How Tom Brady's 2017 Season Compares to Best of His Career
New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady is in the midst of another standout season. In fact, if it wasn't so trendy to take his greatness for granted—call it the Michal Jordan effect—he would probably be the front-runner for NFL MVP.
With a month remaining in the 2017 season, Brady has amassed 3,632 yards with 26 touchdowns and just four interceptions. He's completed 68.5 percent of his passes and holds a quarterback rating of 109.7.
The reality is that the 40-year-old is playing about as well as he ever has. For comparison's sake, we're going to look at how Brady's current campaign stacks up against the top five seasons of his career.
We'll be picking Brady's top five seasons based on a combination individual performance (obviously) and team success. We'll then compare factors such as his skill players, pass protection and run-game support, ultimately determining which season is his most impressive.
4,806 Yards passing, 50 TDs, 8 INTs, 117.2 Rating, 68.9 Comp %
Result: 16-0 Record, Lost Super Bowl XLII
It was in 2007 that Brady went from being a savvy game-manager to a legitimate gunslinger. His 50 touchdown passes that year remain a career high.
While we're not going to see Brandin Cooks reel off 25 touchdown receptions the way Moss did, he brings a similar downfield threat to Brady's supporting cast. With Rob Gronkowski, Chris Hogan, Danny Amendola and James White also in the fold, this year's receiving corps could be seen as a better overall unit.
Similar to this season, Brady's run support in 2007 was made of a committee of backs—led by Laurence Maroney, Sammy Morris and Kevin Faulk. That year's team averaged 4.1 yards per carry; this year, New England is averaging 4.2 yards per carry. This year's backfield may be more dynamic, but the level of run support is roughly the same.
Brady was only sacked 21 times in 2007, and he's already been sacked 27 times this season. It's probably safe to say he was happier with his pass protection 10 years ago.
New England's defense—ranked fourth in the NFL with just 17.1 points per game allowed—was a more dominant unit than this year's version. However, this year's defense is trending in that direction. It's allowed 18.6 points per game but just 11.9 points per game since Week 5.
Defense is relevant because it can determine how often Brady is required to carry the team.
While New England did lose in Super Bowl XLII, it took some miracle-type play from the New York Giants for that to occur. That incredible helmet catch by David Tyree stands out chief among them.
"It's the greatest victory in the history of the franchise, without question," Giants owner John Mara said after his team bested the previously undefeated Patriots, per Judy Battista of the New York Times.
Brady earned NFL MVP honors for his 2007 campaign. He also earned the award in 2010, but the Patriots lost in their first game of the postseason, so we're leaving that season off our list.
The Patriots team of 2007 and this year's team are similar in terms of defense and ground support. Brady was sacked less 10 years ago and has a better overall receiver group in 2017.
It's really a toss-up on which season is better. We'll give a slight edge to 2007 because of the impressive statistics he finished producing. Of course, fans hope Brady produces a Super Bowl victory this year.
Our Pick: 2007
5,235 Yards Passing, 39 TDs, 12 INTs, 105.6 Rating, 65.6 Comp %
Result: 13-3 Record, Lost Super Bowl XLVI
While Brady didn't have the presence of Moss in 2011, his receiving corps was even more dangerous and dynamic than it was in 2007.
He did have Gronkowski, along with fellow tight end Aaron Hernandez. Those two combined for more than 2,200 yards receiving and 24 touchdowns. Welker chipped in 1,569 yards, while Deion Branch added 702.
As good as this year's receiving corps is, the Patriots were able to create mismatches in 2011 they simply cannot today.
Once again, the ground game for the Patriots was similar to this year's incarnation. New England took a committee approach that involved BenJarvus Green-Ellis, Stevan Ridley and Danny Woodhead. As a team, the Patriots averaged 4.0 yards per carry.
Brady has the benefit of a stronger and more versatile run game this season.
Defensively, New England was far less impressive than it was in 2007 and even a notch below this year's team.
The Patriots ranked 15th in the NFL with an average of 21.4 points per game. Brady attempted a whopping 611 passes in 2011 because the team found itself in more high-scoring games. Still, he was only sacked 32 times in those 611 attempts. He's been sacked 28 times on 438 attempts this season, so we'll give a slight edge to the pass protection of 2011.
Once again, the Patriots lost to the Giants in the big game—again by the slimmest of margins. Brady deserves no blame for losing it. Unsurprisingly, he finished the season with a Pro Bowl nod.
Aside perhaps from the receiving corps, this year's Patriots team is a better overall unit. With that in mind, one has to be incredibly impressed with what Brady did statistically in 2011.
Our Pick: 2011
4,109 Yards Passing, 33 TDs, 9 INTs, 97.4 Rating, 64.1 Comp %
Result: 12-4 Record, Won Super Bowl XLIX
There's a running theme with the Patriots rushing attack that involves a committee. That trend held true in 2014, with Ridley, Shane Vereen, Jonas Gray and LeGarrette Blount all contributing to the cause. As a team, New England averaged 3.9 yards per carry.
