His performance for the season ranks up there with the best of the best.
And even his own 2007 season.
In fact, I’m going to compare Tom Brady’s incredible 2010 season with his record breaking campaign of 2007 to determine which was better.
And remember that these rankings are just based off the regular season. Nothing the Patriots did in the 2007 or 2010 postseason is relevant. (And as a side note, it’s amazing to think about the disappointing finish to both seasons.)
Below I listed six categories, in order of importance, to determine which Brady was better.
6) Running Game.
2007: Despite a record setting offense that scored an unbelievable 589 points, the Patriots had a solid, but not spectacular, running game.
Laurence Maroney rushed 185 times for 735 yards and six touchdowns, a 4.5 yards per carry average. 30-year old Sammy Morris carried 85 times for 384 yards and three touchdowns, also 4.5 yards per rush. Kevin Faulk carried 62 times for 265 yards (4.3 YPC), Heath Evans carried 34 times for 121 yards (3.6 YPC) and two touchdowns, and Kyle Eckel ran 33 times for 90 yards and two scores (2.7 YPC).
As a team, the Patriots rushed 451 times for 1849 yards (4.1 YPC) and 17 touchdowns. They ranked in the top half of teams in carries (9th), yards (13th), average (14th), and touchdowns (5th).
2010: The Patriots used two undrafted running backs throughout the season, BenJarvus Green-Ellis and Danny Woodhead. Green-Ellis rushed 229 times for 1008 yards (4.4 YPC) and 13 touchdowns. Woodhead ran 97 times for 547 yards and five touchdowns (5.6 YPC).
As a team, the Patriots ran 454 times for 1973 yards (4.3 YPC) and 19 touchdowns. They ranked tenth in carries, ninth in yards, tenth in average, and second in touchdowns. Despite all the talk about their undrafted running backs, the Patriots definitely had one of the better running games in the league.
Advantage: 2007 Tom Brady (meaning he received lesser help)
Nine opponents scored 14 or fewer points. For the season, the Patriots allowed fewer than 300 total yards nine times, with a high of 391 against the Philadelphia Eagles. They ranked fourth in the league in yardage allowed.
2010: The Patriots allowed 313 points, which ranks as the eighth best total in the league. Their defense stepped up big against consecutive playoff teams in early December, holding the Jets to 3 (in the Monday Night Football rematch) and the Bears to just 7.
Their defense received lots of criticism for allowing so many yards, the eighth most in the league, but points is the key statistic and the Patriots thrived at keeping the opponents out of the end zone. In the last five games of the season, the Patriots allowed single-digit points four times and forced 18 turnovers. For the season, they led the NFL with 25 interceptions.
Advantage: 2010 Tom Brady (because the defense was worse)
2007: Tom Brady had Randy Moss, who became the NFL’s best receiver in 2007. Moss caught 98 passes for 1493 yards and an NFL-record 23 touchdowns. Moss became arguably the greatest deep threat in the history of the National Football League, regularly catching passes in double and triple teams. The presence of Moss helped slot receiver Wes Welker turn in an incredible breakout season. Welker caught 112 passes for 1175 yards and eight touchdowns. Welker probably fit his role in the Patriots’ offense better than any one player has ever fit his role on a team’s offense. He went from a good receiver with Miami to a legitimate weapon in 2007.
Donte Stallworth was a pretty good deep threat as the third receiver, and even their fourth receiver, Jabar Gaffney, had his moments, like the game-winning touchdown against Baltimore. Tight end Ben Watson, who was probably one of the fastest tight ends in NFL history, was a mismatch for even the fastest linebackers.
Imagine having to worry about the best deep threat in the history of the game. And one of the best slot receivers ever, another deep threat, and a solid fourth receiver. Oh, and just about the fastest tight end you’ll ever find.
