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Tom Brady, Better During Non-Champinship Seasons Than When Winning Super Bowls

Ryan MichaelSenior Writer IIIMarch 18, 2009

After having read Eric’s article titled: Tom Brady Versus Tom Brady: All Homerism Aside, I was inspired to take a closer look at the comparison between the Tom Brady who won three Super Bowls and the Tom Brady during seasons where he failed to win a championship.

Fans of Brady often credit his three Super Bowl victories as being the main factor that separates him for others at the position in terms of greatness. Tom Brady had certainly become a proverbial winner, but I was intrigued by the Tom Brady who did not manage to achieve the same level of success.

I’ve gone on record many times by saying that winning championships can be one of the most overrated factors in determining a player’s legacy.

After having compared Tom Brady with Peyton Manning on numerous occasions, the backlash stemming from the passionate loyalty (and often times blind homerism) has lead to the discussions transforming into debates that leads us further from the point trying to be made.

Eric had a novel idea in comparing Tom Brady with Tom Brady because in so doing, it prevents any potential bias and allows fans of both sides to get a closer look at the reality of the situation.

What we do know is this.

Tom Brady won Super Bowls in 2001, 2003, and 2004. He was not as successful in 2002, 2005, 2006, or 2007. On paper, one would have to imagine that the Tom Brady who won those three Super Bowls would have to be better than the Tom Brady who came up short, correct?

Let’s take a closer look and go inside the numbers in an effort to better analyze the career of Tom Brady.

During Brady’s 2001, 2003, and 2004 seasons, he completed 869 of 1,414 passes for 10,155 yards. He threw 69 touchdowns as well as 38 interceptions during that span. His combined quarterback rating for all three championship seasons was 87.9.

During Brady’s 2002, 2005, 2006, and 2007 seasons, he completed 1,424 of 2,225 passes for 16,209 yards. He threw 128 touchdowns as well as 48 interceptions during that span. His combined quarterback rating for all of his non-championship seasons was 95.9.

Seems a little odd doesn’t it?

How is it that the substantially less successful Tom Brady managed to be so much more productive?

Since comparing three-season totals with four-season totals might prove to be a bit difficult, I’ll break down the seasonal averages during both spans to give us a more direct indication of the production produced during both periods of time.


Tom Brady’s seasonal average during 2001, 2003, and 2004:

290 of 471 (61.5 percent) for 3,385 yards, 23 touchdowns and 13 interceptions.

Quarterback Rating: 87.9


Tom Brady’s seasonal average during 2002, 2005, 2006, and 2007:

356 of 556 (64.0 percent) for 4,052 yards, 32 touchdowns and 12 interceptions.

Quarterback Rating: 95.9.


What we can tell by looking at these numbers is that Tom Brady actually averaged 667 more yards, nine more touchdowns and one less interception per-season during his non-championship years when being compared to the years when he did win the Super bowl. His quarterback rating was also an astounding seven points higher!

To put that into perspective, the difference in quarterback rating between Tom Brady during his non-championship seasons and years he won the Super Bowl is the same amount of difference between the career quarterback ratings of Peyton Manning and Jeff Garcia.

It would also be the same amount of difference between the career quarterback ratings of Dan Marino and Elvis Grbac.

Let’s now look at the support Brady was getting from his defense during both periods of time.

Obviously, the more support he gets from his defense, the less pressure he has to play under. Let’s now look at where his defense ranked in terms of points allowed per game in order to get an idea of what kind of support Brady was getting.


2001: sixth

2003: first

2004: second


That is an average ranking of having played with the third best defense overall during Brady’s championship seasons.


2002: 17th

2005: 17th

2006: second

2007: fourth


That is an average ranking of having played with the 10th best defense during the seasons in which Brady did not win a Super Bowl. 

Yet in 2006 when his defense was ranked second, he reached the AFC Championship game and in 2007 when his defense ranked fourth, he reached the Super Bowl.

I will allow the reader to determine if they see a pattern between high defensive ranking and postseason advancement.

I am also aware that many people might want to point out that Tom Brady’s 2007 season might skew the statistics to make his non-championship seasons look much better than his Super Bowl winning seasons because in 2007, he finally got a major upgrade in the receiving core.

