Category Archives: Patriots

Tom Brady is the GOAT

It seems that most football fans decided several years ago that Bill Belichick was the GOAT (“Greatest of All Time”) when it comes to coaches, yet there are still plenty of fans who have not wanted to call Tom Brady the GOAT among quarterbacks.  To those individuals, I say it is time to give it up.

Seriously, on what grounds can one claim that Tom Brady is not the GOAT?  Let me now rebut any argument in favor of a non-Brady being the GOAT:

  • If you think the GOAT is anyone who played before 1980, you are picking a quarterback who played in an era when a) QBs threw somewhat rarely, b) the running back was the focal point of the offensive backfield, c) teams did much less elaborate scheming than you see now, and thus d) quarterbacks spent much less time perfecting their craft. Sure, Bart Starr, Johnny Unitas, and Terry Bradshaw played when there was a different bar for “greatness” for a quarterback.  It is just that said bar was 75% lower than the current bar.  Nobody in his/her right mind would say that a Night at the Roxbury cell phone is the GOAT of the cell-phone world, simply because that phone was considered amazing in 1998.  The same premise goes for calling an old-time QB the GOAT.  Brady is an iPhone, so please do not tell me you would rather have a Cingular

 

  • It is not John Elway, Troy Aikman, Brett Favre, or Dan Marino. Remember that Tom Brady has a 196-55 regular-season record and a 28-9 playoff record.  He has 488 touchdowns and 160 interceptions in the regular season and 71:31 numbers in the postseason.  Oh, he also has been to a record 8 Super Bowls and won a record 5 of them as a starting QB.  The four guys I have mentioned cannot come near a resume like that.

Image result for dan marino

  • It is not Aaron Rodgers. Yes, when Rodgers is healthy, he is the best quarterback in the league right now.  However, Brett Favre and injuries have kept his career performance down a bit.  Plus, consecutive seasons of legendarily devastating playoff defeats in Seattle and Arizona quite possibly kept him from having three championships, instead of 1.  I cannot say that a guy with one Super Bowl appearance is the GOAT.  Rodgers still has much of his career ahead of him.  Therefore, I cannot count him out in terms of taking over as GOAT.  However, he has a long way to go.

 

  • It is not Peyton Manning. Yes, there were times when we thought that Peyton was better.  However, Brady ultimately surpassed Peyton everywhere that matters.  Manning’s regular-season record of 186-79 falls short of Brady’s.  His 9-10 playoff record falls light years short of Brady’s.  While it is fair to say that Peyton’s playoff record is hurt by having several byes (and thus avoiding easy Wild-Card-Round wins), Brady’s is hurt by the same factor, and his record is doing just fine.  Both Brady and Peyton put up gaudy numbers on some very talented teams, while both dragged a few untalented teams to 10-win seasons.  Yes, Peyton threw for nearly 72,000 yards, while Brady threw for a little more than 66,000, but that is a negligible difference in the grand scheme of their careers.  Plus, Peyton was not good in Super Bowls.  He was average while winning Super Bowl MVP against the Bears (I thought Dominic Rhodes should have won the honor), was decent in the loss to the Saints, put up an epically horrendous performance against the Seahawks, and was dragged to a championship by Von Miller and the Broncos’ defense to finish his career.  Meanwhile, Tom Brady has played well to incredibly well in all eight of his Super Bowls.  In big game after big game, Brady has fought back through adversity.  However in big game after big game, Peyton performed worse as things got worse.  (Save for the 21-3 comeback against the Pats in the 2006 season).  Seriously, when the Broncos were down 8-0 in the first quarter of Super Bowl XLVIII, Peyton already had a look on his face of “I don’t want to be here anymore.”   Having watched Peyton and Brady for their entire careers, I can say that Peyton Manning is incredible.   However, Brady is clearly better.

Image result for peyton manning super bowl seahawks

  • It is not Joe Montana. Montana has the best non-Brady case for being the GOAT, outside of Brady.  However, it is still not Montana.  A 117-47 regular-season record and a 16-7 playoff record are impressive, but Brady’s are better.  Plus, Montana threw for 40,551 yards, which is a far cry from Brady’s numbers.  I know that Montana played in an era when defensive players tried to murder any receiver cutting across the middle of the field, but a 26,000-yard difference is too sizable to attribute solely to that fact.  (Keep in mind that it was not until the second half of Brady’s career that the rules changed as mentioned here to receivers’ and QBs’ benefits.)  Therefore, I do attribute much of the yardage difference to the difference in eras (see the cell-phone analogy).

 

That said, I know the #1 argument that people make in favor of Montana being the GOAT.  These people say, “The guy never lost in the Super Bowl.  Brady has lost three times.”  OK, that argument would have merit if quarterbacks were randomly assigned Super Bowl trips.  However, it does not actually work that way.  Because a QB must earn a trip to the Super Bowl, a Super Bowl loss is a positive for a quarterback’s resume.  Of course, it is nowhere near as big a positive as a Super Bowl win, but it is positive nonetheless.  Furthermore, if Brady were 3-3 in Super Bowls, Montana sympathizers would have a leg on which to stand.  However, Brady is not 3-3.  He is 5-3.  He has won more Super Bowls than Montana, and he has been in twice as many.

