2019 Passing Plus-Minus

New England Patriots QB Tom Brady
New England Patriots QB Tom Brady
Photo: USA Today Sports Images

This week, we're continuing our annual review of the passing game with our passing plus-minus stats. And, as is becoming custom, it's our annual statement that the Saints' passing game is pretty darn good.

Drew Brees has now held the passing plus-minus championship for four consecutive years. He has been the champion for six of the past seven seasons, and eight of the past ten. No quarterback in the past decade has been able to match his combination of volume and accuracy. With the entire 2010s now in our database, we can put Brees' dominance in this stat into some historical context.

Passing plus-minus is a stat we annually track to help provide context to completion percentage. Given the location of a quarterback's passes, it compares his completion percentage in each area to historical baselines. This stat does not consider passes listed as "Thrown Away," "Tipped at Line," "Miscommunication," or "Quarterback Hit in Motion" by Sports Info Solutions charting. Metrics are based on how often a pass is completed based on the pass distance, the distance required for a first down, and whether the ball was thrown to the left, middle, or right side of the field. This is a counting stat, so more attempts are obviously a great thing for the purposes of what we're talking about here. Completion Percentage Over Expectation (CPOE) numbers may differ from other models around the Internet.

Take away those throwaways and tipped passes and the average quarterback would have completed 71.3% of the passes that Drew Brees threw in 2019. Brees, however, managed to complete 79.8% of them. Work that over 352 attempts, and you get a plus-minus of +29.9. That's his lowest total since 2015, but again, this is a counting stat. Even missing five games due to injury, Brees still managed to defend his crown.

All 34 quarterbacks who qualified for our regular passing leaderboards are included in this table, even the couple who fell under the 200-attempt threshold when certain attempts were removed; we figured Washington and Carolina fans would appreciate knowing how Dwayne Haskins and Teddy Bridgewater performed.

2019 Passing Plus-Minus
Rk Player Team Attempts CPOE +/-
1 Drew Brees NO 352 8.5% +29.9
2 Derek Carr OAK 467 6.1% +28.7
3 Kirk Cousins MIN 403 6.2% +24.8
4 Russell Wilson SEA 472 4.9% +23.3
5 Ryan Tannehill TEN 269 7.7% +20.7
6 Matt Ryan ATL 563 3.2% +17.9
7 Philip Rivers LAC 547 2.9% +15.9
8 Patrick Mahomes KC 445 2.7% +12.1
9 Deshaun Watson HOU 468 2.6% +12.0
10 Lamar Jackson BAL 374 2.4% +9.1
11 Dak Prescott DAL 563 1.2% +6.9
12 Matthew Stafford DET 277 2.2% +6.0
13 Joe Flacco DEN 232 2.3% +5.4
14 Jimmy Garoppolo SF 454 1.2% +5.4
15 Teddy Bridgewater NO 179 2.2% +4.0
16 Jameis Winston TB 576 0.7% +3.8
17 Kyler Murray ARI 493 0.5% +2.7
18 Sam Darnold NYJ 398 0.5% +2.1
19 Aaron Rodgers GB 517 0.1% +0.5
20 Jared Goff LAR 570 -0.3% -1.8
21 Ryan Fitzpatrick MIA 463 -0.6% -2.7
22 Mason Rudolph PIT 256 -1.1% -2.7
23 Carson Wentz PHI 568 -0.5% -2.9
24 Case Keenum WAS 230 -1.5% -3.5
25 Kyle Allen CAR 447 -1.1% -4.7
26 Josh Allen BUF 416 -2.4% -10.1
27 Daniel Jones NYG 425 -2.4% -10.4
28 Jacoby Brissett IND 403 -2.6% -10.6
29 Dwayne Haskins WAS 190 -6.7% -12.7
30 Baker Mayfield CLE 488 -2.8% -13.7
31 Gardner Minshew JAX 429 -4.0% -17.2
32 Andy Dalton CIN 481 -3.7% -17.7
33 Mitchell Trubisky CHI 490 -3.7% -18.3
34 Tom Brady NE 561 -3.8% -21.3

Brees' five-game stint on the sidelines nursing a torn UCL gave several players a chance to knock him off his perch, but none could quite pull it off. Derek Carr came closest in what has continued to be a career resurgence under Jon Gruden. In his first four NFL seasons, Carr averaged a plus-minus of -12.1 and a CPOE of -2.3%; that has jumped to +23.0 and 4.8% over the past two years. Some of that is philosophy-driven, as Carr has become much more of a game manager under Gruden -- his aDOT has dropped by over a yard, his ALEX has dropped by nearly as much, and his expected completion percentage has risen by more than 3%. Like last year, much of Carr's success here came on short passes; he led the league with a +16.3 plus-minus on passes that traveled 5 or fewer yards through the air. It should be noted, however, that Carr rose from ninth to third on passes beyond 5 yards; he didn't show off much in terms of a deep ball last year, but his intermediate passing improved significantly in 2019. That high volume of short passes means that Carr did rack up 93 failed completions in 2019, but those short passes weren't entirely empty calories; he finished fifth in successful completion percentage. It will be interesting to see if the addition of Henry Ruggs tempts Carr to throw a bit deeper in Las Vegas, and if he can apply his newfound accuracy back to deeper targets.

Ryan Tannehill also deserves significant mention for hitting the top five despite only playing a half-season. His 7.7% C%+ was second in the league behind only Brees, as he shattered his previous career highs of +12.3 and 3.4%. No matter which passing stat you look at this season, Tannehill was at or near the top and far above any of his career benchmarks, which is both an amazing breakout season and something that triggers the red flashing REGRESSION light in our main office. How much of Tannehill's success is due to moving to a new system? Probably some; he has always had a nice deep ball and the ability to make reads when given time, and that meshed really well with Arthur Smith's play-action focused offense. Then again, history has not been kind to established quarterbacks who suddenly have a great season seemingly out of nowhere. We go into this a lot more in Football Outsiders Almanac 2020 (on sale soon!), so for now, we'll just again point at yet another tremendous Tannehill stat and ignore its place in history.

But that brings us back to Brees. With any passing stat, it can be hard to separate the passer from his receivers, or from the system at large. That's why it's really useful for our purposes that Brees missed five games and was replaced by Teddy Bridgewater; we got to see what the Saints offense looked like with someone other than Brees under center. Bridgewater's numbers were good enough, but Brees blows them out of the water, just as he has done to everyone for a decade.

Decade Totals

As we reach the end of the Decade of Brees, we can run tables for the best and worst passing plus-minus of the decade, just to show you how far Brees was ahead of any of his contemporaries.

