My dad is good for many things. Picking up the tab at dinner. Telling me stories about Mickey Mantle. Falling asleep with his mouth open on the couch.
More than all of those, though (well, except the dinner one), he’s best at good ol’ fashioned football talk. For years, the Red Sox – and baseball – were his baby, but as the Patriots have become a surefire 11-win each year over the past decade, he’s directed the bulk of his attention towards the Pats. He loves all the local teams, and he’s as irrationally nuts about these teams as I am, but the Patriots are his unquestioned No. 1.
That means he reads everything ever written about the New England Patriots. He goes through four different newspapers daily. He can rattle off the 53-man roster, the practice squad, the 40-time of the Pats’ sixth round DE pick and the reason that the team lines up in a four-wide set more often than a three-wide. He talks about back shoulder throws and cover zero and zone blitzes. He never played football, but he’s spent enough learning about the game and reading about the game to be as credible a football mind as I know in person.
But this isn’t all about singing my dad’s praises. I am driving at something here. Last night, we got into a little bit of a discussion about the Patriots, and the notion that Tom Brady is having a “down” year came up. That seems to be a popular storyline around the country, predominately because the Pats are 5-3 and not their usual 8-0. My dad disagreed with the idea that Brady isn’t playing well, and he started rattling off stats (from his head…) to back his argument up.
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And it made sense, with the basic numbers he provided. He mentioned yards and touchdown passes and what Brady was on pace for over a full season in both categories. Before you knew it, I was buying in to the idea that Brady was not having a “down” season by any means, but actually one for the ages.
Then I remembered – while knowledgeable, my dad also has another trait as it relates to the Pats. Homerism.
He’s never predicted them to lose a game. He thinks Brady should take Lincoln’s place on Mount Rushmore. If they sign a guy or draft a guy, you better believe he thinks it’s going to work out. In Bill he trusts.
So that brings me to today, when I decided to check out his premise. Maybe Brady really hadn’t been having a below average year. I mean, it has certainly seemed to the naked eye that he hasn’t been as good this year as he was last year, 2010 or 2007, but maybe my eyes were deceiving me. Maybe my dad wasn’t just being a homer.
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I researched. I looked at lots and lots of numbers, both past and present. Guess what? My dad was right after all. Tom Brady isn’t having a bad year at all. In fact, he’s having one of the great years of his career. Don’t believe me? Hear me out.
First of all, let’s remember that we’re not talking about whether Brady is having a “bad year.” He’s not. Nobody would really insinuate that. Blaine Gabbert has “bad years.” Mark Sanchez has “bad years.” Brady may have “down” years, but that refers strictly to his performance compared to his other performances. Therefore, when we’re referring to a “down” year, it’s in relation to his best years, when he became a stats machine and started records.
This season, through eight games, Brady has thrown for 2,408 yards and 16 touchdowns against just three interceptions. Those numbers look great on paper, but are they?
Brady leads the league in yards passing, is fifth in touchdown passes and has thrown the fewest interceptions among starting quarterbacks in the NFL, tied with Ben Roethlisberger, Robert Griffin III and Blaine Gabbert (Gabbert?).
Paced out for 16 games, Brady would throw for 4,816 yards and have 32 touchdowns with six interceptions. For his career, that yardage total would be the second-most he’s ever thrown for. He threw for 5,235 last season. Even in his record-setting, 50-touchdown season in 2007, Brady didn’t throw for that many yards. He threw for 4,806.
Touchdown wise, the 32 would give him the fourth-highest total of his career. Keep in mind this is his 11th season as a starting QB.
But looking deeper, his 32-6 touchdown-to-interception ratio would be a mindblowing 5.33-to-1. To put that in perspective, Brady’s career TD-INT ratio is 3.19-to-1, which is the best of all-time.
Only twice during his career has he exceeded the 5.33-to-1 pace he’s currently on. In 2007, the aforementioned 50-8 season, his ratio was 6.25. In 2010, he threw 36 touchdowns and four picks for a record-setting 9-to-1 ratio. Both of years he won the MVP, and he’s not far behind that 2007 pace at all.
Oh, that means that this year’s ratio is actually better than last year’s – when he broke Dan Marino’s passing yardage record. He threw 39 touchdowns and 12 interceptions last year, good for a 3.25-to-1.
Lest we also forget that this year the Patriots are fifth in the NFL in rushing yardage, which is not the way they have been in the past. Brady is standing behind center and throwing the ball every down like the Saints or the Packers. The Patriots are running – at least in some games. His stats aren’t inflated because of a lopsided pass-run balance.
Some other quick numbers from this season: Brady in sixth in QB rating, ninth in completion percentage and ninth in yards per attempt. The Patriots have the league’s highest-scoring offense, and it’s not even close with any other team.
Yet, even if all of that means nothing you, there’s one more stat that I think really shows off how good a year Brady has had, even if it’s gone slightly under the radar (if that’s possible for a QB with five Super Bowl appearances, three wins and a spot already reserved in Canton).
Remember ESPN’s Total QBR stat, which is basically a more efficient quarterback rating system? Quarterback rating can be inflated by garbage time stats and things like that. Total QBR cannot be. It takes into account fourth quarter performance (something Brady has been criticized this year for), performance when the team is trailing, performance when pressured, drops by receivers – all of those things that actually should factor in to a real evaluation of how a quarterback has played.
Right now, Brady is second in the league in QBR, with a 79.2 (out of 100) rating. Peyton Manning is the only player ahead of him. Brady is ahead of Matt Ryan, Eli Manning, Aaron Rodgers, Drew Brees, Ben Roethlisberger, RGIII and everybody else in the league not named Peyton Manning.
In all of the games played by every single quarterback around the league this season, Brady owns the second and sixth-best QBR games. His 98.4 QBR in the 45-7 win over the Rams last week was the second-best game played by any quarterback this season – using this stat – and his 96.5 QBR in the 52-28 win over Buffalo in Week 4 was the sixth-best game played by any quarterback this season.
Does that make sense? Of all quarterbacks through nine weeks – however many total games that is – Brady has had two of the top six games. Nobody in the league has two games in the top 10 besides Brady.
In fact, Brady’s Total QBR this year is the seventh-best of any quarterback dating back to 2008. Translation: Over the last five years, Brady is having the seventh-best season of any quarterback during that span.
To borrow one of my dad’s favorite sayings, “Hows that grab you?”
I think we can put to bed the Brady having a down year discussion now. Sure, the Pats have faltered at times late in games, but they also put together a late, game-tying drive against the Jets and an overtime game-winning drive in the same game. They can’t be faulted for occasionally blowing out teams either, which has happened this season. At the end of the day, the offense can’t do everything, and it can’t come through on every drive. That’s why the team is 5-3 and not 8-0. That’s why the same team doesn’t win the Super Bowl every year. Players aren’t perfect.
But we want Brady to be perfect because of how good he has been. When he tried to force that ball to Rob Gronkowski down the right sidelines late in the game against the Jets, and Antonio Cromartie dropped the interception, we all said “What’s wrong with Tom?”
I’ll tell you what’s wrong with him. He’s human. It happens. And more often than not, he still plays the quarterback position better than any human alive.