Tom Brady: NFL MVP Candidate Is Displaying Hall of Fame Leadership

Sean Keane@@keanedawg86Correspondent IDecember 14, 2010

Tom Brady: NFL MVP Candidate Is Displaying Hall of Fame Leadership

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    CHICAGO, IL - DECEMBER 12: Tom Brady #12 of the New England Patriots calls out signals as Dan Koppen #67 and Logan Mankins #70 awaits the snap against the Chicago Bears at Soldier Field on December 12, 2010 in Chicago, Illinois. The Patriots defeated the
    Scott Boehm/Getty Images

    It all started in Pittsburgh.

    The Patriots were coming off a loss in Cleveland to the lowly Browns.  They were playing in Pittsburgh against the vaunted Steelers.  They were winning, but that wasn't enough for Brady.

    He didn't like what he was seeing on the field, so he took action, and we all saw it happen.  He gathered the entire offense together and read them the riot act.  Nobody was safe as Brady chewed out the entire unit on the sidelines for what he felt was a lackluster performance.

    From then on it's been a spectacular show.

    That night, Brady had his first 300 game of the year and he's only failed to reach that plateau once since then.  The Patriots won that night and haven't lost since.

    Brady's passion has been contagious, and he's been seen both on the field and on the sidelines rallying the troops at various intervals.

    On a team with so many newcomers, leadership is important.  You can bet your bottom dollar when Tom Brady speaks, the Danny Woodheads of the world listen.

    On the road? Doesn't matter. In three road games starting that night, Brady's thrown for at least 300 yards in each of them.  He's thrown for nine touchdowns and the Patriots have won all three.

    Bad weather? Doesn't matter.  With blustering winds, near-zero wind chills, and swirling snow, Brady threw for 369 yards and two touchdowns in a victory.

    Nothing fazes him, and as long as he's leading the Patriots, nothing fazes the team either.

    A great example of Brady taking control was just this past week. Against the Bears in Chicago, leading by 24 at halftime, Brady got the ball with less than a minute to go.  The sideline called to kneel it.

    Brady disregarded the order and called his own play.  It was a 59 yard touchdown to Deion Branch.

    Who says Peyton Manning is the only quarterback who can call his own plays?

Brady Has Shattered Expectations

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    FOXBORO, MA - DECEMBER 06:  Tom Brady #12 of the New England Patriots celebrates after BenJarvus Green-Ellis #42 scored a 5-yard rushing touchdown in the fourth quarter against the New York Jets at Gillette Stadium on December 6, 2010 in Foxboro, Massachu
    Elsa/Getty Images

    To say the Patriots have exceeded expectations would be an understatement.  After a 10-6 record last season, they lost their only playoff game, at home, to the Baltimore Ravens.  It was an embarrassing loss and the first home playoff loss of Brady's career.

    This season, just two years removed from a perfect regular season, the Patriots were no longer considered among the best teams in the NFL.  Hell, they weren't even considered the best team in their division.  That honor was bestowed upon the New York Jets after they made an unlikely playoff run last season.

    The Jets were the up-and-coming powerhouse, and the Patriots were the aging "has-beens," desperately trying to keep their window of opportunity from closing on a fading dynasty.

    fourteen weeks later, the Jets are reeling from consecutive losses while the Patriots are 11-2 and playing like the best team in football.  Brady's taken control of the offense and once again has the team in a position to defy the so-called experts.

Brady Leads the NFL in Passer Rating

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    CHICAGO, IL - DECEMBER 12: Tom Brady #12 of the New England Patriots passes against the Chicago Bears at Soldier Field on December 12, 2010 in Chicago, Illinois.  The Patriots beat the Bears 36-7.  (Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images)
    Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images

    Sometimes passer rating is a relatively meaningless number.  Often times a quarterback plays well yet his rating somehow doesn't measure up.  It's hard to judge the difference between, let's say a rating of 80 and one of 85.  Once you start getting into the 90s though, you know the quarterback is really in the zone.  Once you break the 100 threshold, it means the QB is playing nearly flawless football.

