Tom Brady is a System Quarterback

The Patriots have an intricate offensive system, probably more so than any other team in the NFL. The organization knows how to gameplan for just about any team or scheme. But there has been a history of positional turnover, at least in the time Tom Brady has been the starting quarterback and centerpiece of the greatest dynasty in NFL history.

Taking a look at the coaching staff since 2000, there have been 3 official offensive coordinators: Charlie Weis, Bill O’Brien, and Josh McDaniels. Brady has made it to at least one super bowl with each (3 with Weis, 1 with O’Brien, and 4 with McDaniels). Weis won all 3, O’Brien lost his only appearance, and McDaniels has won 2 so far. Looking further into the success of each coordinator, each can be broken down by their record in each postseason appearance. Weis was present for four seasons, missing the playoffs once (2002) and winning every postseason game Brady appeared in. O’Brien had three seasons with Brady, losing one Super Bowl (2011) and facing one-and-done playoff appearances with losses to the Ravens and Jets(!). McDaniels, in two stints with the team, had a greater variety of finishes. They lost a divisional round game to the Broncos, a conference championship to the Colts, and a Super Bowl to the Giants in his first stint, missing the playoffs in 2008 when Brady got injured. I will return to this point later. In his second stint, they have not failed to reach the AFC Championship game. They have lost to the Ravens and Broncos (twice), and beaten the Colts, Steelers, and Jaguars. Going back to the final season with O’Brien, Tom Brady has been to 7 consecutive AFC Championships, winning 4 and losing 1 (the extra win was against Baltimore with O’Brien, which finished with Billy Cundiff’s missed field goal).

What’s the point of all of this? The point is that with all of these offensive systems, Brady has had tremendous success, though with O’Brien’s the team was eliminated early a few times. He has been league MVP three times and Super Bowl MVP four times. Regardless of the coordinator Brady has been able to lead the team deep into the playoffs in the majority of his time as a quarterback, reaching the Super Bowl in 50% of his seasons and the AFC Championship in 62.5% of his seasons. He has led the league in passing yardage three times, including at the age of 40, and touchdowns four times. Regardless of the offensive system, one constant factor remains: relying on Tom Brady is enough to get you to the playoffs, more often than not deep into the playoffs.

How do we qualify that success? Brady deserves most of the credit, as he has had a revolving door of wide receivers that range from reliable and dominant (Brown, Edelman, Welker, Gronkowski) to briefly great but short lived (MOSS) to bust (Gaffney, Ochocinco, Lloyd, Thompkins, Stallworth, Caldwell). The mediocre-to-bad receivers tend to outnumber the good-to-great ones, especially with Belichick’s tendency to cut or trade players a year or two before age catches up to them. But Brady has managed to play at peak performance with any assortment of receivers, great or terrible, through injuries and inconsistencies.

How, then, do we explain the team’s record without Brady? Since taking over for Drew Bledsoe in 2001, Brady has missed 20 games (16 in 2008 excluding one series against the Chiefs, 4 in 2016, and about half of a playoff game against the Steelers in 2001/2). In that time, Matt Cassel managed an 11-5 record (missing the playoffs through wild card tiebreakers), Jimmy Garoppolo and Jacoby Brissett went 3-1, and Drew Bledsoe handled one win in the AFC Championship game against Pittsburgh. That’s an impressive 15-6 record without Brady. How does that impact Brady’s legacy?

In regards to 2008, 11-5 is a solid record. But with a very similar roster from the previous season, losing Brady made a difference of five games. FIVE games out of 16 is 31.25% of the whole season. That’s like a difference of 50 games in the MLB or 26 in the NBA. It’s a huge difference.

As to 2016, the Patriots were locked and loaded to get their revenge from the year before and from Deflategate. Martellus Bennett and Chris Long were all in for a chance at a ring, and the offense operated more conservatively with the backup quarterbacks in. Garoppolo looked very good in his 6 quarters, but still made a few decisions that Brady would not have made. And while their victories over the Cardinals, Dolphins, and Texans were very good wins, they were beating up on some teams with clear deficiencies and only beat Arizona because of a missed field goal. They were also shut out at Gillette by a mediocre Bills team. Brady then had a near-MVP season the rest of the way, losing only one en route to the greatest comeback of all time in the Super Bowl.

So the title of this post is somewhat true and somewhat facetious. Brady is the system. He is the only consistent part of the offense from 2001 to now, and he’s playing better than ever at the age of 40. To try to diminish that because the team as a whole has had a lot of talent on both sides of the ball (particularly the defense at the start of his career) and god-tier coaching at times is ridiculous.

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Goodbye Jimmy Garoppolo

Jimmy Garoppolo was traded to the 49ers on Monday evening. I don’t recall a backup quarterback ever having so much intrigue for the Patriots (unless of course you go back to Brady himself, and even with him I don’t remember so much buzz about him in 2000). 

Jimmy was a talented quarterback. His performance in the first game and a half of 2015 were very important in keeping the Patriots at the top of the AFC in Brady’s wrongful absence. Some in the media questioned his toughness when he had a sprained ac joint and missed one game, but I never considered that opinion to be likely. I believed he would be the quarterback of the future for the Patriots, but alas.

It’s unusual to see a dramatic shift in opinion on a player from Bill Belichick. It usually takes a drastic event, like Asante Samuel dropping a super bowl interception, for such a shift. From what I’ve read, and what I’ve seem/heard Bill say, he apparently liked Jimmy a lot. Some have claimed it was Kraft who made the choice, telling Bill that Brady must retire a Patriot (which i have hoped for a long time), and since Brady will likely last a few more years Bill saw the writing on the wall. I do wonder what that means for Bill Belichick coaching the team into the future, if this will impact whether he feels Kraft trusts him or will let him run the team as he sees fit.

