Is Tom Brady No Longer Tom Brady, or Have We Been Measuring All Wrong?

Eric JAnalyst IFebruary 6, 2012

INDIANAPOLIS, IN - FEBRUARY 05:  Quarterback Tom Brady #12 of the New England Patriots speaks to the media after losing to the New York Giants in Super Bowl XLVI at Lucas Oil Stadium on February 5, 2012 in Indianapolis, Indiana. The New York Giants defeated the New England Patriots 21-17.  (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
Jamie Squire/Getty Images

For years, Patriots fans have derided Peyton Manning. All of his dominance during the regular season only served to magnify their criticism of him when the Colts inevitably lost in the postseason—whether his individual numbers were bad or not.

Consider that Tom Brady managed to win three championships without the benefit of a high-powered offense around him. How many more might he have won if he had a Manning-like offense?

Patriots fans didn’t want to hear anything about defense. After all, despite not having a high-powered offense, Brady managed to put together better (although not by much) individual passing numbers in the postseason than Manning. Clearly, Brady was the superior quarterback, and success in the postseason was as simple as that.

However, something strange happened to the Patriots over the years. They started to focus more on offense than defense. They grew very fond of the no-huddle offense, weren’t terribly concerned with running the ball and were fine with fielding a defense that couldn’t be counted on. In other words, the Patriots were putting their prospects of success on the back of their quarterback, and in the process, becoming oddly Colts-like.

Brady’s individual statistics shot up in the regular season, and he now has two league MVP awards to show for it. However, his individual statistics in the postseason declined rather than skyrocketed, and seven seasons have passed since Brady and the Patriots last raised the Lombardi Trophy.

Has Brady become an inferior quarterback in his prime years somehow? Or has the shifting makeup of his team affected his chances at postseason success despite so many brilliant regular seasons? Does postseason success really tell the tale of the quarterback, or does it tell you more about their team? Are Eli Manning and Ben Roethlisberger better quarterbacks right now, or have they played on more complete and balanced teams lately?

If Brady was obviously better than Peyton Manning, then isn’t Eli Manning clearly better than Tom Brady now? After all, Eli Manning has the better (although not by much) individual passing numbers in the postseason, and he has won two championships at Tom Brady’s expense during the Patriots seven-season drought.