    For the season, Brady sports a passer rating of 109.9, tops in the NFL.  That means through 13 games, Brady is playing almost perfect football.

    Speaking of perfect, that's what his rating was on Thanksgiving.  A perfect 158.3.

    Brady has posted a rating over 100 nine times this season, including each of his last five games, all Patriot wins.  During the streak, his lowest rating came against the Bears, in a maelstrom of snow and wind and still finished at 113.4.

    His current 109.9 rating would be the second best of his career and the seventh best since the stat became official in 1973.  In the last 20 years, only Peyton Manning, Brady himself, Steve Young and Daunte Culpepper have posted a better rating.

Brady Also Leads the NFL in Touchdown Passes

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    DETROIT - NOVEMBER 25: Deion Branch #84 of the New England Patriots celebrates with teammates Tom Brady #12 and Wes Welker #83 after a fourth quarter touchdown during the game against the Detroit Lions at Ford Field on November 25, 2010 in Detroit, Michig
    Leon Halip/Getty Images

    One of the biggest reasons his aforementioned passer rating is meaningful is because he's compiling it while throwing touchdowns at a league-leading pace.

    He currently has 29 passing touchdowns, which is already the second highest total of his career.  At his current pace, he would finish the season with 36, which would be the second highest total in team history (behind only his record setting 50 in 2007) and the ninth highest total in NFL history.

    With Brady at the helm, the Patriots have the league's top scoring offense.

Brady Also Has the Fewest Interceptions in the NFL

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    CHICAGO, IL - DECEMBER 12: Tom Brady #12 of the New England Patriots directs the offense against the Chicago Bears at Soldier Field on December 12, 2010 in Chicago, Illinois.  The Patriots beat the Bears 36-7.  (Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images)
    Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images

    He's currently tied with Matt Cassel and Mike Vick.  They each have four interceptions on the season.  Of the trio, only Brady has played in every game this season.

    Basically, he's made fewer mistakes than any other quarterback in the league.  While throwing more touchdowns than anyone else in the league.  He's on pace for just five interceptions which would be the second lowest total ever in the NFL.

    With 29 touchdowns and four interceptions, his current TD:INT ratio of 7.25 would be the best ever in a 16-game season.  That shouldn't surprise anyone considering his career ratio of 2.47 is already the best ever.

    Believe it or not, Brady is on the verge of setting another NFL record of similar nature...

Brady Has Either Already Set or Is on the Verge of Setting the Following Records

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    CHICAGO - DECEMBER 12: Tom Brady #12 of the New England Patriots throws a pass against the Chicago Bears at Soldier Field on December 12, 2010 in Chicago, Illinois. The Patriots defeated the Bears 36-7. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
    Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

    Most consecutive pass attempts in a single season without an interception: 268 and counting, 18 behind Bernie Kosar for the most all-time.   

    Most consecutive games with multiple touchdowns and no interceptions: six.  Tied with Sammy Baugh for the most all-time.

    Most touchdowns thrown without an interception: 19

    Fewest interceptions in a 16-game season: four

    Lowest percentage of passes intercepted in a single 16-game season: 0.9%.  Currently tied with Steve DeBerg for the best all-time.

    The aforementioned TD:INT ratio of 7.25 in a single season.

    Those are the NFL records; he's also approaching  or has already broken the following franchise marks.

    Most games in a single season with a passer rating over 100:  He's got nine so far. The team record is 11 so he's within reach.

    Most consecutive games without an interception: eight. Every game that goes by just adds to the record.

    The aforementioned 268 passes without a pick.  He surpassed his own record of 183 set in 2007

Brady Is Surrounded by Limited Talent

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    CHICAGO, IL - DECEMBER 12: Rob Gronkowski #87 of the New England Patriots celebrates a touchdown with Golden Tate #19 and Wes Welker #83 against the Chicago Bears at Soldier Field on December 12, 2010 in Chicago, Illinois. The Patriots defeated the Bears
    Scott Boehm/Getty Images

    The Patriots have the NFL's top scoring offense, and Tom Brady is the only star on the entire unit.  His offensive line is very good, but none of them garner much national attention.  Matt Light is best known for his weakness (defending speed rushers) than his strengths.  Logan Mankins sat out most of the season.  It's for the most part a patchwork unit that's been getting the job done quietly.

