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NFL Notebook: Is Tom Brady "Elite" Anymore?

Reputation is one thing, is reality another?

Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

Earlier this week I put together a speculative post projecting some stat-lines for Seahawk players this upcoming year, so for my second official front-page article, I though maybe I should cover something really safe, like, say, the Quarterback hierarchy of the NFL!

What could go wrong?

Generally there's a sentiment that only four really "elite" quarterbacks are playing in the league today. Those four, in any order, are Peyton Manning, Aaron Rodgers, Tom Brady, and Drew Brees. There are arguments for all of them to be called the best QB in the NFL (really the strongest arguments right now are for Manning, all things considered). However, one of them had quite a bit of a down season last year (you already know who it is because of the title, but I'll keep the "suspense" going anyway) this person had possibly his worst season in his career, still a good season, but not up to the standards that people attribute to him on a more regular basis.

Okay, enough with the false suspense, it's Tom Brady. He's been in the news a surprising amount over the past few weeks, and both sides of the story has been expressed. Well, really it's Sam Monson and Pro Football Focus on one side (sorry, it's insider) and ... everyone ... else ...  on ... the ... other. I like to think that in this debate I'm as close to impartial as possible, and I have to admit, Monson has a point: THIS SEASON ONLY (I cannot stress this enough), Tom Brady was not a top 5 QB.

This past season he did have to deal with new receivers, and injured offensive linemen, but he's dealt with that before. Wes Welker wasn't exactly lighting it up when he played for Miami, but when he got to NE he was instantly a 100 reception receiver with more than 1100 yards and 8 TDs to boot. In that one season Wes Welker more than doubled his entire career numbers to that point as the second option on that team. Tell me that was all Welker.

Then you get to the stats, and this is where Brady really starts to slide. While he was 6th in yards, he was 22nd in yards per attempt, 21st in completion percentage, 24th in touchdown percentage, actually tied with Ryan Fitzpatrick, Matt Flynn (also Andrew Luck and Matt Ryan, but that doesn't support my narrative), and sandwiched between Kyle Orton and Ryan Tannehill. Brady DID do very well in his interception %, which was only 1.8%, which was tied with Drew Brees and lower than both Russell Wilson and Aaron Rodgers. Brady was also only 17th in passer rating, below Andy Dalton and Cam Newton (click here for an amazing explanation of passer rating).

Brady does better with advanced stats, but let's face it, there was a lot of room for improvement after being in the bottom half of almost all of the rate stats. Brady is tied for 9th among quarter backs in Pro Football Reference's Approximate Value with Ben Roethlisberger, Matt Ryan, Tony Romo, Alex Smith, and Matt Stafford, not the best company, but not bad either. All those guys can, I think, be placed in the top half of all QBs in the league (that chart also provides an excellent argument for the first round as the most important part of the draft). Football Outsiders liked him even more, making him 6th and 11th and DYAR and DVOA rating respectively. Then you get to the stats that Sam Monson brings up in his article, Brady was 28th in the league in accuracy % under pressure, his passer rating actually dropped 32 points in those situations, and he was worst, and close to worst, in completion % and passer rating respectively when he had to wait more than 2.6 seconds to throw the ball.

I am actually a Brady fan most of the time, I like him more than I like Peyton Manning. Manning's had amazing weapons for his entire career, and Brady was making scrubs into all-stars at the same time. That said, Brady wasn't in Manning's class this last year. He faced a similar amount of pressure, but was sacked more than twice as much, 30 fewer TDs on around 30 fewer passes, and more interceptions on those 30 fewer passes. and a completion % more than 5 points lower.

Brady, on this season alone, wasn't in the top 5 QBs, you could actually make an argument that he wasn't in the top 10 QBs this past year, though I wouldn't go that far. He could have a bounce back year with Gronk coming back, Amendola likely being healthier, and another year of development for Aaron Dobson and Kenbrell Thompkins.