2010s Passing Plus-Minus Top 20
Rk Player Team Attempts CPOE +/-
1 Drew Brees NO 5,621 6.1% +342.8
2 Philip Rivers SD/LAC 5,214 3.6% +185.4
3 Matt Ryan ATL 5,552 3.2% +178.9
4 Russell Wilson SEA 3,445 4.4% +152.9
5 Aaron Rodgers GB 4,535 3.1% +138.7
6 Kirk Cousins WAS/MIN 2,912 3.4% +100.2
7 Ben Roethlisberger PIT 4,549 2.0% +89.8
8 Peyton Manning IND/DEN 2,729 3.2% +87.5
9 Tony Romo DAL 2,348 3.3% +77.3
10 Carson Palmer CIN/OAK/ARI 3,421 1.4% +46.6
11 Ryan Tannehill MIA/TEN 2,954 1.5% +44.1
12 Matt Schaub HOU/OAK/BAL/ATL 1,762 2.2% +39.5
13 Tom Brady NE 5,402 0.7% +36.2
14 Deshaun Watson HOU 1,138 2.8% +32.4
15 Dak Prescott DAL 1,949 1.6% +31.4
16 Teddy Bridgewater MIN/NO 964 2.8% +27.4
17 Patrick Mahomes KC 1,019 2.1% +21.1
18 Alex Smith SF/KC/WAS 3,476 0.5% +18.2
19 Jameis Winston TB 2,385 0.6% +13.9
20 Marcus Mariota TEN 1,641 0.7% +11.4


2010s Passing Plus-Minus Bottom 20
Rk Player Team Attempts CPOE +/-
325 Geno Smith NYJ/NYG/LAC 822 -3.0% -25.0
326 EJ Manuel BUF/OAK 553 -4.6% -25.4
327 Mitchell Trubisky CHI 1,210 -2.2% -26.3
328 Ryan Mallett NE/HOU/BAL 327 -8.3% -27.1
329 Jimmy Clausen CAR/CHI/BAL 414 -6.8% -28.4
330 Eli Manning NYG 4,984 -0.6% -29.1
331 Josh Freeman TB/MIN/IND 1,612 -1.9% -31.0
332 DeShone Kizer CLE/GB 469 -6.8% -31.7
333 Josh Allen BUF 707 -4.9% -34.4
334 Josh Rosen ARI/MIA 451 -8.1% -36.4
335 Joe Flacco BAL/DEN 4,646 -0.8% -37.9
336 Andrew Luck IND 3,059 -1.3% -40.2
337 John Skelton ARI 557 -7.8% -43.3
338 Drew Stanton DET/IND/ARI 554 -8.6% -47.6
339 Ryan Fitzpatrick BUF/TEN/HOU/TB/MIA 3,788 -1.3% -48.3
340 Brian Hoyer NE/ARI/CLE/HOU/CHI/SF/IND 1,367 -3.7% -50.7
341 Cam Newton CAR 3,698 -1.7% -61.2
342 Mark Sanchez NYJ/PHI/DAL/WAS 1,801 -3.9% -69.8
343 Blake Bortles JAX/LAR 2,427 -3.7% -90.5
344 Blaine Gabbert JAX/SF/ARI/TEN 1,400 -7.3% -102.5

Brees is also the only quarterback with at least 30 passes and a CPOE above 5.0%, and the only quarterback with more than 150 passes to hit 4.5%. Passing plus-minus is basically Brees' home stat, and we've run out superlatives to describe him. It remains baffling that he was passed over for the NFL's 2010s All-Decade Team.

Moving down the table, we can fire off some quick-hit observations on the middle of the pack. Patrick Mahomes is the Anti-Derek Carr, in many, many ways. He led the league with a +7.0 plus-minus on deep passes. Sam Darnold was last at -6.7, while Gardner Minshew's -23.0 was the worst plus-minus on short passes.

Ryan Tannehill wasn't the only one to see massive improvement from 2018 to 2019. Lamar Jackson went from -8.7 in 2018 to +9.1 a year ago and saw his CPOE improve from -5.5% to 2.4%; not bad for a running back. Both Josh Allen and Sam Darnold also saw their CPOE jump by at least five percentage points last season as they continue to develop. For Darnold, that got him on the positive side of plus-minus. Not so much for Allen, who improved from never accurate to rarely accurate; his -5.5 plus/minus on passes traveling 25 or more yards through the air was dead last in the league. Still, improvements are improvements, and if Allen can make even half that leap in 2020, he'll end up on the positive side of the ledger as well.

Along with Brees, Tannehill, and Carr, Kirk Cousins also topped a 5.0% CPOE. Unlike Tannehill and Carr, that's a streak for Cousins, who topped 5.0% in 2018 as well. That makes five years in a row the Vikings have had a quarterback with topping 5.0% CPOE, with Cousins following Case Keenum, Sam Bradford, and Teddy Bridgewater. Even the Saints can't match that, as 2015 was a down year for Brees at "only" 3.3%.

Kyler Murray's +2.7 led all qualified rookies by a sizeable margin as none of the trio of Daniel Jones, Dwayne Haskins, or Gardner Minshew could break into the top 25. Devlin Hodges, who did not qualify for the main tables, did pip him to the line with a +3.3, however.

Speaking of Haskins, he ended the season with the lowest CPOE in the league at -6.7%. That's actually a pretty decent number for worst in the league; the last time the league's worst CPOE was better than that was Brandon Weeden's -5.7% in 2013, so Haskins getting highlighted here is more a fact that no one else was terrible more than his season being particularly horrendous. It's also worth noting that Haskins got better as the season went along. He had a -11.0 plus/minus in his first 100 attempts, but just a -1.6 plus/minus in his last 90. You can read too much into splits like this, but the improvement is matched on film by Haskins getting more comfortable cycling through his reads. He still needs plenty of work, but there was more potential in his rookie season than the stats perhaps show.

One More Thing...

Alright, that about covers things, let's just take a quick look at the bottom of the table to make sure we haven't forgotten anyone. Haskins, check; we mentioned Gardner Minshew's terrible short plus/minus; Baker Mayfield's year didn't go so well, yes, yes, all fine. Andy Dalton's a backup now, Mitch Trubisky's probably joining him, and…

Oh. Oh, I see.

While he has never led the league, Tom Brady frequently finished in the upper third of passing plus/minus. He was third as recently as 2017; he's a very good quarterback with a history of very good results. That's not to say he never had a down season, mind you. His plus/minus was a dead-even 0.0 in 2018; he hit -3.2 in 2015, and he had a career-low -14.9 in 2013 in his worst season to date.

His worst season until 2019, that is.

Brady and his receivers were simply not on the same page in 2019; Brady's -17.7 plus/minus to his wideouts was the worst in the league. And we can't just blame that on receiver quality, either, though the lack of any superstars in the lineup didn't help. Mohammed Sanu had a +3.3 receiving plus/minus with Matt Ryan in Atlanta; that fell to -5.8 in New England on roughly the same number of targets. Brady had a negative plus/minus throwing to Sanu, to Julian Edelman, to Phillip Dorsett, to Josh Gordon, to Rex Burkhead -- to basically every pass-catcher on the team not named either Jakobi Meyers or James White. A lot of this came from a lack of connection on shorter passes, with Brady's -13.6 plus/minus on passes thrown 5 or fewer yards downfield was dead last. You definitely have to give him some credit dealing with arguably the worst collection of skill position talent in his career, but he also just had too many passes thrown too low for his receiver to pick up, or way ahead of his receivers to a point where they had no chance to catch it. Sports Info Solutions had Brady eighth from the bottom with a 73.4% catchable pass rate and fifth-worst with a 65.7% on-target rate. That, in our professional estimation, is not good. Those are the worst numbers Brady has put up in either category in the database, despite his average depth of target dropping, theoretically making his passes easier to complete.

It got worse as the season went along, too. Brady had a -0.7 plus/minus over the first eight weeks of the season, which isn't great but isn't particularly noteworthy either. That plummeted to -20.6 over the back half of the season, with a CPOE of -7.5%. Again, you can read too much into splits like this, but if you're running on the theory that a 42-year-old quarterback might tire as the season goes on, well, you have a data point.

