Brady is Great, but not the Greatest
I may be the last man in the world of football who is still not convinced that Tom Brady is the GOAT. I know that this is heresy in New England and could possibly lead to a repeat of Salem Witch trials if I were to utter this sentiment in certain parts of the North East, but I have good reasons to doubt. Tom Brady is certainly great, but he is not the greatest, even after his magical role in the greatest comeback in Super Bowl history. Get out your torches Patriots fans because over the next couple of hundred words I’m going to explain to you why Brady is not the GOAT.
The chief cornerstone of any argument for Brady’s GOAT status hinges upon his team’s ultimate success. It is true that Brady has won more Super Bowls than any other QB in NFL, but there were also 52 other guys on each of those five rosters. Football is the ultimate team sport, which why I find it strange that we heap so much praise on one player for victory. Scott Norwood’s miss at the end of Super Bowl XXV shouldn’t diminish Jim Kelly’s legacy any more than Adam Vinatieri’s makes at the end of Super Bowls’ should enhance Tom Brady’s. Take away Brady’s championships and judge him against the stats of his peers and Brady doesn’t appear to even be the greatest of his generation. Tom Brady has benefited from superior teams and the numbers bear this out.
On average Tom Brady has played with better defenses than his contemporaries. During the Tom Brady era, Super Bowl champions other than the Patriots on average have defenses that ranks 10th in scoring defense. New England defenses have averaged an 8th place finish in scoring defense during Tom Brady’s career. Additionally, the defenses of Tom Brady’s Super Bowl winning teams have finished in the top four in scoring defense. This includes two defenses who finished the season as the league’s top scoring defense and one defense who has finished second. Brady has never led a team to a Super Bowl victory that did not have a top-ten defense and only once has made it to the Super Bowl with a defense that didn’t finish in the top-ten. Meanwhile, Peyton Manning, Drew Brees, Eli Manning (twice), and Joe Flacco have all won Super Bowls with defenses finishing outside the top-ten. Both Mannings and Brees won Super Bowls with defense that finished in the bottom third in the league. Brady meanwhile has never played with a defense that ranked so low.
The argument that Brady has generally played on better teams is augmented by the Patriots success when Brady has been unable to start games when compared to his peers. As Lawrence Wilson notes, the Patriots are 14-6 when Brady doesn’t play. Compare that with Manning’s Colts/Broncos going 5-16 without him, Rodgers’ Packers are 3-6-1 without him, and Brees’ Chargers/Saints going 3-5 with him.
There are few statistical arguments that support Brady as the GOAT. He is 4th in terms of all time passing yards, 4th in all time TDs, 3rd in Passer Rating, and 24th in yds per attempt. He does currently sit at 2nd in Pass Interception percentage at 1.8%. He shares this position with such notable QBs as Colin Kaepernick, and is followed closely by Russell Wilson and Sam Bradford. Avoiding interception is a valuable QB characteristic but it is hardly an argument for being the GOAT and one could argue that due to his superior defense, Brady has had less pressure to win games by himself. During the last 15 years, Brady along with Ben Rothlisberger who has won a Super Bowl while throwing for less than 150 yards in the game.
The final argument I hear most often about why Brady is the GOAT is that he is the most clutch QB in history. The numbers don’t support this argument either. Brady is second in NFL history to Peyton Manning in fourth quarter comebacks trailing his nemesis by about 6 games. Statistically, his 4th quarter and playoff numbers trail those of Aaron Rodgers. Not to mention that he is 1-3 versus Peyton Manning in AFC championship games.
Brady is surely among the top ten QBs in NFL history, but there remains considerable evidence against his case for being the GOAT.