New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady is good at football. That much has been evident for quite some time, as Brady owns three MVP’s, four Super Bowl MVP’s, and six rings over his 19-year career. However, the uninformed masses have always claimed that Brady’s weakness lies in stretching the field. While that narrative has never been accurate, we now have the data to definitively prove that Brady is one of the best deep ball passers in the league, even at an advanced age.
Tom Brady An Elite Deep Ball Passer
Just watching the film alone shows that Brady can still stretch the field with the best of them. While 2018 wasn’t his best season by any means, he still played like a top-five quarterback for the majority of the season. He didn’t have the weapons to push the ball down the field like he used to, but he managed to hit his downfield targets whenever they were open.
This is too pretty. Brady's falling backward, gets hit full-speed by a LB, and still delivers a perfect touch pass ~30 yards in the air pic.twitter.com/GYGy6vKdmI
— Dave Latham (@DLPatsThoughts) June 15, 2019
He was even better in 2017 when he had a true deep threat in Brandin Cooks. With Julian Edelman sidelined, New England’s transformed into a deep passing team overnight. The Patriots normally don’t do this, as they normally don’t have the weapons to pull it off. If Brady wasn’t capable of stretching the field, then there’s no way he would’ve won MVP with Brandin Cooks as his best wide receiver.
Brady gets rocked and still pushes it 50 yards in the air down the sideline pic.twitter.com/8yU2eqcoTy
— Dave Latham (@DLPatsThoughts) June 9, 2019
The Advanced Numbers
Watching film helps, but it’s impossible to show every single throw from every single season. Fortunately, this is where the good people of Pro Football Focus come in. PFF records every play from every season and has the most comprehensive set of football data available to the public. According to PFF’s Steve Palazzolo, Brady has been the best quarterback in the league on passes thrown 10 yards beyond the line of scrimmage. When adjusted to 20 yards beyond the line, Brady is second to only Patrick Mahomes. It’s worth noting that this data goes back to 2016 and Mahomes didn’t become a starter until 2018.
10+ yard passes (air yards),
2016-18 (including playoffs):
— Steve Palazzolo (@PFF_Steve) July 12, 2019
This isn’t due to a small sample, either. While some question Brady’s willingness to push the ball down the field, the fact of the matter is that he doesn’t shy away from working the deep and intermediate portions of the field. Since 2016, Brady has thrown 659 passes beyond 10 yards of the line of scrimmage, most in the league. In fairness, this includes playoffs, and Brady has played significantly more playoff games than anyone else over this timeframe. Still, Brady’s pushes the ball downfield more than the average quarterback despite not typically having traditional downfield receivers.
The last narrative Brady haters use is that he’s throwing to wide open targets. In their twisted world, the defensive-minded Bill Belichick is such a genius that receivers are constantly wide open and anyone could hit those targets. However, facts also disprove this notion. NFL’s Next Gen Stats tracks “aggressive throws” which are defined as passes thrown to targets with less than one yard of separation. According to Next Gen Stats, Brady’s aggressive throw percentage typically lies in the middle of the league and is actually ahead of Aaron Rodgers. Josh McDaniels and Bill Belichick are phenomenal coaches, but they’re not scheming receivers open more than the typical coaching staff.
Tom Brady Aggressive Throw %
Aaron Rodgers Aggressive Throw %
— Dave Latham (@DLPatsThoughts) July 13, 2019
Tom Brady – The Best At Everything
Tom Brady is the best quarterback to ever play the game, and anyone disputing that fact is just living in denial. Nobody can deny Brady’s masterful ability to win pre-snap and get the ball out quick. However, thanks to advanced data, we’re now able to prove beyond a doubt that Brady is also one of the game’s best deep passers.
The crazy thing is that Palazzolo’s data only starts in the 2016 season, when Brady was 39 years old. At this point, Brady should have started losing some of his arm strength. Instead, he’s still one of the best at pushing the ball downfield, and that shouldn’t change any time soon. Even though he’s entering his age-42 season, don’t be surprised to see Brady remain one of the best at stretching the field.
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