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Why Tom Brady Is Not the GOAT

Updated on March 3, 2017

Tom Brady is one of the greatest quarterbacks to ever play the game of football and with the results of Super Bowl LI, a lot more people are calling him the GOAT or greatest of all time. Though I believe he is in the pantheon of great quarterbacks, I argue that he may not even be the greatest in his era. A lot of his praise comes from his team's success. Brady is the starting quarterback of the team that has won the most championships in the last 20 seasons with 5 and he has also put up some great numbers while doing so. That is the basis for so many calling him the greatest of all time. There can be a reasonable debate that, in spite of his great postseason performance, he doesn't have the most impressive postseason resume among quarterbacks. Bart Starr was 9-1 in the playoffs with 5 championships and a 5 to 1 touchdown to interception ratio, Joe Montana went undefeated at 4-0 and had no interceptions at the Super Bowl. Terry Bradshaw is also 4-0 in Super Bowls. Championships are not the greatest argument for individual performance in team sports.

The Fault in the Superbowl Argument

Unlike individual sports like tennis or golf, championship rings aren't an accurate way to judge an individuals greatness in team sports, particularly in football. In basketball for instance, a player can have a bigger impact because there are only 10 players on the court and and they can be on the court for over 40 minutes in a 48 minute game playing both sides of the ball. In football, players usually play either offense or defense and a quarterback can maybe be on the field for 30-40 minutes in a 60 minute game. You can't judge a quarterback by Super Bowl wins because there is so much he can't control that plays a part into winning. A solid defense is necessary for a Super Bowl win. The comeback against the Falcons was impressive and unprecedented. Recovering from a 25 point deficit in the 3rd quarter is quite a feat but had the Patriots defense not shut the Falcons down then the comeback in the final 23 minutes wouldn't have happened. An average quarterback can win a Super Bowl if their defense is incredible; see Trent Dilfer. Though it is a more extreme case, no one would argue that Dilfer is better than Dan Marino because he has more rings.

In the 15 seasons that Tom Brady has been a starting quarterback, the Patriots have had 13 top 10 defenses. Some of his contemporaries have had far less help from the other side of the ball; Peyton Manning had 7 in 17 seasons, Drew Brees had 2 in 15 seasons, and Aaron Rodgers had 2 in 9 seasons. In those 15 seasons the Patriots ranked an average of 7.6 in defense twice. They ranked 15th in 2002 where they missed the playoffs and 17th in 2006 where they lost in the divisional round.

Player
Top 10 Defense %
Avg Defense Rank
Tom Brady
86
7.6
Peyton Manning
41
14.5
Drew Brees
13
20.4
Aaron Rodgers
22
14.5

Contemporaries

As I said earlier, you can debate and come up with strong cases to why some of his contemporaries may be greater. For this argument, I'll use Peyton Manning, Drew Brees, and Aaron Rodgers. These 3 quarterbacks have cases that pose strong competition to Brady being claimed the GOAT. Brady ranks behind all three in touchdowns and completion percentage per season and is also last in yards in seasons where they start at least 15 games.

Patriots Performance Without Him

For me, one of strongest arguments is the Patriots performance when he doesn't play over the course of his 17 year career, not counting his rookie year when he wasn't the starter. Tom Brady missed a total of 20 games. In those games, the Patriots are 14-6, this includes games where Brady doesn't play more than the first quarter. The Packers are 3-6-1 in games without Aaron Rodgers. The Colts/Broncos are 5-16 in games without Peyton Manning. The Charger/Saints are 3-5 without Brees. Matt Cassel lead the Patriots to an 11-5 record in 2008 when Brady missed the entire season due to a knee injury. In 2016, while Brady was serving a four game suspension, the Patriots managed to go 3-1 with Jimmy Garapolo and Jacoby Brissett playing quarterback. The Colts went 2-14 when Peyton missed the entire 2011 season. Of that group, the Patriots have by far the highest win percentage.

Per 20 Game Averages

(click column header to sort results)
Players  
Yards  
TDS  
Completion %  
INT  
INT%  
Brady/Backups
5256/4618
39/25
63.8/63.7
13/11
1.8/1.8
Manning/Backup
5429/4943
41/23
65.3/58.3
19/19
2.7/2.4
Brees/ Backups
5700/4525
40/25
66.6/57
19/17
2.5/5.4
Rodgers/Backups
5443/5462
44/34
65.1/62.2
10/28
1.5/4.7
Each player's per 20 game average compared to their backups

Of the 4 quarterbacks, I would say Manning has been the most valuable since he had so much responsibility as a play caller and his teams suffered the largest drop off in his absence. I wouldn't rank him ahead of Brady though because he has performed so poorly against Brady in their head to head matchups. Of all his contemporaries, the guy that has better individual numbers across the board both seasonal and situational is Aaron Rodgers.

Clutch Performance

The following is the performance numbers for Brady and Rodgers in clutch situations.

Last 4 Minutes

Brady Completion %: 57.7 TDs Per INT: 2.4.

Rodgers Completion %: 58.9 TDs Per INT: 2.0.


4th Quarter

Brady Completion %: 61.6 QB Rating, 94.3 TDs Per INT: 2.68.