This is not a death sentence. Brett Favre had the worst plus/minus in the league in 2006 at -35.5; he rebounded to make the Pro Bowl in each of his next three seasons. Andrew Luck and Cam Newton have both appeared at the bottom of the table. Brady still had a positive DVOA last season, as when he did complete passes, they were very effective. He's getting a massive upgrade in the quality of his skill position players in Tampa Bay, as well as a new offensive philosophy to work with. I highly doubt that Brady will be at the bottom of this table next year -- but then again, we're trying to project a quarterback well beyond any aging curve that has ever been measured. Our projections do not have Brady turning into Chargers-era Johnny Unitas or anything, but these numbers will have to go up if the Buccaneers are going to meet their high expectations for 2020.


66 comments, Last at 19 Jul 2021, 2:27pm

#1 by Aaron Brooks G… // Jul 13, 2020 - 1:35pm

That makes five years in a row the Vikings have had a quarterback with topping 5.0% CPOE, with Cousins following Case Keenum, Sam Darnold, and Teddy Bridgewater.

When was Darnold a QB in Minnesota?

I think you meant Sam Bradford.

Points: 0

#2 by Aaron Brooks G… // Jul 13, 2020 - 1:37pm

This is not a death sentence. Brett Favre had the worst plus/minus in the league in 2006 at -35.5; he rebounded to make the Pro Bowl in each of his next three seasons.

Favre was always a gunslinger, but there were many years that gun was a sawn-off shotgun.

Points: 0

#4 by pm // Jul 13, 2020 - 4:29pm

Thanks for the article. This article confirmed my belief that Brady was propped up by his system. Most of Brady's yards come after the catch, not before. The Patriots system allowed Brady to throw short quick passes for 5 yards and his receivers would pick up 7 yards after to make his passing numbers look respectable. He was not making difficult throws down the field into tight windows as these numbers show.


Anyone who has watched New England play knows they were good because of good play design, Edelman's uncanny ability to get open, and Brady's decision making abilities. The whole offense was basically Edelman running around pre snap, then running underneath receivers to create seperation, then quickly changing directions if the corner overplayed him. This was aided by Brady's off the charts timing ability. Brady never misses a receiver who is open within 10 yards of the line of scrimmage. He has a knack for finding open receivers.


Pundits are looking at Brady's move to Tampa Bay all wrong. Yes, the Tampa receivers are better than the New England receiving. And by a wide margin. But, Tampa's big play receivers are all wrong for Brady's style. So is Bruce Arians downfield passing system which works better with big arm QBs like Big Ben and Luck. Brady isn't going to throw it up for grabs 20 yards down the field to a tall receiver. That has never been his MO. Don't be surprised if Brady has a Peyton Manning decline this year. Brady has never had a system where he relied 100% on his arm to throw it downfield.


Brady's strengths are pocket presence and reading defenses. He is one of the best at that. In terms of actually physically throwing the ball to a receiver, he is subpar. His arm is not all that strong. He has never shown an ability to throw a deep 15 yard out route in a tight window or a 20 yard post route to a receiver who is not completely open. Go look at Brady's highlights and compare them to Rodgers or Brees. His highlights don't show him making difficult passes down the field. I expect that Brady's flaws will get exposed this year despite the fact that he upgraded receivers.

Points: 0

#5 by Goeagles581 // Jul 13, 2020 - 6:48pm

While I agree that Brady has probably had help making him look better than he actually he is because of his “system,” what do you think PFF is doing wrong in how they evaluate him? They have him as basically their highest rated quarterback ever. 

Points: 0

#6 by pm // Jul 13, 2020 - 7:58pm

If you look at the "results", Brady is the best ever. But if you watch his game carefully, you will see how much of the Patriots and Brady's success is more of a result of good game planning and Brady's excellent post-snap defense recognition, not from making great passes down the field. That has to partially be attributed to the scheme. Brady has had the same coach for his whole career. He played for the same organization for his whole career. He has had Josh McDaniels as his OC every year since 2006 with the exception of McDaniels short Broncos tenure. We haven't seen Brady in a new system with a different coach like his contemporaries. We have seen Drew Brees succeed with 2 franchises and 2 different head coaches. Peyton Manning succeeded with 5 head coaches and 2 franchises. Brett Favre played well for 2 franchises.




Points: 0

#8 by Kopalec // Jul 14, 2020 - 5:32am

I'm not sure what point you're trying to make here?  In one breath you state Brady is a system QB, propped up by a good scheme.  Then in the next you state all the reasons the system works excellently because he is so awesome at executing it.  It's almost as if Bellicheck was really smart and tailored the offense to suit his strengths.  Go figure.

As for his results in Tampa, yeah it will be interesting to see how he performs, but even if he doesn't live up to the hype some are expecting, it won't be definitive because father time is undefeated.

Points: 0

#10 by cstoos // Jul 14, 2020 - 10:04am

Brady doesn't have, and has never really had, the physical abilities to succeed in anything other than that system.  While he is without a doubt the most successful QB of all time, arguments can easily be made that he isn't the best of all time.

So yes, this is where the coaching/scheme vs player argument comes in.  I think the consensus is pretty much that, while Brady was the perfect player for Belichick, Bill would have been successful with another QB as well (though, not as successful).  But if you throw Tom on the Raiders for his career, they are probably still just the Raiders.

Points: 0

#62 by RickD // Jul 18, 2020 - 9:51pm

Also, so what?  Brady won six Super Bowls and multiple MVPs in this system.  Why should he play in a different system?   Do people say "Sure, Mariano Rivera had a great cutter, but if he'd thrown more curveballs, he'd have done a lot worse."  So what?  

Brady had a strong arm in his prime and was always good at many aspects of the game.  Dismissing him as a short passer at this point displays severe bias.  

Points: 0

#17 by mehllageman56 // Jul 14, 2020 - 12:12pm

He has never shown an ability to throw a deep 15 yard out route in a tight window or a 20 yard post route to a receiver who is not completely open.

As a Jets fan for the entirety of Brady's career, I disagree with this statement.  Brady's arm wasn't a problem until recently, and probably not even now.  If that statement were true, there is no way the Patriots would have had the run they had, since Ed Reed, Darrelle Revis and any number of other great cornerbacks would have taken advantage of it, especially in the playoffs.  Chad Pennington had a problem with deep out routes (due to arm strength) and it cost the Jets and the Dolphins when they made it to the playoffs.  Brady had decent arm strength, unlike Pennington.  What he did not have was deep ball accuracy.  Even in 2007 when Brady was throwing to Randy Moss, he was chucking the ball up to let Moss get under it, and steal it from defensive backs.  Brady has always been inconsistent hitting the deep receiver in stride; that's been his one flaw.  His problem now is that his accuracy is waning.  I'm not sure he's lost a lot of arm strength, but he wouldn't be at the bottom of this list if his accuracy wasn't falling apart.  Sure, he had a weak receiving corp last year; so did Sam Darnold, who also had mono, and yet Darnold is in the middle of this list, in spite of all the ghosts Darnold saw last year.  He's falling apart, but not in the same way Manning did.  Peyton had lost arm strength his first year in Denver; that's why Seattle was able to throttle them (in New York, in January) the way they did.  Bennett said as much in the book he wrote a couple years back.  The area where Brady can accurately hit a receiver is shrinking, but he can still throw deep-it just won't go where he wants it to.

