The inability to perform in pressure situations is what separates great players from average ones. Someone can have all the talent in the world but fail to come through in the clutch. This list consists of high-profile players who just don’t have what it takes to come up big in important situations—thus are deemed some of the less clutch players in the league.
Philip Rivers, Quarterback, San Diego Chargers
Rivers’ struggles over the past two seasons have really hurt his reputation. However, it’s too early to call him one of the less clutch players in the league. There have been plenty of performances, like his gutty play with a torn ACL in the playoff game against Indianapolis Colts, which tell a different story.
Matt Schaub, Quarterback, Houston Texans
It took Matt Schaub four years before he helped the Houston Texans earn a playoff berth. His injury at the end of the 2011 season kept him from seeing action in that year’s playoffs, but he did rebound last year by helping Houston defeat the Cincinnati Bengals in the first round.
However, this Houston team had more than enough talent to make a run at the Super Bowl. The same can be said for the upcoming season. This is why Schaub must find a way to win more than one playoff game to avoid making this list.
Jay Cutler, Quarterback, Chicago Bears
Jay Cutler gets a bit of a pass because the Chicago Bears have failed to properly support him. Over the years, the Bears have surrounded Cutler with terrible offensive lines and a lack of offensive playmakers. It’s tough to ask a quarterback to succeed under those conditions.
However, Cutler has struggled to raise his level of play in pressure situations. Chicago used plenty of resources this offseason to give Cutler a better supporting cast. He’s out of excuses and needs to have a good year in 2013.
Most think of Wes Welker as Tom Brady’s sure-handed slot receiver. It’s an easy assumption, as Welker has been among the league leaders in receptions for the majority of his time with the New England Patriots.
However, Welker isn’t as reliable of a target as most believe. This article by Pro Football Focus shows that he was responsible for the second-most drops from 2009 to 2011.
His most famous and devastating drop came during the Super Bowl loss to the New York Giants in 2012. This drop provided Eli Manning with the time he needed to drive down the field and win the game. It's miscues like this that forever stain a player’s reputation.
For years, Nnamdi Asomugha flew under the radar as one of the best players in the NFL. He didn’t get the media attention other stars received because he played with the Oakland Raiders. During this time in Oakland, the Raiders never once made a playoff appearance.
This is one of the main reasons why Asomugha decided to test the free-agent market and eventually signed with the Philadelphia Eagles. His signing was met with a lot of fanfare and expectations. Vince Young went as far as dubbing the team as the “dream team.”
However, Asomugha struggled mightily in both of his seasons in Philadelphia. This article by Bleacher Report’s Brad Gagnon gives a great breakdown of why Asomugha struggled so much with the Eagles.
Asomugha is hoping that he breaks the playoff barrier this year with the San Francisco 49ers. He’s expected to only play a complementary role, which means that it’s likely that he’ll never be a major contributor on a playoff team.
Carson Palmer has had his share of success in the NFL, but has yet to win a playoff game. The majority of Palmer’s career has been spent on losing teams. Only twice in his career has he led a team to a winning record. Both of those seasons came with the Cincinnati Bengals in 2005 and 2009.
Adding to Palmer’s issues delivering in the clutch is his inability to come through for the Oakland Raiders.
After an injury to Jason Campbell, the Raiders decided to orchestrate a trade for Palmer with the hopes of making a playoff run. At the time of the trade, Palmer was technically retired because of a dispute with Cincinnati’s ownership. His inability to shake off the rust resulted in a 4-5 record down the stretch and no playoff berth.
The Arizona Cardinals' trade for Palmer this offseason has them falling into the same trap as the Raiders and Bengals.
The Houston Texans drafted Mario Williams with the first pick in the 2006 draft because they wanted a pass-rusher to help them make Peyton Manning uncomfortable. They felt that Williams’ ability to generate pressure would help limit the amount of damage Manning caused.
Williams had a solid run with the Texans, but he was never able to help the Texans overtake Manning and the Colts.
The Buffalo Bills handed Williams a record deal to come in and help them finally get back into the playoff mix. However, he again failed to meet expectations, and the Bills took a step back as a team. For all his talent, Williams has yet to suit up for a playoff game in his career. He’s supposed to be one of the top defensive players in the league but has yet to help a team make a playoff run.
Despite a career filled with strong performances, Tony Romo’s failures are what most people point to when discussing his stint with the Dallas Cowboys. This has as much to do with Romo’s struggles as it does the enormous expectations that come with being the Cowboys’ quarterback.
There’s no better way to articulate Romo’s struggles in big-game situations than to look at his 1-3 playoff record. The ultimate goal for all NFL players is to find success in the playoffs and eventually win a Super Bowl. This is why judging a quarterback on his playoff success is a sound measuring tool.
Romo doesn’t only have the playoff struggles to hurt his reputation as a clutch performer. As laid out in this article by Bleacher Report’s Jesse Dorsey, Romo has had his share of major mistakes. The most memorable might be the fumbled field-goal attempt that would’ve resulted in a playoff win against the Seattle Seahawks in 2007.