 

Also, some people talk about how Montana “dominated” his Super Bowls, while Brady “has not”.  Yes, Montana dominated 3 of his 4 Super Bowls, his first being the only one in which he had pedestrian numbers.  People remember that two of his Super Bowls ended 38-16 and 55-10.  Yes, that is incredibly impressive.  However, Brady put up great numbers in all except his first Super Bowl, in which he led a game-winning drive in the last minute.  It is also worth noting that the Niners allowed 21, 16, 16, and 10 points in Montana’s four Super Bowl wins.  Meanwhile, the Patriots have allowed 17, 29, 21, 17, 21, 24, 28, and 41 points in Brady’s eight Super Bowls.  While I am not going to list all of Brady’s Super Bowl game stats, I can tell you that they are quite impressive (especially Sunday’s 505 yards with zero interceptions!) and rival Montana’s on a per-game basis.  I can also tell you that Brady’s lack of a dominant Super Bowl win is more of a function of the Pats’ and Niners’ defenses than it is of Montana’s and Brady’s play.  That said, Montana does get a point over Brady for having two lopsided Super Bowl wins.  I have to acknowledge that, so that Point #6 does not later turn me into a hypocrite.  (Montana should also lose a point for having a 49-3 playoff loss to the 1986 Giants.  Brady has no playoff losses that were so lopsided.)

Image result for joe montana super bowl

All that said, I feel strongly that 8 total Super Bowls, 5 Super Bowl wins, and 4 late-game Super Bowl-winning drives more than offset Montana’s two blowout wins and 4 total SB wins/appearances.

 

  • Sure, Brady’s career has been helped immensely by Bill Belichick, but that does not keep Brady from being the GOAT. All great players in team sports are functions of their teammates, coaches, and other external factors.  If Drew Bledsoe never got hurt or if Tom Brady were drafted by the Cleveland Browns, Tom Brady might not have become anything special at all.  However, you could say play the “What if?” game with anyone.  What if Bill Walsh were not in San Francisco with Montana?  What if the Colts picked Ryan Leaf and Peyton ended up on the Chargers?  Heck, what would Michael Jordan be if either Phil Jackson, Scottie Pippen, or both had never shown up in Chicago?  We do not know.  Nobody knows.  Therefore, we can judge greatness only by what we do know.

Yes, being the GOAT often requires some luck, but many people get good luck.  To be the GOAT, a player has to make the most out of every single morsel of luck that he receives.  Tom Brady was forced into action on an 0-2 Pats team that was following up a 5-11 season.  Let us not act like he was gifted a Hall-of-Fame career on a platter.  For every Tom Brady, there are countless John Skeltons, Brian Hoyers, Greg McElroys, Tim Rattays, Charlie Whitehursts, Trent Edwardses, and so on who make very little out of their good fortune.

Simply put, Tom Brady was given an opportunity in September of 2001; he grabbed that opportunity; and he has spent 17 years becoming the GOAT of NFL quarterbacks.

Absurdly Ridiculously Incredibly Incredible Pats Stats

The New England Patriots are now playing in their seventh-consecutive AFC Championship Game.  This is a pretty clear indicator that the Brady/Belichick Pats have entered an area of absurd postseason stats.  Let’s examine more deeply.

1) Yes, the Pats are now playing in a record 7th-consecutive conference-championship game (and 12th in 17 seasons).  If you recall, Brady lost his first two playoff games after returning from his 2008 injury.  After he lost a Wild-Card Game to Joe Flacco’s Ravens and a Divisional Game (post-bye) to Mark Sanchez’s Jets, many people started to doubt the Pats’ status as a postseason force.  Since then, the Pats have reeled off seven-straight conference-championship-game berths.  So much for that doubt.  Meanwhile, Mark Sanchez remains the only QB to beat the Brady/Belichick Pats with the Pats coming off a bye.

2) The Pats are 3-3 in these six consecutive conference championships (0-2 in Denver, 1-1 at home against Baltimore, 1-0 at home against Indy, and 1-0 at home against Pittsburgh).  Game 7 happens this Sunday against Jacksonville.  While any cliche hockey announcer might love to say that “anything can happen in a Game 7”, I have trouble believing that these Pats could lose to Blake Bortles’s Jags, with all due respect to Blake’s decent game on Sunday in Pittsburgh.

Image result for jaguars patriots

3) The Brady/Belichick Pats are 26-9 in the postseason.  This is absurdly ridiculously incredibly incredible.  A win this Sunday against the Jags would put the Pats at 27-9, good for a .750 winning percentage.  This percentage would mean that the Pats are playing at the same clip as a 12-4 team….playing at this pace over their entire playoff experience!  Usually, teams get to 12-4 in part by beating up on some cupcakes on the schedule.  In the playoffs, this is not the case.  Playoff teams are almost always good.  This leads me to Stat #4.

