Today in “Great lines from Batman movies back when they were still good”:
“Bruce? You’re supposed to be dead!”
“Sorry to disappoint.”
Somehow, we’re already exactly halfway through the 2019 Patriots season, and it seems like just the other day that we had high hopes for a hard-won victory against the dastardly Pittsburgh Steelers and didn’t even have a cool nickname for the defense yet. They grow up so fast!
Or maybe it’s “time flies when you’re having fun”.
And when you’ve got a defense that is statistically unprecedented leading the charge and grabbing the headlines, it’d be easy to miss the fact that Tom Brady is actually still quite good at throwing footballs.
Ah, who are we kidding, nobody’s missing that, it’s kind of what we do here, it’s our thing.
You know whose thing it’s not, though? Basically everybody else who doesn’t own lots of wardrobe items with 12 and 54 and 87 on them. You already know. Brady’s on the decline! More run game! No zip! Dink and dunk! System! Cliff! Words are coming out of my mouth!
So you’ve probably already figured out what we’re going to do: the time-honored sportz tradition of taking everything Brady’s done in the first half of the season, multiply it by two (2) or otherwise extrapolate it over the course of a full regular season, and see how that holds up with the rest of the GOAT’s extensive back catalog.
And spare me the “CUPCAKE SCHEDULE BRUH”. We’ve been over here saying New England basically treats September like an extended preseason and they start slow, and so far this year, only Buffalo’s been able to play the Patriots within two touchdowns. So, yeah. If they’re already rolling, maybe they actually *are* that good.
Sorry, one more thing: if you’re already ready to Well ACTUALLY the whole premise of extrapolating stats over the course of a whole season because that isn’t how football actually works...thank you for your service, now go back to being the person that brings their iPad to a bar to check fantasy scores every 13 seconds. We’re not defending a dissertation here, this is supposed to be fun. That’s kinda why we watch the games, right? It’s supposed to be fun!
FIRST: let’s start with an appetizer. Maybe some mozzarella sticks? (not TB12 approved):
And now, the goods:
2019 passing yards through Week 8: 2,251
2019 passing yards through Week 8 x 2 = 4,502
Random fun fact: that would only be a hair over 200 yards away from Brady’s 2007 flamethrower season.
How about the last few years, though? Can 4,502 passing yards hang?
Yes, it can!
(regular season only)
2018 passing yards: 4,355
2017 passing yards: 4,577
2016 passing yards: 3,554*
*you probably remember Brady missing the first 4 games of 2016 because reasons. If he did play all 16, though, he averaged 296.2 yards/game, which would shake out to 4,739 on the regular season.
Which is about how many he had in the Super Bowl that year too AM I RIGHT??
2015 passing yards: 4,770
So far, business as usual.
Because more points is better than less points.
2019 passing touchdowns through Week 8: 13
2019 passing touchdowns through Week 8 x2 = 26
(worth noting that, although we’re not including it here, TB12 also has 3 rushing touchdowns on the season. Same as Russell Wilson!)
One might assume, if one listened to everything everyone says about the Patriots THROWING IT BACK to SMASHMOUTH FOOTBALL because Bill Belichick zigs when everybody else zags, that Brady’s touchdowns over the last two years are down compared to what they used to be. Would you be correct in that assumption?
Per usual, the correct answer is “....sort of?”
26 passing touchdowns on the year would be Brady’s lowest total since 2013, commonly referred to as the “Dobson-Thompkins Era”, and it also really wouldn’t be that far off what he’s been doing in the TD department lately, with 2015 being a notable outlier cause they threw the damn ball so much.
2018 passing touchdowns: 29 (pretty close to 26)
2017 passing touchdowns: 32 (good enough for MVP!)
2016 passing touchdowns: 28 (if we add in those 4 missed games again, this jumps up to 37)
2015 passing touchdowns: 36
Whenever Brady posts one of those videos of him and the guys throwing in Red Dead Redemption Montana country or whatever, here’s how that shakes out in games: the man’s completion percentage stays freakishly consistent year to year, and that’s with Edelman and a rotating cast of Chris Hogans, Malcolm Mitchells, Brandon LaFells, Danny Amendolas, Phillip Dorsetts, and....we could do this all day, you get the idea.
2019 completion percentage through Week 8: 64.7%
UH OH COULD THIS BE THE CLIFF??
2018 completion percentage: 65.8%
2017 completion percentage: 66.3%
2016 completion percentage: 67.4%
2015 completion percentage: 64.4%
Phew, that was close.
