One of the most fascinating storylines of the upcoming NFL season will be the success of future Hall of Fame quarterback Tom Brady with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers alongside the Brady-less New England Patriots. Tampa Bay will certainly be looking to use Brady to draw a winning record, as they went 7-9 last season, compared to New England’s 12-4 record.
Many fans and experts argue that Brady is the Greatest of All Time, or GOAT, quarterback given his NFL record of six Super Bowl titles, but others, including myself, argue that Brady’s success is really just the product of New England Head Coach Bill Belichick’s machine.
Before delving too deep into this theory, I want to preface it by saying that GOAT debates, especially in football, where players are on the field for only half of the game, are inherently subjective; it’s hard to objectively prove anything, and the same is true for most sports arguments.
As of today, Brady has never played for any coach other than the renowned Belichick. I would argue Belichek has truly cemented himself as the greatest coach of all time because he has coached several successful teams, and team success is the marker of successful coaching.
During Brady’s time with Belichick, Brady had to sit out at various points because of injury, giving us a window to see how much of New England’s success was really because of Brady. In 2008, Brady tore his ACL, forcing Matt Cassel to start at quarterback in his place for the season. In that season, Cassel and New England went 11-5 and had the fifth-best offense in the NFL. Outside of New England, Cassel has gone 26-40 as a starter and only once surpassed the total quarterback rating he posted in 2008, demonstrating how much New England can inflate a player’s individual success.
Some may point to the fact that Brady went 16-0 with that same team, proving his GOAT status. I’m not trying to argue, however, that Brady is a bad quarterback or anything less than one of the best players we have ever seen play the game of football. Rather, I’m simply stating that the claim that Brady is the undeniable GOAT is false.
Perhaps the best example of a team completely falling apart without their Hall of Fame quarterback is the 2011 Indianapolis Colts. Behind five-time league MVP quarterback Peyton Manning, Indianapolis had made nine straight playoffs. Then, in 2011, Manning sat out the entire season after neck surgery. Unlike New England, however, Indianapolis completely fell apart, finishing with the worst record in the NFL and the third-worst offense in the league despite returning virtually the exact same roster Manning had taken to the playoffs in 2010 and pushed to the 15th-best offense in the NFL.
Even when Brady sat out for New England, the team never saw a dip in success remotely close to Indianapolis’. In 2016, Brady was suspended for four games after “Deflategate” and backup quarterbacks Jimmy Garropolo and Jacoby Brissett took his place. They went a respectable 3-1, including a 27-0 victory over the playoff-bound Houston Texans.
Looking at Brady’s individual statistics, he fails to distinguish himself from the pack in any meaningful way that would make him the definitive GOAT. In terms of passer rating, Brady ranks just fifth, well behind the first-place Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers. Some may argue that Rodgers and the other players ahead of Brady will fall below him as they play further into their careers, but Brady also sits behind players like the retired Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo. Manning has the most MVPs for a single player, not Brady. The greatest passing season in NFL history? Also Manning. Fourth-quarter comebacks? Manning. Adjusted net yards per pass attempt? Rodgers; Brady sits in third place behind, you guessed it, Manning.
A lot of Brady fans like to say he is not flashy like Rodgers but also does not make mistakes. Yet, looking at his touchdown-interception ratio, Brady is yet again just third, while Rodgers sits in first place. Finally, Brady is still significantly behind New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees in career passing yards and touchdowns, and he will likely never catch up. If after looking at all these stats, you are puzzled as to why the GOAT argument is not between Manning and Rodgers, welcome to the club.
Brady fans may point to his postseason stats, but this is a difficult metric to include as making the playoffs and playing additional games requires team success. Looking at playoff averages, however, is a totally fair game. There, Brady sits at a mediocre 15th place in playoff passer rating. Even former New York Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez leads Brady in this category — ouch.
Brady has the chance to prove naysayers like me wrong this season by winning in a different system, and a poor season by New England this year will certainly bolster his case. But barring an unreal season, Brady’s GOAT case is all but secured.
Austin Barish is a rising sophomore in the College. Running the Post appears online every other week.