Speaking of Brady, it also makes one wonder how Brady felt about Jimmy. Im sure he wanted Jimmy to be a successful player, but it must have been a pain to see the guy many people want to replace you throwing the ball on your field. I’ve heard stories that Brady didn’t like these implications, but it’s obvious that it lit a fire under him that made him perform better (which is honestly hard to believe given his immense talent). This move tells me that Brady will be here for at least a few more seasons.

However things go, Jimmy Garoppolo is almost certainly out of the equation for good. I hope he succeeds in San Francisco and has a long career. Not that he beats the Patriots, but I wouldn’t wish I’ll on him. Thank you for your contributions to the team.

On another note, welcome back Brian Hoyer.

Would You Take A Picture With Roger Goodell?

This has been a topic for the last several days. A bunch of Pats fans got photographed with Roger Goodell in a borderline guerilla attack, and suddenly everyone is up in arms. Dale and Holly with Keefe on WEEI couldn’t stop talking about it. 

So it opened up the quesrion: would you take a photo with Roger if you were asked? Plenty of people had opinions. Here’s mine:

I would do it conditionally. If I were paid, or given some sort of merchandise for it, I’d do it (but I wouldn’t smile). I would do it for the chance to make some sort of face or gesture to show my displeasure for the man who tried to screw the Patriots for two years. I would never do it just to take a photo with a famous person or because I like football, nor do I think people should “get over it”. What Goodell did was wrong, and a blatant middle finger to Pats fans. He now finally has the gall to show up in Foxboro, and I hope they give him the welcome he deserves. 

Jay Cutler Signed With The Dolphins

Here we go.

I think Jay Cutler could be a dangerous quarterback for the Dolphins. He thrived under Adam Gase in Chicago, and given a good team around him he might actually want to compete. But I’m not worried about losing the division title to Miami. The Patriots are too good to let that happen. 

It is interesting that a lot of people thought Colin Kaepernick would be given a shot in Miami, despite his praise of Fidel Castro and Miami’s large Cuban population. To be honest, Cutler is better than Kaepernick as a passer, and the warmth of Miami is a great place to let that skill develop (as opposed to windy and cold Chicago). But it says a lot about how the league reacts to a player’s involvement in polarizing political debates, especially given that Cutler had retired before signing with Miami and Kaepernick hasn’t appeared to get a chance with anyone since leaving San Francisco.

GOAT QB Arguments Suck

It’s a staple of NFL seasons to discuss which quarterback is the greatest of all time, almost always inserting current players into the discussion way too early (I.e. Aaron Rodgers) for the sake of argument. And in almost every case, the list is fairly short: Brady, Manning, Montana, Elway, Unitas (if you want to go back wicked far), Brees, Marino, and now Rodgers are always at the top of the list, unless you ask Tony Dungy. 

The arguments are different for everyone. Statistical nerds favor guys like Manning and Brees and Marino. Brady and Montana are selected for their postseason legend. Elway and Unitas are less common arguments, but typically thrown in by old timers. Rodgers is unique, since he’s relatively new to the scene compared with the above mentioned players, and is usually considered the most “purely talented” and athletic of the bunch. 

But for each one, there are arguments against them. Rodgers is said to he too new, or lacking in the postseason success outside of his 2010 performance. Manning is a classic choker, a nine-time one and done playoff performer. Marino never won the Big Game, Brees throws too many picks and misses the playoffs too much, Elway only won super bowls because of Terrell Davis. Montana was statistically not that great, but knew how to dial it up for yhe postseason. 

The argument with Brady, in my experience, is always related to his coach. He has great numbers, even for today, with often mediocre receivers. He doesn’t have a history of choking or blowing big games. He even won his fifth super bowl and fourth super bowl MVP. But for some reason, he is the only one who has his hall of fame coach held against him.

Yes, Bill Belichick is spectacular. Even without Brady he’s gone 19-19, though he hadn’t made the playoffs in the two Brady-free seasons with New England. (People conveniently forget the 5-11 2000 season, Bledsoe’s last as a starter in NE) But without Brady it’s likely that he wouldn’t ever have won. super bowl with The Patriots. I love Drew Bledsoe, but he had injury issues and didn’t play great in big games: Brady, on the other hand, has had two of the greatest super bowl performances ever, at the ages of 37 and 39. Remember Manning at 39? He sucked.

Belichick has transformed the Patriots into a machine. But he’s not the sole reason for Brady’s success. His offensive roster moves have actually probably hindered New England, especially in the mid 2000s. If Deion Branch was on the team in 2006, Brady would have had 4 super bowl wins in 6 years. 

Beyond that, nobody ever says anything about Montana’s hall of fame coach and star-packed defense and offense. Nobody mentions Don Shula leading Marino, or Manning having a spectacular receiving core and a solid defense, along with a hall of fame coach in Tony Dungy. Nobody else in the discussion has their coach considered when their stats and talents are stacked up. Only Brady is punished for having a good coach, something that every single player in that list had. If people want to hold that against Brady, do it consistently. Hold it against Montana and Manning. Either that or don’t bother using what little ammo you have left to criticize Brady and pretend that he hasn’t warnwd four super bowl MVPs, with the potential for more at the age of 40.