Adjusted Net Yards Per Attempt
This one’s what The Ringer’s Riley McAtee describes as “the stat takes basic yards per attempt and folds in sacks, interceptions, and touchdowns. You can find ANY/A on Pro Football Reference waaaaaaaaaay over to the right side next to Sacks.
(one of those two things obviously being preferable to the other)
This season so far, Brady’s checking in at 6.95 adjusted net yards per attempt. But is that washed compared to the last few years?
Here’s the fun part about the other four years below: remember how we said this stat includes sacks and picks and touchdowns? Brady’s 2016 season is always gonna be historic for 28-3 alone, but on the road to get there, in the regular season, the dude only threw 2 interceptions. Not in one game, like, in the whole regular season.
So when the ‘16 campaign looks like a major outlier, that’s certainly the coolest factor at play there. Check it out:
2018 adjusted net yards/attempt: 7.26
2017 adjusted net yards/attempt: 7.56
2016 adjusted net yards/attempt: 8.81
2015 adjusted net yards/attempt: 7.48
Oh, also fun about 2016 jumping off the page: Tom also only got sacked 15 times all year. As opposed to this year, when 2 of the starting 5 offensive linemen are backups and he’s taken 13 sacks already. Just saying.
Pro Football Focus Grades
“Now here’s a guy....”
Just kidding. But it’s always nice when the PFF Grades match up with your own eyeball test, like “Ah, the nerds in Cincinnati agree with ME, the Football Knower, Slayer of ‘Gansetts and Devourer of Brisket Nachos. As it should be.”
Brady is a tad behind his last few seasons here, but in more of a “close enough to knock you off the track in Mariokart” sort of way, not like a 2015 Peyton Manning situation.
2017: 92.9 (keep in mind this was Tom’s most recent league MVP year)
Oh right, almost forgot: as we noted/not-at-all-humbly bragged earlier, that 2019 grade of 84.1 is good enough for 4th-best quarterback in the NFL counting this season and the 2018 campaign, according to PFF’s metrics. And of the 3 unquestionably elite QBs ahead of him, only one has played all 8 games so far this season like Brady has.
That’d be the possibly-indestructible Russell Wilson, who’s ranked 3rd overall, and Wilson and Brady are looking up at Patrick Mahomes and Drew Brees, who undeniably kick all kinds of ass on the field, but have also barely put together 8 games between them this year.
Just kidding. We’re trying to solve problems here, not make more of ‘em.
One more for the road: expected points, which ESPN explains measures the following aspects of quarterback performance (if only our stats teacher in college explained it like this, maybe we would’ve actually shown up to class, right?):
• Being closer to the opposing goal line and farther from your own is better
• Earlier downs are better (first-and-10 is better than second-and-10, etc.)
• Shorter distance to go is better
• Being at home is better
These are all, in fact, things that are good!
Anyways, now that we know this measures doing good football things, it accumulates points through the course of the season. Like when you get XP for beating the boss in a video game. Or the Jets. Whichever.
Tom Brady total EPA, 2019 season through Week 8: 34.6
Last time for math, promise: 34.6 x 2 over a whole season = 69.2
(You know what to do)
Tom Brady total EPA, 2018 season: 82.6
Tom Brady total EPA, 2017 season: 96.5 (led the NFL, won MVP)
Tom Brady total EPA, 2016 season: 83.3
Tom Brady total EPA, 2015 season: 89.8
Now you’re probably thinking to yourself, “Did you....did you just shoot your own premise that Brady isn’t in a decline of any real sort in the foot, buddy? Cause 69.2 is a lot lower than 80-something like last year, or every year TB wasn’t MVP lately”
Possibly! I’d also suggest this: per Football Outsiders’ metric for average starting field position on offense, the Patriots offense is starting drives at the second-best spots on the field in football. Meaning less distance to the end zone than almost every previous season in our (admittedly arbitrary) 5-year window here. So if the defense is balling at a Boogeymen level and giving the New England offense the second-best starting field position in the game right now, as any fantasy football nerd can tell you, that’s less chances to rack up passing yards between end zones. You can imagine how this stacks up if you’re, for a ridiculous example, starting every drive at your own 5-yard line as opposed to the 33-yard line...which is where the Patriots are at this season currently.
On the other hand, maybe the Cliff crowd is right. Patriots ain’t even played ‘Bama yet.