Monday, October 18, 2010

Taking Down the Tom Brady Hype Machine

If there is a constant in this world, it is that Tom Brady will always provide a reason for people to hate him. Whether it be his hit-and-run baby making with Bridget Moynahan, his current haircut, his affinity for purse shopping with Giselle during his team’s game in 07, or his overall lack of masculinity evidenced by his homoerotic magazine ads, there will always be something fueling that hate. If only the media would take the hint. There is one area in which Brady gets almost exclusively praised, though. Thus, for your reading pleasure, I have decided to finally go for the jugular and take on the myth that Brady is an all-time great QB.

This topic has been floating around in my head for some time now, but watching the Colts play the Chiefs finally pushed me to write it down. Think back to week 1 in 2008 when Bernard Pollard ripped apart Tom Brady’s knee. As Matt Cassel trotted onto the field, did anyone think he would cast huge doubts over Brady’s career accomplishments? You didn’t then, but now you should.

Take a look at Matt Cassel’s 2008 stats:

15 GS – 246.2 YPG – 63.4% Cmp% - 21 TDs – 11INTs – 89.4 QB Rating

A good year, no doubt, especially considering the coaches didn’t take the training wheels off the playbook until his third game.

Now let’s examine Tom Brady’s career stats (averaged out to a 16 game season):

238.8 YPG - 63.5 Cmp% - 28.25 TD (25 taking out the outlier 50 TD season) 12.375 INT 93.8 QB Rating

See any similarities? How is it that a QB who hadn’t started since high school takes the helm of the Patriot offense and puts up numbers similar to Tom Brady’s? The media were quick to praise the Patriots for finding another “hidden gem” at QB, but they failed to do any deeper analysis. Nobody questioned why Cassel hadn’t started a game since high school. Nor did anyone even consider the possibility that the Pats’ offensive scheme might just be good enough to make any QB look good. Everyone (myself included) bought into the idea that Cassel must just be damn good. Nobody batted an eye when there was a bidding war for his services in the offseason and he was eventually traded to Kansas City. The rising star and new face of the Chiefs’ franchise was destined to succeed, right?

Now let’s look at Cassel since leaving NE for KC:

19 GS – 188 YPG -- 54.9% – 16.842 TD per season – 16 INT per season – 70.6 QB rating

I shouldn’t have to point out the obvious here, but Cassel has been horrible since leaving the Patriots. Granted, there was going to be some drop-off due to the loss of Moss and Welker, but it wasn’t as if the Chiefs had no offensive weapons. Dwayne Bowe was coming off an 86 catch/1022 Yds/7 TD season, and Jamaal Charles emerged as a beast in the backfield, finishing second to only Chris Johnson in YPC over the last 8 games. Cassel had more than enough talent to work with, but he was unable to be anything other than mediocre. If Cassel was that bad after leaving the Patriots’ system, Tom Brady should consider himself lucky that he will be there his entire career. One would hate to see the media's talking points shattered by Brady’s proving himself to be nothing more than a glorified system QB.

Even after reading all of that, I guarantee that some of you are still not convinced. Isn’t Brady’s playoff success as indicative of his true value? That’s what the announcers and analysts would have you believe. How many times have you heard that Brady is one of the greatest playoff QBs ever? What no one ever mentions is that the Super Bowl-winning Patriots were never built around Tom Brady. He was tasked merely with managing the game and making sure not to lose it because if he accomplished that, the defense would take care of the rest. Wait a minute, I remember a certain Super Bowl winning QB in 2000 who did the same thing….Hmmm.

During Brady’s three Super Bowl runs, he threw for more than 237 yards only twice (9 games). His other yardage totals were 115, 144, 145, 201, 207, 236, and 237. Those aren’t quite Dilfer-esque, but they are close. Those numbers scream game manager. In order to be considered one of the greatest playoff QBs of all time, you have to be irreplaceable for your team and also have great numbers. The Brady who won the three rings does not deserve to be mentioned in the same breath as Joe Montana, Troy Aikman, and Kurt Warner. As the Patriots’ defense got old, Brady did end up making the transition to a situation where he needed to perform for the team to succeed, but he has yet to win a ring with that responsibility.

My playoff QB tiers (Of this era):
Tier 1: Montana, Aikman, Warner
Tier 2 (in order): Manning, Brady, Roethlisberger

If you only listened to the media, you’d think Brady was in a class by himself among active playoff QBs and that Peyton Manning struggles there. The numbers, not surprisingly, tell a different story.
Both players have played 18 games so the comparison is as good as it gets.

Brady: 62% / 4108 yards / 28 TD / 15 Int / 85.5 rating
Manning: 62.9%/ 5164 yards / 28 TD / 19 Int / 87.6 rating

As you can see, the numbers are very similar except for one striking difference. Manning has thrown for over 1000 more yards than Brady in the same number of games. It becomes pretty obvious which QB was relied upon to carry his team. Since Super Bowl rings are a TEAM accomplishment, I would rank Manning above Brady in the playoffs simply because he has had to do so much more for his team. If you put Manning with Belichick and that defense, he wins at least three rings. Put Brady on the Colts and I guarantee he wouldn't have won a ring. 

Don’t get me wrong; Brady is a very good QB. However, he just doesn’t deserve the hype that he gets.

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