Tom Brady might be the most criticized elite quarterback of our generation.
He can't put up the stats that Peyton Manning does.
He can't succeed without a championship caliber defense.
He is a product of Spygate.
He is a product of the system.
He just succeeds because of a weak division.
Regardless of what Tom Brady does, there are doubts upon doubts about whether he belongs on the list of all time greats. What Tom Brady has been able to do in 2010, however, is remove all doubt about whether or not he is one of the greatest quarterbacks of all time.
If you look at Tom Brady's statistical production in 2010 alone, you already have an impressive resume:
299/449 completions/attempts (66.6 completion percentage), 3,561 passing yards, 7.9 yards per attempt, 31 touchdowns, 4 interceptions, 109.9 rating.
With those numbers and a 12-2 record for the Patriots, the casual fan is probably saying: "Well, Tom Brady hasn't had to face adversity like Peyton Manning has, so of course he can put up great numbers."
That is a completely false claim. Let's look at the players that the Patriots have not had on offense this year:
Laurence Maroney- running back, traded
Kevin Faulk- third down running back, injured reserve
Fred Taylor- running back, missed nine games due to injury
Randy Moss- number one receiver, traded
Torry Holt- receiver, injured reserve
Logan Mankins- starting offensive guard, missed seven games while holding out
Stephen Neal- starting offensive guard, played eight games, now on injured reserve
Nick Kaczur- starting offensive tackle, injured reserve
That's not a small list of players. Losing three starting offensive lineman, three running backs who all had played significant time in previous years, and your number one receiver is quite the obstacle to overcome.
The Patriots' receivers also drop 7.6 percent of Brady's passes, which is the highest in the NFL.
When a team loses that many starters on offense, there is no way that the quarterback should be able to dominate opposing defenses, but Brady hasn't missed a beat all year.
Does anybody remember when we were saying how Brady couldn't throw touchdown passes without Randy Moss there to go vertical? Here are Brady's statistics since the Randy Moss trade:
214/327 completions/attempts (65.4 completion percentage), 2,650 passing yards, 8.1 yards per attempt, 22 touchdowns, 2 interceptions, 110.3 quarterback rating.
But then Tom Brady must benefit from a Bill Belichick coached defense, right?
The Patriots are 28th in the NFL in total defense, 31st in passing defense, 22nd in points allowed per drive, and 16th in total points allowed.
In addition, the lack of solid defense by the Patriots has allowed other teams to play ball control more and more often. As a result, the Patriots' offense is dead last in the NFL in number of offensive drives (the fewer drives your team has, the fewer opportunities you have to score points).
With fewer drives to score, a lack of weapons, and an injury riddled offensive line, the Patriots should have a hard time scoring points.
Tell that to their opponents, who are allowing the Patriots to score a ridiculous 31.9 points per game and 2.91 points per drive—21 percent higher than the second place team in points per drive.
The Patriots are 12-2, tied for the best record in the NFL, with a porous defense, the fewest offensive drives in the NFL, and injuries all over their offense.
They haven't been winning against a weak schedule either. Look at some of the teams that the Patriots have beaten:
Pittsburgh Steelers: 11-4
Baltimore Ravens: 10-4
New York Jets: 10-4
Chicago Bears: 10-4
Indianapolis Colts: 8-6
Green Bay Packers: 8-6
San Diego Chargers: 8-6
Miami Dolphins: 7-7
Eight of the Patriots' twelve wins have come against teams that are .500 or better. They aren't lucking out against a weak schedule. They are beating teams that other people are talking about as potential Super Bowl teams.
Although Spygate is bound to come up, it has become a moot point now. Let's assume for argument's sake that Spygate was the reason that Brady was so successful early in his career. Then don't you think that Goodell is going to have extra eyes watching the Patriots to make sure that they don't attempt to use it again?
Tom Brady's quarterback rating since the Patriots got caught for Spygate is a 107.7 and he has had his three best statistical seasons of his career. He is also on pace to be the first quarterback in NFL history to have two of the ten highest single season passer ratings in NFL history (2007 and 2010).
Now, I'm not saying that one season makes Brady one of the greatest ever. What 2010 does show us, is that Brady can win games and post great numbers while facing adversity. The resume was already there for Tom Brady, but the doubts seem to remain.
Tom Brady has run an offense that has seen five opening day starters and several key role players either get injured, traded or hold out.
He has run an offense that has had the fewest offensive drives in the NFL.
He has had to deal with a young defense that is 28th in the NFL in total defense.
He has had to face several teams that are Super Bowl contenders.
Even with all of the adversity, Tom Brady has been one of the most efficient quarterbacks in the NFL and has led his team to the best record in football.
The all time greats succeed when there is no way that they should be able to, and that is just what Tom Brady is doing in 2010.