2010: Tom Brady had the services of Randy Moss for four games, during which Moss caught nine passes for 139 yards and three touchdowns. He turned Deion Branch into a legitimate weapon during their 11 games together, connecting 48 times for 706 yards and five touchdowns. He hit Wes Welker for 86 passes, despite Welker playing at 75 percent all season. He connected with two 21-year old rookie tight ends (Aaron Hernandez and Rob Gronkowski) for 87 receptions, 1109 yards, and 16 touchdowns. He used running back Danny Woodhead as a receiving threat out of the backfield (379 yards, 1 touchdown) and he utilized speedy receiver Brandon Tate as a deep threat (432 yards, 18.0 yards per catch).
I can’t believe how well Deion Branch thrived upon his return to New England. The Patriots plugged him in as their number one receiver and he made Pats fans forget about the loss of Moss. How Tom Brady was able to succeed without Randy Moss is just incredible. Not only did Brady succeed, but he embarked on arguably the greatest 12-game stretch any quarterback has ever had. Ever.
Advantage: 2010 Tom Brady
3) Competition/Clutch Factor.
2007: It didn’t matter who Brady played. He threw for 23 touchdowns and three interceptions in seven games against playoff teams. In an October battle against the eventual top-seeded Dallas Cowboys, Brady completed 31 of 46 passes for 388 yards and five touchdowns. He threw for 399 yards and four touchdowns in a 34-13 win against the 9-3 Pittsburgh Steelers. The Patriots beat six playoff teams during the regular season, obviously without a loss.
He led fourth quarter comebacks against the Indianapolis Colts, Philadelphia Eagles, Baltimore Ravens, and New York Giants. The comeback against the Ravens included an eight-yard touchdown pass to Jabar Gaffney with just 50 seconds left in the game.
2010: The Patriots put up 39 in a win against the Pittsburgh Steelers and their number one ranked defense. They humiliated the Jets, 45-3, on Monday Night Football. They coasted to a 26-point win against the eventual NFC North champion Chicago Bears. They won six of seven games against teams that qualified for the postseason.
Three times Brady led the Patriots to a game-winning drive or comeback in the fourth quarter or overtime.
Advantage: 2007 Tom Brady
2007: The 2007 New England Patriots were absolutely perfect. They became the first team in the history of the NFL to win all 16 regular season games. Brady led the charge on a scoring attack that topped 50 points twice, 40 points four times, and 30 points 12 times. The Patriots averaged 41.4 points per game in the first half of the season. In the second half, they ‘cooled’ off, averaging 32.3 points per game. They finished the season with 589 points scored, shattering the single-season NFL record. Most importantly, they did not lose. Not once.
2010: The 2010 Patriots became the fourth team in the Bill Belichick era to win at least 14 games during the regular season. They were the opposite of the ’07 Patriots, peaking down the stretch instead of the beginning of the season. They won their final eight games, scoring more than 30 points in every game. They finished the season with 518 points, one of the highest single-season totals in NFL history.
Advantage: 2007 Tom Brady
1) Overall Numbers.
2007: Tom Brady completed 398 of 578 passes for 4806 yards. He threw 50 touchdown passes. He tossed just eight interceptions and posted a passer rating of 117.2. Brady set single-season NFL records with 50 touchdown passes and a 6.25 to 1 touchdown to interception ratio.. His 117.2 passer rating stands as the second best mark in history. His 4806 passing yards were the third highest total in NFL history. His 9.42 adjusted yards per pass attempt was the fifth best total in history.
The 2007 Most Valuable Player threw three or more touchdown passes in each of the season’s first 10 games. He posted a triple-digit passer rating 11 times. He threw 20 touchdown passes in the month of October. He became one of just four quarterbacks to average a touchdown pass per 100 yards passing.
2010: Tom Brady completed 324 of 492 passes for 3900 yards. He threw 36 touchdowns. He tossed just four interceptions and posted a passer rating of 111.0. His 9 to 1 touchdown to interception ratio absolutely shattered his previous NFL record. His 0.8 interception percentage is the greatest in history (250 passes minimum) and he concluded the season without throwing an interception in his last 335 passes, another NFL record.
