There’s No “I” in Team

These days, when you watch any sports talk show on television, there will inevitably be an analyst going on about how Tom Brady is the best quarterback ever. Yes, he did just win his fifth Super Bowl in a dramatic comeback fashion, but people are getting way too caught up in the moment. There is no denying that Tom Brady is one of the all-time greats, but he isn’t quite deserving of the title of Greatest of All Time. Brady might be the only quarterback to ever win five Super Bowls, but football is a team sport, and he has consistently had the best team around him.

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graphic by John Liang

Throughout his career, Brady looked better than he actually is because of the Patriots’ defense lineup. This regular season, the Patriots’ defense allowed the fewest total points in the league, and had allowed the eighth fewest total regular season points when they won the Super Bowl two years ago. During the seasons of Brady’s first three Super Bowls, the Patriots had defenses ranked first, second and sixth in the NFL. Since Brady became the starter for the Patriots, his worst regular season record was in 2002, when they went 9-7 and didn’t make the playoffs. That year, the Patriots defense was ranked seventeenth in the league in regular season points allowed. When he wins the Super Bowl, their defense is elite. When he has his worst season, the Patriots defense is by far the worst that they’ve been in the Brady era.  Clearly, Brady’s winning ways have way more to do with the Patriots’ defense than most people want to believe.

When Peyton Manning and the Indianapolis Colts won the Super Bowl in 2007, his defense allowed the twenty-third fewest total regular season points in the league. Peyton Manning then led the Colts to the Super Bowl in 2010, where they lost to the Saints. The following season, Manning led them to a 10-6 record and a playoff berth. The season after, Peyton Manning suffered from a neck injury and missed the entire season. Without him, the Colts went 2-14. Just two years before they were in the Super Bowl, and the year without Manning they finished dead last in the league.  Conversely,when Brady served his four game deflategate suspension this season, the Patriots went 3-1 without him. The season that Peyton Manning was injured, after the Colts’ first four games they were 0-4. The comparison of these two future hall of famers shows how throughout his career, Tom Brady’s supporting cast has been incredible and has put him in a better limelight.  To be the greatest of all time, you have to be an irreplaceable component to your team.  The Patriots have been able to be successful without Brady because of their huge arsenal of defensive talent.

Tom Brady has also always had arguably the best coach of all time, Bill Belichick, in addition to a dominating defense. These stats really make you question Brady’s value to the Patriots. Peyton Manning had great coaches in Chuck Pagano and Gary Kubiak, but none of them compare to Belichick. Clearly, Brady is an amazing player as he has led the Patriots to five Super Bowls; but you have to wonder if they could have done it with a different quarterback. Peyton Manning, however, won a Super Bowl with the twenty-third best defense in the league, and his team went 214 without him. If you rank the greatest players ever based on their number of rings, Brady is clearly the greatest, but in terms of value to his team, Tom Brady is not the greatest quarterback of all time.

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