Saturday, February 6, 2016

How McNabb's 'clutchness' stacks up

From Week 11 to Week 17, the Eagles three times came up with victories after being tied or trailing in the fourth quarter.

How McNabb's 'clutchness' stacks up

Donovan McNabb ranked 39th out of 60 in a recent analysis measuring "comeback ability." (Yong Kim/Staff file photo)
Donovan McNabb ranked 39th out of 60 in a recent analysis measuring "comeback ability." (Yong Kim/Staff file photo)

From Week 11 to Week 17, the Eagles three times came up with victories after being tied or trailing in the fourth quarter.

All three instances would qualify as "comebacks" by Nicholas Higgins of Football Outsiders.

Higgins takes an interesting look at the "comeback ability" of quarterbacks over the past decade. He defines a comeback as a situation "where the game is tied or the team is behind 1-8 points in the fourth quarter or overtime."

He also adjusts his rankings for several key factors: starting field position, time remaining, deficit and outcome. Only quarterbacks who have had at least 30 qualifying drives (playoffs included) from 1998-2009 were included.

So the obvious question is: Where did Donovan McNabb rank?

And the answer: 39th.

For the McNabb defenders, you can surely point out that the two guys sandwiching McNabb are (current or future) Hall of Famers Brett Favre, who ranks 38th, and Dan Marino, who ranks 40th.

But for the critics, who often point out that McNabb isn't clutch, well, there's plenty of support in this study for you.

Per Higgins' numbers, McNabb has had 129 opportunities to bring the Eagles back and has come through 38 times for a percentage of 29.5. His Adjusted Comeback Efficiency (ACE), which takes into account the factors I mentioned above is 0.94. The league average is exactly 1.00.

The analysis also took into account quarterback rating and how a QB performed overall, as compared to how he performed in these comeback situations. For example, McNabb's 86.5 overall QB rating from 1998-2009 ranks 15th. But he was 39th in terms of comeback efficiency, a drop-off of 24 spots.

The only two players who experienced a worse drop-off were Steve Beurlein (32 spots) and Jason Campbell (28 spots). Per the analysis, McNabb had the highest overall QB rating of the 30 worst players in terms of comeback efficiency.

Some other notes from the analysis:

* Guess who ranked first in terms of ACE? Eli Manning. He's had 66 opportunities and brought the Giants back 28 times, 42.4 percent. He had the second-biggest jump in terms of overall QB rating vs. ACE, leaping 31 spots. Jake Plummer had the biggest jump, up 37 spots.

* Of the top five ACE quarterbacks, three have Super Bowl rings: Manning, Ben Roethlisberger and Peyton Manning. Philip Rivers and Aaron Rodgers are the other two.

Tony Romo is ninth on the list. Tom Brady 14th. And Kurt Warner 27th. Higgins points out that Brady had a disastrous 2009, coming through on just one of 10 comeback opportunities.

* Higgins provides many more details and an explanation of what all the numbers mean. Definitely worth a read.
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Sheil Kapadia is in his fifth season writing about the Eagles and the NFL for His earliest memories as a sports fan include several trips to Veterans Stadium with his Dad. He's not a beat writer or an Insider, but is here to discuss the NFL 365 days a year. E-mail him at or by clicking here

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