If Brady’s season was rated solely on his ability to produce touchdowns without turning the football over, his season would likely go down as the greatest in history, As it is, Brady will almost certainly lock up his second Most Valuable Player award. He may become the first player to win the award unanimously.
Advantage: 2007 Tom Brady
Both seasons by Tom Brady are among the greatest in the history of the NFL.
In 2007, Tom Brady set one of the most famous single-season records in the history of professional sports, by throwing 50 touchdowns. He had more yards and a better passer rating than 2010.
And he helped Randy Moss produce the single greatest season by a wide receiver in NFL history, with 23 touchdowns in 16 games.
He also led the Patriots to the greatest offensive production in league history: 589 points scored and victories in all 16 of their regular season games.
But when compared to Brady in 2010, there should almost be an asterisk or two next to Brady’s 2007 season.
The 2010 Tom Brady did not have Randy Moss for the final 75 percent of the season. He couldn’t just throw a deep ball every time he was pressured, like the regular season finale against the Giants, when the second of back-to-back deep bombs in the fourth quarter resulted in Brady’s 50th touchdown, and Moss’s 23rd, as well as a perfect season for the Patriots.
In 2010, Tom Brady posted a 111.0 passer rating Deion Branch as his top receiver. No offense to Branch, but he is not a great receiver. He never caught 1000 yards in a season and didn’t do much with the Seattle Seahawks. Did Branch just become so much better when he rejoined the Patriots? No. Tom Brady was the reason for Branch’s success.
Wes Welker was not completely healthy in 2010. The fact that he even played after suffering an ACL injury at the end of the 2009 season is extremely impressive. He caught 86 passes, which would be great for your average slot receiver, but it’s a far cry below the 112, 111, and 123 he caught for the previous three seasons. Based on the consistency Welker displayed in the previous three season, it’s safe to assume he would have caught 30 to 35 more passes had be been completely healthy in 2010.
Each of Tom Brady’s receiving targets in 2007 was better in 2010.
Randy Moss is obviously a better number one receiver than Deion Branch. The healthy, younger Wes Welker in 2007 is better than the recovering Welker in 2010. Stallworth, the number one receiver for the Eagles in 2006, was a significantly better number three receiver than Brandon Tate. If Tate had any significant talent, he would have caught more than 24 passes this season. And unlike the 2007 Patriots with Jabar Gaffney, the 2010 Patriots didn’t even have a fourth receiver.
Brady succeeded without Moss for almost all of the 2010 season. He adjusted without Kevin Faulk, his security blanket, who was lost for the season to injury.
He turned two 21-year old tight ends into legitimate receiving weapons. I believe that Hernandez and Gronkowski have talent, but there is no way they would have come close to combining for 87 catches, 1109 yards, and 16 touchdowns without Brady throwing to them.
I believe that Tom Brady would have had the best statistical season of his career in 2007, even without Randy Moss. Instead of 50 touchdowns and eight picks, he might have thrown 35 touchdowns and 10 picks.
But he wouldn’t have thrown 36 touchdowns and four picks, and that’s what he did in 2010, without Moss.
Most importantly, Brady’s ability to not turn the football over in 2010 is the greatest individual effort by any quarterback throughout the history of the NFL. It made the Patriots offense one of the best in the game’s history, especially down the stretch, where they averaged over 37 points per game in the second half of the season.
You cannot beat a team when they do not turn the football over and the 2010 Patriots committed no turnovers for seven consecutive games late in the season. They turned the ball over just 10 times all season (including three in a game twice).
His number were a tad below his 2007 production. The Patriots didn’t have a perfect regular season record. They didn’t score quite as many points.
But Brady succeeded with significantly less talent than three years earlier. He hit his peak at the right time, instead of fading down the stretch. And he protected the football better than maybe any quarterback will ever do so in the history of the National Football League.
For those reasons, Tom Brady’s 2010 season is a fraction ahead of his 2007 season as the greatest regular season by a quarterback in modern NFL history.