Points: 0

#18 by Aaron Brooks G… // Jul 14, 2020 - 12:48pm

Brady has always been inconsistent hitting the deep receiver in stride; that's been his one flaw.  His problem now is that his accuracy is waning.  I'm not sure he's lost a lot of arm strength, but he wouldn't be at the bottom of this list if his accuracy wasn't falling apart. 

That is a symptom of lost arm-strength. You can still hit short and intermediate routes, but you need to put more effort into it. In an over-simplified way, your intermediate routes now have your deep accuracy and your short routes now have your intermediate accuracy.

Points: 0

#22 by theslothook // Jul 14, 2020 - 1:12pm

"Brady has always been inconsistent hitting the deep receiver in stride; that's been his one flaw."

I think is the right take. Brady's strength isn't throwing a guy medium or deep open, especially along the sidelines. His strengths have always been about pocket presence, pocket movement, and quick decision making. If you give him players that can get open consistently via medium and deep, then hes willing to make those throws so its not like its a prohibitive weakness the way it is with noodle arm qbs.


As for Brady today; that playoff loss Brady was bad. He was poor at throwing and I saw some definite arm strength weaknesses there. I maintain that was the result of a year's worth of fatigue catching up with him. In Tampa, I predict the same thing happening toward the end of the year; possibly earlier since hes a year older now. 

Points: 0

#44 by Hoodie_Sleeves // Jul 14, 2020 - 7:10pm

Brady wasnt any worse in that playoff game than he was all season. More people were just watching. 


And past about week 10 it became obvious that Brady was only going 2 deep in his progressions. 

Points: 0

#63 by RickD // Jul 18, 2020 - 9:54pm

Who is consistent hitting deep receivers in stride?  I don't think Brady had a great deep ball, but who is significantly better?  Rodgers?  Wilson?  

Is there a stat we can look this up?

Points: 0

#20 by theslothook // Jul 14, 2020 - 1:01pm

There needs to be a way to have a fair and even handed conversation about Tom Brady that doesn't devolve into, "Hes the goat because hes clutch and has 6 rings" or "See the +/- numbers and how wide open Edleman is, he's a system QB"

Full disclosure, I hated Brady from the start because I always thought the media played up his underdog darling status from the beginning and had to explain his relatively ok statistics as winner sauce.

I also don't think Tampa Bay is going to tell us anything one way or the other. If he stinks, it will be because he is old. If he's great - well was it because he is great or the talent around him is enormous?(Which is it). In a way he can't really hurt or help his legacy that much short of winning another SB imo. 


Points: 0

#45 by Hoodie_Sleeves // Jul 14, 2020 - 7:14pm

I've been saying this for a while  - Tampa's WRs are better than NE, but theyre an awful match for Brady. 



And they're going to get awful upset when he spends 25+ plays a game eyeballing Gronks corpse for 6 seconds. 


Tampa's best chance was to force Brady to play outside his comfort zone - now he doesn't have to.  He'll get pressured, and just lock onto Gronk and not go through his progressions like he's been doing with Edelman the last year

Points: 0

#65 by markf // Jan 23, 2021 - 2:35pm

This take, as well as several others in this thread, aged poorly. Brady went to a new team and system with no camp and was 3rd in DYAR and 4th in DVOA. And what happened? Well, the narrative just shifted from what you see here - predictions of demise in a new system - to new ones claiming that anyone could succeed as Bucs QB given the quality of offensive targets on the team.

Maybe CPOE should be better examined for its value. Does it have significant positive correlation to stats such as points scored, points per drive, yards per drive, or even passing DVOA in the same way that ANY/A and even passer rating to a lesser extent have? The 538 article a while ago looking at it had enough outliers to indicate that maybe it's just not a reliable advanced analytics stat.

Personally I think there is too much value given to aDOT. Which is better - throwing a 15-yard out to a double covered receiver who gets no YAC, or throwing a 10-yard crosser to a wide open receiver who can easily get 5 YAC? Stats like aDOT and CPOE thinks it's the former, but common sense doesn't necessarily agree.

Points: 0

#7 by dryheat // Jul 13, 2020 - 8:21pm

Well see what happens in Tampa.  While it was clear that Brady wasn't good last year, to me it looked more like he mentally checked out around Thanksgiving.  The dude just did not care anymore.  Receiver drops pass that hits him in the hands?  No emotion.  Brady sails a pass 6 feet high?  No emotion.  Three straight three-and-outs?  No emotion.  I think it's clear now that he new the Pats weren't a real threat to win the Super Bowl, knew he was out of there at the end of the season, and performed accordingly.

Points: 0

#11 by takeleavebelieve // Jul 14, 2020 - 10:50am

It was the Texans game in early December. They were the first team to double Edelman On every play, put a DB on White, and correctly identify that no other receiver could consistently get open one-on-one. After that game, it became pretty obvious that this team was not winning the Super Bowl. 

Points: 0

#43 by Hoodie_Sleeves // Jul 14, 2020 - 7:09pm

Rewatch that game in all 22. 


What they figured out was that it didnt matter if anyone but white and Edelman got open because Brady wasnt getting past them in his progressions until 6 or 7 seconds post snap. 


He was just watching Edelman run back and forth.  

Points: 0

#47 by sbond101 // Jul 15, 2020 - 7:27am

"What they figured out was that it didnt matter if anyone but white and Edelman got open because Brady wasnt getting past them in his progressions until 6 or 7 seconds post snap." - This is right

Brady has an enormously high trust-threshold for receivers he's willing to throw to, and has been this way for years. Brady is at his best when he's comfortable with a wide variety of receivers - that takes time and confidence, and definitely does seem to be negatively influenced by the presence of players with which he is excessively comfortable (the late-Welker years were an issue this way as well). It will be really interesting to watch him in Tampa, my guess is it's a bit of a train wreck especially because of the impaired offseason. It will be really hard to build any offense well suited to Brady in this kind of environment and his weaknesses at this point in his career are pretty significant.

Points: 0

#53 by Lost Ti-Cats Fan // Jul 16, 2020 - 12:22pm

I suspect that's true.  It'll be particular true for the deep routes Arians seems to like, unless TB's OL can perform at the same level as NE's traditionally does, as it appears (I don't have the data to back this up) that when he does throw deep now, Brady needs to really set his feet and step into the throw.

It's said (and I don't know if this is true or PR-bullstuff) that Brady's very coachable, or at least was.  His time in TB may be an interesting litmus test of his flexibility.  I'm sure he's highly motivated to succeed and show he can perform outside of Belichick's shadow.  So will he be open to improvements in his game?  or will TB need to re-design their offense around his existing tendencies?

In the end, I suspect his coachability or lack thereof won't matter, and that your conclusion is correct.   The best case scenario for Brady right now is behind a dominant defense where he can do just enough as a smart, low turnover game manager.  Even with the weapons around him, if the game rides on him for anything other than his pre-snap reads, TB'll be in trouble. 

If he stays healthy, Gronk adds more to the team than Brady does, as Gronk makes so many things tougher on the defence.

Points: 0

#9 by nat // Jul 14, 2020 - 8:40am

Funny thing about Brady’s season. He was dead last in this stat. His receivers were less likely to catch a targeted pass than any other set in the league. (For whatever reasons. Accuracy? Separation? Catch radius? That’s another discussion.)

Yet he managed to be dead average in DVOA and DYAR, 15 or 16 ranks higher than you’d expect.

