Most clutch athlete of all-time: Brady vs. Jordan

By Mark Paulette

Let me begin this piece by saying my take is extremely bias.

Yet, after seeing Tom Brady’s performance this past Sunday against the Houston Texans, and the performance in last year’s Super Bowl, and his performance in Super Bowl 49, and the other Super Bowls before that, (I think you catch my drift) there is little doubt in my mind that TB12 has cemented himself as not only the greatest quarterback to ever step foot on the gridiron, but also the most clutch performer the world of sports has ever seen.

It’s a title often anointed to “His Airness” Michael Jordan, who’s legacy, in the 15-years since he retired, has grown into that of a Herculean Legend. No, I’m not here to diminish the accomplishments of MJ, I am simply here to enlighten you all on the incomparable achievements of Brady when “all the marbles,” as Aaron Jackson likes to say, are on the line. I get that it is a near impossible task to attempt to unseat Michael Jordan as the G.O.A.T. of G.O.A.T.s, just like it was near-impossible (99.7 percent to be exact) to erase a 28-3 deficit in the Super Bowl. And just as Brady improbably pulled off that feat, I shall too in convincing all that it is time to rewrite the history books and claim Michael Jordan the Tom Brady of clutch moments.

Clutch metrics –

According to ESPN Stats and Info, Michael Jordan hit three game-winning shots during his postseason career. Well, Brady has led four game-winning drives in just the Super Bowl alone. Yes, I’m aware he didn’t personally score the winning points on any of the drives, but this is where sport-to-sport comparisons become convoluted. Basketball can devolve into a one-man game, whereas football is always 11-on-11. While Jordan can overshadow and overcome the poor play of teammates, Brady is bound to the performances of his line and receivers, and left to suffer the consequences should they fail to perform. Despite this, he has been able to time and again come through in the most crucial situations while playing a game that’s outcome isn’t supposed to be so crucially defined by an individual’s performance.

In Jordan’s famous 1997 Nike “Failure” commercial, he claimed that he had been trusted to make 26 game-winning shots in which he had missed. At the time of the commercial, Jordan was a career 16-of-42 (38%) on game-winners, with the term ‘game-winner’ encompassing any go-ahead-for-good shot made in a game’s final 20 seconds. Jordan would finish his illustrious career with 22 such shots in 1072 games, meaning Jordan personally led his team to the win roughly once every 50 games.

If you are looking for an exact like-for-like, the closest I can get for you is that Sunday was the eighth time in Brady’s career in which he threw the game’s winning touchdown at home in the game’s final minute. But more importantly, it was the 52nd-career game-winning drive orchestrated by Brady when tied or trailing in the fourth quarter. With just over 200 wins under his belt (including playoffs, an all-time record no less) Brady has proven the deciding factor in roughly one-fourth of those victories.

It is this stat which should settle the debate. The argument of any athlete’s greatness should be fueled by how that athlete performs when everything is on the line. Though basketball lends itself to providing more chances to come through in the direst situations, the numbers are severely slanted in Brady’s favor in these situations, despite coming into play over 75 percent less often. Brady is also compiling such a high success rate in a sport in which one man shouldn’t be able to effect the outcome with such consistency.

If I told you, you had the chance to win $1-million dollars and all you needed to do was chose whether Tom Brady was more likely to lead his team on a game-winning drive or Michael Jordan was more likely to hit the winning shot in a game-clinching situation, which way do you lean? When betting, always take the odds. And in this case, the odds are forever in Brady’s favor.

Mark Paulette is the senior producer of The Drive, weekdays 4pm to 6pm on 92.9fm The Ticket and streaming live at DriveShowMaine.com. Follow us on Twitter, @DriveShowMaine and “Like Us” on Facebook, Drive Show Maine.