FanPost

Give Him 5: Tom Brady's Top 5 in Greater Context

"Don't worry, Tom. I won't leave you hanging...." - Doug Pensinger

On April 4th, 2013, I wrote a response piece regarding a Christopher Price article titled "WHY BREAKING IN NEW RECEIVERS IS OLD HAT FOR TOM BRADY." The claim by Price was this:

By the time his career is done, no Hall of Fame quarterback of the modern era will have gone through more personnel changes in the passing game than Tom Brady.

Well I have followed up with my original findings to gain a greater understanding of those numbers. Some things stood in the way of me publishing them sooner, such as graduating from college and not wanting to get in the way of all the draft hoopla. With both of those out of the way, I can now express some of my findings.

Tom Brady has thrown 359 touchdowns in his career. Of those 359 touchdown passes, 157 of them are owned by Tom Brady's "Top 5." Those five are Rob Gronkowski (42), Randy Moss (39), Wes Welker (34), Deion Branch (24), and Aaron Hernandez (18). My theory behind using the "Top 5" is that it will typically include the five players that most impacted a quarterback's time in the league. That information needed a value to be used to express it, and thus "Top 5 TD %" was adopted. For Tom Brady, that percentage is 43.73%.

Standing alone, that number means nothing. I wanted to see if it had anything to do with passer rating, a number that is fairly controversial but has a long-standing correlation with good or bad quarterback performance. Is Brady's number supposed to be high or low? How does one compare such a number? To get my list, I went to here and pulled every single quarterback in history with a passer rating of 75.0 or higher. That gave me a working list of 111 quarterbacks. For the record, I do not have Roger Staubach or Neil Lomax on the list because I could not get their numbers. Below is a breakdown of how the quarterback's "Top 5 TD %" broke down.

Top 5 TD % Range Number of Players
30.00-34.99 2
35.00-39.99 4
40.00-44.99 8
45.00-49.99 14
50.00-54.99 18
55.00-59.99 17
60.00-64.99 14
65.00-69.99 14
70.00-74.99 11
75.00-79.99 6
80.00-84.99 3

This breakdown follows the typical shape of a bell curve. We would expect for the majority of players to fall within the middle of this sample. For a quarterback like Brady, whom we all know has undergone many receiver changes in his time, seeing that there were only two groupings with a smaller percentage of their total top five makes sense. Thirteen quarterbacks had a smaller percentage than Brady. That may sound like a lot, but this is a sample of 111 players. What is interesting is that all the quarterbacks with a smaller top five than Brady played for more than one team in their career. Below is a chart of those quarterbacks with their percentage, passer rating, and number of teams played for.

Player Passer Rating Top 5 TD % # of Teams Played For
Fran Tarkenton+ 80.4 0.32164 2 teams
Chris Chandler 79.1 0.34118 7 teams
Brad Johnson 82.5 0.37952 4 teams
Brett Favre 86 0.38386 4 teams
Vinny Testaverde 75 0.38909 7 teams
Jon Kitna 77.4 0.39053 4 teams
Donovan McNabb 85.6 0.40171 3 teams
Steve Bono 75.3 0.41935 7 teams
Jim Harbaugh 77.6 0.40310 4 teams
Kyle Orton (30) 79.9 0.42169 4 teams
Jeff George 80.4 0.42208 5 teams
Matt Hasselbeck (37) 82.1 0.43284 4 teams
Neil O'Donnell 81.8 0.43333 4 teams
Tom Brady (35) 95.7 0.43733 1 team

There is not a quarterback on the list with a percentage as low as Brady's that played for only one team. Of the 111 quarterbacks, 28 of them had a "Top 5 TD %" of less than 50%. Of the four players that played for only one team, Brady has the lowest percentage and highest passer rating.