While this year's Patriots are fairly balanced on offense, the 2014 team relied more heavily on Brady and the passing game.
Fortunately, the QB had an impressive collection of targets at his disposal, including Gronkowski, Julian Edelman, Danny Amendola and Brandon LaFell. Of the group, though, Gronkowski was the only player to top 1,000 yards receiving on the season.
This year's skill-position group is better.
This year's defense is better than the 2014 version as well—something that seemed laughable at the beginning of the year. The Patriots of three years ago allowed an average of 19.6 points per game, which is far from terrible.
One area where Brady had an advantage in 2014 over this season was in pass protection. Through 16 games, he was only sacked 21 times. He was, however, under frequent pressure in the Super Bowl against the Seattle Seahawks.
Brady led a fourth-quarter comeback from 10 points down to help deliver New England's fourth Lombardi Trophy. The game was sealed by the incredible goal-line interception by Malcolm Butler. Both preparation and execution led to that pick.
“I remembered the formation they were in—two-receiver stack,” Butler said, per Ben Volin of the Boston Globe. “I just knew they were running a pick route.”
Brady has a better team around him this season, so unsurprisingly he's playing at a higher level. We'll take the season he's having now because it's dramatically better, but that isn't to discount what he did in 2014. Hopefully, the end result can be the same this year.
Our Pick: 2017
4,770 Yards Passing, 36 TDs, 7 INTs, 102.2 Rating, 64.4 Comp %
Result: 12-4 Record, Lost AFC Championship
The Patriots didn't make it back to the Super Bowl in 2015, but Brady put together another Pro Bowl campaign, just like the year before. He finished with impressive statistical numbers, due both to his own stellar play and the players around him.
For the most part, Brady's receiving corps was the same as it was in 2014. The usual suspects such as Gronkowski, Edelman, Amendola, LaFell returned, and the quarterback had the benefit of dynamic backs White and Lewis—at least he had Lewis for part of the season.
Once again, it was a committee in the backfield, which featured Lewis, White and Blount. As a team, the Patriots averaged 3.7 yards per carry. Defensively, New England was ranked 10th, allowing 19.7 points per game.
While this Patriots team wasn't too much different from the one that won the Super Bowl the year before, it wasn't one of the most impressive all-around Patriots teams we've seen. But Brady was still able to take it to the cusp of another title game.
New England narrowly lost to the Denver Broncos in the AFC Championship. Had they been able to convert a two-point conversion at the end of the game, the Patriots would have forced overtime. That attempt was necessary was because of a missed extra point by Stephen Gostkowski earlier in the game.
This season by Brady was impressive, not only because of his overall statistic but because he overcame the loss of starting left tackle Nate Solder after four games. Pass protection was an issue all season—the QB was sacked a whopping 38 times—and in the AFC title game against Denver's No. 1-ranked defense and fearsome pass rush.
Brady is completing a higher percentage of his passes, has a higher rating and appears set to produce a better record this season. We'll take how he's playing now, but it's hard to discount how he played with what he had around him in 2015.
Our Pick: 2017
3,554 Yards Passing, 28 TDs, 2 INTs, 112.2 Rating, 67.4 Comp %
Result: 14-2 Record, Won Super Bowl LI
It's fairly easy to make a direct comparison with Brady's 2016 season because he spent the first four games on suspension. This means he played 12 total regular-season games, the same as he's played in 2017.
Brady tossed two more touchdowns and had two fewer interceptions last year. His passer rating was slightly higher then and his completion percentage is slightly higher this year. He's thrown for 108 more yards through 12 games through this year.
Brady had the benefit of playing opposite the league's best scoring defense in 2016. It allowed just 15.6 points per game. He also benefited from a pass-protection unit that allowed just 15 sacks in 12 games. That's 12 fewer sacks than he's seen this season.
The Patriots finally had a workhorse back in 2016, too. Blount rushed for 1,161 yards and an impressive 18 touchdowns. Lewis and White also helped in the backfield, but the unit overall wasn't quite as consistent as this year's. As a team, New England averaged 3.9 yards per carry in 2016.
While Brady was able to fall back on Martellus Bennett at tight end, he didn't have Gronkowski for much of the regular season and had him for none of the playoffs. He did have Edelman—who is absent this year—plus Hogan, Amendola and Malcolm Mitchell.
When it comes to the quality of team around Brady, last season and this season are pretty neck-and-neck. Last season, he had one of the most efficient seasons we've seen from a quarterback, and this year isn't far off that pace.
The thing that tips the balance in favor of Brady's 2016 campaign is the unfathomable comeback he led in the Super Bowl—you know, the infamous 28-3 game.
While Brady did make some mistakes early in that game, the way he responded will remain in NFL lore forever. It was one of the greatest Super Bowl performances ever, capping one of the best quarterback seasons ever.
Our Pick: 2016