Why Tom Brady Is Still NFL's Top QB

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Why Tom Brady Is Still NFL's Top QB
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The NFL and the countless media outlets and writers who cover it love a good story. They love fresh takes and interesting new twists, like the Indianapolis Colts rising from the ashes of a 2-14 season on the shoulders of a promising rookie quarterback, inspired by their head coach's battle with leukemia.

Or redemption stories like an elite veteran quarterback overcoming a potentially career-threatening injury to elevate a new team back into the Super Bowl conversation, like what Peyton Manning has done with the Broncos.

But Tom Brady and the Patriots dominating the NFL yet again? That story is neither fresh nor all that interesting. In fact, most fans outside of Patriot Nation are probably pretty bored with that story and would prefer to hear about anything else, even Tim Tebow and the New York Jets.

However, that doesn't make Brady's performance this season any less impressive.

Tom Brady's accomplishments of the past decade are well documented, but each season is one unto itself, and while it might not be a novel storyline to anyone, let's take a look at what Brady has done in 2012 and why he's again reinforced this year the notion that he's the best of the best.

 

Another Division Title

Brady locked down his 10th AFC East title in 11 seasons last weekend (remember that one he lost on a tiebreaker in 2002?). It's gotten to the point where most of the Patriots themselves barely even celebrate a division title, which speaks to the level of the team's goals and expectations.

If the Jets, Buffalo Bills or Miami Dolphins had won the AFC East this year, there probably would've been a parade. But not the Pats; they have bigger fish to fry.

There's no question Brady has won regardless of the weapons around him, the opponents he's faced or the veteran or inexperienced defense playing with him, and this year has been no different.

His career record (including playoffs) stands at 149-44, and he's the only quarterback in history with over a hundred more wins than losses.

In a league where winning is the bottom line, no one has won more than Brady, and that has continued this season.

 

Offensive Line Turnover and Injuries

Let's consider some of the hurdles that Brady has had to overcome that are unique to this year, starting with something that is vital to any quarterback's success: the offensive line.

In 2012 the Patriots had to replace Matt Light, their left tackle from the last decade who protected Brady's blind side in five Super Bowls. Some teams take years to find a left tackle, but the Patriots just moved in Nate Solder, whom they had smartly taken a year earlier to buffer Light's departure.

Veteran mauler left guard Logan Mankins has missed nearly half the season with various injuries, and 2011 starting right guard Brian Waters did not return, forcing the Patriots to move Dan Connolly from his starting 2011 spot at center to replace him.

At center, perhaps the most vital position on the line, Ryan Wendell became the starter for the first time in his four years with the Pats. Sebastian Vollmer missed most of 2011 but has been a bright spot this year at tackle, yet even he missed the Jets game on Thanksgiving and had his worst outing of the year against the Dolphins.

The Patriots turned over much of their offensive line this year but also have battled injuries there for the entire season; in many cases, New England has been down to its second- or third-string linemen for entire games. Only Wendell and Solder have been the constants.

That adversity would sink many teams, but Brady and the Patriots offense keep on rolling.

 

New Backfield Helps Overcome Depleted Weaponry

The Patriots also turned over their running back corps, handing the reins to the unproven Stevan Ridley, Shane Vereen and Brandon Bolden, along with the only veteran, Danny Woodhead. This proved to be a successful move, as the running game has helped out Brady this year more than in seasons past.

The potent running attack has also helped offset the fact that a number of other weapons on offense have been sidelined or fighting injuries for the entire season.

Rich Schultz/Getty Images
Both Hernandez and Gronkowski have missed significant time.

Aaron Hernandez has played just five games all season after being called the focal point of the Patriots attack coming out of training camp. Rob Gronkowski was still recovering from offseason ankle surgery along with a hip injury that had nagged him since late September before suffering the broken arm that will keep him out at least another couple weeks.

Even Wes Welker, Brady's favorite target, has been fighting an ankle injury since early October (via Sports Illustrated). So far only Brandon Lloyd has been healthy all season long, but it hasn't mattered. Brady continues to light up almost every defense he faces.

Brady has proven once again this season that it doesn't matter who is catching his passes or protecting him; he always moves the ball down the field at an exceptional rate.

 

Defense Only Helping with Takeaways

Early in Brady's career, his margin for error was a little larger due to the dominant veteran defense that was peaking in the early 2000s. In 2008 the Patriots defense began a transformation into one of the youngest defenses in the NFL, and they've had their share of growing pains over the past four seasons.

The Patriots defense has given up more yards than any other team in the NFL in the last three seasons, and their third-down defense has hovered near the bottom, but Brady's dominance has allowed New England to keep pace and keep winning.

Where Brady has developed a symbiotic relationship with the defense is in the turnover department, where no one takes it away more and gives it away less than the Patriots. That has been the biggest saving grace of all.

Still, the days of the Patriots relying on their defense to win games are long gone. Brady has had to carry the defense quite often, and that has again been the case in 2012.

 

Efficient and Dominant

It's understated and not flashy, but what makes Brady such a great quarterback is that he simply takes what the defense gives him. It doesn't matter who is getting the ball or how his stats look; he just makes the right decisions nearly every snap.

Now sometimes that can mean taking a sack or throwing the ball away, but no one knows better than Brady the value of living to fight another down. Rarely does he force a ball into coverage or fail to get the team into the best play possible given what the defense shows pre-snap.

This doesn't win him many style points, but it adds up in the win column. Nowhere is this more evident than in Brady's ridiculous touchdown-to-interception ratio, as noted by Kerry J. Byrne of Sports Illustrated:

He's produced 28 touchdowns (25 passing, 3 rushing) this year with a total of just four turnovers. That 7 to 1 TD-turnover ratio is on pace to be the third best single-season mark in NFL history.

The two seasons better: Brady's 37 total TDs and 5 turnovers in 2010 (7.4 to 1) and Aaron Rodgers' 48 and 6 (8 to 1) in 2011. Both earned MVP honors in those seasons.

Chris Trotman/Getty Images

 

Stats + Wins Over Elite Defenses = MVP 

Brady is in the top 10 of every meaningful metric by which quarterbacks are measured, and his team is standing on the doorstep of a playoff bye for the third year in a row, but there are still doubters out there who think that Brady has benefited from a light schedule, the head coaching of Bill Belichick and even a running game that has helped close out games and disguise a defense that has underperformed.

The next two games will define Brady's season despite the numbers and wins he's already put up. Two games against the teams with the best records in both conferences on national television will make or break Brady's case, especially with so many pundits suffering from Brady burnout and looking for any excuse to give the MVP to someone else.

The Houston Texans and San Francisco 49ers defenses are universally respected in the NFL, and if Brady shreds them both, he will be a lock for the MVP.

 

Brady Still the Best

Many football fans are bored with Brady and the Pats winning ways, and it's understandable given the level of dominance that New England has demonstrated over the past decade, but you cannot take anything away from the 2012 Patriots and what they have accomplished.

Despite an unprecedented level of turnover on his offensive line and injuries to nearly every top target he has, Brady has turned in one of the three most dominant seasons of his career. It will take two more impressive performances for the rest of the NFL world to accept it, but as I see it, there's no better quarterback in the NFL—this year or any year in history.

 

Mike Dussault is a New England Patriots Featured Columnist, the creator/editor-in-chief of PatsPropaganda.com and co-hosts the PatsPropaganda & Frenz podcast with AFC East Lead Writer Erik Frenz. You can follow him on Twitter here.

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