    Brady's best receiver is Wes Welker, who is one of the most underrated receivers in the NFL, but whose success is largely thanks to having Brady as a quarterback.  He also has Deion Branch who was a mere afterthought in Seattle.  Third on the depth chart is Brandon Tate who profiles much better as a return man than receiver.

    At the tight end spot, Brady's two best targets are both rookies still learning to play in the NFL.  They've both played well, but both of them openly credit Brady (and veteran Alge Crumpler) for helping them get up to speed.

    Both of Brady's primary runningbacks (Green-Ellis and Woodhead) are former practice squad players.

    Not only is Brady in the midst of one of the most effective seasons ever for a quarterback, he's doing it by simply finding the open receiver, whoever it may be.

Brady Has Weathered Massive Roster Turnover

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    FOXBORO, MA - JANUARY 10:  Tom Brady #12 and Randy Moss #81 of the New England Patriots greet their teammates on the field during warm ups against the Baltimore Ravens during the 2010 AFC wild-card playoff game at Gillette Stadium on January 10, 2010 in F
    Jim Rogash/Getty Images

    At the start of the season, the top two runningbacks on the Patriots depth chart were Fred Taylor and Laurence Maroney.  Kevin Faulk was the team's top receiver out of the backfield and one of the best third-down backs in the entire league.

    By Week 4, Faulk was on injured reserve, Maroney had been traded for a draft pick and Fred Taylor was sidelined indefinitely.  In stepped BenJarvus Green-Ellis and Danny Woodhead.

    His top receiver and one of the NFL's best receivers, Randy Moss, was jettisoned in Week 5.  The team re-acquired Deion Branch to help fill the void.

    Tight end Ban Watson was allowed to leave via free agency in the offseason.  In his place are two rookies, Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez.

    In fact, the only offensive starter (at the skill positions) from last year who is still playing for the Patriots is Welker, yet somehow Brady is keeping everyone on the same page and keeping the offense firing on all cylinders.

The Randy Moss Factor

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    FOXBORO, MA - SEPTEMBER 12: Quarterback Tom Brady #12 and Randy Moss #81 of the New England Patriots take a breather on the bench during the NFL season opener against the Cincinnati Bengals at Gillette Stadium on September 12, 2010 in Foxboro, Massachuset
    Jim Rogash/Getty Images

    Early in the season, the Patriots had the league's best deep threat, Randy Moss.  He was also one of the league's biggest headaches.  Win or lose, Moss had something selfish to say after every game.  He talked about his contract.  He talked about public perception.  According to reports, he even talked about Brady's hair.

    It was all very puzzling and difficult to make sense of.

    If you want something Moss related that's very easy to make sense of, try this. Nine receptions, 139 yards, three touchdowns in four game with Brady.  Hardly eye-popping numbers to be sure, but compare them to what he's done without Brady...18 receptions, 236 yards, two touchdowns in nine games played.

    For comparison with Brady: 2.5 receptions per game, 34.75 yards per game, 0.75 touchdowns per game

    Without Brady: two receptions per game, 26.2 yards per game, 0.22 touchdowns per game.

    Moss has clearly lost a step, but at least with Brady, he was still a scoring threat.  Without Brady, he's been a complete non-factor.

The Randy Moss Factor: Part Two

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    MIAMI - OCTOBER 04:  Quarterback Tom Brady #12 and Randy Moss of the New England Patriots sit on the sidelines  against the Miami Dolphins at Sun Life Stadium on October 4, 2010 in Miami, Florida.  (Photo by Marc Serota/Getty Images)
    Marc Serota/Getty Images

    How many quarterbacks lose their top receiving threat and actually get better?

