For those who question the GOAT, a little perspective from those in the know.Numbers are down, but respect is up for Tom Brady
Fri, 11/15/2013 - 9:00am 3 Email
FOXBORO -- Tom Brady is playing a lot better than you think -- or at least better than most of the numbers show.
Tom Brady has completed just 57 percent of his passes, but he has the Patriots at 7-2 heading into a Monday night game against the Panthers. (AP)
Take it from the best in the game, past and present. Despite some of the statistical struggles, he still commands respect from almost anyone who has spent time under center.
Even the most ardent Brady backer would have to concede that he's missed a ton of throws over the first nine games of the season. He's completing just 57 percent of his passes -- by way of comparison, he's never finished a season with a completion rate lower than 60 percent. He's on pace for double-digit picks for just the third time since 2007. His passer rating of 82.7 through nine games trails luminaries like Jake Locker and Andy Dalton. His streak of games with a touchdown pass was snapped at 52 in a Week 5 loss to the Bengals. He's not in the top 10 in any major passing category. He’s had three games in which he’s thrown for less than 190 yards.
But you talk to guys who have played the position, and they say that Brady is as good as he's ever been. Sharper. More focused. And more able to make something out of nothing that any other quarterback on the planet. That group includes Panthers quarterback Cam Newton, who will be going up against Brady and the Patriots for the first time as a professional on Monday night.
"I have the utmost respect for Tom," Newton said Wednesday. "With me knowing him personally with our relationship with Under Armour and so many other different things, he's great already."
So where's the disconnect? While those on the outside dissect Brady's numbers and see his struggles, those who play and have played the position take a look at what he's had to work with -- and the options he was stripped of this past offseason -- and see someone making the best of an occasionally difficult situation.
Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger has a certain level of empathy for Brady and what he's gone through in 2013, and can speak to just how difficult it is to keep posting wins. A two-time Super Bowl champion, the Pittsburgh quarterback has lost several pieces of his offensive core over the last few seasons. This year, he's feeling the effects -- dating back to the end of the 2012 season, the Steelers are 5-11 in their last 16 games.
"To me, he's the best quarterback in the league, and he's done it for a long time," Roethlisberger said prior to the Patriots-Steelers game earlier this month -- a game in which Brady threw for 432 yards and four touchdowns. "That's no disrespect to some of these other guys that are doing some amazing things in the NFL right now. But to me, it's about wins and championships -- and he's got more championships than anybody.
"For the first how many weeks of the season he was playing with receivers that nobody had ever really heard of, so you've got to give him credit for getting his team to [7-2]," Roethlisberger added. "He's got great vision, he's got big arm strength, a great understanding of offense and defense."
Some of Brady's problems this year can be pinned on the cast of new receivers around him, as well as the fact that the offensive line has had some struggles. More than most offenses, the success of the New England passing attack is predicated on timing. It's cause and effect -- if one aspect of execution is even off in the slightest, it creates difficulties for the rest of the game plan.
"In my opinion, [it’s] by far the most impressive performance in any season that Tom has had," Brett Favre said on the NFL Network earlier this season. "I know the numbers are not Tom Brady-like numbers. But based on the situation, the cast around him, the fact he is more of a player-coach, which is always tough -- you’re teaching in the huddle, at the line, getting guys lined up. It is a testament to how good he really is.”
Said former MVP and current CBS analyst Rich Gannon: "When you take away Wes Welker and Brandon Lloyd, and obviously [Rob] Gronkowski, the [Aaron] Hernandez situation, Danny Woodhead -- who does that to a quarterback like Tom Brady? They have a bunch of young players that are playing and playing well. He’s clearly the commander in chief. He’s the glue that keeps it all together. And that is why the guy is so special."
In truth, when Brady's been the one holding the Lombardi Trophy at the end of the year, he hasn't had particularly overwhelming numbers. In 2003 and 2004, he posted career lows in completion percentage (60.2 and 60.8, respectively). His total passing yards those two seasons were in the bottom half of his career totals. (He had 3,692 passing yards in 2004 and 3,620 in 2003. In contrast, he threw for 5,235 yards in 2011.) In contrast, from 2010 to 2012, he had a nearly 5-1 touchdown-to-interception ratio (108-24), 13,962 passing yards and a completion rate of 65 percent … and no Super Bowl titles.
In that same vein, it's worth mentioning that, of the last 10 starting quarterbacks to win a Super Bowl, only four of them were in the top five in passer rating over the course of the regular season in the year they took home the title. While Drew Brees and Peyton Manning led the league when they captured their only rings, there were others like Joe Flacco (12th at 87.7), Ben Roethlisberger (24th at 80.1 in 2008) and Eli Manning (25th at 73.9 in 2007) who were way down the list.
Ultimately, maybe the other quarterbacks know what we don't -- while passer rating, total yards and touchdowns look good when it comes to measuring stat lines, the only number that really matters at the end of the day is the number of Super Bowl rings.More Patriots