The fourth quarter in a football game is crunch time.
It is the time period where the best of the best are suppose to stand out from everyone else and carry their team to victory. Whether it is hanging on to a lead or making a dramatic comeback, these players are instantly recognizable.
While his career is still young, Tim Tebow has taken on this role for the Denver Broncos.
Tebow already has six fourth quarter comebacks on his resume with only 19 total games played in his career. This means that Tim Tebow has brought his team back in the fourth quarter in about 32% of the games he has played.
It is an amazing statistic when your really think about it in the big picture.
It is also incredible how Tebow improves in the fourth quarter. We all know that he isn't the most technically sound passer in the league. There are times when he is down right awful.
However, his numbers tell a different story when the final quarter rolls around.
Tebow's completion percentage jumps up by 10 points on his season total and six of his 11 passing touchdowns have come in the fourth quarter. His quarterback rating also makes a big jump by 23 points. Not to mention all of his running statistics improve including three of his five rushing touchdowns have come in the fourth.
Many feel that Tebow will never be able to keep up this pace. They figure that his poor mechanics will catch up to him eventually.
For me, it is too early to tell. I believe that Tebow has the potential to be one of the great players in the NFL.
If he can manage to continue his fourth quarter magic, he will join some of these all-time greats on a very exclusive list.
Dan Marino is considered by many to be one of the greatest quarterback of all time.
He holds an incredible amount of statistical records and the ones that he isn't at the top for, he is most likely not far off. Marino was and still is considered a hero in Miami for the great seasons he put together as the Dolphins signal caller.
The one knock one Marino's resume as always been that he never won a Super Bowl. This label has followed Marino for a long time.
Is it fair?
It depends on how you judge greatness in a quarterback. Many would say that Dan Marino didn't exactly have the best talent around him on those Dolphins teams. No matter how good you are at your position, you need help to win championships.
While he may not have won the big game, Marino certainly came through in clutch situations during his career.
Marino holds the record for fourth quarter comebacks with 36. He also led 51 game-winning drives in his career, another record. Like any other quarter of the game, Marino never stopped shining.
He may not have had the talent around him to win a Super Bowl, but he carried the Dolphins to his fair share of victories in the fourth quarter.
Another all-time great who maybe has a more impressive "clutch" resume than Dan Marino.
John Elway defined clutch in the 1987 AFC Championship game against the Cleveland Browns with what is simply known now as "The Drive". Elway marched the Broncos 98-yards down the field in the fourth quarter of the game to force overtime where Denver went on to win.
It is the kind of stuff NFL Films drools over.
While that is Elway's most famous fourth quarter performance, he had plenty of others. Elway is second in career game-winning drives and fourth quarter comebacks. Including a game-winning drive in the 1998 Super Bowl against the Green Bay Packers.
John Elway got it done statistically and in the big games throughout his entire career. Like Marino, he became a legend in the state of Colorado.
Interestingly enough we now see Tim Tebow, a player with a skill set much different than that of Elway, trying to capture the heart's of Broncos fans. All the while, John Elway is the current President of the Denver Broncos.
Elway knows what it takes to be great, especially in the fourth quarter of games. It'll be interesting to see if Tebow can follow in his footsteps over the next few years.
A list of great fourth quarter quarterbacks wouldn't be complete without Joe Montana.
Montana tops my list as one of the greatest to ever play the position of quarterback. Four Super Bowl victories and two MVP awards go a long way in building a resume for a NFL quarterback.
Montana's ability to lead his team back in big game situations earned him the nicknames like "Joe Cool" and "The Comeback Kid". The nicknames don't lie as Montana has 31 career fourth quarter comebacks and 33 game-winning drives. That ranks him 4th and 7th on those all time lists respectively.
One of Montana's more famous clutch moments is known as "The Catch". It was the 1982 NFC Championship game between Montana's 49ers and the Dallas Cowboys. Montana famously slung the ball to the back of the end zone over Cowboy defenders where wide receiver Dwight Clark was able to reel in the pass with his finger tips.
This score put the 49ers on top and they went on to win the game as Dallas couldn't score with the 51seconds that were left on the clock. San Francisco went on to beat the Bengals in what would be Montana's first of four Super Bowl victories.
Montana famously burned the Bengals again in the 1988-89 Super Bowl. "Joe Cool" led a game-winning drive to complete a 20-16 comeback over Cincinnati to capture his third ring.
Montana made a living off of big plays in the fourth quarter of games and became the quarterback that really defined what it meant to be clutch.
Peyton Manning is one of the three active players to make this list.
While he isn't playing this season, Manning has already established himself as one of the greatest to ever play. The technical precision that he shows when leading the Colts is unlike anything we've really seen before.
Manning has always been the greatest threat to Marino's records. He isn't far off from passing him in many of the categories although, he most likely won't pass Brett Favre unless he decides to "pull a Favre".
Like Marino, Manning didn't build his career off of winning. In fact, he has developed the reputation of being a "choke artist". His most recent blunder was in the 2009 Super Bowl against the New Orleans Saints where he threw a spirit crushing pick-six to Tracy Porter. This put the Colts down by two scores and they eventually went on to lose.
While Manning hasn't been clutch in the postseason, he has proven time and time again that he can win games. He is tied with John Elway for second all-time in both fourth quarter comebacks and game-winning drives. If he comes back to play a couple more seasons, it is likely that he could pass Marino as well.
Would Colts fans love to see Manning do it more often in the postseason? Of course.
However, that doesn't mean we can discredit the rest of his great fourth quarter play throughout his career.
With all of the comparisons drawn to Joe Montana, it is impossible to leave New England Patriots' quarterback Tom Brady off of this list.
In terms of total fourth quarter comebacks and game-winning drives, Brady doesn't top the list. He is top ten in both categories, but there are quarterbacks that have greater totals.
Where Brady sets himself apart from the pack is where most of his great play occurred.
Brady led the game-winning drives in all three of his Super Bowl victories. On top of that, the Super Bowl against the Carolina Panthers in 2003-2004 was also a fourth quarter comeback. Six of Brady's 19 career postseason games were won by Brady on game-winning drives.
It is ironic that Brady has found such amazing success as a late game quarterback considering that his idol growing up in the San Francisco area was none other than Joe Montana. In fact, Tom Brady was in the crowd at the 1982 NFC Championship game to witness "The Catch" live as a 4-year-old boy.
Brady still has years ahead of him and plenty of more stats to compile. His numbers are lower than most simply because the Patriots haven't had to make many comebacks over the years with Brady and Bill Belichick at the helm of the team.
However, with winning comes big games. New England is sure to find their way in to plenty of those before Brady's career ends.
All of which will give Brady a chance to continue to build his resume as one of the greatest fourth quarter quarterbacks of all time.