Tom Brady is a fantastic quarterback. Surefire, First Ballot Hall of Famer. He can do no wrong in New England and is mentioned in conversations about the greatest of all-time.
The thing is, he's not the greatest of all-time. He's lucky.
In the interest of full disclosure, it should be known that this isn't a knock on Brady's quarterback talents. Clearly, he can throw the ball with the best of them and has the ability to manage a game like few others. He's an excellent quarterback that has won more games than most and should be considered among the greats.
But why hasn't he won a Super Bowl in seven years now, despite going to two? Why have all three of his victories been decided by a field goal? Why shouldn't Brady be considered the greatest quarterback of all time?
The reason is that—brace yourself—Brady is overrated.
For his career, Brady has 96.4 passer rating, good for fourth overall (behind Aaron Rodgers, Steve Young and Tony Romo). His completion percentage of 63.8% is good for third overall (behind Drew Brees and Peyton Manning).
And since his rise to stardom in 2001, Brady has thrown 300 TDs, 115 INTs and 39,979 yards. Those numbers are good for eighth, first and eighteenth respectively. The stats support that he's a great quarterback, but not the greatest of all time. No G.O.A.T. status here.
"What about the rings?" you're asking while angrily shaking your fist.
True, Brady does have three Super Bowl rings. He's in the same class as Troy Aikman, as the only two quarterbacks with exactly three rings. The big difference is that all three of Brady's were earned by three-point victories.
In the Patriots' victory over the Rams, Brady threw for a scintillating 145 yards and 1 TD, earning the game's MVP in the first year the NFL allowed fans to contribute their say in the vote (Ty Lawson would have most likely won had it not been for the fans).
Brady's second Super Bowl—against the Panthers—was a little more convincing when it comes to stats and MVP-worthy performance. In that game, he threw for 345 yards, 3 TDs and 1 INT. That game also featured 868 yards of total offense (second highest in Super Bowl history), with Jake Delhomme finishing with 323 yards and 3 TDs.
To be fair, Brady made clutch throws on the Patriots' last possession to set up the game-winning field goal. Of course, John Kasay kicking the ball out of bounds didn't hurt his cause.
Brady's third Super Bowl against the Eagles resulted in a line that read 236 yards and 2 TDs. Deion Branch was the MVP of this game with his masterful performance and Donovan McNabb was intercepted three times, giving the Patriots all they needed for the win.
Of those three games, Brady really only deserved the MVP in the game against the Panthers. Even in that game though, he wasn't the best quarterback on the field, posting stats eerily similar to that of Delhomme. That game seemed to be more about porous defenses than stellar offenses.
Brady's last two appearances in the Super Bowl have been anything but rosy. In Brady's first match with Eli Manning, he managed 266 yards and 1 TD in the loss. Eli threw for 255 yards, 2 TDs and 1 INT.
In the rematch, Brady threw for 276 yards, 2 TDs and 1 INT, while Eli had 296 yards and 1 TD. You can't say that Brady was making the more difficult throws, though. Eli was the star here, including the destined-for-highlight reel Mario Manningham catch.
Brady has also benefited from stricter pass interference rules. Ever since the Patriots were physical with the Colts in 2003, the rules were changed to be more passer-friendly. That was on full display this past season with three quarterbacks topping 5,000 yards (and Eli close to topping that number as well).
And then there's Spygate. The issue broke in 2007 (the Patriots undefeated year, by the way), but information seemed to reveal that Coach Belichick had been recording all the way back to 2000. Call this conspiratorial, but it's a little odd that the three Super Bowl wins by the Patriots happened in that window.
Brady has thrown for more than 30 TDs in only three seasons. He's topped the 4,000 yard plateau in only four seasons. The aura of the Patriots have gone a long way to creating this sense of intimidation around the team and they've backed it up with their sterling home record and playoff accomplishments.
Belichick is the Emperor and Brady is the most talented Jedi apprentice.
Belichick and Brady found each other at the right time, though. Honestly, if Brady were under any other coach I wonder whether he would have been as successful as he's been. He was drafted in the sixth round for a reason and wouldn't even be playing if Drew Bledsoe didn't go down with his injury.
Once again, in fairness, Brady is 34 years old. His headier days of better health and youth are behind him. It's wholly possible (and probable) that injuries are just catching up to Brady and he's losing some of the physical skills that made him so great.
Brady's weak bomb to Rob Gronkowski, though, was the type of pass that "lesser" quarterbacks like Romo would have been excoriated for. Decision-making isn't something he should be losing at 34.
Brady can do a lot of things. He can air it out. He can read coverage and make adjustments on the fly. He can manage the no-huddle effortlessly. He's worthy of Hall of Fame consideration and will be in, probably in his first year.
What he's not is the best of all time. And what he can't do is beat Eli Manning when it counts. Tom Terrific is losing that clutchness and that's going to make the shine on his Golden Boy persona have a little less luster.
Of course, in 2012 Brady will not surprise anyone (even me) by shattering every quarterback record imaginable as the Patriots win it all one last time with this group. I mean, they do have Rob Gronkowski, don't they?