Even when his receivers sucked, he still did a great job identifying the best throw to make.

If he ever gets to play another game, that’s a skill that should serve him well with a good set of targets.

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#57 by RobotBoy // Jul 17, 2020 - 4:06am

I'm pretty sure that Brady's receivers last year were close to worse in the league, if not the worst, at separation. That crew just could not get away from anyone.

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#12 by ahzroc // Jul 14, 2020 - 11:12am

When it is about the actual skills of performing the position of NFL QB, Drew Brees is the best of his generation, and likely the best ever. And the most under-rated by the public and to a large extent by media covering the NFL. 

THe evidence is laid out here very succinctly, and yet, as anyone would predict, no comments about Brees, all comments about Brady. 

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#15 by Joey-Harringto… // Jul 14, 2020 - 11:58am

It’s really a shame that that Saints couldn’t manage to give him competent defenses in 2012, and 2014-16.  The narrative of his career this past decade would have been very different.

He’s exhibit A of why QB wins is a garbage way to evaluate quarterbacks.

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#19 by Aaron Brooks G… // Jul 14, 2020 - 12:50pm

The flip-side, though, is Brees' stats benefited from the from the offensive spending bias in the Saints' system, but the consequence was the shitty defenses that held his record down.

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#21 by theslothook // Jul 14, 2020 - 1:05pm

I am at a loss to understand how you took the decade totals and proclaimed Drew Brees the best of his generation and likely the best ever. Really?????

Leave aside the fact that Peyton Manning won 4 of his mvps before the decade and his two best statistical seasons were also pre decade, you are also leaving off Tom Brady's best season in 2007 and a great one in 2009. 

Furthermore, when did +/- become the stat that defines best ever? Its one stat and I am not sure it cleanly separates qb from receiver or scheme in the way you do.

In any case, living through the period, Brees was always highly regarded but never thought of as the best qb in the nfl. It was usually him in the conversation with but considered lesser than Brady Manning and then later Rodgers. 

And I leave it to the other posters, but I had more faith in Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers in their primes beating a defense than I did Brees. I am biased with Manning so I left him off. 

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#23 by ahzroc // Jul 14, 2020 - 2:09pm

MVP !?!

The popularity contest that is known as the NFL MVP? 

PFF took a look at this, 

The highest WAR value of any player in the PFF era is not actually a player who earned an NFL MVP award (Drew Brees, 5.54 in 2011). In fact, Brees led the NFL in WAR during both of Aaron Rodgers’ MVP seasons. In terms of actual passing, I dont know if you can say there is a better passer. A QB on a better team? sure. More consistent? no way.

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#24 by theslothook // Jul 14, 2020 - 2:19pm

None of what you posted refutes my basic charge that you are using decade totals to proclaim Brees the best qb of his generation and then going further by saying he's the best there ever was. 


Also by their own admission, they still cannot cleanly separate qb from scheme and wide receiver talent. There's a long discussion we can have about why that exercise is damn near impossible. 

Points: 0

#26 by ahzroc // Jul 14, 2020 - 3:04pm

Is there a Qb who was/is MORE accurate and MORE consistent than Brees?

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#33 by ahzroc // Jul 14, 2020 - 3:52pm

Well, you could go by "Completion %" - Brees is the all-time leader.

or, per PFF...

when attempting to measure how accurate a quarterback is, they prefer to use a metric called “depth-adjusted completion percentage.”

Mike Clay developed this metric in 2013, which provides more nuance than raw completion percentage.

His formula treats drops the same as completions, while also stripping out spikes, throwaways, batted passes, and instances where a quarterback was hit as he threw. After this adjustment, they contract expected completion percentage (based on the depth of target of each throw) with a quarterback’s actual completion percentage.

By contrasting expected completion percentage (based on the league-wide average in each season) with a quarterback’s actual completion percentage, they can determine which quarterbacks were actually the most accurate.

 Drew Brees ranks first, and that’s no coincidence. Over the past 11 seasons, Brees has ranked top-six in depth-adjusted completion percentage ten times. He’s also ranked top-three in five of his last six seasons, including first overall in each of the past three seasons. No one else really comes close.

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#34 by ahzroc // Jul 14, 2020 - 4:01pm

Ok, maybe you don't take heed of what I'm saying...

Here's Roger Sherman of "The Ringer":


The Case for Drew Brees As the Quarterback GOAT

Brees became the NFL’s career leader in passing yardage on Monday. He also holds the record for completions and could soon set the record for touchdowns. In an era with Tom Brady, Peyton Manning, and Aaron Rodgers, it’s worth asking: Where does Brees rank in the all-time QB pantheon?

Saints quarterback Drew Brees set the NFL career record for passing yardage in a 43-19 win over Washington, surpassing Peyton Manning’s mark of 71,940 and bringing Monday Night Football to a screeching halt. (The celebration was pre-planned yet still somehow drew a flag from officials.) Just two weeks earlier, Brees broke Brett Favre’s record for passing completions. The 39-year-old Brees, who also holds the record for highest career completion percentage (67.2) among qualified passers, has shown few signs of slowing. He’ll likely extend his yards and completions records by quite a bit—and, given another season, will probably tack on the passing touchdowns record for good measure. (He’s at 499; Manning tops the list at 539.) If somebody were to glance at football’s record books with no prior knowledge of the sport, that person would almost certainly come away with the impression that Brees is the greatest quarterback in history.

But relatively few football fans share that opinion. Most fans would tell you that the quarterback GOAT is Tom Brady, who’s won five Super Bowl rings with the Patriots. Some would make the case for Manning, who took two different franchises to Super Bowls and recorded some of the greatest statistical seasons in the sport’s history. A great way to earn football cred is to argue that Aaron Rodgers is the most talented quarterback ever, even though he has only one ring. Joe Montana and his four rings are a quality old-school greatest-ever choice.

In spite of his remarkable accomplishments, Brees’s name simply doesn’t come up in these conversations. USA Today published a list of the NFL’s all-time greatest quarterbacks in February and put Brees at no. 11 (behind Otto Graham!). Sports Illustrated left Brees off a top-10 all-time QBs list in October 2017. (Again, behind Otto Graham! Who knew there was so many Otto Graham heads?) ESPN’s John Clayton didn’t even rank Brees among his top 15 quarterbacks ever. (Otto Graham: no. 5. You just can’t go anywhere these days without people wanting to talk about the 1949 Cleveland Browns.) Brees has never even been named MVP.

When Adam Vinatieri broke the NFL career field goals record a few weeks ago, we argued that he was the greatest kicker of all time, and nobody got mad. Sure, there’s less online debate around kickers than quarterbacks, but in Vinatieri’s case the stats made the case plain. We can’t do the same with quarterbacks, whose legacies are tied up in so much more than numbers.

Is there a case for Brees as the greatest quarterback of all time? And if so, what does it look like?

He’s Been the Most Consistent QB Ever

Brees’s first season with the Saints came in 2006, on the heels of his four-year stint with a Chargers franchise that once benched him for Doug Flutie and later ditched him to build around Philip Rivers. Brees has now played 13 seasons in New Orleans and led the league in a major statistical category (passing yardage, completion percentage, passing touchdowns, or QB rating) in 12 of them. The one season he didn’t was in 2013: He threw for 5,162 yards, the sixth-highest total of all time.

