FanPost

Analyzing Game Winning Drives

Game Winning Drives is one of those meaningless statistics breathlessly announced by sportscasters when a star QB manages a victory in the 4th quarter. Originally, this was always refered to as a Comeback Victory until it was pointed out that many of the "comeback" victories occurred with the score tied, necessitating new terminology and the birth of "Game Winning Drive."

Elway and Favre are generally regarded as 1 and 2 in GWDs. How remarkable is this statistic? Whenever the Packers played the Bears on Monday Night Football, the TV production crew would inevitably run the graphic showing how many different Bears QBs started games during Favre's GB career. Using box scores listed in Pro Football Reference's web site, I reviewed all Bears and Packer games from 1993 through 2007. To be a GWD, the Bears or Packers had to be tied or losing going into the fourth quarter, or to fall behind sometime in the fourth quarter and rally to win. Defensive or special teams scores that resulted in victories were not counted as GWDs. How did things shake out?

Favre led GB to 34 GWDs. The Packers racked up 152 regular season wins in this time frame. GWDs occurred in 22.4 percent of this victory total. The QB-challenged Bears? The Bears tallied 111 wins, and 32 GWDs, for a 28.8 percent total. The Bears had only two fewer GWDs in 41 fewer victories!

The reverence given the GWD stat is bogus. First, GWD is not an official NFL stat. No rules are established determining exactly what constitutes a game winning drive. Stats are kept by individual teams, but only a handful of teams actually tally this stat, mainly for their star QBs.

Here's my thoughts on establishing guidelines for GWDs. If a team is down by a single score, the GWD must occur on the team's two final drives, not counting game ending kneel downs. If a team is down by two scores, the entire fourth quarter is used. The quarterback must have more than 50 percent of the drive yardage via passing or scrambling. Finally, drive yardage must be longer than the distance of any field goal to take the lead. A 20-yard drive resulting in a 46-yard field goal would not be considered a GWD.

When defined properly, GWD would be a valid statistic reflecting a QB's performance under pressure. In its current state, any reference to a QB's GWDs should be scoffed at.

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