Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady has no shortage of career accomplishments. Throughout his 21 years in the league, the former sixth-round pick has won seven Super Bowls, five Super Bowl MVP’s, three league MVP’s, and made it to 14 Pro Bowls while claiming just about every passing title known to man. While he accomplished most of these feats with the New England Patriots, what Brady did in 2020 with Tampa Bay is perhaps his most impressive achievement to date.
Why 2020 Was Tom Brady’s Greatest Career Accomplishment
For those that missed it, NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport revealed that Tom Brady played the entirety of the previous season on a torn MCL. This means that a 43-year old quarterback joined a new team in a shortened offseason and won the Super Bowl while posting one of the best statistical seasons of his career, and he did it all on a busted knee. Tom Brady is incredible, but this is something else.
— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) July 15, 2021
Tom Brady isn’t the most mobile quarterback in the world, so playing through a torn MCL is easier for him than it would be for somebody like Lamar Jackson. That being said, it still shows a ridiculous amount of pain tolerance. Brady first suffered the injury with the Patriots, which means that he was never truly healthy during his inaugural season with the Buccaneers.
Despite this, Brady still finished the season completing 65.7% of his passes for 4,633 yards, 40 touchdowns, and 12 interceptions. These numbers are obviously impressive, and the advanced numbers back up the volume stats. Among the 32 primary starters, Brady finished 4th in DVOA, 2nd in PFF grade, 5th in EPA/play, 9th in QBR, and 8th in ANY/A. That dominance continued into the playoffs, as Brady’s 0.305 postseason EPA/play led all quarterbacks with at least two pass attempts.
This shouldn’t be possible, especially in the first year of a Bruce Arians offense. While quarterbacks tend to set the world on fire in their second year in this system, first-year passers tend to struggle in the system. Ben Roethlisberger, Carson Palmer, and Andrew Luck all needed a year to fully grasp the system. Brady admitted to not being fully comfortable with the scheme early on, and he STILL did all this while playing on one knee.
Comparing to Brady’s Other Greatest Accomplishments
Prior to 2020, Brady’s greatest season was his record-breaking 2007 campaign. Paired with Randy Moss and Wes Welker, the quarterback completed 68.9% of his passes for 4,806 yards and 50 touchdowns while leading the league in every advanced stat by a comfortable margin. From a pure numbers standpoint, this season blows 2020 out of the water. However, when accounting for context, one could easily make the argument that 2020 was more impressive.
As great as Brady was in 2007, his supporting cast made life a lot easier. Mike Evans and Chris Godwin are fantastic players, but both guys battled injuries throughout 2020 and neither guy is as good as peak Randy Moss. Additionally, the 2007 Patriots essentially invented the modern slot receiver position, and teams had no idea how to defend against it at the time. The 2020 Buccaneers didn’t re-invent offensive football – they just executed their offense at a ridiculously high level. On top of that, the 2007 Patriots fell short in the Super Bowl, while the 2020 Buccaneers finished the job. Winning a Super Bowl is a team accomplishment, but there’s no denying that Brady was better in the 2020 postseason than he was in 2007.
Of course, Brady was in the prime of his athletic career in 2007, and he was 43 in 2020. Even if he was completely healthy, Brady should not still be this good at football. Drew Brees is two years younger than Brady and had to hang up the cleats after losing his ability to consistently push the ball downfield. Brady, meanwhile, led the league in average depth of target. Peyton Manning, Brady’s longtime rival, was three years into retirement when he turned 43.
Tom Brady is widely considered the greatest quarterback ever, and with good reason. The former sixth-round pick keeps adding to his legacy with every passing year, and who knows what he’ll be able to do with two good knees in his second year with Tampa Bay.
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