Tom Brady is a very good quarterback. He is also the most successful quarterback of the Super Bowl era (hello Otto Graham). But that doesn’t mean he is the greatest quarterback of all time. Even if he gets a bunch of statistical records, he won’t be the greatest QB of all time.
How can I possibly say that?
Lots of reasons.
To begin, the Patriots success is first and foremost the responsibility of Bill Belichick. Bill grew up immersed in football and dedicated his life to the game since he was like four months old. The guy has an amazing approach that is based on adaptation. If a coach can pull that off, the results can be amazing. Most coaches can’t pull it off and if they do, the results are nowhere near as successful as Bill’s.
To illustrate how this is a Bill show and not a Tom show, just look at the Patriots record when Brady is out: 14-6. That’s a pretty record for a coach to have without the GOAT – it almost makes it seem like Belichick is the reason for the success and not Brady.
(Update: A lot of upset Patriots fans pointed out that the Belichick’s team was also 5-13 in the games when Brady was on the team, but not yet the starter. In the paragraph above, I tried to be clear that it was games “when Brady was out – including the game he left in the first quarter when it was 0-0 – you know, he because he was out. However, in the 13 losses that came before he was the starter, 11 of them were by 1 score. This was a team on the rise (and regularly drafting very high) before Brady took over. It was also the 2nd year of Belichick’s tenure, the year when a coach’s new systems are fully picked up by the players. In 2001 – more info below – Brady steered the ship with 18 TDs and 12 interceptions, quarterbacking the team to the playoffs, where they won a game in OT with the Tuck Rule, then had Drew Bledsoe win a game against Pittsburgh, then won the Super Bowl with a last second field goal. This was a team that went from losing close games to winning close games, not a young QB with a rating of 86.5 turning a dumpster fire into world beaters all by himself.)
Belichick is also a great talent evaluator and shrewd roster builder – since he also has the GM role, it’s a certainty that the GM is getting the type of players the coach wants. Many have tried this dual role, very few have seen any level of success, and now hardly anyone even tries it anymore, but Bill thrives. He has an amazing approach and gets the most out of his players.
To see how much Belichick gets out of him players, let’s look at two of a QB’s best friends: Defense and Blocking.
Tommy Boy flat out gets a huge assist from his defense. There is no denying it. Here are the defense rankings in terms of points per game for the Patriots each year Brady won the Super Bowl:
It’s hard to claim you are carrying your team when you have the benefit of a top 8 defense every year and, half the time, a top 2 defense.
He has offensive help, too. He has a great offensive line, which makes it a lot easier for a QB to look good. In 2018, a Super Bowl season, he was only sacked 21 times, compared to 49 for Aaron Rodgers, who is well known for his ability to evade the rush. In 2016, also a Super Bowl season, was sacked 15 times, despite being 39 years old with a repaired ACL and hopelessly immobile (he rushed for 63 yards that season and has a career average per carry of 1.8). In the Super Bowl season before that (2014), he was only sacked 21 times (and he rushed for 57 yards that season, so it’s not like he was Captain Mobility then, either).
Bonus Points: A Little Extra Help From Cheating
On top of being really good at his job, Bill Belichick cheats. He cheats so much he gets caught and the franchise gets penalized and they don’t care because they are just going to keep cheating. Hard to fault them for trading draft picks for an unconquerable edge, though. Brady cheats, too, spare me your denials and conspiracy theories – not only are the denials pale in comparison to the evidence, there’s way too many of them to even pick through here. If you think Brady and the Patriots never cheated, you didn’t read this far, anyways.
So let’s start there and say that Tom Brady has an amazing coach, is on great teams, and enjoys the added benefits of illegal advantages.
What else could he possibly have going for him?
The AFC East
Let’s also take into account that Brady is lucky enough to play in the AFC East during an era of utter futility, unmatched by any other division in the league, that basically gives the Patriots 6 wins to start every year, which is a huge advantage for getting byes and home field advantage – devastating advantages for other teams to overcome. It’s like going .500 gives you an 11-5 record.
