Create a top-10 list, and you’re asking for trouble.
Create a sports top-10 list with Tom Brady anywhere but at the top and you’re doomed.
Here’s a confession: as a child, I used to be all about charts in music, not necessarily caring which song held the top spot for any undetermined period of time, but more watching which artists were the big movers, which ones tread water, and asking why people liked The Georgia Satellites so much. Yes, I was the kid who owned the “Billboard Book of Top 40 Hits,” and the one who studied the music magazine any time I wandered into B. Dalton Booksellers.
Then I grew up and didn’t really care too much about who was listening to Terence Trent D’Arby.
What is it about lists and rankings that tosses normal-minded sports fans into a tizzy? We tend to immediately discredit or denounce anyone who doesn’t have “our guy” or “our team” at the apex, and seemingly want to cuddle with those same folks when opinion shifts in our direction. We become irrational about opinions, borderline incensed when the creator of said list twists the facts to arrive at the conclusion of his or her agenda.
The sun will still rise, folks. And I’ll have lunch.
The latest case in point comes from Pro Football Focus’ Sam Monson, who decreed on ESPN.com this week that Brady is no longer a top-5 quarterback in the NFL, and based on the reactions of most Patriot fans, you might think they’ve mastered the art of tying a noose.
Monson’s argument is based on Brady’s steadily-declining accuracy and how he reacts to pressure. The Patriots quarterback was accurate on only 57.6 percent of his passes in those situations last season, 28th among NFL counterparts. “The best quarterbacks are accurate on about 70 percent of passes under pressure (completion percentage adjusted for drops less throwaways, spikes, etc.),” Monson wrote. “Manning had an accuracy rating of 69.0 percent in 2013, and at Brady’s peak in 2010 he led the league with an accuracy rating of 70.7 percent on passes under pressure. Since then, however, he has been declining steadily.”
Well, those are facts. Who asked those to get in the way?
The retort, of course, is pointing out who Brady had for receivers last season, which, frankly, is a laughable take on hindsight. Didn’t the disciples of the Church of Bill Belichick tell us what fools we were for assuming Wes Welker was worth the money and that Danny Amendola was clearly a worthy successor? Brady took an injury-riddled, claptrap crew all the way to the AFC title game, an accomplishment seen as otherworldly for some. Oh, but how about Julian Edelman? He had a career year, no?
Brady has always worked well with what was at his disposal, no matter the names. Hell, we’ve had the same argument countless times already in the pre-Welker-Randy Moss era, when Brady had the likes of Troy Brown, wide-eyed wonder Reche Caldwell, and Doug Freaking Gabriel lining up for him. And I hate to burst the bubble of history here, but Brady had one 1,000-yard receiver on his hands in the three years he won the Super Bowl (Brown, 1,199 in 2001). In 2013, at the age of 36, he passed for 4,343 yards, his lowest total since 2010 (3,900). His 60.5 completion percentage was the lowest since 2003, when he only helped win one of the franchise’s three titles.
When Brady didn’t have weapons like Moss and Welker, he was winning championships, and bringing Caldwell and company to the brink of the Super Bowl in the 2006 AFC Championship game. Last year, you only had to replace the names of that crew with Austin Collie, Matthew Mulligan, and Matthew Slater. Same result, and to rectify the problem, much like they did in 2007, the Patriots went out and got … well, nobody for Brady to throw the ball to.
Maybe Rob Gronkowski will stay healthy. Maybe Aaron Dobson and Kenbrell Thompkins take the next step. Maybe Amendola’s boo-boos will miraculously go away. Point is, who does Brady really have in 2014 that he didn’t last year in a class considered an inferior group of wide receivers?
Is Tom Brady still a top-5 quarterback? Who cares? Maybe the question is better worded as “Are there five other quarterbacks you’d rather have?” Aaron Rodgers. Drew Brees. Peyton Manning. Colin Kaepernick. Russell Wilson. Andrew Luck. They’re all in the discussion to some degree, but just how it’s not a slam-dunk how Rodgers or Manning would succeed in the Patriots’ system, yes, the vice versa goes for Brady, as well. Would you rather have a 37-year-old Brady or a 24-year-old Luck? Do you want Brady or Wilson to win you one big game? Would you rather have the resume of Brady or the mobility of Kaepernick?
That’s why definitive rankings are so short-sighted; they depend on which variables you choose to study and create your thesis.
But the knee-jerk reaction to Monson’s analysis was inevitable in these parts, where people talk about Brady’s football mortality as if it were a premise as foolish as human colonies on the sun.
According to Billboard, the No. 1 song in the nation right now is “Fancy’” by something called Iggy Azalea Featuring Charli XCX . I have no $%&*% clue who Iggy Azalea Featuring Charli XCX is, nor so I care.
It should be the same way in the hackneyed landscape of sports discussion when it comes to “ranking the best.” Your opinion isn’t wrong. It may not be right, either.
Just understand that when it comes to ranking quarterbacks, Rodgers is the only one you can logistically put ahead of Brady and expect to get away with it.