by Aaron Schatz
Note: This thread first appeared back in July 2004 as a way to move all the Brady-Manning debate out of other discussions and into one place. I don't know why people have a tendency to lose their minds over this issue, but it really does take over every discussion thread if we let it. Certainly this week, with the Colts playing the Patriots again, we're in danger of this site becoming all Brady-Manning all the time. So, please leave that issue to this thread. Thanks.
We seem to have a problem that has developed at Football Outsiders. For a number of reasons, we can't seem to get away from having almost every discussion thread turn into an argument about Tom Brady vs. (insert another quarterback here).
There are a few reasons for this. First of all, as everybody knows, we have more Patriots fans reading this website than fans of other teams. When the site launched a year ago, the first place we promoted ourselves was on Boston Sports Media Watch. These initial readers have spread the word to their fellow Patriots fans, which means that we get mentioned more on Patriots-oriented message boards than other message boards. We get discussed occasionally on Boston-based sports radio WEEI. We got more Boston publicity at the end of the season, when we were the subject of a huge feature story in the Boston Globe on Super Bowl Sunday. On top of all this, it's reasonable to believe that Patriots fans are more open to the kind of conventional wisdom-challenging statistics I've introduced on this website due to the influence of the current management of the Red Sox. (I don't know, is there a lot of A's-Raiders crossover? 49ers, perhaps? Do we have a lot of Toronto Argonauts fans here?)
The second reason for all the Tom Brady talk is that we've had a number of discussion threads and articles in the offseason that lent themselves to that sort of thing. When we introduced a discussion called "Most Underrated QB," as much as I wanted it to turn into a big Bobby Hebert celebration, it was obvious what would happen. When Mike and I got the idea of doing our own version of Pete Prisco's Top 50 Players list, I realized we were going to get caught up in the Brady thing again. And that's because of the third reason why we get all this Tom Brady talk. When it comes to on field performance, Tom Brady may be the most controversial player in the NFL today. In fact, he's similar to another very popular player out there, and Patriots fans aren't going to want to hear this.
Tom Brady is Derek Jeter.
I'm sure I'm not the first person to say this. Think about the similarities, though, and the comparison is obvious. Both players are known for winning, for performing in the clutch, and for making the players around them better. Both players are even bigger celebrities outside the world of sports than they would be otherwise because of good looks and a habit of dating young actresses and models. Neither player, according to raw numbers, is really among the best players in the game. Both players inspire non-stop debate between love and hate. Every Tom Brady discussion is bound to end the same way every Derek Jeter discussion is bound to end, with the Patriots/Yankees fan pointing at their fingers and saying, "Hey, it's all about the rings."
There is one difference, which is important when we're talking about discussions on this site. Derek Jeter is routinely lambasted in sabermetric circles as being overrated, primarily on defense. Yet here on Football Outsiders, the closest thing to a sabermetric football website out there, we're pretty high on Tom Brady. Particularly me, which is why people complain about Patriot fan bias. But the issue isn't fan bias, but rather the question of whether our new statistics are so good at isolating the value of specific players that we can discount what we subjectively see happen on the field with our own eyes. As the creator of the statistics, I can tell you the answer is no. They are the best thing out there, but quarterback DVOA, for example, is still dependent in some part on the receivers, the offensive line, and the offensive system. The reason I think Tom Brady is probably a better quarterback than his DVOA shows is the same reason I think Donovan McNabb is probably a better quarterback than his DVOA shows (and Trent Green is not the second-best quarterback in football). Trust me when I tell you I have neither a pro-Eagle nor an anti-Chiefs bias.
There is another difference, I guess, since discussions of Derek Jeter are all wrapped up in the idea of the "shortstop trinity" and I don't think such a thing exists in football. Although, I don't know, perhaps Peyton Manning is Alex Rodriguez and the oft-injured Steve McNair is oft-injured Nomar Garciaparra. I suppose this makes McNabb into Miguel Tejada or something.
Anyway, I'm not saying this because I wanted to start another Tom Brady discussion. That discussion is already going. I am saying this because I want to be able to set up a permanent thread where the Tom Brady argument can go on ad infinitum without getting in the way of discussing the other 1700 players in the National Football League. This isn't really the last Tom Brady article, of course; I have to talk about him when I'm writing about the Patriots and if they make another playoff run this year I'm sure he will come up a few times. But from now on when a discussion breaks down into Brady vs. Player X, I'm just going to toss on a link to this discussion thread and tell people to bring it over here.
By the way, this discussion is far, far sillier than the other discussion threads on this site, and it is meant to be. The rest of the website is not like this.
Possibly the closest Super Bowl matchup in history also poses the question: how much does it mean when certain aspects of an NFL team improve dramatically in the second half of the season?