Brady-Lucky

The Curious Luck of Tom Brady

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Tom Brady admits he is a lucky guy to have been blessed to be on a great team with great coaching. He is indisputably a great NFL quarterback, and the most accomplished ever at the position. Now that Super Bowl LI is in the books, you’ll hear most pundits insist that the argument is over, that “Brady is the best ever!” But what exactly do they mean by “best”? The most accomplished, the most talented, all of the above? If by “best” they mean the one quarterback that would be the first player taken if all GMs started from scratch and could choose any quarterback from history, then the argument isn’t over. There will always be a vocal minority who look beyond the numbers and argue that Brady is not the best ever. I made a similar argument after Joe Montana retired, when many of the same pundits used the same logic in their proclamation of Montana as the best ever. So what is missing from their rationale? A hard look at circumstances, and yes, luck.  The Patriots win over Atlanta will only fuel the fire, surrealistically adding to the long list of favorable circumstances that have found their way into magical Tom Brady’s career.

AFC LEAST

Let’s start with the undeniable fact that Brady was blessed with the absolute easiest division he could have ever imagined throughout his career. Because of the cakewalk of the AFC East, Brady was almost assured every year of an easy path the the AFC Championship game. They regularly secured a 1st round bye, followed by a home divisional playoff game in Foxborough. The easy AFC East schedule also didn’t hurt in giving them the best opportunity every season to secure the top seed overall and the right to play at home for the AFC Championship game.

Consider this – during his entire career, he never had to face a quality starting franchise quarterback in his division. Not once! This is not a claim you can make for any quarterback ever the history of the NFL. Don’t believe me? Check out this list, all of them starters at one time:

The New York Jets freak show: Ryan Fitzpatrick, Geno Smith, Bryce Petty, Mark Sanchez, Greg McElroy, Kellen Clemens, Chad Pennington, Quincy Carter, Vinny Testaverde. The jets did have Brett Favre for a year, and in week 10 of 2008 he beat the Pats in Foxbourgh.  But for most of that season the 38-year old codger was horrible.

The Miami Dolphins freak show: Jay Fiedler, Damon Huard, Ray Lucas, Brian Griese, AJ Feeley, Sage Rosenfels, Gus Frerotte, Joey Harrington, Daunte Culpepper, Cleo Lemon, Trent Green, John Beck, Chad Pennington, Chad Henne, Tyler Thigpen, Matt Moore and Ryan Tannehill. Anthon sports also reported on the horror story of QBs since Dan Marino.

The Buffalo Bills freak show: Tyrod Taylor, EJ Manuel, Matt Cassel, Kyle Orton, Thad Lewis, Jeff Tuel, Ryan Fitzpatrick, Trent Edwards, Brian Brohm, J.P. Losman, Kelly Holcomb, and Patriots reject Drew Bledsoe.

Post Season Fortune

Brady-Lucky-Super-Bowl-51Yes, teams and players generally “make” their own luck, but not at this dizzying a pace. Consider this indisputable fact:

THE OUTCOME OF EVERY SINGLE TOM BRADY SUPER BOWL GAME CHANGES ON ANY ONE PLAY GOING THE OTHER WAY!

What if Tom Brady was unlucky in a single critical play in each Super Bowl and went 0-7? Consider the impact on his legacy. It would be a totally unfair legacy, but that’s the point, you have to look past the numbers and the circumstances. Tom Brady could easily be anywhere between 0-7 and 7-0 in Super Bowls. When Brady threw the pick-6 against Atlanta, some instantly claimed this may hurt his legacy as the best ever. Huh? This proved exactly why you can’t just look at a limited number of plays and Super Bowl wins to announce a QB as the best ever. If Brady had lost Super Bowl LI by 30 points, his legacy would have still been intact as the most accomplished post-season quarterback in NFL history. Not the best ever, but still the most accomplished.

So what of every Super Bowl win of Tom Brady coming down to a single game-altering play? His first Super Bowl goes without saying, as this was the year of the Tuck Rule that if called correctly would have knocked the Pats out of the playoffs. They then beat the highly favored Rams in a game most fans know was more likely the result of off-field cheating than superior QB play on the field.

Like the Rams Super Bowl, the next two Super Bowl wins over Carolina and Philadelphia each came down to a late game-winning field goal from the best post-season kicker of all time, Adam Vinatieri. The Eagles game was the most fortuitous of the two. As ESPN’s John Clayton noted, Brady did not have a good game and it boiled down to bad coaching that helped the Pats win, a theme that would continue through Brady’s next two and most recent Super Bowl wins.  Two years ago fans too soon forget that Pete Carroll’s bonehead play call at the end of the game was the obvious deciding factor in the win for the Pats. The plays that went Brady’s way in the historic comeback against Atlanta in Super Bowl LI are simply too numerous to count. Any NFL great could have mounted that comeback if all the breaks fall their way as happened to Brady. Tell me which wide open receiver Peyton Manning misses if he’s in the game? This includes Manning getting free passes (pun intended) on several overthrows and two passes that color commentator Troy Aikman noted should have easily been picked.