Player Passer Rating Top 5 TD % # of Teams Played For
Tom Brady (35) 95.7 0.43733 1 team
John Elway+ 79.9 0.47333 1 team
Dan Marino+ 86.4 0.48095 1 team
Phil Simms 78.5 0.49749 1 team

But so what? We all already know how much of an anomaly Tom Brady is. His entire career has been an experience of watching a man break down every misconception after another on his way to having one of the most dominant resumes in the history of the sport. What is one more statistic showing that really worth? Well, the thing that I always wondered when I set out to discover the importance of a quarterback's weapons was whether or not passer rating was influenced by it. With the data that I have collected, one of the things I wondered was if players were at an advantage of gaining a greater passer rating if their "Top 5 TD %" was larger or smaller. Below is a chart of every single quarterback with a career passer rating of 90.0 or higher. These are the cream of the crop when it comes to efficiency ratings. Also, this cream has also benefited from passing rule changes which will have some names that may surprise you.

Player Passer Rating Top 5 TD %
Aaron Rodgers (29) 104.9 0.76596
Peyton Manning (36) 97.2 0.57230
Steve Young+ 96.8 0.71983
Philip Rivers (31) 96 0.64706
Tony Romo (32) 95.8 0.69712
Tom Brady (35) 95.7 0.43733
Drew Brees (33) 95.3 0.52342
Kurt Warner 93.7 0.65865
Ben Roethlisberger (30) 92.6 0.63134
Joe Montana+ 92.3 0.56777
Matt Ryan (27) 90.6 0.74026
Chad Pennington 90.1 0.56863

Here is that list in order of "Top 5 TD %" from smallest to largest.

Player Passer Rating Top 5 TD %
Tom Brady (35) 95.7 0.43733
Drew Brees (33) 95.3 0.52342
Joe Montana+ 92.3 0.56777
Chad Pennington 90.1 0.56863
Peyton Manning (36) 97.2 0.57230
Ben Roethlisberger (30) 92.6 0.63134
Philip Rivers (31) 96 0.64706
Kurt Warner 93.7 0.65865
Tony Romo (32) 95.8 0.69712
Steve Young+ 96.8 0.71983
Matt Ryan (27) 90.6 0.74026
Aaron Rodgers (29) 104.9 0.76596

The lowest quarterback not named Brady is Drew Brees at 52.34%. The difference in percentage between Brady and Brees (8.6%) is easily the largest gap of any of the quarterbacks on the list. Another interesting thing to note is how many teams each of these quarterbacks played for.

Player Passer Rating Top 5 TD % # of Teams
Tom Brady (35) 95.7 0.43733 1 Team
Drew Brees (33) 95.3 0.52342 2 Teams
Joe Montana+ 92.3 0.56777 2 Teams
Chad Pennington 90.1 0.56863 2 teams
Peyton Manning (36) 97.2 0.57230 2 teams
Ben Roethlisberger (30) 92.6 0.63134 1 team
Philip Rivers (31) 96 0.64706 1 team
Kurt Warner 93.7 0.65865 3 teams
Tony Romo (32) 95.8 0.69712 1 team
Steve Young+ 96.8 0.71983 2 teams
Matt Ryan (27) 90.6 0.74026 1 team
Aaron Rodgers (29) 104.9 0.76596 1 team

No quarterback with a passer rating above 90.0 that only played for one team has a "Top 5 TD %" below 60% except Tom Brady. The next lowest after Tom Brady is Ben Roethlisberger at 63.13%, with nearly 20% more of his total touchdowns coming from his top five than Brady. When it comes to top fives, Brady clearly has been working with vastly different circumstances than his counterparts.

Many people will suggest that the reason Brady has been so successful is that he had the fortune of sticking with the same team and same coach. While I would never suggest that Bill Belichick was not a primary force in the success of the Patriots, the numbers above suggest that Brady has not been given the ideal circumstances for putting up the passer rating that he has. If anything, he has faced some of the most unique circumstances on the way to establishing his place as one of the league's most efficient passers ever.

Tom Brady heads into the 2014-15 season with one of his top five still on the roster. While Rob Gronkowski's health will probably always be a question mark from here on out, the Patriots are fortunate to have a quarterback at the helm that is one of the best in the business at delivering even without the most consistent of circumstances. The Patriots enter the season with far more certainty at the receiver and tight end position, even with the question mark that is the Gronk. Hopefully we will see many more high fives by Brady with his receivers this year.

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

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