    Brady apparently does.

    Since the Patriots traded Randy Moss after Week 4, Brady has led the Patriots to an 8-1 record. Brady has thrown touchdowns at a nearly identical rate (2.25 vs 2.22 per game), has thrown for more yards per game and fewer interceptions per game.

    With Moss, Brady didn't have a single 300-yard passing game.  When Moss left, Brady struggled at first, posting three straight games with just one touchdown.  But he adapted and is playing the best football of his life right now.

    Brady had his first 300-yard game of the season against Pittsburgh in Week 10.  Starting that week, he's thrown for at least 300 yards and in four out of five games, with multiple touchdowns in every one. 

    Give Tom Brady a target like Randy Moss, he sets records.  Take that target away, he set different records. Sounds like an MVP to me.

Brady Is Displaying Hall of Fame Leadership

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    It all started in Pittsburgh.

    The Patriots were coming off a loss in Cleveland to the lowly Browns.  The were playing in Pittsburgh against the vaunted Steelers.  They were winning, but that wasn't enough for Brady.

    He didn't like what he was seeing on the field, so he took action, and we all saw it happen.  He gathered the entire offense together and read them the riot act.  Nobody was safe as Brady chewed out the entire unit on the sidelines for what he felt was a lackluster performance.

    From then on, it's been a spectacular show.

    That night, Brady had his first 300 game of the year, and he's only failed to reach that plateau once since then.  The Patriots won that night and haven't lost since.

    Brady's passion has been contagious, and he's been seen both on the field and on the sidelines rallying the troops at various intervals.

    On a team with so many newcomers, leadership is important.  You can bet your bottom dollar when Tom Brady speaks, the Danny Woodheads of the world listen.

    On the road? Doesn't matter. In three road games starting that night, Brady's thrown for at least 300 yards in each of them.  He's thrown for nine touchdowns, and the Patriots have won all three.

    Bad weather? Doesn't matter.  With blustering winds, near-zero wind chills, and swirling snow, Brady threw for 369 yards and two touchdowns in a victory.

    Nothing fazes him, and as long as he's leading the Patriots, nothing fazes the team either.

    A great example of Brady taking control was just this past week. Against the Bears in Chicago, leading by 24 at halftime, Brady got the ball with less than a minute to go.  The sideline called to kneel it.

    Brady disregarded the order and called his own play.  It was a 59-yard touchdown to Deion Branch.

    Who says Peyton Manning is the only quarterback who can call his own plays?

The Final Word

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    Brady has the NFL MVP all to himself at this point.

    He's leading a team most people thought would be lucky to make the playoffs to a potential No. 1 seed.  At this point, he and the Patriots are the favorites to win the Super Bowl.

    He's putting up some of the best stats of his illustrious career, and he's doing it without stars around him.  He's the best quarterback in the NFL, and his numbers back it up.

    He's on pace for 4,182 yards, 36 TD's and five INT's, which would be one of the most remarkable seasons ever for a quarterback, especially considering his lack of receivers and mediocre running game.

    What's more, he's playing his best football against the best teams. Big-time players step up when the team needs it most. In the past five weeks the Patriots have faced four (at the time) division leaders, the Steelers, Colts, Jets and Bears.  In those four games, three of which were against some of the league's toughest defenses, Brady has completed 70.8% of his passes for 1,231 yards, 11 touchdowns, zero interceptions and a passer rating of 125.7.

    He's the league's best player, on the league's best team and less than a month from now, he'll have the league's second-most coveted piece of hardware to show for it, the NFL MVP award.

    Patriots fans can rest assured Brady won't be satisfied.  He won't rest until he gets to hold the league's MOST coveted piece of hardware, the Lombardi Trophy, again.

    I think Brady best summarizes why he's the league's MVP.  After winning three Super Bowls, he was asked on CBS's "60 Minutes,""Which of the rings do you like best? What's your favorite ring?"

    Brady's response?

    "The next one is the best."

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