In case you didn’t know, the AFC East is weak as all get out. In the 5 years prior to the Dolphins making a wild card bid last year, the AFC East only had two teams besides the Patriots even notch a winning record. That’s ridiculous.
Once you get a a head start like that, it gets much easier to stumble into a Super Bowl.
Just look at 2016. The Patriots had a bye (because the AFC East is so weak), then played a wild card team (Texans) that limped into the playoffs with their 5th string QB and missing the best defensive player in the game. The only reason that team even made it to the second round was because they played the Raiders, who had just lost their QB. With basically a free pass to the AFCCG, the Patriots got to face a Steelers team that had to battle through the wild card, getting beat up along the way, and then actually had the flu for their game (ya got that, the whole team got the flu). Oh, and Le’veon Bell got a groin injury which sidelined him for the game.
Free pass to the Super Bowl by playing in a worthless division then stepping over corpses through the playoffs.
Spare me your “Brady carried them” nonsense.
Look at this NFC in the same year: the Falcons, defending conference champions (who absolutely blasted the Pats in the Super Bowl for 3 quarters) barely squeaked into the 6 seed at 10-6. That record would have won half the divisions in the AFC. Also: 5 of the first 6 picks in the 2018 draft originally belonged to AFC teams, showing the sorry state of the conference the Patriots represent.
The Patriots first playoff game this year (after a bye from playing in the AFC East, of course) is hosting a QB who had never been to the playoffs before and had 7 TDs and 12 Ints on the road. Must be nice.
In their most recent Super Bowl run, they had another bye from their awful competition and only made it to the Super Bowl… wait, let’s dive deeper into that below.
Yeah, But Rings Though!
This is the part of the article where Bostonians and general idiots start pointing to rings, as though they are a QB achievement and not a team effort. They may even say things like “Just because he has a great coach, an amazing defense, excellent blocking, gets the benefits of cheating, and gets to play in an easy division that practically rolls a carpet up to the Super Bowl for him doesn’t mean he’s not the best! Look at all his rings, skeezah!”
Let’s look at all the rings.
Let’s do that – let’s do just that.
Let’s dive deep and look at each ring that Brady got and see just how great he was.
2001: Patriots 20, Rams 17
First let’s look at how the Patriots even got to the Super Bowl. In the divisional playoff, Charles Woodson forced a Tom Brady fumble, which the Raiders recovered in a position to kneel out the clock and advance. Then the Tuck Rule, which has since been changed because of its stupidity, gave the Patriots possession back to kick a game-tying field goal that would send the game to overtime where they eventually won. They needed that just to get to the AFCCG.
In the AFCCG against the Steelers, Troy Brown had an illegal touching penalty when he fielded a punt. On the re-kick, he returned it for a touchdown – the kind of flukey play that has put Tom Brady ahead of others through no fault of his own. Brady actually got hurt after passing for 115 yards and 0 TDs and Drew Beldsoe was the one who led the team to victory and a Super Bowl berth. Brady didn’t even QB the game! Oh, by the way – the Steelers were quarterbacked by Kordell Stewart – Kordell Freaking Stewart! – who had 0 TDs and 3 Ints. This is just the first example of how the Patriots have had very easy roads to their Super Bowl victories.
In the Super Bowl, The Greatest Show on Turf Rams came into this game favored by 14 points since they put up 74 points in their two playoff games and had been lighting it up all year. The Rams were held to 17 points as league MVP Kurt Warner was forced into 3 turnovers. Ty Law ran one of the interceptions back 47 yards for a touchdown. It would later be revealed that the Patriots had been recording walk-throughs since prior to the Super Bowl and essentially knew the other team’s plays. Tom Brady threw for 145 yards and 1 touchdown. Not a dominating performance, rather a defense that knew what their opponents would run and forced 6 QB turnovers in 2 games and scored a touchdown in the Super Bowl. They knew the plays the other team was running and still only won by a field goal.
