This was first published in "The Tower," CUA's student-run newspaper, on Jan. 21, 2011
Tom Brady and the New England Patriots entered Sunday’s game against the New York Jets with a goal in mind: to shut them up. In the highest-rated divisional round game, with 43.5 million viewers watching on TV and over 60,000 people in the stands, the Pats looked lost. Tom Brady acted like a kid who can’t find his parents in a big store. Tom threw his first interception in 340 pass attempts when he lobbed a pass over BenJarvus Green-Ellis and into the hands of David Harris. Tom “Terrific” went for 29-of-45 with 299 yards.
There is a question to be asked after the game ended: should we still fear Brady in the playoffs? If we shouldn’t fear Brady, is there a quarterback in the NFL that we should fear in the playoffs?
Let’s look at the numbers: Brady is 14-5 in the playoffs, is a three-time Super Bowl champion and a two-time Super Bowl MVP. Bill Parcells, who famously said, “You are what your record says you are,” would look at that mark and be impressed with it. His numbers lie though.
Brady went 10-0 in his first 10 playoff games. He went 3-0 in the Super Bowl during that streak, and during his first four years as a starter, he continued to improve. After the 2004 season, there was no doubt that he was the best quarterback in the league. His first loss came in 2005 against the Denver Broncos, a team he burned for 341 passing yards in defeat.
Ever since the 2005 season, Brady has been 4-4 in the playoffs, along with 0-3 in his last three playoffs games. Known for breaking records in 2007 with his arm, Brady has not been effective when throwing more than 35 passes per game in the playoffs. The Pats have been 1-3 since 2005 when he has thrown more than 35 passes in a game, and 4-4 all time.
Sports journalists and analysts have compared Brady with Joe Montana, one of only two quarterbacks (the other being Terry Bradshaw) with four Super Bowl titles. Montana was known to throw the ball when the time came. He went 6-3 all time in the playoffs when throwing more than 35 passes in a game. While Montana had at one point lost three straight playoff games, not even throwing a touchdown, he bounced back and won two more Super Bowls in 1988 and 1989.
Should we continue to fear Brady? No. We should respect everything that he has done and remember that at any moment he can burn a team (think of the 2003 Super Bowl against the Carolina Panthers: 32-of-48 for 354 yards and three touchdowns).
Could Brady one day win another Super Bowl and tie Montana? Yes he could. Brady, though, is no longer a quarterback to fear in the playoffs. He puts up great regular season marks, but when it matters, he has fallen short as of late.
A better question to ask—is there is a quarterback to fear in the NFL? No. Every great quarterback in the league has a flaw that makes him less feared. Some will point to Ben Roethlisberger, with his 9-2 mark in the playoffs and two Super Bowl rings (2005, 2008), but I fear the Steelers defense more than him.
Peyton Manning has a Super Bowl ring (2006) but he is 9-10 in the playoffs. This is not acceptable for an elite quarterback. Drew Brees has a Super Bowl ring (2009), but he has never won a road game in the playoffs (0-2). Eli Manning has a Super Bowl ring (2007), but he has been a one-and-done guy come playoff time (4-3 all time).
Philip Rivers is 3-4 in the playoffs but has a QB rating of 79.2, which is considerably worse than his regular season QB rating of 97.2. Michael Vick does have an impressive victory in Green Bay (ending the Packers’ undefeated playoff streak at Lambeau Field), but he is only 2-3 all time. Aaron Rodgers (2-1) has not played in enough playoff games to see if he should be feared or not. Mark Sanchez (4-1) and Joe Flacco (4-3) are both proven road warriors, but with only two and three years in the league respectively, it is hard to tell where they will go next.
Only time will tell if we will have another quarterback that we should fear to face in the playoffs, like a Montana in the '80s. I can only say this: The fear that Brady once had in the NFL no longer exists.
Writer's note: Revised February 5, 2012
After Super Bowl 46, We were given another chance for Tom Brady to win the game with his arm, and came up short. Since the publication of this article, The Pats made it into the playoffs again, and went 1-1 when Tom Brady threw for 35 or more passes, bring his total since 2005 to 2-4. Since 2005, the Pats have gone 6-5 in the playoffs. I think that it is safe to say that we no longer have to fear Brady in the playoffs and that people should stop comparing him to Joe Montana.
On the note of Eli Manning being a "one and done" QB, I must admit that I was proven wrong and he became a two-time Super Bowl Champion. While I still believe that the QB to fear in the playoffs is not playing the game right now. I think that if Eli continues to go on the pace that he is on and not fall off like he did after his first Super Bowl win, he can turn some heads, I think when next season starts, people should be talking about him being one of the top five QB's in the NFL. Again, only time will tell if we should fear Eli come playoff time, but I can be made into a believer with another impressive run in the playoffs like he had this year.