1. Tom Brady
Type of Quarterback: Steam Shovel of Efficiency
Career: 2,301 of 3,653, 63.0%, 26,446 yards, 7.2 YPA, 197 TD, 86 INT, 92.9 passer rating
Best year: (2007) 398 of 578, 68.9%, 4,806 yards, 8.3 YPA, 50 TD, 8 INT, 117.2 passer rating
Last year: 7 of 11, 63.5% 76 yards, 0 TD, 0 INT, 83.9 passer rating
The Cold, Hard Football Fact: Tom Brady's 2.3-to-1 ratio of TDs to INTs is the best in pro football history. His regular-season (87-24) and postseason (14-3) records as a starter are each the best among active quarterbacks.
The straight dope: Some bloom has come off the Brady rose over the past couple seasons. His brilliant, record-setting 2007 campaign ended with one of the great offensive clunkers in the history of the game in Super Bowl XLII, and last year his season was over a few minutes after it started. But even if he never takes another snap, his rise from unknown back-up to elite, championship-winning statistical juggernaut has been the singular storyline of the first decade of the 21st century.
He’s won all the hardware imaginable, and his career 92.9 passer rating is fourth all time, and best among any cold-weather quarterback. We can only imagine what his numbers might look like had he the benefit of playing in a stat-ballooning dome or anywhere but arguably the worst-weather arena in the game.
His return from injury, meanwhile, will be the singular storyline of the 2009 season. No player in the game today is a bigger difference maker in the eyes of pro football observers or oddsmakers, or in the irrefutable findings of the Cold, Hard Football Facts.
His 2007 season was arguably the most explosive in the history of the game. But Brady's greatest attributes are his efficiency, his care with the ball and his remarkable consistency. The greatest part of his 50-TD season, for example, was that he threw just 8 INTs, despite slinging the ball all over the field game after game. His rate of 2.3 TDs for every INT is unmatched by any quarterback. And even when he doesn't light the world on fire every game or every week, the duds are fewer and farther between than they are with any other QB in the game today. That consistency at quarterback over the past decade is the single biggest reason why the Patriots have been the most consistent winners in football over the past decade.
The outlook for 2009:
If the Patriots find a way to improve their dreadful pass defense
, the return of Brady makes them obvious favorites to win their fourth Super Bowl of the decade.