2003: Patriots 32, Panthers 29
This year, the Patriots again had a first round bye (lucky to play in the AFC East) and faced the Titans, who had just gotten beat up by the Ravens the week prior. The Patriots managed to take the lead against the sixth-seeded wild card team with a late field goal. The Titans got down into field goal range, but an intentional grounding call followed by a holding call ensured that the refs would send the Patriots to the next round (Brady passed for 201 yards and 1 TD – not a dominant performance) .
The Patriots beat the Colts in the AFCCG by kicking 5 field goals and intercepting Peyton Manning 4 times. Way to got, Tom!
In the Super Bowl, the game was tied with just over a minute left. The Panthers kicked the ball out of bounds, giving New England the ball at the 40 – possibly the worst kickoff in Super Bowl history. Then the Patriots managed to parlay that great gift of field position into a game-winning field goal by Vinatieri. Note that this happened when the Patriots were still illegally recording opponent’s practices.
2004: Patriots 24, Eagles 21
The Patriots got the bye again, thanks to playing the AFC East. In the divisional round, they played a dome team in a blizzard. The Pats defense held the Colts to 3 points and Tom Brady threw 1 touchdown. Tom Brady passed for 144 yards and Corey Dillon rushed for 144 yards (funny how that works). Kevin Faulk rushed for 56 – Dillon and Faulk combined for 5.9 yards per carry. Great team win, but not a dominant Brady performance.
In the AFCCG, they faced a rookie QB in Ben Roethlisberger. Ben’s first pass was intercepted. On the next drive, the Steelers fumbled. In all, the Steelers turned the ball over 4 times, leading to 24 points for the Patriots, including an 87 yard interception return for a touchdown by Rodney Harrison. Brady threw for 207 yards on 21 pass attempts. I have a hard time crediting him for being the greatest ever.
Then came the Super Bowl, where perennial choker (and puker) Donovan McNabb lead the Eagles, who had the 24th rated rushing offense in the league and a passing offense who’s best player – Terrell Owens – was just seven weeks removed from breaking his ankle and tearing a ligament, resulting in surgery that required a plate and screws – the surgeon did not clear him to play in the Super Bowl, but he played anyway, nowhere near 100%.
On the first drive, the Eagles marched inside the 10 and then McNabb threw his first interception in the end zone. Later in the quarter, with no score, the Eagles got into field goal range and fumbled. In the end, the Eagles turned the ball over 4 times. Brady finished with 236 yards and 2 touchdowns – a stat line not much better than Brett Hundley’s 212-1 against the Bears this year.
A 4th quarter field goal was the difference once again, but the Patriots won their third Super Bowl in 4 years. A great team feat (even if they were cheating), but not dominance by Tom Brady in any way, shape, or form.
2014: Patriots 28, Seahawks 24
The Patriots got a bye again, thanks to another pathetic showing from the rest of the AFC East.
In the division round, the Ravens had a 7 point lead, but the Patriots tied it up with a big 51 yard bomb for a touchdown! The longest pass play of the day, that’s big time… but it wasn’t Tom Brady. No, in this case, the big momentum-shifting pass was a gimmick play thrown by wide receiver Julian Edelman.
Then the Patriots were down by 3 when they got the ball back in the 4th. Tom Brady, ready to make history, gets things moving with a swing pass to Shane Vereen. Vereen fumbled and the Ravens recovered to lock up victory – no Patriots Super Bowl this year… oh wait. Reply review. Nevermind, Patriots get the ball back. Brady leads his team to a go-ahead touchdown in the 4th quarter against the 6 seed – what a GOAT move! The Ravens got the ball back, marched into field goal range, then threw an interception. The Patriots defense comes up big again. Yay, Tom.
