The Curse of Expectations

Brady: "This is it, boys, let's rock!" - Tom Szczerbowski

“We’ve had our chances. Twice. More than twice, actually. I still have plenty of chances to do it. What I’ve learned is it’s really, really hard to win the Super Bowl. I didn’t get that perspective early, winning three out of the first four years I played. What I like about this franchise is we’ve got a shot every year. I love the fact we were in the AFC title game last year, the Super Bowl the year before that, and 14-2 the year before that. Can we win this year?" - Tom Brady

What Tom Brady said in a news story that has been circulating the web is very telling of the position he sees himself in. To Tom Brady, every season is Super Bowl or bust. Before the 2011 season, one in which Tom Brady led the Patriots to their fifth Super Bowl in his tenure, Tom Brady said the following:

"There's only one team every year that has a good season and we haven't been that team in a long time." - Tom Brady

Tom Brady is a perfectionist. He holds himself to an unattainable standard. But others hold him to a standard that no other player is held to. The expectations that Tom Brady has set for himself because of the unrivaled success causes judgment to be passed on him that if used for other quarterbacks would seem completely unfair. Just read the first part of Greg Rosenthal's piece:

Quarterbacks often are judged on championships, even though they shouldn't be. Tom Brady is a great example why.

Brady undeniably has been a better overall player in the second half of his career than when he started out, but he got all three of his titles early. What Brady does now is keep the New England Patriots in the mix every season.

Tom Brady is going to get held to a standard that nobody else is. However, to hold up his post-2004 playoff success as a negative only goes to show how ignorant people are. In all honesty, had Tom Brady not won three Super Bowls from 2001-2004, most people would be arguing that he is the best player ever to never win a Super Bowl, and they would feel bad for him.

For starters, let's look at what happens when I remove anything Tom Brady did prior to 2005 from his career. Below is a chart showing his regular season statistics.

Tom Brady Completions Attempts Yards Touchdowns Interceptions Passer Rating
Before 2005 1243 2018 13925 97 52 87.45
2005-present 2555 3940 30881 237 71 101.323

Let me try and put that in perspective. Those numbers would tie Tom Brady for 19th all time in touchdown passes and put him 34th all time in passing yards. Also, he would be 2nd all time in career passer rating, tied for 11th all time in yards per attempt (7.8 yards/attempt), 6th all time in completion percentage (64.8%), tied for 13th all time in touchdown percentage (6.0%), and would be 2nd all time in interception percentage (1.8%).

If this were any other quarterback, people would wonder how much better those numbers would be had Brady not missed the entire 2008 season, when he was in his prime, to injury. Also, had he not spent the 2009 season dealing with the readjustment, his numbers could be even better than that.

Tom Brady and the Patriots also won at a higher rate over that time in the regular season. Below is a chart showing the Patriots win/loss record similarly to the chart above.

Tom Brady Wins Losses Win %
Before 2005 48 14 0.77419
2005-present 88 24 0.78571

Those 88 wins would put Brady at 24th all time, and his winning percentage of 78.571% would be 2nd all time to Otto Graham.

But that isn't what this is about, right? Tom Brady hasn't won a Super Bowl since, and so many people enjoy that so much that they don't even take the time to acknowledge how amazing the string of success the Patriots had was despite not winning a Super Bowl.

Tom Brady started off his playoff career going 9-0 and winning three Super Bowl rings. He has gone 8-7 in the playoffs since and has appeared in two Super Bowls. Of course Tom Brady's playoffs aren't going to compare to what he did when the Patriots were a dynasty. That's why they were a dynasty. But how do they compare to other quarterbacks?

Tom Brady's 8 playoff wins since 2005 would tie him at 14th all time with Hall of Famers Dan Marino and Steve Young as well as with Eli Manning and Jim Plunkett. Also, of the 27 other quarterbacks with 10 or more playoff starts in their careers, Tom Brady would have a better playoff winning percentage than 9 of them, a group that includes Peyton Manning, Dan Marino, Jim Kelly, and Warren Moon.

Most people are willing to concede that it is easier to keep a playoff record unblemished by missing the playoffs when the team is struggling. Carrying a team to the playoffs is not viewed nearly as favorably as that playoff record, and carrying a team definitely opens up the chance that the record will get another tally in the loss column. Tom Brady could have been 9-0 in the playoffs for the rest of his life had he never made the playoffs again.

But Tom Brady did make the playoffs again. If we were to continue just focusing on what Tom Brady did from 2005 to now, we notice something that sticks out. Of the 28 quarterbacks with 10 or more playoff starts, the only quarterbacks to take their team to the playoffs every single season they were the primary starter were Tom Brady and Joe Flacco. From 2005 to 2012, Tom Brady made the playoffs seven out of seven seasons he was the starter. The only season he didn't was when he went down with a season-ending injury in 2008 in the first game of the season.

There have also only been 19 quarterbacks in NFL history to start in two or more Super Bowls. If you take away Tom Brady's 3 Super Bowl wins, he still remains on the list and joins Jim Kelly, Fran Tarkenton, and Craig Morton as the only quarterbacks in NFL history to start multiple Super Bowls and never win one.

Nobody should have expected Tom Brady and the Patriots to never lose a playoff game. Expectations are what we think is most likely to occur, and for many people during the latter part of Brady's career they have expected him to win at least one more. Absolutely gut-wrenching losses in 2006, 2007, and 2011 are something that isn't accounted for when people say that Brady hasn't won a Super Bowl since 2004.

Going into the 2013 season, expectations of the Patriots demise is at an all time high. When your team is considered Super Bowl or bust, it can definitely get to you as a fan. Take solace that we are fans of the most dominant team of the past 12 years and look forward to a great season. As Tom Brady said, "it's really, really hard to win the Super Bowl", but "I still have more chances to do it."

The views expressed in these FanPosts are not necessarily those of the writers or SBNation.

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