4) The Brady/Belichick Pats have played exactly three games in the Wild-Card Round.  While that stat might not be incredible for most teams, it is amazing for a team who has been in the playoffs 15 of the past 17 seasons.  Of course, the Pats have managed to earn 12 byes of those 17 seasons, so I think you can handle the math on that one.  That said, Wild-Card-Round games are usually good chances for good teams to pad their playoff win totals.  After all, the worst playoff teams usually get knocked out in this round.  No shock there.  In fact, Peyton Manning’s playoff record was hurt by the fact that he too rarely got to play in the Wild-Card Round.  One might expect that Brady’s playoff record would be hurt by this too, but somehow he has been just fine.  Meanwhile, only 3 of the Pats’ 26 postseason wins in this era are ones against teams I consider pushover opponents – the 2011* Tebow Broncos, the 2016 Texans, and the 2017 Titans – all wins at Foxboro in the Divisional Round.  

Image result for tebow broncos vs patriots

5) Thus, who have been the Pats’ opponents in their 26 wins?  Here is the definitive list.

4: Indianapolis Colts (twice against Manning, twice against Luck)

3: Pittsburgh Steelers (all in AFC Championship Games, twice in Pittsburgh)

2: Baltimore Ravens

2: Houston Texans

2: Jacksonville Jaguars

2: San Diego Chargers (in 2006/2007, when the Bolts were really really good)

2: Tennessee Titans

1: Denver Broncos

1: Kansas City Chiefs

1: New York Jets

1: Oakland Raiders (“Snow Game”)

1 apiece for the five teams they beat in the Super Bowl: St. Louis Rams, Carolina Panthers, Philadelphia Eagles, Seattle Seahawks, Atlanta Falcons

6) Remember after Flacco’s and the Ravens’ second playoff win at Foxboro (2012 Season’s AFC Championship Game) when everyone started saying that the Pats aren’t that tough in Foxboro?  Yeah, about that….the Brady/Belichick Pats are actually 18-3 at home in the playoffs.  Wow.  If your name is neither “Flacco” nor “Sanchez”, then you are not a QB who has won a playoff game in Foxboro this millennium.  

Image result for mark sanchez beats patriots

7) Thus, the Brady/Belichick Pats began 8-0 in the playoffs at home and are currently on a 7-0 run in the playoffs at home.  Between those two stretches, the Pats had a 3-3 stretch in playoff home games.  Thus, a Pats win against Jacksonville on Sunday would put the Pats on another 8-0 streak and provide symmetry to their home playoff performances.

8) The Brady/Belichick Patriots are 5-2 in Super Bowls.  Most people know that.  Most people also know the delightful fact that the New York Giants are the only team to beat the Brady/Belichick stats in the Super Bowl….and they did it twice.  Let us never forget this glorious fact.

9) Speaking of which, the last time the Patriots won a road** playoff game, most football fans had never even heard of David Tyree….and the iPhone had not yet been released.  The Pats’ last road playoff win came in San Diego in the playoffs of the 2006 season.  In this win, the Pats took down a dominant 14-2 Chargers team.  

10) In fact, the Pats have only 3 road playoff wins in this era – the two AFC-Championship wins in Pittsburgh (2001 and 2004 seasons) and this San Diego game.  Granted, while this number of 3 road wins might seem paltry, keep in mind that these Pats have played only 7 road playoff games among their 29 non-Super-Bowl playoff games (including the game this coming Sunday).  All 4 of the Pats’ road playoff losses fall inside the Venn Diagram of “Losses in Denver” and “Losses against Peyton Manning”.  Two of these losses are in the overlap region (the 2013 and 2015 AFC Championship Games).  One was the loss in the 2006 AFC Championship Game in Indy, when Peyton led an 18-point comeback.  Of course, the other loss came in the 2005 AFC Divisional Round at Jake Plummer’s Broncos.  I should note that, in all 15 of these Pats’ 17 playoff seasons, New England has won the AFC East and thus started the playoffs with a home game (either in the Wild-Card Round or Divisional Round), hence greatly decreasing the number of opportunities for the Pats to have road playoff games.

11) As a result, these Pats have played in as many Super Bowls as road playoff games (7 to 7, with a chance for Super Bowls to increase to 8 on Sunday).  Furthermore, these Pats have two more Super Bowl wins (5) than road playoff wins (3).  Wow.

Image result for patriots super bowl win

12) Lastly, the Brady/Belichick Pats’ records per round are:

2-1 in Wild-Card Round (2005 season: home win over Jacksonville, 2006 season: home win over NY Jets, 2009 season: home loss to Baltimore)

12-2 in Divisional Round

7-4 in AFC Championship (three losses to Peyton, one to Flacco)

5-2 in Super Bowl

Wow.

*When I say “2011 Tebow Broncos”, I mean the Broncos of the 2011 season, although the playoffs took place in 2012.  I use that same method of labeling seasons throughout the post.

**Super Bowls are considered neutral-site games, not road games.