Judged by his lofty standards, Tom Brady’s 2019 season was another step back for the future Hall of Famer. Not only did he and the New England Patriots fail to advance past the wild card playoff round for the first time since 2009, he also was unable to elevate the players around him on a consistent basis resulting in the entire offense struggling week-in and week-out down the stretch. Brady is not the only culprit, but he deserves some blame.
He is playing the most important position on the field, after all, and has regularly been productive no matter the talent around him. 2019, however, was different: Brady had one of his worst statistical campaigns and finished the season with a combined completion percentage of just 60.5% while throwing for 4,266 yards as well as 28 touchdowns and nine interceptions. The reasons for this rather pedestrian output are manifold, of course.
Foot and elbow injuries late during the year played a part in this. Brady also had a hard time when under pressure — his 52.1 passer rating while under duress is by far his worst since 2014’s 53.4 — or when unable to quickly distribute the football. The latter is also closely tied to arguably the biggest reason for Brady’s statistical struggles in 2019: his supporting cast especially at the receiving positions was not up to par for much of the season.
Sure, Brady has been able to overcome inconsistent play at the offensive skill positions in the past but this latest season of his was an exception as it combined two fatal factors: his continued decline from his historically great stretch between the 2015 and 2017 seasons and a wide receiver and tight end corps that lacked consistent playmaking outside of Super Bowl MVP Julian Edelman — a player that fought through numerous injuries in 2019.
The latter in particularly hurt Brady and New England’s offseason last season, as a look at some of his advanced statistics courtesy of Pro Football Focus’ annual quarterback guide shows.
After all, the 42-year-old passer was still among the most accurate in all of football in 2019: he ranked third in the league in PFF’s accuracy+ statistic and 10th in accuracy including throws on target and within a receiver’s frame with a rate of 61.9%. Furthermore, Brady’s catchable inaccuracy — passes that are either high, low, in the front or the back of a receiver — ranks as the fourth best in the league. He put balls where he needed to.
A look at his accuracy compared to the rest of the league also shows just how well he put the ball no matter the distance a throw covered: judging by passes on target and within a pass catcher’s frame (the aforementioned accuracy statistic), Brady was exactly 1% more accurate than the average QB on attempts behind the line of scrimmage, and 1.4% and 1.6% better on throws in the 0-9 yards and 10-19 yards ranges, respectively.
What does stand out in particular was Brady’s ability to throw the football deep and still remain accurate: compared to the league average he was 11.5% more accurate on deep throws even though only 25 of 62 attempts were actually completed. Still, for a quarterback oftentimes inaccurately branded as a dink-and-dunk passer, Brady was good when it came to thrown the deep pass — even though New England failed to regularly capitalize.
The same goes for throws into tight windows. Per PFF’s tracking, Brady was 13.2% more accurate than the league average when his intended target was not considered open. But while the quarterback was accurate when throwing into tight windows and had to do so on only 17% of his total attempts during the 2019 season, he was less successful with defenders closing in (-0.8% compared to NFL average) or just a step behind (-1%).
All in all, though, Brady had another accurate campaign which should bode well for his long-term outlook: he still knows how to place the football, even though his numbers during the 2019 season were not up to his usual levels on the surface. But what this accuracy charting shows is that the future Hall of Famer can still sling it with the best of them, even though he needs a better supporting cast to consistently perform well at this stage in his career.