Zensights: Does Tom Brady Suck? (According to a Decade of Data)

By January 31, 2019Zensights

We’ve got a “big game” around the corner that most people know as the “Super Bowl.” For my entire adult life, though, it has been the “Oh-No-Not-The-Patriots-Again Bowl.”

This year is no exception. The Los Angeles Rams take on the New England Patriots Sunday the 3rd for the NFL’s most prestigious honor of being Super Bowl Champions.

After the Patriots snaked their way past the Kansas City Chiefs in the AFC Championship, I could almost hear the audible sigh as the football-loving nation shook their heads in unison.

Everybody gets to watch Tom Brady take the largest stage in sports once more to continue his legacy as the… what exactly? The Greatest of All Time (GOAT), the Luckiest Quarterback of All Time (LQOAT), or maybe even a less palatable title.

The Experiment

Coming from an avid Atlanta Falcons fan, those familiar with Super Bowl 51 are likely aware of the outcome. The Falcons blew it and Tom Brady started the conversation of him being the greatest quarterback to ever play the game.

Don’t believe me?

Take a look at these Google Trends data we fed into Izenda’s report design module and see when people started calling Tom the GOAT.

Tom Brady "GOAT" New England Patriots Super Bowl 2019 results

That’s February of 2017 that is skyrocketing off the charts.

That’s the week the Falcons and Tom Brady broke my heart.

Never before in his career had Tom Brady been trending as the “GOAT” on Google, until the Patriots took advantage of Falcons collapsing worse than the Metrodome in Minnesota six years prior.

This game, more than any other Super Bowl involving the Patriots and Tom Brady, got me thinking.

Is Tom Brady really that great? Is he lucky? Does he actually suck? Is it some combination of these?

First, just for fun, I wanted to see when Tom Brady trends. Specifically, what people think about him over his career.

The above screenshot shows that his “GOAT” status did not become prevalent until the Falcons decided to clip their wings in the second half (No, I still have not recovered from this).

Let’s take a look at some different Google Trends metrics fed into some Izenda visualizations.

Let’s see how “Tom Brady is Lucky” trends over the past 15 years.

Tom Brady Lucky New England Patriots search results Super Bowl 2019

Interestingly, almost his entire career the masses have thought Tom was relatively lucky when it came to his success.

Obviously, there are some spikes around Super Bowl time.

More fascinating, the largest spike occurs in February of 2012 which is infamous for Tom Brady losing a Super Bowl in part to a New York Giants team that accumulated a measly 9-7 record to reach the playoffs that year.

I won’t mention the second spike here, but… you know.

Tom Brady Sucks year over year Super Bowl 2019Ah, yes. “Tom Brady Sucks”…

I may, or may not, have been a part of this Google Trend at some point. Most interesting about this data is how constant it is.

Basically, throughout each football season, people seem to be hateful towards Tom Brady’s overrated quarterbacking.

I did some due diligence here on this Sunday’s Super Bowl quarterback Jared Goff as well.

While he is still early in his career, there was not sufficient data in Google Trends to justify creating a visualization. So, there must be something to this “Tom Brady Sucks” mentality that seems to exist out there.

If we combine these visualizations together, you can see that over time, most of the large spikes occur during the Super Bowls that Tom Brady is a participant in.

Tom Brady Google trends 2004 to Super Bowl 2019

Love him or hate him, around Super Bowl time, people take their opinions to a search bar to look for validation of their perspective of the quarterback.

Also, an interesting note on two of these search trends.

When we fed this data into the Izenda mapping functionality, we can see that for both “Tom Brady Sucks” and “Tom Brady GOAT”, the results are mostly condensed to the northeastern United States.

The humor in all of this was that in both searches, Massachusetts led the nation in the interest shown in both searches. Tough town to win five Super Bowls in.

Tom Brady SUCKS Super Bowl 2019 search results

Tom Brady GOAT Google search results Super Bowl 2019

Now, obviously, Google Trends is not a good indicator of success of a player, their “suckiness” or their greatness.

The reason Business Intelligence nerds like myself enjoy sports so much is because of the endless amount of statistics that can be dissected to draw conclusions.

My previous Zensights entry drew controversy in the office because I, somewhat jokingly, claimed Mike Trout is better than Hank Aaron because he has been hit by pitch substantially more times season over season.

This time, I wanted to see if I could determine anything from the Super Bowls that Tom Brady has played in to see if there was something interesting to pull.

Could I figure out the secret to beating Tom Brady by comparing him to the other QB in the game?

Could I secretly give Jared Goff the blueprint to defeat the “GOAT”?

Probably not, but let’s see what we came up with.

Tom Brady Super Bowl Results 2019So, Tom Brady has won 5 Super Bowl rings and lost 3. If we drill into this data, in the way that matters the most, we can see which Super Bowls he lost.

Tom Brady Super Bowl HistorySuper Bowls 42 and 46 were both played against the same team with the same opposing quarterback: New York Giants with Eli Manning at the helm.

Super Bowl 52 was, of course, last year and the backup quarterback and part-time wide receiver Nick Foles was the quarterback and subsequent MVP of that game.

