Clutch - Not a Standard or Automatic Definition!

Clutch - done or accomplished in a critical situation: a clutch shot that won the basketball game; dependable in crucial situations: a clutch player.

"Clutch" is not something that can be statistically analyzed. For example – as soon as one starts talking about whether or not someone is clutch, they decide which games are "big games." If I can define which games are big ones and which ones are not, I can then manipulate the facts and statistics to show someone is (or is not) a clutch player.

As fans, we tend to put more emphasis on games at the end of the season vs. the beginning of the season. We also tend to put more emphasis on the end of the game than the beginning, after all, the end of the game is when the final score appears, so how a person plays on the last few plays is a bigger deal than how he played earlier in the game. At least that is the way people who want to argue clutch usually spin it.

The fact is – all regular season games are equally important in a season, at least in football. There are not enough games in a season like basketball and baseball where you may make such an argument. If a team wins 11 games – they win 11 games. It really doesn’t matter if it is the first 11 or any combination throughout the season. It doesn’t matter if it were against "weak" teams. (See 2011 Patriots) They all count the same (unless you are the BCS or some crap like that and I am talking NFL here). I know in tie situations division games carry more weight – but in reality every game is important. I won’t get into the "finishing on a hot streak" or a momentum discussion for now, there is plenty of time to bring this up at a later date. Of course playoff games are important – but each one of those is of the same importance in the sense that you are out of the playoffs if you lose any one of them.

Also, it is just as important to score or not in the first minute of the game as it is in the last. A touchdown is 6 points. It is worth the same 6 points no matter when it is scored. But, but, what about "pressure?" We can only measure pressure if we had some science fiction device hooked up to the players and we could measure this. (Don’t even get me started on polygraphs – those are nothing more than subjective voodoo.) The point is, we don’t know when the player feels the most pressure, so using "pressure" as a part of determining who is clutch is no more accurate than using a Ouija Board.

What do we as fans remember? We remember how a player was at the end of a game. Especially a player we want to make the hero or scapegoat. We forget about that 3rd down conversion on offense or stop on defense in the 2nd quarter. We even tend to gloss over a dropped pass that could have been a TD, or an errant pass 10 minutes into the game. I am not talking disastrous plays that everyone remembers. I am speaking of those "routine" errant plays. The plays are just as important with 30 minutes left as they are with 1. A kicker is almost never fired for his last 20 kicks – just the last one. This is more of an emotional issue than a logical one.

So how do we determine if someone is clutch or not? I will use one player as an example from last year, based on my interpretation of a lot of comments here at BRB. I am not picking on nor am I praising TJ – he is just an example. Some people say TJ Yates was really "clutch" in the Cincinnati regular season game. "The drive" showed he was clutch – right? If he is "clutch" then why did he "choke" in the playoff game against the Ravens? I don’t think he choked against the Ravens – I think he played poorly in that game. Make no mistake about it – TJ played really well in the Cincinnati game (or did he?) He had a decent passer rating of 85.4 and turned the ball over twice and had 2 touchdowns. Of course he won the game. My point is here he played fairly well, but not great in that game. We remember "the drive" and the "winning" TD pass. He was actually more efficient in the loss to the Colts than he was in the win at Cincy. Ponder that thought for a while.

Clutch is too hard to precisely define to say if someone is clutch or not. It pretty much equates to the just winz ™ arguments people make about players like VY and Tebow.

We can all still say this guy is clutch or not, I just am trying to get people to think about what that really means. I am not saying someone is wrong for using the term – I am saying that most people do not even have an exact definition. It almost always comes down to "I just know it when I see it."

Clutch or not is more likely something we project onto a player because we like him or not. Not something we can precisely define and evaluate.

What I am trying to get across is:

  • All plays are important – no matter how much time is left on the clock.
  • Points are worth the same no matter how much time is left on the clock.
  • Every regular season game carries the same importance.
  • "Clutch" is an emotional term given to some players – not a logical one.

So before we start trying to say this player is clutch and that one isn’t, we need to be able to define what clutch is. I have not yet seen anyone come up with a logical argument as to exactly what clutch is. What say you Texans fans? If you want to call someone "clutch" how do we define that?

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