The Art of Ice

The pressure of adversity does not affect the mind of the brave man… It is more powerful than external circumstances.

If there’s anything I’ve learned in life, it’s that you should never make irrational decisions. Rome wasn’t built in a day, and certainly decisions under pressure shouldn’t be made without thought, a plan, and complete calm.

That ain’t how the NFL works. Not for a quarterback on the 40-yard line with one timeout, 30 seconds on the clock, and whose team is down by four. Need a touchdown here.
The art of keeping cool is a skill that can’t be taught, and is a major reason of success for the best quarterbacks in the league. When you think of John Elway, Joe Montana, Tom Brady, or more recently Eli Manning, you can come up with a million reasons as to why they’re the best. But the most important one, and the one that is unanimously agreed upon? They’re clutch. They’ve won with their backs against the wall, with the crowd closing in, and their teammates looking at them in the huddle waiting for the alpha male to lead them to victory.

Stress can shorten a human being’s life, and there is no stress quite like operating a fourth-quarter comeback in the NFL. You like pressure? Be a quarterback.

Super Bowl XLII: Eli Manning: Clutch Version 1.0 is born.

It’s not an exact science, you can’t see clutch capabilities when you’re scouting rookies, no matter how stupendous a talent evaluator you might be considered. Until they’re put into a professional two-minute drill, where the game is faster than in college, you can’t know how superior a guy is when you’re team is really going to need him. And that’s the problem for a lot of teams when drafting quarterbacks, especially in the modern NFL. When taking into account the higher rate of close games this season, it’s more integral to a team’s success than ever before that their quarterback is money in the most important quarter of the game. It will only get harder and more crucial for teams to have players with these intangibles.

Real Talent…and Stuff

You can find the gunslinger with a rocket for an arm who can get you 50+ yard plays on a regular basis. You can scout the dude with legs like pistons who can gun it down the field for big gains. Hell, you can hire a young buck who folds in the pocket more often that you’d like, but produces big at times. 

The Modern King of the art that is
 Clutch Quarterbacking, Tom Brady.

But unless they can pull out wins for you in the fourth quarter, you’re lost.

Sure, you can make the argument that quarterbacks who put up an abundance of points on your opponents and tuck the game away before the fourth are just as important. But tell me this: how many times have you seen a quarterback single-handedly drop 30, 40, or even 50 points on teams game after game, season upon season? You come up with one, and I’ll draw a massive “L” on my head with a Sharpie and walk around with it for a day. Legit.

It’s far more efficient and efficacious to have your offense run by someone who maybe doesn’t toss points onto the scoreboard like championship darts, but can consistently find ways to win any kind of game. Your boy should be able to keep up with even the best. Of course, a quarterback can’t just have anyone on offense to win games, he needs talent around him. But the best make everyone around them look good. And so, if a quarterback is able to make do with what he has, and effectively play to his teammates skills, you will always have a chance to win. There’s no denying that when your offense is directed by someone who knows what he’s doing, you won’t hold fear as often as those with sub-par fourth-quarter leaders.
Hey, isn’t that John Candy?

Joe Montana on the game winning drive
 in Super Bowl XXIII.

…is what Joe Montana said in the huddle, in Super Bowl XXIII, pointing down the field to famous TV star with 3:10 left on the clock, down by three, and 92 yards of green grass between them and the end zone. What transpired after this huddle was an 11 play drive down the field against a top-5 defense in the Cincinnati Bengals in 1988, and a last second touchdown to John Taylor to win the game. And what happened before that touchdown play solidifies any counter to criticism of Montana’s icy blood. He threw a pass that was nearly intercepted in the end zone, very close to being the biggest error in NFL history. Rather than losing his cool or getting nervous or jumpy after that ball, Montana instead threw a high bullet to Taylor in the back of the end zone.

You read that right, believe me. It still eats me inside when I see that Bengals cornerback drop that sure interception. Then, maybe the Bengals wouldn’t have been such a disappointment for two decades after.

Wishful thinking, I don’t know. I digress.

But here, Montana is in one of the most nerve-wracking situations that a human being could handle, and he’s clowning around in the huddle and lightening the pressure of the situation for all 10 of his teammates. For him to be so calm and collected with so much adversity is, to this day, still one of the most astonishing things about his legacy.

When we talk clutch, we talk ice. We talk about how emotionless, focused, and completely unconscious quarterbacks are of the importance of the place they have been put in. One bad pass can ruin offensive momentum for the rest of the drive. One interception, and the game is over. One bad sack for a big loss, and you’ve lost a down that could have resulted in the game-winning touchdown. So many of these thoughts could enter the mind of any normal human being not playing the game, and often they would hinder the person’s ability to effectively operate and come out successful. But not for the clutch. No, all they can see is the next play, and after each one, how much closer they are to the end zone. It’s this mentality that makes being clutch so hard. As I said before, it’s not a skill that can be learned like jumping rope. Certainly, then, if it can’t be learned, it can’t be taught. It’s all in a person’s head how they interpret their current situation. They aren’t there for the money, or the fame, or the glory. In that moment, they are there because they earned it, and now they have to finish the job. They are transfixed on the mission that must be completed

It’s much easier said than done.
Be You Clutch?

I pose this question to YOU: If there’s a moment in time when you can remember one of the hardest decisions you’ve ever had to make, would you take back some of it? Most of it? Would you change your choices completely?

If the answer is yes to any of these, you’re not clutch. Never look back, keep looking forward, and your goals will be right there for you to achieve.

Welcome to the world of ice.

Pressure Quotes – BrainyQuote. (n.d.).Famous Quotes at BrainyQuote. Retrieved November 16, 2012, from

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s