We live in the time of the hot take: quick commentary on topics with the primary purpose not to inform but rather to create attention and debate. It is why shows like ESPN’s First Take or FS1’s Undisputed are able to exist despite offering limited actual insight and analysis, and oftentimes being little more than televised shouting matches or “look at me!”-events with marginal entertainment value.
Not all sports-based talk shows live in this proverbial pit of misery, though. NFL Network’s Good Morning Football, for example, is a rather level-headed affair — think The Today Show centered around football. That does not make it immune to falling into the hot take trap every now and then, however, and host Peter Schrager did just that on Monday’s edition during a segment about the NFL’s wild card playoff games.
Schrager spoke about the Philadelphia Eagles’ 16-15 road victory over the Chicago Bears on Sunday, and pointed out Eagles quarterback Nick Foles in particular. “Nick Foles, in the biggest of moments, there is no quarterback I would rather have in the league,” the host said before going one step further. “There might be no quarterback I’d rather have in NFL history in the big moment than Nick Foles.”
“You can have your Elway, your Montana, and your Tom Brady, but when Nick Foles gets the ball with two minutes left against the number one defense in the world, has to go 60 yards, and orchestrates a 12-play, precise, incredible drive that goes the entire distance [...] there is no quarterback I would rather have in the big spot, in the history of the NFL, than Nick Foles,” Schrager continued.
Schrager does have a point to a certain degree, Foles has done a very good job on Sunday in a hostile environment and with his team’s season on the line. But to take this performance and turn it into a reasoning to coronate the 29-year old as the most clutch quarterback of all time is, to say the least, wild. After all, the three passers Schrager also mentioned might have to say a little something about that as well.
Hall of Famers John Elway and Joe Montana are both known to perform well in the clutch, but Tom Brady stands above the two of them. He also stands above Foles and the recency bias supporting him. Brady has led a total of 43 fourth quarter comebacks in his career, compared to Foles’ 10. When broken down on a per-game-basis, the numbers favor the reigning Super Bowl MVP — 16.9% to 14.1% — but the comparison does not end there.
Just take a look at the moments during which players had to carry teams, i.e. when throwing more than 50 pass attempts. Of quarterbacks to have more than one such game on their résumé, only Donovan McNabb — who had only seven 50+ attempt games compared to Brady’s 28 — has a higher success percentage than Brady’s 67.9% (19-9). Foles, meanwhile, sits at 1-1. The average quarterback to fall under this category? 20.5%.
When asked to put a club on his shoulders, Brady delivers unlike any other quarterback in league history — including Foles. But surely, Sunday’s comeback against the Bears’ top ranked defense has to mean something for this argument, right? While it certainly was an impressive performance, it is not much different from what the New England Patriots’ quarterback has been doing all over his legendary career in the NFL.
Just take Super Bowl 49, for example, when Brady led the Patriots back from 10 points down in the fourth quarter against an all-time great defense: the Seattle Seahawks’ Legion of Boom at the peak of its powers — as impressive as Chicago’s defense is, it pales in comparison to Seattle’s that year. Or last year’s AFC Championship Game, when Brady accomplished the same feat versus the Jacksonville Jaguars.
Even without mentioning the Patriots’ 25-point comeback in Super Bowl 51 or twice coming back from 14 down in 2014’s divisional round it can be seen that Brady is still the high-water mark when it comes to clutch quarterback performance. What Foles has been able to accomplish during his seven years in the NFL is certainly impressive, but at the end of the day there is no quarterback in league history more reliable in the big moment than Tom Brady. Sorry, Peter Schrager.