Winning Without Brady

Virtually every team that loses their franchise quarterback to injury or retirement suffer significantly. The list is long and wide. Just look at the previously mentioned Dolphins drought without Marino, the Broncos drought without Elway, the Bills drought without Kelly, Manning’s Colts losing 14 games the year he sits, etc. So what happened when Brady was out? For starters, he reached his first Super Bowl not just because of the tuck rule fiasco. Many forget he watched from the sidelines as Drew Bledsoe guided the Pats to a victory in the AFC Championship game over the Steelers. Then came the 2008 season that Brady missed due to injury, where the Patriots hardly missed a beat and still won 11 games with pedestrian Matt Cassell at the helm. In the 2016 season, with Brady suspended the Pats easily handled their first three opponents with backup Jimmy Garoppolo and rookie 3rd stringer Jacoby Brissett. That rookie happened to lead the team to a blowout of the Houston Texans (themselves a defending and eventual AFC division winner).

The Brady and Montana Syndrome

I made a virtually identical argument after Joe Montana retired. The same pundits claimed at that time that Montana was the best quarterback ever. But what was missed then and is missed now is the fortuitous circumstances both found themselves in. Who would argue against Bill Bellichick and Bill Walsh as perhaps the best coaches ever? What odds are there that the best wide receiver to ever play the game (Jerry Rice) was on the same team as the best QB ever? Is anyone seriously going to make the claim that this had no impact, or that Rice was the best ever because he had Montana throwing to him? Check out this top 10 list of highest scoring quarterback-receiver duos of all time. Notice the common element? Jerry Rice is on the list twice, 67 touchdowns with Montana and 92 with Steve Young. Circumstances play a HUGE, ENORMOUS role in the success of an athlete. We really don’t know how many rings Montana would have if he had played for the Chiefs and their perennially substandard receiving corps his entire career. We will never really know how good Archie Manning would have been had he been blessed with a great coach and players around him.

Brady-Montana-LuckySome will argue that Brady did not have the talent that Joe Montana did. This is mostly true, but this then begs the question of why these same people are using the very argument I’m using when they compare Brady to Montana? It looks like the argument is worthwhile only when its convenient to their point of view! Let’s not forget that Brady still had good talent around him, and arguably the best coach in NFL history. He’s generally had good offensive lines, and very stout defenses. How many rings would Marino have if in Brady’s shoes, and not playing for a Miami team that never fielded even an average defense? The Miami defenses were a calamity and a stain on the otherwise brilliant coaching career of Don Shula. Ironically, when Brady had his best talent at wide receiver with Randy Moss and Wes Welker, those three years resulted in no Super Bowl wins.

Is Brady The Greatest Quarterback Ever?

Brady is the most accomplished NFL quarterback ever. He also deserves extra credit for playing so well at 39 (see my Brady birth certificate parody). But its mostly emotion to claim Brady is the best QB of all timeIf Brady had been saddled with the Browns or Lions franchises, he would still probably be a name, if not a Hall of Fame QB, but the greatest ever? Just ask a Brady-ite this question: “If Brady had been drafted by the Cleveland Browns or Detroit Lions and spent his entire career there, would he have had similar success such that he would be considered the best ever?” If they answer yes, then you have a serious Brady homer on your hands, and you should ask them to cut back on the tofu. 🙂 He would instead more realistically have had a career like a Drew Brees or Dan Marino. What if he were on the Broncos team during Elway’s career? I see little chance Brady takes them to the first three Super Bowls, because Denver’s line was notoriously bad and required a mobile QB to survive. In Denver’s two Super Bowl wins, I do see Brady also winning those games, but any top 20 all-time great would win with that team.

I’m not saying the Patriots go to 7 Super Bowls without Tom Brady. No way, he is a major factor and an all-time great. But one play in each of those games separates him from going anywhere from 0-7 to 7-0 in Super Bowls. He’s a great player whose had an absolute boatload of good fortune along the way. Let’s all at least try to agree on one thing – the only one who can really answer if Brady is the best ever is God, and I can’t wait to ask him. 🙂

 

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13 thoughts on “The Curious Luck of Tom Brady

