Performance Under Pressure

In Sports by Brock Bourgase

During Superbowl XLI, Rex Grossman performed poorly, throwing two interceptions and barely moving Chicago’s offence. According to the media, Grossman was one of the worst Superbowl quarterbacks ever – and possibly one of the worst to play that position in the history of the league.

How bad was he?

Breaking down the reasons for Grossman’s inauspicious performance generates a generic list: physical skill, knowledge of the game, composure under pressure, etc.. Like other major sporting events, performance under pressure on demand trumps all. During his career at Florida, Grossman demonstrated excellent physical tools at an elite collegiate program. He must still possess those qualities; otherwise Brian Griese would have been taking snaps for the Bears.

Early in the regular season, Grossman’s agent attests to his tremendous confidence. Watching his body language in the Superbowl, it was obvious something had changed. Grossman had a QB Rating over 100 in September but only 73.2 in the postseason. Throughout the game, he made a number of decisions that were less than astute.


Ultimately, Rex Grossman is responsible for his performance. Obviously, he was an average or below average quarterback who strung together a series of poor games at the end of the season.

What can coaches do to prevent players from breaking down?

The media is so pervasive at the professional level it is uncertain whether any efforts could have constructed a positive environment for Rex Grossman but this is step one.

My friend Sherwyn Benn remarked that the strength of Carleton’s four consecutive National Championships is that the teams play the same at the beginning of the game as they do in the conclusion. Experience in close games is critical because it enables players to realize that it is only sport and the worst case scenario is never that bad. Decisions and actions become habits and routines.

Use accurate measures of evaluations. Eventually, Grossman matched the public perception of his abilities. Statistics such as win-shares, value over replacement, and other numbers give players an accurate picture of their skills that they can live up to on the playing field.