I’ll bite.

So why not simply take a look at Tom Brady statistics during his 2002, 2005, and 2006 seasons compared to his Super Bowl winning seasons?


Tom Brady’s seasonal average during 2002, 2005, and 2006:

342 of 549 (62.2 percent) for 3,801yards, 26 touchdowns and 13 interceptions.

Quarterback Rating: 88.5


What we can gather from those statistics is the fact that Tom Brady averaged 416 yards and three more touchdowns per season during the years when he didn’t win the Super Bowl and did not have the benefit of playing with the receiving core established in 2007.

I will allow the readers to determine which seasons Tom Brady as an individual player performed better during.

In the interest of fairness, I will now post his averages during the postseason during both periods of time because I realize that is likely to be an area in which people might argue Brady’s superiority during his championship seasons.


Tom Brady’s average performance in the playoffs per-game during 2001, 2003, and 2004:

21 of 34 (61.7 percent) for 217 yards, 1.2 touchdowns and 0.33 interceptions.

Quarterback Rating: 88.8


Tom Brady’s average performance in the playoffs per-game during 2005, 2006, and 2007:

23 of 36 (63.8 percent) for 250 yards, 1.9 touchdowns and 1.1 interceptions.

Quarterback Rating: 87.1


What we can gather from these numbers is the fact that Tom Brady had a higher completion percentage and threw for more yards and more touchdowns during his non-championship seasons then he did during the years in which he won the Super Bowl.

On the other hand, he also averaged slightly more interceptions per-game and posted a quarterback rating slightly lower.

In my view, the increase in completion percentage, yards, and touchdowns in enough to better the interception frequency but I will allow the readers to determine which period of time Tom Brady performed better during.

My conclusion?

Tom Brady’s best seasons have come during the years when he has failed to win a championship.

As a matter of fact, there has actually been a significant increase in production during those seasons.

Obviously having a higher completion percentage, throwing more touchdowns and less interceptions is giving his team a better chance of winning than when having a lower completion percentage, throwing for less yards, less touchdowns, and more interceptions.

To think that Brady was able to accomplish these things during years when he has substantially less support from his defense is also something worthy of consideration.

My point is that if Tom Brady played better in years that he produced zero rings in comparison to the years when he won three Super Bowls, this helps further establish a belief that I have known for some time.

Teams are what win championships.

Tom Brady won three Super Bowls, despite not playing as well as he did during other seasons because he had better support around him.

Contrary to popular belief, Tom Brady has actually gotten much better over time.

People are quick to point out that he has not won a Super Bowl since 2004 but they also need to recognize that Brady has become a much better player since 2004.

At the same time, there is a great sense of irony in the fact that his best years were not during his Super Bowl seasons.

Regardless of the fact that the team failed to achieve the same level of success, Tom Brady as an individual contributed more to his team’s chances of winning during the seasons that the Patriots failed to win championships then he did when the Patriots did manage to win Super Bowls.

If you were able to replace Brady’s less productive championship seasons with his more productive non-championship seasons, you would have a better overall career for Tom Brady.

It was not the Super Bowl victories that made Brady great, it has been his constant progression over time and his ability to play better with less support.

If Tom Brady had the defensive backing that he had during his non-championship seasons during 2001, 2003, and 2004, the Patriots would likely not have won any of their Super Bowls.

By the same token, if Tom Brady had the defensive backing that he had during his championship seasons in 2002, 2005, 2006, and 2007, he very well might have won multiple Super Bowls during that time.

What people need to understand is that a quarterback’s success can be very dependent upon the support he is surrounded with.

Tom Brady had the ability to help win games that the Patriots may have otherwise lost during those championship seasons.

But what people have to realize is that if Brady didn’t have the level of support that he did in the first place (let’s say he was playing with the Patriots 2002 or 2005 defense) he would have never been put in the position to come through and lead his teams to those impressive victories and win those championships.

I will allow the readers to draw their own conclusions. I do not expect to change anyone’s minds with this article, but I do hope that I given some further insight into Brady’s career and the support he’s had along the way.

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