Brees has never had a bad season with the Saints. You could point to 2012, the lone campaign in which he tied for the league lead in interceptions. Then again, he also led the NFL with 43 passing touchdowns that year.

Compare this to Brady, who’s had 10 seasons in which he failed to lead the league in any of those statistical categories (excluding 2000, the year that he was a backup, and 2008, the year he got injured in Week 1). Manning failed to lead the league in any of those stats nine times (also excluding seasons lost to injury); Rodgers, meanwhile, has led the league in one of those categories just three times in his 11 years as a starter.

There have been nine 5,000-yard passing seasons in the history of the NFL. Brees has five of them. (Matthew Stafford has one, which might invalidate the achievement for you.) Extraordinary, league-shattering numbers are the norm for Brees, even as he approaches his 40s.

He’s Done the Most With the Least

Brees has won one Super Bowl, following the 2009 season, a triumph that probably makes him the most popular man in the history of New Orleans. (Keep an eye out for my follow-up article, “The Case For Lil Wayne As the Most Popular Louisianan of All Time,” in which I’ll discuss how Weezy’s stats [albums sold, Grammys] put him ahead of Louis Armstrong.) In the GOAT debate, however, Brees is up against guys with fistfuls of jewelry.

But Lombardi trophies aren’t handed out to individuals. This is a team sport, and Brees’s teams haven’t been particularly good. Since the QB arrived in New Orleans in 2006, the Saints have produced three top-10 scoring defenses, finishing seventh in points allowed in 2010, fourth in 2013, and 10th last year. They’ve had nine defenses ranked 20th or worse. In 2012 and 2016, the Saints finished second to last in scoring defense; in 2015, they were dead last. (The Chargers also finished 31st in 2003, one of Brees’s seasons as the starter in San Diego.)

No other quarterback in the GOAT conversation has dealt with defenses remotely this bad. Brady’s Patriots have notched 11 top-10 scoring defenses during his time in New England. The Pats led the league in scoring defense outright in 2003 and 2016 and, unsurprisingly, won the Super Bowl in both of those seasons. Brady has never played alongside a defense that’s finished worse than 20th in points allowed, let alone 31st or 32nd. Manning’s Colts tallied five top-10 defenses between 2002 and 2009; his Broncos boasted top-10 defenses in three of the four years he played in Denver, leading the league in 2015. Get this: They won the Super Bowl that season. The 49ers had top-10 defenses in nine of the 10 seasons Montana played quarterback there, leading the league in 1984—a campaign capped by a Super Bowl win. Rodgers’s Packers have never led the NFL in scoring defense but did finish second in 2010. You guessed it: That’s the season he won a ring.

Brees’s Saints finished 20th in scoring defense the season they won the Super Bowl. Not first, not second, not fifth. Twentieth. The Saints’ only notable defensive accomplishment to happen during Brees’s tenure was Bountygate. This is the sort of stuff that has happened to New Orleans defenses during the Brees era:

It is not Brees’s fault that his defense tackled air instead of preventing Case Keenum from becoming a hero.

To be fair, there is some correlation between Brees’s statistical greatness and the Saints’ track record of bad defense. Brees has long needed to keep passing all game long, because he’s needed to continue scoring to offset all the points allowed by New Orleans’s awful defenses. And his defenses have sometimes allowed points because Brees and the offense have scored too quickly, not affording defenders a chance to rest. The Bradys and Mannings have often been able to relax in fourth quarters while running out the clock; Brees has been forced to keep accumulating yardage out of necessity.

On the flip side, though, Brees has never played with a Hall of Fame–caliber wide receiver. Brady got Randy Moss and Rob Gronkowski; Manning had Marvin Harrison and Reggie Wayne. Meanwhile, no Saints wide receiver made the Pro Bowl during Brees’s tenure until last season, when Michael Thomas did. (Tight end Jimmy Graham was sent to Hawaii, or wherever the Pro Bowl is played these days, three times.) Beyond Graham and Thomas, Brees’s leading receivers in New Orleans have been Marques Colston (best remembered for that one incredible season when he had fantasy tight end eligibility), Lance Moore, Kenny Stills, and Brandin Cooks—guys who will have to pay the full price of admission in Canton.

This is why it’s stunning that Brees has never won MVP. None of the other QBs who have received the award ahead of him have been as individually responsible for their team’s success. If the award truly went to the most valuable player, it would have gone to Brees multiple times.

He’s Unparalleled As a Pure Passer

My favorite Brees tidbit is that his receivers usually can’t see the QB as he’s throwing to them. The ball just shows up, unexpected, right in between the numbers on their uniform. “I would just see the ball come out of a pile of folks,” Colston told ESPN. The ball would “emerge from nowhere and hit [receivers] in the hands,” Tim Layden wrote for SI. “[Brees], like, literally throws the ball to your hands like you don’t have no choice but to catch it,” current Saints running back Alvin Kamara said.

Brees has never made sense as an all-world quarterback. He is small, 6-foot-nothing, and years of conventional NFL wisdom have taught us that height is the most important factor in determining who can be an effective quarterback. (My GOAT pick? Gheorghe Muresan or Brock Osweiler.) Most prominent college programs passed on him as a recruit, despite his winning a high school state championship in Texas. And despite throwing for more than 11,000 yards with 90 touchdowns at Purdue, he fell to the second round of the 2001 NFL draft. He has a surgically repaired shoulder, which is why the Dolphins passed on him in 2005 free agency. (This piece is as good a reason as any to remind everybody that the Dolphins really chose to trade for Daunte Culpepper instead of signing Brees.)

But Brees’s height and shoulder surgery never mattered, because he is the best pure passer the sport has ever seen. He isn’t very mobile, and his arm has never been the strongest in the league. But he is unflinchingly accurate.

Brees’s accuracy has been revolutionary. For nearly two decades, he’s averaged a first down per completion while completing two-thirds of his passing attempts. Do the math on that, and you’ll discover that running is basically pointless. Perhaps more than anybody else, Brees has ushered the league into the modern age, where the pass is prioritized over the run.

My enduring memory of Brees won’t be of any booming pass or critical late-game play. His greatness lies in his steadiness: He has been impossibly consistent and impossibly accurate. Those aren’t highlight traits. He has made excellence seem routine. Perhaps that’s why his greatness isn’t as appreciated as he deserves.

Points: 0

#37 by Aaron Brooks G… // Jul 14, 2020 - 4:23pm

(Matthew Stafford has one, which might invalidate the achievement for you.)

That was all I needed to read to see the analysis wasn't worth a wet crap.

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#36 by Aaron Brooks G… // Jul 14, 2020 - 4:20pm

Well, you could go by "Completion %" - Brees is the all-time leader.

You would really need C%+ to judge that -- completion rates have risen in a non-trivial manner.

Sorting all-time seasons by completion rate, with a minimum of 100 passes, 2018 had as many player-seasons above 68% as all years before 2000 combined. Ryan Tannehill is on the list and Cam Newton just misses.

Even Brees has gone way up. Five of his first six seasons didn't qualify. Since, all except 2012 would have.

In 1982, Ken Anderson was 10% better than the #2 passer. In 1945, Sammy Baugh was 30% clear (70.3 - 53.9). That's equivalent to someone completing 96.7% of their passes in 2019 -- completing 366 of Brees' 379 passes. Brees is really good, but he's only about 5% better than the Carrs and Cousinses of the world.

Long story short -- this is a stat that requires more era-adjustment than most.

