Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady is no stranger to NFL success. After all, the former sixth-round pick has more accolades than you could possibly count, including but not limited to seven Super Bowl championships, five Super Bowl MVP’s, and three regular-season MVP’s. However, Tom Brady’s work throughout the course of the 2020 season might go down as the greatest accomplishment in his career.
Tom Brady’s 2020 Campaign Is His Best Work To Date
The Actual Production
After nearly two decades of greatness, some were wondering if Tom Brady simply didn’t have it anymore after a lackluster 2019. While we now know that his relatively underwhelming season everything to do with the atrocious supporting cast, some believed that the greatest quarterback in history was finally losing his battle with Father Time. According to league reports, only two teams seriously pursued Brady’s services – the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the Los Angeles Chargers.
Brady eventually signed on with Tampa and proved that he has a lot left in his tank. Now working with an NFL-caliber supporting cast, Brady had the best statistical season of his career since at least his MVP-winning 2017. The quarterback threw 40 touchdown passes, second in the league to only Aaron Rodgers and the second-most of his career. The advanced metrics loved him as well, as Brady finished second in PFF grade, sixth in EPA+CPOE composite, and fourth in EPA/play. He was still one of the best quarterbacks in the league, despite all the factors working against him.
Tom Brady’s Age, Scheme Change
With Sunday’s win, Brady joins Peyton Manning as the only starting quarterbacks to win a Super Bowl ring with two different franchises. This is fitting, as Manning was Brady’s greatest on-field rival and one of two players that could truly challenge his claim for greatest of all time, at least at one point. Like Brady, Manning left his original team and remained one of the best quarterbacks in the league in a new environment. However, there is an argument that Brady’s situation was a lot harder than Manning’s from all those years ago.
Both players landed on teams with fantastic supporting casts, so we’ll call that a wash. Manning, however, had a full offseason to get acclimated in his new surroundings. That wasn’t the case for Brady, as COVID-19 limited offseason practices and completely eliminated the postseason. Additionally, Tampa Bay did not adjust their scheme to fit what Brady did over the first 20 years of his career.
Brady thrived in a wide variety of offenses during his time in New England, but the passing philosophy typically revolved around beating teams with a quick, efficient passing game. The Buccaneers did not do that, as they asked Brady to go deep early and often. The 43-year-old was up for the challenge, as he led the league in average depth of target, which is absurd for a man of his age.
In his 21st NFL season, Tom Brady led all qualified quarterbacks in air yards per attempt (9.6), redefining what can be expected of a quarterback his age.
— Next Gen Stats (@NextGenStats) February 1, 2021
No human being should be able to perform this well during their age-43 season. Manning entered the league two years before Brady, had a wildly successful career, retired, and got inducted into the Hall of Fame while Brady was suiting up for his NFL-record 10th Super Bowl. Brady’s 2020 was easily the best season by any quarterback beyond the age of 40, and he is showing no signs of slowing down.
The Path To the Super Bowl
For only the second time since 2009, Tom Brady had to play in the Wild Card Round. The 2010-2018 New England Patriots were absurdly good, earning bye weeks in each one of those seasons. However, now Brady had to go on the road and win four consecutive games against the NFL’s best competition if he wanted to win his seventh Super Bowl.
After battling a surprisingly-effective Taylor Heinicke, Brady faced the unenviable task of taking down Drew Brees, Aaron Rodgers, and Patrick Mahomes in consecutive games. Brees admittedly was in the midst of a down year, but the New Orleans Saints absolutely dominated Brady in the first two regular-season matchups. However, once again, Brady was up for this herculean feat, beating all future three Hall of Famers, two of which came on the road.
Wins and losses aren’t necessarily a quarterback stat, and it would be unfair to overlook how well Tampa Bay’s defense performed throughout the postseason. That said, Brady outplayed every quarterback he faced, finishing with a higher EPA/play and QBR than his opponent in each contest.
— Tom Brady Facts (@TB_Facts) February 8, 2021
Was Tom Brady as good in 2020 as he was in 2007? Probably not. However, the situations surrounding the 2020 season combined with actually winning the Super Bowl make this season the most impressive accomplishment of Tom Brady’s career.
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