The League

Doug Farrar
Writer

Doug Farrar

A FootballOutsiders.com staff writer

Brady's Still the Best

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When discussing the game's greatest quarterbacks, it's really splitting hairs when deciding which one you'd want running your team. If I have Peyton Manning or Drew Brees, I'm going to win most of my games against your team unless your team has Peyton Manning or Drew Brees.

But my suspicion is that, all things being equal, if I have Tom Brady, I'm taking the Lombardi Trophy home.

First, let there be no doubt that Manning will be the one to shatter all the modern records for professional quarterbacks, and I can't wait to see it, because itll be one less reason to talk about Brett Favre, who currently holds most of those records. And when it comes to getting the most out of the least, Brees may be the new champ in that regard. He's got almost no running game, a bunch of mystery receivers whose efficiency depends almost entirely on how much he throws to them, and a horrible pass defense that pretty much assures that he'll be hurling the rock most of the time.

Still, Brady's the best - and he's the best because he's better when the stakes are higher. And nobody in his era has done more with less. Before he had Randy Moss and Wes Welker, Brady helped the Patriots win three Super Bowls with Troy Brown, David Givens, and Deion Branch. In the years 2001, 2003 and 2004, only one Pats receiver finished in the top 20 in DYAR, or Defense-adjusted Yards Above Replacement, Football Outsiders' measurement of cumulative season efficiency (Troy Brown, 13th, 2001). In 2004, when New England went 14-2 and Brady finished fourth in DYAR to Manning's first, Manning had two receivers in the top four in DYAR (Reggie Wayne first, Brandon Stokely fourth), while Brady's top targets finished 29th and 30th (Patten and Givens). When you bring these great quarterbacks into statistical focus, you have to discuss their supporting casts, and there's no question that when Brady was winning Super Bowls, his cast was weaker than Manning's.

It got to the point that people started to wonder what would happen if Brady had receivers as good as Wayne and Marvin Harrison. They got their answer in 2007, when Moss and Welker joined the team and the Patriots put up the single greatest offensive season in NFL history. In that season, New England's Offensive DVOA (Defense-adjusted Value Over Average) of 45.2% was almost twice as much as the DVOA of the second-place team - Manning's Colts.

There's no doubt that Manning's talent made his receivers better than they would have been with some league-average schmo, but the curve from receiver to quarterback, talent-wise, has been far higher for Brady than Manning. That's just the way it is. And when I look at quarterbacks, I don't look at wins, because quarterbacks aren't pitchers. I don't look at two-minute drills, because any number of things can happen that have less to do with the quarterback. I look at how much a quarterback is able to transcend his surroundings - and as great as Peyton Manning is, he's never had to transcend as much as Brady has. And when Brady had equivalent targets, he blew everyone out of the water.

As long as he can throw the ball, Brady's my guy.

By Doug Farrar  |  August 31, 2009; 6:20 AM ET  | Category:  Doug Farrar , NFL , New England Patriots , Peyton Manning , Philip Rivers , Pittsburgh Steelers , Quarterbacks , Tom Brady Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
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