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#32 by takeleavebelieve // Jul 14, 2020 - 3:51pm

PFF WAR is 1) a counting stat, and 2) a black-box stat where they don’t actually disclose how they calculate it. 

Have you ever looked at the dome splits for Brees & Rogers? And keep in mind that Rogers’ dome games are all away games.

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#39 by ahzroc // Jul 14, 2020 - 4:33pm


it was here... PFF Research and Development Team
Dec 12, 2019

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#46 by takeleavebelieve // Jul 14, 2020 - 8:02pm

They don’t actually share the calculation, though. I’m a big fan of PFF grading, but WAR is definitely something to be skeptical of until they actually share their work.

By contrast, WAR in baseball is literally just the sum of the run value for every outcome for that player during that season, based on linear weights calculated in the 80s by Pete Palmer and slightly tweaked to account for the run environment. Some places handle fielding and pitching differently, but batting WAR is almost entirely based on Palmer’s work.  

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#48 by JimZipCode // Jul 15, 2020 - 1:33pm

I’m a big fan of PFF grading, but WAR is definitely something to be skeptical of until they actually share their work.

Their WAR is something to be suspicious of because it looks like a crock of shit.  In their article introducing it, they give a table of the last dozen or so MVPs.  By WAR, LDT 2006 and Adrian Peterson 2012 (their MVP seasons) each came out as less than 1/10th as “valuable” as Peyton Manning's 2008 MVP season.  Now, of course Manning is Manning; but in 2008 he finished:

· 6th in yards (a full thousand behind Brees)
· 5th in TDs (7 behind Brees & Rivers)
· 6th in TD% (Rivers blew him away)
· 5th in Rating (Rivers was 10 pts ahead)
· 11th in YPA (Rivers was more than a full yard ahead)

His weakest season – uh, among the ones that he won MVP for – and PFF has it as more then ten times as valuable by WAR as LDT's 31 TD season or All-Day's 2100yd season.  LDT & AP both led the league in PFR's AV their year, btw.

I don't have access to PFR's premium offering; but I bet, if we take the #9 thru #19 QB by DYAR for those seasons, they will show up as about 7 times more valuable than the RBs.

Compare LDT's season in 2006 (2300 scrimmage, 31 TDs, AV of 26 = the record) with these 2006 QBs:

#8 Romo – 65% for 2903 with 19/13
#9 McNabb – 57% for 2647 with 18 / 6
10 Roethlsbrgr – 60% for 3513 with 18 / 23
11 McNair – 63% for 3050 with 16 / 12
12 Damon Huard – 61% for 1878 with 11 / 1
13 Eli – 58% for 3244 with 24 / 18
14 Kitna –     62% for 4208 with 21 / 22
15 Favre – 56% for 3885 with 18 / 18
16 Brunell – 62% for 1789 with 8 / 4
17 Jeff Garcia – 62% for 1309 with 10 / 2
18 Delhomme – 61% for 2805 with 17 / 11
19 Leinart – 57% for 2547 with 11 / 12

Compare AP's 2012 season (2100 rush yds, led in AV, took Christian Ponder to the playoffs) with these 2012 QBs:

#8 Russ Wilson  – 64% for 3118 with 26 / 10
#9 Big Ben –  63% for 3265 with 26 / 8
10 Eli – 60% for 3948 with 26 / 15
11 RG3 – 66% for 3200 with 20 / 5
12 Schaub – 64% for 4008 with 22 / 12
13 Kaepernick – 62% for 1814 with 10 / 3
14 Cam – 58% for 3869 with 19 / 12
15 Alex Smith – 70% for 1737 with 13 / 5
16 Bradford – 60% for 3702 with 21 / 13
17 Flacco – 60% for 3817 with 22 / 10
18 Carson Palmer – 61% for 4018 with 22 / 14
19 Luck – 54% for 4374 with 23 / 18

In each case, I bet PFF has each of these QBs something like 7 times more valuable than the two RBs, by WAR.

WAR is the strongest, most extreme form of the "RBs don't matter" position: "running the football has zero value whatsoever," no matter how successful you are with it.  WAR rates Russ Wilson as the 2019 MVP over Lamar – consistent with the idea that running the football has no value.

Someone who has a PFF subscription, please check me on my assumptions about the "mediocre" QB seasons above.  Maybe I'm wrong, and they don't have those as 7x more valuable than peak- LDT or AP.  But I'm suspicious.


Points: 0

#49 by theslothook // Jul 15, 2020 - 1:36pm

I didn't go into their analysis in any depth, but I'm not surprised by the conclusion. QBs being 7x the value of a rb seems pretty normal. 

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#50 by JimZipCode // Jul 15, 2020 - 2:39pm

Maybe I buried the lede. 

● We're not talking about WAR finding 2019 Russell Wilson 7x as valuable as say Joe Mixon. 

● We're talking about mediocre to below-avg QB seasons being 7x the value of MVP RB seasons.  Roethlisberger throwing 18 TDs and 23 INTs; or Mark Brunell / Alex Smith throwing for ~1800 yds. 

Five or six of the QB seasons I listed had negative DVOA.  Yet they are rated as several times more valuable than Adrian Peterson gaining 2100 yards.  It does not compute.

(I mean, I think they are rated as several times more valuable.  I've never seen the actual WAR values.  I'm making several assumptions.)

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#51 by takeleavebelieve // Jul 15, 2020 - 6:52pm

I suspect what’s happening is that PFF effectively divides up the value of any given rush between 5 linemen and the RB, whereas the value of the passing play is assigned primarily to the QB. 

Which, if true, seems like the incorrect way to go about it - but we’ll never know that until they disclose the calculation. 

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#54 by Lost Ti-Cats Fan // Jul 16, 2020 - 12:27pm

Well, in a passing play, the OL get to have a cup of tea and any RB in the backfield can stand there and a breather, because the QB and the WR have got this. 

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#55 by Aaron Brooks G… // Jul 16, 2020 - 1:31pm

If you ask a WR, it's really only down to the receiver and a JUGS machine.

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#25 by milo // Jul 14, 2020 - 2:52pm

Please look up the articles on this site about 4th quarter comebacks and game winning drives and failed comebacks. Brees beat plenty of defenses, more than your heroes. Brees, unfortunately, does not play defense for the Saints (nor did anyone else for a few years).

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#35 by BJR // Jul 14, 2020 - 4:12pm

I think we are at the point with Brees where we should accept that we have probably never seen a QB perform so consistently and prolifically over such a long period. 

What then would prevent him from being the best ever? He perhaps never hit the outrageous heights of Manning and Brady and one or two others before him. His playoff performance does not quite match up to some other greats. He played almost his entire career in a dome, under the same Head Coach, who could be considered an offensive mastermind. Personally I would say the last sentence is most relevant for 'knocking' Brees, but a lot of that is subjective. I certainly don't think it's outrageous to proclaim him the best ever, because you'd have a hard time making an argument that anybody was much better than him statistically. 

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#42 by Aaron Brooks G… // Jul 14, 2020 - 4:36pm

I think we are at the point with Brees where we should accept that we have probably never seen a QB perform so consistently and prolifically over such a long period. 

I suppose, strictly speaking, that's true, although the line between Brees and Brady and Manning on those fronts is awfully small, and Manning has a lot of years with better completion percentages head-to-head compared to Brees -- the difference in their start year is actually meaningful here.

I suppose he doesn't have the lost Giants years that Tarkenton has. 