Rodgers Completion %: 63.41 QB Rating, 102.6 TDs Per INT: 3.08.


4th Down

Brady Completion %: 62.1 QB Rating, 90.6 TDs Per INT: 2.07.

Rodgers Completion %: 63.7 QB Rating, 98.5 TDs Per INT: 2.7.


Red Zone

Brady Completion %: 59.4 QB Rating, 101.3, TDs Per INT: 16.4.

Rodgers Completion %: 59.4 QB Rating, 101.2 TDs Per INT: 22.4.

The only stat Brady has a notable lead in is touchdowns to interceptions with 4 minutes left, the other stats favor Rodgers aside from QB rating in the red zone but that is basically a tie being 101.3 and 101.2 respectively. Not to mention that Aaron has run for more TDs and first downs though he's played 6 fewer seasons. Rodgers has also rushed for more than 2,500 yards and scored 25 rushing touchdowns in his career. Brady has 940 yards and 17 touchdowns. He has had more notable clutch moments because he has played in more big games due to playing on a better all around team but his performance in those situations are inferior to Rodgers on average.

Playoff Performance Compared to Rodgers

One of the arguments for Brady over Rodgers is their performance in the playoffs. Brady has had more opportunities in the postseason having started 34 playoff games as opposed to Rodgers' 16 but that has more to do with his supporting cast as opposed to his individual performance. As I stated earlier, the Packers have had statistically worst defense than the Patriots. In the Packers' 7 playoff losses in the Rodgers era, they have given up an average of 35 points a game and scored an average of 25 points a game. On the other hand, the Patriots during the Brady era have scored an average of 17 points a game in playoff losses while giving up 25. That is a touchdown more scored for Rodgers and 10 points more given up by the Packers defense. In a playoff loss, the Packers have not scored less than 20 points in any of those 7 games. Brady and the Patriots have scored less than 20 points in 7 of their 9 losses. The lack of scoring can't be contributed to their opponents defense ranking either; the Patriots' opponents in playoff losses have had an average defensive ranking of 13 while the Packers' opponents ranked 11th.

Not only have the scoring numbers favored Rodgers in the playoffs but his individual numbers are better as well. In the playoffs, Rodgers averages more yards per game, more touchdowns per game, a higher completion percentage, as well as a higher touchdown-to-interception ratio. With nearly 70% of 16 playoff games coming on the road, the Packers have faced a hostile environment more often than Brady who has played 80% of his 34 games at home.

Playoff Stats

Player
TD% / INT%
QB Rating
Yard Per Game
TDs Per Game
TD/Int Ratio
Completion Percentage
Brady
4.8 / 2.3
89.0
267
1.8
2.02
62.7
Rodgers
6.1 / 1.7
99.4
278
2.25
3.6
63.5
TD/Int Ratio is the amount of touchdowns per interception

At the end of the day, the GOAT arguments can be a futile and there may be no accurate way to judge who is better in team sports. Fans are usually going to go with players that they have an affinity for or base their arguments on something more tangible like Super Bowl wins. But as I said earlier about sports like football, one player has so little of an impact that the argument of Super Bowl rings is a failing and somewhat lazy one. Also, people don't use the argument for positions other than quarterback. Charles Haley has 5 Superbowl rings, more than Lawrence Taylor, Reggie White, Derrick Thomas, Alan Page, and Deacon Jones combined. Though Charles Haley is a hall of famer, most would rank those guys ahead of him in a lis of all-time greats.

The individual numbers favor Rodgers across the board whether it's regular season, postseason, early in the game, or in clutch situations. The only advantages Brady has come from having played 6 more seasons as his career passing totals are higher. Brady has even given Rodgers praise saying, "I think he does things that no one in the league has ever done or can do, just because of his physical ability. Some of the plays he makes are just...they’re just phenomenal. Not just the throws but the scrambles.” Anyone that says Tom Brady is the greatest of all time is can say so as we are all entitled to our own opinions. I might agree with you; he has performed great on an daily basis and in big moments. As with all arguments about the greatest of all time, there is really no certainty. I just wanted to present some arguments that could be made against him.

Is Tom Brady the Greatest Quarterback of All-Time

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      Max 5 weeks ago

      This was exactly what I was thinking super bowl is just one game and, the patriots are one of the best teams of all time. Their amazing defense has carried them. I personally am a seahawk fan and super bowl 49 was a game I dreaded but, it couldn't have been done without the patriots goal line stance by the defense. defense wins championships as they say.

      Peyton Manning is the greatest QB of all time and Jerry Rice is the GOAT.

    • lions44 profile image

      CJ Kelly 4 months ago from Auburn, WA

      Although I disagree with your argument, the hub is incredibly detailed and you made a very well-reasoned argument. Great job.

      To me, Brady is the GOAT. 24 postseason wins. Super Bowls do matter more than probably anything (that's an argument for another day). I put him ahead of Joe Montana because Brady did it with different teams almost every time (except back to back). Montana had the same nucleus for quite a while as it was pre free agency (82 to 85 there were some notable changes).

      Love this debate. Thanks. Sharing everywhere.