goat," and the game was simply a "bummer."

For his week 14 performance, Peter King dropped Brees to 4th, but called Brees "As clutch as clutch can be Sunday, particularly on a vital two-minute drill before halftime against Atlanta."  Brees is "as clutch as clutch can be" for a drive before halftime.  How did the Saints actually win the game Sunday?  Well, look at the play-by-play.  Atlanta took a lead midway through the fourth quarter.  Pierre Thomas took a kickoff 88 yards to the Atlanta 16.   On that 16 yard game-winning drive, Brees was precisely 0-1; the Saints ran the ball for all 16 yards (including on 4th and 1) to get the go-ahead touchdown.  The Saints then stopped the Falcons and got the ball back with 3:15.  To run out the clock, Brees completed one 10 yard pass, then Pierre Thomas was able to run out the clock (picking up two first downs on the ground).

Drew Brees was anti-clutch against the Buccaneers, but King praises Brees for being "as clutch as clutch can be" in a game because of a great drive in the first half, and because his team won a game in the fourth quarter primarily by returning a long kickoff and running the ball well.  

Peter King has been effluent with praise for Drew Brees all year.  But I think calling Brees "as clutch as clutch can be" for a first-half drive, when late in the fourth quarter his team won the game with special teams, rushing, and defense, a week after Brees threw costly fourth-quarter interceptions, is a strange thing to write.  And it probably should call into question the concept of "clutch:" one week a QB throws two late interceptions that directly cost his team the game, but the next week he plays well and his team makes a lot of plays in the fourth quarter, and he's "clutch."  "Clutch," then, doesn't seem to be an essential quality a player carries with him, but a way of explaining his performance after a team victory.

Perhaps that's existential: "clutch" is an action, not an inherent quality.  An adjective describing behavior, not a noun indicating essence.  But if "clutch" describes action rather than essence, then it can fluctuate: a player may play clutch one week, but not the next week.  Clutch is unreliable (as statistical analysts often suggest), and if it isn't an inherent quality, it starts to lose meaning.

Anyway, Drew Brees currently ranks #1 in passing yards, #1 in passing touchdowns, and #4 in passer rating.  If the Saints win out and make the playoffs, I'll rank him as my #1 MVP candidate.  That's because if they do win out, it will probably because Brees played great and he deserves it.  But if they do miss the playoffs, it's partly because Brees made mistakes (he's tied for 3rd in interceptions), and he doesn't deserve MVP.

1 comment:

  1. Anonymous6:43 PM

    The Saints should trade for Tony Romo. Brees need somone to carry his jock and Romo can, with some training.