I'm not sure I see a huge difference as compared to Marino, though, and Marino may have done more with less.

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#13 by jamesking // Jul 14, 2020 - 11:24am

That seems like a lot, given that there were 34 in 2019, and a lot of them, of course, would have been the same in many of the preceding years.

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#14 by Bryan Knowles // Jul 14, 2020 - 11:51am

Ah, no.  Because this is a counting stat, I did not use any cutoff for the decade-long table;  If someone had been so exceptionally inaccurate to rack up enough negative plus minus to make the table,  I was going to give them credit. 

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#16 by jamesking // Jul 14, 2020 - 12:00pm

Thanks - totally makes sense but it feels like a bit of padding to just how bad those guys were at the bottom of the table (if you were to reference it based on rankings!). :-p  Like Cam Newton was worse than Alvin Kamara (even though Alvin Kamara couldn't *possibly* have been as bad as Newton, due to the small number of attempts).

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#30 by Bryan Knowles // Jul 14, 2020 - 3:17pm

It ~is~ a little bit of padding, I grant you, but when I can take a crack at the BortellianGabbertness of the Jaguars passing game without actually being inaccurate, I'm gonna swing!

If you limited it to players with 200 passes, the bottom of the list would be No. 112, which I suppose is funny enough on it's own, but still.


And for the record, Kamara was 1-for-1 for a plus-minus of +0.5 and a CPOE of 46.1%, so technically, on a very, very, VERY, VERY, and I can not stress how very small sample size, yes, Kamara was a more accurate passer than Newton this decade!  This is surely an appropriate use of these statistics, without a doubt.

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#31 by Aaron Brooks G… // Jul 14, 2020 - 3:24pm

Now I have to ask: who was the better runner?

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#38 by BJR // Jul 14, 2020 - 4:32pm

None of the names at the bottom of the decade list are too surprising. Apart from Andrew Luck. I always knew he was more of a 'gunslinger' than a precision passer, but the names he's surrounded by are all guys known to have moderate to severe accuracy issues. 

I realize he played much more than any of the really bad players on the list, so had more chance to accrue. But still a shock to me he doesn't rank far ahead of the likes of Newton, Flacco, Eli and Fitzpatrick in passing accuracy (at least by these metrics). 

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#41 by theslothook // Jul 14, 2020 - 4:34pm

Seeing Andrew Luck with Reich as his coach told me that a lot of Luck's style was influenced early on by his coaches who just let him run wild with the offense. Luck was a lot like Favre. He needed a coach who could really reign in his bad habits and bring out his best qualities. In that regard, its a bit of a sad what if with how his career played out. 

Points: 0

#40 by theslothook // Jul 14, 2020 - 4:33pm

Saying Drew Brees belongs in the goat conversation is a mildly contrarian view, but its not outlandish. Saying he's the prohibitive GOAT is ridiculous.

Some of the posters above are throwing statistics into the discussion as if they offered some kind of bullet proof evidence that Brees is the best. Let's go through a few issues being omitted here.


1) Brees has played in the easiest pass happy era in NFL history. Looking at the average passing production today vs 5 years ago is big, let alone 10. So any attempts at using such stats needs to era adjust.

2) Brees has played in a dome most of his career. I am normally unsympathetic to such arguments but Brees' has had some very pronounced road home splits vs other dome qbs. Something I suppose worth taking into account.

3) A large chunk of Brees' production is coming from YAC. It remains an open question if YAC is mostly a product of receivers, quarterback, or scheme.

4) Brees' defenses have been awful, but his special teams and skill talent hasn't been. He's also had the same head coach his entire career and his offensive lines have fielded multiple probowlers. Yes theres a chicken and egg problem here when it comes to parsing out how much is his teammates versus him.

5) PFF tries to answer some of that by quantifying the subjective. However, its not clear that they are able to do so in a clear, consistent, and transparent manner. We are left trusting their subjectivity.

6) PFF cannot subjectively disentangle scheme and design from the playcalling and talent. Consider this, if Michael Thomas suffers an injury, do the Saints really not augment their playcalling accordingly or do they just assume Brees will turn that backup into Michael Thomas light and play on? Such subtleties exist in the world of the nfl but are lost when it comes to measurement. 

7) Neither this article nor the other stats I see supporting Brees are era adjusted or opponent adjusted. FO tries to do that and its telling that no one is using DVOA to prop up Brees' case.

Bottom line, assessing who the GOAT is complicated and relies on a ton of subjectivity. How much is Brees being propped up by Sean Payton and the scheme / talent around him. How much is Tom Brady propped up by BB and the scheme. What about Manning and his all star teammates?

This is kind of why I think Manning is the GOAT. He sort of answered most of those questions throughout his career. He had great seasons with different coaches, different skill players, and different organizations and he did it over a long period of time. We also saw how the team rolled over and died when he got injured.

However, if you disagree, I can completely understand.

Points: 0

#52 by takeleavebelieve // Jul 15, 2020 - 7:01pm

I think the dome thing definitely needs to be accounted for with any arguments based on his longevity - that advantage slowly adds up over the course of 13 years. 

Obviously it’s not a clean comparison, but Aaron Rodgers’ and Tom Brady’s stats in dome games (which of course would also be away games) are actually better than Brees’.

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#56 by Joseph // Jul 16, 2020 - 4:53pm

To me, even as a Saints fan, I want to see how the end of Brees' and Brady's career plays out. I think Brady will be eventually considered the GOAT because he has stats and rings, not just one or the other.

I think that Brees will be the all-time leader in yards, TD's, etc. when he retires, and maybe for a while after. However, even though I think he has been unlucky, he will never be considered the GOAT b/c of only 1 SB appearance and win, and no MVP's. 

I also think that if either of them wins the SB this year, that's it--they'll retire, no matter what they have talked about doing otherwise.

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#58 by Raiderfan // Jul 17, 2020 - 6:56am

That may well be true for Brees, but I think Brady will play as long as Gisele lets him. I do not think he has ever gotten over that 199 thing.

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#59 by joe football // Jul 17, 2020 - 2:10pm

I think Brady will be better regarded in the far-flung future when there's nobody alive who saw him play and they're mostly just looking at his PFR page and rings, because the best argument against him is his game just looks very unimpressive and system QBish much of the time

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#60 by theslothook // Jul 17, 2020 - 4:13pm

He's going to be remembered as the goat. Casual fans and media people already refer to him that way. He has three MVPs to go along with his six rings; meaning he will have enough statistical dominance to go along with the team success that it will render most debates moot. There will be a jordan-esque defacto quality to all of it.

Honestly the only thing I can think of that would hurt his legacy would be if Belichick were able to win a super bowl without him. And even then he probably would have to win multiple for it to materially harm his legacy in any way.


I'm actually curious to hear what others think. If the BB is able to win another Superbowl, would that hurt your opinion of Tom Brady's legacy?

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#61 by Aaron Brooks G… // Jul 17, 2020 - 4:25pm

His GOAT claim is weakened a touch by a competitor existing in the ESPN era -- Joe Montana. Unlike Jordan, whose primary rivals came too early for cable coverage (Wilt and Russell), or were a ninny (Kareem).

Brady is more of a LeBronish figure -- unparalleled dominance of his division in the modern era, more total title game appearances, and better all-around numbers than Jordan, but more Finals losses than his rival's famous 0.

\I suppose this makes Brees Olajuwon

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