  1. You can refuse declaring Tom Brady being GOAT as long as you want but that conversation is over. Seriously, man, you don’t look rational by being so stubborn. I told you before SB LI that when (not if) Brady wins his 5th ring, that conversation will be absolutely over. Which world are you living in? Just watch TV, Social Media, etc. 99% of people agree that now Brady is the greatest QB ever. Most people even think that he is the greatest football player ever. Now the conversation is whether or not Tom Brady is the greatest athlete ever (better than Michael Jordan). Opinions are split on that. However, Brady is not done yet. If he wins his 6th ring, that conversation also will be over.
    By the way, at the beginning of the 2016 season, you were so confident that “Brady is going to suck.” O yes, he sucked so much that he broke all kinds of records in Super Bowl history.
    You would do for yourself a favor if you stop talking about Patriots/Brady/Belichick. Please stop hurting yourself and find other topics to talk about. 🙂

    • George, you are only proving my point, there will always be those enamored & fooled by numbers without considering all the circumstances. Now you are both claiming “99% of people agree” Brady is the best (not true, just more hyperbole), and now go so far as to suggest Tom Brady may be the best “athlete” ever, yet I’m the one who is irrational? Its obvious you are a die-hard Pats fan, and its understandable to laud Brady as the best QB ever . But now your walk-on-water “delusion” of Brady’s athletic all-time greatness appears to far exceed my “delusion” that he isn’t the greatest QB ever.
      Wrt my claim that Brady would suck this last year, it was a pretty solid argument if you read the blog. The odds were very much for it. If I make the same prediction that Brady will suck at age 82, will you claim my prediction is irrational? If not, why? If you answer your own question you might see my logic. You do realize Brady will someday be too old to play, or don’t you agree with this either?
      And sorry, I’ll still keep talking about Brady like I did Montana in the 90s, because the story is how circumstances greatly overrate an athlete, and my blog on how this happened makes a pretty compelling case that Brady is now the most overrated athlete in the US.

  2. I stumbled across your Brady vs Manning blog and read this: “There is a chance I could change my mind (about Brady being Better than Manning) if Brady continues to play well for several more of his codger years.”

    Well? What is your take?

    I think your arguments show bias. For example, Belichick being one of the greatest if all time. Belichick flourished because of Brady. Case and point: His record in Cleveland, his first season with the Patriots (5-11), and the first few games of Brady’s first year with Bledsoe (losing record). Regarding the 11-5 argument. The team was 16-0 the previous year. That is a five loss difference. If the Patriots were 10-6 in 2007 and went 5-11 in 2008, that would be a five game swing. 16-0 to 11-5 is not something that Belichick should get so much credit for. Also, regarding the “what if Manning/Brady were on the Browns” discussion, you simply don’t know. Looking at your two blogs, you seem to have bias against Brady. I’m a 49ers fan by the way, and hate the Patriots. But when Brady retires, he may have every record in the book (Another aside…you never note Manning’s stats as being higher due to playing in a dome…if Brady played in a dome I would guess you would hold this against him). He will have every record and at least five Super Bowls. If he isn’t the greatest, what exactly would he need to do? I am honestly curious, but my guess is that with a sixth Super Bowl you still wouldn’t give the man his due. Time for some reflection on your part I think. I gave up holding on to Montana, my favorite player, as the greatest ever after seeing this last Super Bowl. I was wrong to hold onto that, because honestly I hate the Patriots. Time for you to own up to that fact too…

    • Hi Dave… Thanks for the thoughtful post. Everyone has a bias, just as you had a bias toward Montana. I used the same argument back then, that circumstance, not raw talent, is why Montana was labeled “the greatest” by many pundits. How would people had reacted had Brady lost even half the SBs? His 1st SB win had little to do with him, and every single SB’s outcome changes on any one single play going the other way. You could say that about two of Montana’s SBs, but not all 4. Are you telling me that the Pats won that game because Brady is the greatest of all time, that Montana, Elway, Marino would not have been able to do the same? Brady is the most accomplished QB of all time, but no way is he the most supreme, talented player at the position, he had a ton of good fortune and circumstance come his way, as even he acknowledges.

      Fred

  3. I agree with Dave 100%. Even though you are one of the “Never Brady” supporters, you should give the man his dues. Define for me the greatest. What else he has to do to prove that he is the greatest QB of all time. Overwhelming majority of former and current NFL players now consider Brady as the GOAT. Sorry Fred but you have no credibility. Your blogs remind me “Fake News” that we see a lot nowadays. 🙂
    For example, I think Troy Aikman who himself is first ballot hall of famer has more credibility than you.
    Just watch this: http://www.cbssports.com/nfl/news/troy-aikman-tom-brady-is-the-greatest-of-all-time/

    • George, two things.