In the AFCCG, the Patriots had a dominant performance against the Colts and Brady actually threw 3 touchdowns (from 16, 5, and 1 yard out – wowsa, that’s amazing) – of course it didn’t hurt to have LeGarrett Blount rush for 148 yards and 3 scores. Even when Brady has a good game, he’s outshined by his running back.
It’s amazing that the Patriots were able to dominate a quality opponent like this, we usually don’t see blowouts in championship games. This must mean Brady is the real deal… or they just cheated. The Deflategate scandal led to a 4 game Brady suspension as well as the loss of 1st and 4th round draft picks. In typical Belichick style, they just keep cheating because losing a draft pick is a small price to pay for a Super Bowl. Take it if you want, but it’s just another reason why Brady is not the GOAT.
If you look at the story and the things that happened and believe that there was no foul play, you can stop reading now because you are clearly a Pats fan with a Brady jersey and a goat emoji on your handle who believes your golden boy could do no wrong. However, congrats for making it this far.
In the Super Bowl, they faced the Seahawks, who beat the Packers in the NFCCG in the most improbable meltdown in NFL history. That meant that the Patriots wouldn’t have to face the Packers – who had already beaten them that season – and instead would face a team that would kindly hand them their rings gift-wrapped with a red, white, and blue bow on top.
In the 4th quarter, down two scores, the Patriots defense forced 3 and outs on the Seahawks first two drives. Without this, the clock would have simply ran out on Brady, but instead, his defense stepped up (again). On the third and final Seahawks possession of the 4th quarter, the defense didn’t get a 3 and out. The Seahawks marched down the field and on 2nd and goal from the 1, decided not to give the ball to Marshawn Lynch.
Now, in this game, Lynch had 24 carries for 102 yards – almost twice as many rushing yards as the Patriots as a team. On those 24 carries, he was tackled for a loss on exactly zero of those carries. That stat, given his career of success as a short yardage back, makes it a virtual certainty that if he had a few cracks at it, he was going to get in. But Pete Carroll, that tactical genius that Packer fans place on a pedestal far higher than Mike McCarthy, elected to pass from the 1 yard line needing a touchdown to win.
Guess what happened?
It was intercepted.
By Tom Brady
Wait, no, it wasn’t Brady. Brady was sitting on the sidelines hoping and praying that his defense would save they day for him again… and they did. Good job, Patriots D, great team win. But, once again, it’s hard to give Brady the clutch GOAT credit he receives all the time in situations like this. Especially since he cheated to get there in the first place.
2016: Patriots 34, Falcons 28 (OT)
In this season, Tom Brady was suspended (you know, because of all the cheating he does – PS: cheating is not GOAT), but the Patriots still started 3-0 (kinda like when he missed a whole season and they went 11-5), underscoring how much Tom Brady is not the man keeping this machine running.
As mentioned above, this was the easiest possible road to the Super Bowl. After “earning” another first round by by playing in the AFC East, they faced two teams decimated by injury (remember when we talked about that above) and basically walked into the Super Bowl.
The Patriots were falling behind, but just before the half, Brady threw an 82-yard touchdown pass. The only problem was that it was to the Falcons and it gave them a 21 point lead.
In the second half the Patriots came back, aided in large part by amazing plays from his receivers, tough play by the Patriots defense (including a strip sack at the Atlanta 25), two very un-GOAT-like passes that should have been easily intercepted but were dropped, and the worst Super Ball playcalling since Pete Carrol handed Brady his last ring. The Falcons refused to run the clock out in the 4th quarter (despite Devonta Freeman averaging 7 yard per carry) and instead, when they got down to the Patriots 22, up by 8, they inexplicably tried to keep passing instead of handing the ball off a couple times and winning. They took a sack, got a holding call, and ended up out of field goal range so the Patriots could come back and force overtime – where they won… on a James White touchdown run… after back to back Brady incompletions.
