Posted by Chase Stuart on October 11, 2007
Over the last five years, I don't think anyone's knocked Tom Brady more than me. In fact, sometimes I felt as if I was the only one to say or write something critical about the GQ model from Michigan. I heard over and over again that he was a winner, that he made his teammates better, that he was the best QB in the league -- and I was having none of it.
Basically, my argument rested on his mediocre numbers. Brady ranked 13th last season in rearview adjusted yards per attempt, my number one statistic to rank QB performance. Adjusted yards per attempt is the best measure of how a passer played (rearview simply adjusts for strength of schedule), and Brady has never ranked higher than 8th in a single season in that metric! Here's how Brady's best seasons have ranked since the merger, after adjusting for the number of attempts:
Year Rank 2005 85th best of all time 2004 182nd best of all time 2003 231st best of all time 2001 480th best of all time
Here's what I wrote last year, in my rant:
Not a very inspiring list, is it? You may notice that I left out Brady’s 2002 season. That’s because he averaged 5.68 adjusted yards per pass that year, which was below the league average. So in his one “record-breaking” season [when he led the NFL in touchdown passes], Brady finished below the league average for QBs in the single most important statistic.
I had a hard time understanding why everyone loved Tom Brady, considering he had exactly zero of the top 80 QB seasons of all time, and one of the top 175 seasons. Surely, it was all based on his post-season play -- but all his career averages are worse in the playoffs than in the regular season. And 2001 continues to stick in my craw, because no QB has ever done so little to win a Super Bowl -- he led his team to zero points in the AFC Championship Game, and did little more in the other two games.
But sadly, I'll stop here. Because while I had lots of good arguments before (at least, in my opinion) for why Brady was overrated, they're all moot points now. The only way I could have been more wrong about Brady was if I called him a girl (which, come to think of it, I'm pretty sure I did off-line).
128.7 QB Rating. 16 TDs in 5 games. 9.20 adjusted yards per pass. 74.1% completion percentage.
Brady's in the middle of one of the greatest seasons of all time. He just might end up having the greatest season of all time. Right now the league is averaging 5.98 AY/A, which means Brady has added 508 yards over the league average this season. The highest yards over league average mark is from Manning in '04, with 1,581 (a record Brady is on pace to break).
What else is there to say? I was wrong -- give him some weapons, and the guy is unstoppable. I often find myself cringing when reading Bill Simmons, but he hit the nail on the head with his analysis of the 2007 Patriots -- the ceiling has been removed. At this point, nothing -- nothing -- would surprise me. If you told me that Brady threw for 6 TDs against the Cowboys on Sunday, I'd probably say "yeah, he's awesome." Any other QB (except for Manning) and I'd be floored. If you said Joe QB had a perfect QB rating in a game, I'd say "wow". If I hear that Brady did it, I'd say something like "well yeah, it was bound to happen eventually."
It goes past Brady, of course. People don't realize how good this Patriots team is. Unlike a lot of sports writers, I have heard of the laws of probability, and always dismiss silly talk about going 16-0. With this Patriots team, you simply can't do that. When I see the Patriots winning 20-0 at halftime, I don't even get upset anymore. I just know that this is what the Patriots do, and there's no sense in getting worked up. Yes, I'll root as hard as I can against them for the 2.5 quarters that the Colts give them a game in the AFC Championship game, but that's really about it.
And no, I'm not even going to indulge in any notion that the Pats won't be hosting the AFC Championship Game on January 20th, 2008. No, the Chargers/Raiders/Titans/Jaguars/Bengals/Ravens aren't going into Foxboro and beating the Patriots. The Colts? Maybe they'll give New England a bit of a game, but that's it. The Super Bowl? Please. There's not a team in the NFC that can stay within single digits of the Patriots in the Super Bowl, and we'll get a preview of that this weekend.
As for the Colts, where do they have an edge? The Patriots have the better coach, and will have home field. The Patriots passing attack vs. the Colts pass D? Advantage New England. Patriots running game against that thing Indianapolis calls a run D? Sammy Morris, who couldn't make the roster of the 0-5 Dolphins, is averaging 4.9 yards per carry for the Pats. When New England has Maroney, Morris and Faulk going, look out. The Colts running game against the Patriots run defense? Addai rushed for fewer than three yards per carry against New England last year, and no one will be able to run on this front seven. The Pats run D has looked great so far this year without Seymour or Rodney Harrison (he returned last week), so imagine what they'll look like soon. Seymour/Wilfork/Warren, with Green as a reserve, form the best DL in the league. Reports indicate that Seymour is in terrific shape, and will be playing at his typical Pro Bowl level very soon. Bruschi/Vrabel/Seau/Thomas/Colvin? As good as any linebackers in the league, including Chicago and Pittsburgh.
Maybe, maybe, the Colts have an edge in the passing game vs. the Patriots pass defense. Manning's still incredible, and the Colts have the most talented weapons in the NFL. But the Colts aren't going to win a shootout in Foxboro in January, and I doubt they'll win one at the RCA Dome in November. So yes, the ceiling has been removed for Brady and the 2007 Patriots. I'd put the odds of them winning the Super Bowl at over 50% right now, which is incredible. Everyone understands that the Pats are the best team in the league, but few seem to realize just how good this team is. I can't look down on others right now though: until this year, I was way wrong for not realizing how good Tom Brady is.