      1) I already defined what I mean by greatest – being the best player ever at the position. By the logic you’ve used, you are defining greatest to be the most accomplished player ever at the position. If that were the proper way to define “greatest”, then I would be a G.O.A.T. right along with you! But you just don’t want to get it through your east coast thick as New England fog skull that I am basing my argument on what I believe “greatest” means. 🙂
      2) What is fake news is your claim that the 99% of former and current players consider him to be the GOAT. There is no doubt in my mind that its the majority, but overwhelming majority, 99%? People love to throw this 99% number around, as if they are building credibility by not just saying 99.9% or 100%. This is similar to the fake news that man and chimp share 99% similarity, that 99% of scientists believe in global warming, etc. I know quite a few on the radio who share my view that Brady is great but not the best ever.

      Brady took the reign from Montana as the M.O.A. in NFL history. That would be “most overrated athlete”. I actually like both Montana and Brady. We share pretty similar worldviews and both are standup guys. I do hope Brady runs against that Pocahantas clown you have up there and I might very well donate to his campaign if he does. But I also know these guys were the beneficiaries of very good circumstances that elevated them beyond the reputation they would have had otherwise, had they been saddled with less favorable circumstances (e.g. drafted by Detroit or Cleveland).

  4. Peyton’s best defenses :

    Colts 2002 :
    7th scoring, 8th in yards, LOST in WC round.

    Colts 2005 :
    2nd scoring,11th in yards, LOST division round.

    Colts 2007 :
    1st scoring, 3rd in yards LOST in division round.

    Colts 2008 :
    8th scoring, 11th in yards, LOST in WC round.

    Broncos 2012 :
    4th scoringt, 2nd in yards, LOST division round.

    Broncos 2014 :
    16th scoring,3rd in yards, LOST in division round.

    Payton “not having a defense”  it’s just a myth, concocted by Peyton’s fanboys to justify his underachieving, when it came to playoffs clutch performances.

  5. Manning’s replacements (Curtis Painter, Dan Orlovsky and Kerry Collins), COULDN’T PLAY FOR SH@#T!
    They all threw for 14 touchdowns and 14 interceptions COMBINED!!!
    .
    As soon as the Colts got Andrew Luck, they went 11-5.
    Coincidence? ?? Pffft..! …..Please…
    All the Colts needed was a serviceable quarterback coming out of college.

    Matt Cassel got a team that had just gone 18 – 1 the year before. He did ok against the bad teams, and lost to the good teams. He still managed to throw 21 touchdowns to 14 interceptions.
    That’s better than Peyton’s replacements

    Not only that, Matt Cassel, then went on to have a better career year with the Chiefs, during his second year led the team to a
    10-6 season with
    27 touchdowns,
     7 interceptions,
    1 playoff game, and
    1 pro bowl.

    I guess the “system” in Kansas was better than Belichick’s, huh?

  6. Manning went a STACKED Broncos team, that had already won a playoff game with freaking TIM TEBOW the year before!

    Also, Manning was SAT DOWN when he couldn’t perform in Kubiak’s system…….and the Broncos went 5-2 WITH OSWEILER!

  7. Question :
    Why is it that every Pats hater blabbers about Vinatieri kicking a winning field goal in their first three Super Bowl wins??

    WHY LIE ABOUT IT??
    Vinatieri kicked IN THE FIRST TWO, NOT vs The Eagles, that’s it!

  8. I had no idea Vinatieri was the one who got the ball in the 4th quarter vs the Rams, with 00:40 seconds left on the clock & no timeouts from his own 20, to then drive down to the Rams 30, to then kick the ball himself, with 00:07 seconds left on the clock.

    Also, I had no idea that Vinatieri repeated the same feat vs the Panthers, with 1:09 left in the 4th, throwing the ball from his own 40, driving down to Carolina’s 23, to then kick the ball himself with 00:09 seconds left on the clock.
    I’m guessing VINATIERI THREW FOR 354 YARDS, WITH 3 TOUCHDOWNS and ONLY 1 INTERCEPTION in that game, right?

    Then WHO MISSED THE 2 EARLIER CHEAP SHOTS FROM 30, TOM BRADY???

  9. Another thing :

    Why fault Brady for winning Super Bowl 49 by 4 points on a defensive play?
    Brady put up 28 points on the board. Did you want him to put up 88 points, instead?

    Let’s be honest, had he put up 88 points on the board, and won by 4 points on a defensive play, you’d still find a way to try to diminish his greatness.

    Don’t forget that Malcolm Butler was the one who allowed Jermaine Kearse to make that fluky lucky circus catch, to keep the Seahawks in the game.
    It’s a good thing that he (Malcolm) redeemed himself at the end.
    It would’ve been a shame, since that night Tom Brady tied, broke and extended 9 Super Bowl records.

    “It’s over Johnny”.

  10. Stop putting down the AFC East. How you ever noticed the “world beaters from the AFC South” Peyton had to face under his dome for so long?

    Give me a break.

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