Thursday, April 12, 2012

Tom Brady Just Wins!!! Well, Not Really.

If there is one thing that I could eliminate from the NFL media's talking points, it would be using W-L record as a measure of a QB's individual performance. It has come to the point that I heard Aaron Rodgers being disparaged because he had yet to win a playoff game. Rodgers threw for 423 yards and 4 TDs, but his TEAM lost the game. So yes, he was 0-1 in the playoffs, but using that record to criticize Rodgers' performance is remarkably stupid. Peyton Manning made the playoffs carrying a pitiful Colts team, that had been ravaged by injuries, on his back. Not surprisingly, they lost. If you subscribe to the whole playoff record idea, Peyton would have been a better QB if he had missed the playoffs because that loss wouldn't have gone on his record. Since 2005, Tom Brady is 5-5 in the playoffs, Peyton Manning is 6-5, and Mark Sanchez is 4-1. OBVIOUSLY, Mark Sanchez is much better than the other two.

Tom Brady has specifically been the recipient of this misguided media praise. How many times have you heard that "Tom Brady just wins games" over the past decade? Yet, thanks to the Jets, the Patriots have now lost three straight playoff games. Those three games included a Super Bowl loss after going undefeated in the regular season, a first game loss at home as a #1 seed, and another first round home loss. Gosh, I could have sworn Brady just won games. 

What's even more relevant is that the playoff master has been awful over those three games. In those games, Brady has thrown for 5 TDs, 4 INTs, and an atrocious 5.3 yards per attempt. In fact, even with all of Brady's postseason lore, he still carries an 85.7 career QB rating and averages only 6.46 yards per attempt (YPA) in the playoffs. Wasn't Brady supposed to step up his game in the playoffs? Yet, Peyton Manning, the renowned playoff choker, has a postseason QB rating of 88.4 and averages 7.51 YPA. To put that in perspective, Brady's career YPA drops from 7.4 in the regular season to 6.46 in the playoffs while Manning's YPA goes from 7.6 to 7.51. As you can see, Brady has a major drop-off from the regular season to the postseason, but it's Manning who takes the heat for playoff struggles. No one mentions that Peyton holds the NFL record for most playoff losses with a QB rating over 90 (and also over 80). It's much easier to look at the W-L record and ignore the fact that he has played well in the majority of the losses.


Just last weekend, Peyton Manning was strongly criticized for the last pass he threw in the Jets game. Somehow, driving the team down the field and setting up a lead changing field goal with less than a minute left just wasn't good enough for many media members. They decided to claim that Peyton blew the game by not completing his last pass. Bill Simmons called it a sloppy pass to a wide open receiver sparking Nate at 18to88.com to post this article and this picture (Remember the 4th and 13 pass to Branch Sunday night?). Both thoroughly debunked the crazy claims. Manning's performance in the Jets game looks much better after watching Brady be thoroughly frustrated by that same defense. The truth of the matter is, Peyton was extremely good against the Jets. It just goes to show that the national media can't be bothered with facts.


It's no coincidence that the Patriots' playoff ineffectiveness directly coincided with a major shift in philosophy. For whatever reason, the Patriots made the transition from defensive force to high-powered offense. Brady's role also made a dramatic shift. One of the best game managers in NFL history was suddenly responsible for putting the team on his back and carrying them to victory. Since that shift, Brady has experienced firsthand what Peyton Manning has experienced his whole career. You need a solid defense to win Super Bowls, and an incredible offense without a solid defense won't get it done. 

Now that Brady's winning reputation and playoff expertise seem to have taken a solid hit, let's take a look at the media's claim that he is one of the best QBs to ever play the game. It was remarkably refreshing to hear Brian Kenny take a stand while filling in as the host of The Herd on ESPN radio. Kenny made a persuasive argument that Tom Brady was vastly overrated ("Vastly" may be a little extreme), while also attacking the idea that QBs should get credit for wins and losses. Needless to say, I enjoyed every minute of it. 

When evaluating Brady, Kenny used a method that he uses for MLB Hall of Fame voting. According to Kenny, the best way to determine a player's career dominance is using the number of times they finished at the top of the league in the important statistics. This method rewards consistent greatness while recognizing that career stats may be skewed by a couple of amazing years (Tom Brady anyone?). Naturally, I was intrigued so I decided to delve further into the statistics.

Here's a table listing the number of years finishing in the top five in the major statistics


Peyton Manning
Tom Brady
QB Rating
8 Years
3 Years
Yards
11 Years
3 Years
Yards Per Attempt
8 Years
2 Years
Interception %
3 Years
3 Years
Completion %
11 Years
4 Years
Touchdowns
13 Years
5 Years
Sack %*
11 Years
1 Year
Net Yards Per Attempt
7 Years
3 Years
*Some will argue that sack numbers are a product of the offensive line, but that is not necessarily true. Peyton Manning has consistently finished at the top of the league in sack percentage even though his offensive live has been mediocre at best over the past 4 years. Brady, on the other hand, has one of the best offensive lines in football, but he has only finished in the top five in sack percentage once in his career.

Notice anything specific? Brady only comes close to Peyton in one category, interception percentage. He gets blown out of the water in all of the other statistics. Does Brady have the consistent greatness to qualify him as one of the best QBs ever? It sure doesn't seem that way. The fact of the matter is that Brady has had two amazing seasons that have skewed his overall stats. Were those seasons dominant? Absolutely. However, it should be noted that Brady has been consistently outside the top five at his position in most important stats. Unfortunately, it looks like Brady's placement among the best QBs to ever play the game comes from his team's success more than his own. 

While QB rating is far from a perfect statistic, this chart shows just how much different Brady's 2007 and 2010 were from the rest of his career. 


QB Rating
Peyton Manning
Tom Brady
1998

71.2

1999

90.7

2000

94.7

2001

84.1
86.5
2002

88.8
85.7
2003

99.0
85.9
2004

121.1
92.6
2005

104.1
92.3
2006

101.0
87.9
2007

98.0
117.2
2008

95.0

2009

99.9
96.2
2010

91.9
111.0

Now, this article wouldn't be complete without a direct comparison of Brady vs. Manning.

The first chart was based on top five finishes in the NFL, but this next one is focused solely on Brady vs. Manning based on years finishing higher in the standings for each statistic. In order to make it fair, I began with 2001 (Brady's first year). 



Peyton Manning
Tom Brady
Adjusted Yards Per Attempt
7 Years
2 Years
Yard Per Attempt
7 Years
2 Years
Touchdowns
6 Years
3 Years
Completion %
7 Years
2 Years
Interceptions
4 Years
5 Years
Yards
7 Years
2 Years
Seasons with 4000 Yards Passing
11 Years
3 Years

Once again, Peyton Manning has a significant advantage. This chart doesn't take into account Peyton's 1999 and 2000 seasons, both of which would have placed above most of Brady's seasons. Even taking those out, it's obvious who has been the better QB over their careers. 

To sum this all up, Peyton Manning has been much better overall, been much more consistent, been better overall in the playoffs, and has less of a drop-off from the regular season to the postseason. Brady supporters are left with one argument, W-L record. However, even that argument is (or at least should be) eroding away. 

In the end, it'd be foolish to expect the use of logic and statistics to have much impact on the Jason Whitlocks of the world, but we can hope.

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