Eli Manning is the only quarterback Tom Brady has played twice in the big game, and he lost to him both times. Other than Eli, no quarterback has met TB12 in the Super Bowl twice.

But first, let’s take a look at some of the Production and, what I’m calling, “counter”-production of the quarterbacks in Tom Brady’s losses.

First, the Brady killer: Eli Manning.

Super Bowl 42 qbr rating pass tds average yards

Super Bowl 42 interceptions sacks yards incompletions

Aside from a dozen yards, in Super Bowl 42, Eli had a substantially better game as a quarterback.

His Quarterback Rating, Pass TDs, and Average yards per completion were all better than Tom Brady. He clearly, just from the numbers, had a more dominating performance at the quarterback position than Tom Brady did.

Despite Tom Brady not throwing an interception, as shown in the Super Bowl 42 Production Chart above, he allowed himself to be sacked, lose yards, and threw more incompletions than Eli Manning. So, this must mean that if the QB just does better than Brady in most of these categories, that it is a sure win?

Look at the second time Manning and Brady faced off at Super Bowl 46:

Super Bowl 46 Production Tom Brady v Eli Manning qbr ratings pass tds average yards total yards

Super Bowl 46 Counter Production Tom Brady Eli Manning interceptions sacks yards incompletions

Nearly the opposite.

Tom, by these base metrics, had a better game.

He did throw an interception and have more incompletions, but he avoided the substantial sack and sack yardage problem that plagued them during the previous match-up. Brady managed to throw more touchdowns, have a much higher QBR, and stay close with yards.

However, again Eli Manning managed more average yards per completion. In fact, this was a theme in the entire data set across all opponent quarterbacks. In all but one Super Bowl appearance, Brady had fewer (and sometimes substantially fewer) average yards per completion. More on that later.

Nick Foles stayed competitive from a statistical stand point against Brady in last year’s Super Bowl. Brady once again threw zero interceptions while his counterpart had one and gave up substantial sack yardage once again.

Super Bowl 52 Counter Production Tom Brady Nick Foles interceptions sacks incompletions

There was one statistic from that Super Bowl that I captured in my data collection, but chose not to display, because no visualization could match the beauty of watching Tom Brady’s opponent quarterback catch a touchdown pass minutes after Tom Brady dropped a potential big yardage pass.

So, statistically, the only metric that gives me insight into what specifically the opposing quarterback can do to defeat Tom Brady in the Super Bowl is simple.

Catch a touchdown pass.

In all of his Super Bowl appearances, Brady has never won a game where the opposition threw a pass to their quarterback for a touchdown.

Take note Jared Goff.

Finally, I wanted to at least look at the numbers from all of Tom Brady’s Super Bowl wins. As painful as this would be, it needed to be done for the sanctity of this article.

Here is a trend of the Tom Brady performance throughout his history of Super Bowl appearances.

Tom Brady Super Bowl interceptions sacks incompletions


Tom Brady Super Bowl interceptions sacks incompletions

His first Super Bowl appearance wasn’t great, but he was not the center piece of the team at that time. Statically, his best overall performance was the Super Bowl 38 very close game between the Patriots and Carolina Panthers – a game which gained most notoriety from its half-time show versus the game itself.

Inversely, the Super Bowl 42 loss was one of the worst for Brady.

If we look at each one of Tom’s Super Bowl victories in comparison to his counterparts, the aforementioned average yards per completion statistic is glaring.

Tom Brady Super Bowl 36 38 39 49

Super Bowl 51More times than not during his victories, Tom Brady has thrown the ball substantially more than his opponent.

None more than the Game-Which-Shall-Not-Be-Named against Matt Ryan where he threw 62 times to Ryan’s 23 (he also threw one of those passes for a Falcons’ touchdown to Robert Alford).

This rule of “threes” with Brady’s Super Bowls applies to numerous stats.

He completed a higher percentage of passes in three of his Super Bowl wins, more yards in three, had a higher QBR in three, more completions in three, and, strangely, more interceptions in three.

Really, the only statistic that is unique here is the average yards per completion. Aside from two tenths of a yard against Donovan McNabb, Tom Brady throws, on average, much shorter passes than his counterpart. Jake Delhomme nearly doubled his average yards per successful pass play with a staggering 20.2 yards per completion to Brady’s 11.1.

Wouldn’t the GOAT be capable of throwing longer passes in his road to victory?

Wouldn’t he have some statistic stick out – aside from fingers with rings on them -when compared to his opponents?

The only statistic where he is unique is his inability to complete passes farther down the field than I can with my weak arm (which is either one of them).

While the Super Bowl statistics do not necessarily paint him as this unstoppable dominant force, Tom Brady might be the greatest of all time to play quarterback.

He has several NFL records that I have conveniently left out of this article. This stretch of dominance at his position on a team like the Patriots is something that might never be repeated for as long as the game is played.

He may very well even go down as one of the greatest athletes in the history of any sport and we were all fortunate enough to see it unfold in real time.

I still think he sucks. “Rise Up” and go Rams.

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