Belichick called a fantastic game to wear down a Falcons defense built on speed by running 93 plays (more than double what the Falcons ran). Brady took advantage of it to throw for a lot of yards, but he threw 2 TDs to the Patriots and 1 to the Falcons. James White is the guy who looked like a GOAT this game, carrying the team with 139 yards (mostly in clutch situations) and 3 TDs, setting the record for most points scored in a Super Bowl with 20. The defense also pitched in 5 sacks, one of them knocked the Falcons out of range for a game-ending field goal and another ended with a fumble that handed Brady the ball right on the edge of the red zone for a short touchdown drive.
With defensive play and run support like that, coupled with a great game plan, it’s hard to call the guy who threw a big pick six and couldn’t get his team a score for the first 29 minutes and 28 seconds of the game the hero. Don’t forget this was a year where Tom’s running back led the NFL in touchdowns and his defense allowed the fewest points in the NFL. Story of his career.
2018: Patriots 13, Rams 3
The Patriots got another bye because their division was so terrible (no other team even managed to get to 8-8). Then in the division round, the Patriots defense totally put down the clamps, holding the Chargers to 19 yards rushing for the whole game. They only gave up one score until there were 16 minutes left in the game and the score was 38-7 (what’s interesting here is that the Patriots put in their bench and gave up garbage points, leading to a 41-28 game, which Patriots fans like to use as an argument in the foolish “Tom Brady can win when his defense gives up 28 or more points” dicussion).
In the AFCCG, Tom Brady threw a game-losing interception on an absolutely horrendous decision and throw… only to get bailed out by a defensive penalty that had no bearing on the play so his defense – which held the Chiefs (the highest-scoring offense in the league) to 28 yards in the first half – could force overtime and let the Patriots make it to the Super Bowl again.
In the Super Bowl, Brady threw for 262 yards, 0 TDs, and 1 interception (and he fumbled once) as his defense – behind yet another brilliant game plan by Bill Belichick – held the second highest-scoring offense in the league to 3 total points for the entire game.
Way to go, Tommy!
Other Super Bowls
Oh, but those weren’t all of his Super Bowls. He lost a couple Super Bowls, too – his offense scored 14 points and 17 points against the Giants. He got outplayed by Eli Manning. Twice. Eli. Manning.
Oh and here’s a couple random Super Bowl stats (since that’s where Tom gets his reputation):
As of 2017, there have been 12 players to throw a pass over 28 yards in the Super Bowl since 2004 (one of them was Antwaan Randle El, who played Wide Receiver), but Tom Brady, despite playing in 5 of them, did not.
He’s won 4 Super Bowl MVPs, but the opposing QB had a higher rating in 3 of those games.
So he has a phenomenal coach, an elite defense, great blocking, cheats in multiple different ways (that we know about), gets the benefit of playing the AFC to get an easy playoff path, gets the benefit of historically flukey things like the Tuck Rule, and gets the benefit of epically buffoonish play calls like the Wilson interception and Atlanta refusing to run out the clock.
He is so not the GOAT.
So is this just a Packer fan complaining with sour grapes?
As much as I don’t like it, I admit it’s interesting to see a team have this kind of success in an era of parity. The point is that just because one guy has rings in what is the ultimate team sport is a ridiculous argument for the title of Greatest Of All Time. And rings are pretty much the only thing Brady has to lay claim to such a title.
Defining the greatest is not about rings or stats, it’s about watching a player play and seeing who can do more. Brady is good, but there is nothing that he does that, say, Joe Montana couldn’t do or even Drew Brees. Terry Bradshaw was amazing in a different era – who know what kind of numbers he would be putting up in today’s QB-friendly rules environment today – better than Roethlisberger to be sure.
Football is a great sport and debates like this are what makes it interesting. Stats rarely tell the whole story, you have to watch the games, watch the guys play, and take all things into consideration.
When you do that, it becomes stunningly obvious that Tom Brady is not the GOAT – he is actually tragically overrated.