So a little while ago I wrote a post explaining why I believe Sam Bradford had all the signs that pointed to him being an elite QB. And as expected I received a lot of grief for. A couple of you thought I was flat out crazy. But I stand by everything I said.
Now here we are seven weeks later and I see bleacher report chiming in on the same subject. Whether or not Bradford is indeed of the upper echelon of QBs, or average. And they used the exact same two QBs, Tom Brady and Drew Brees, that I used to compare him to. But this post has more to do with Brady so for now I am leaving Brees out of it.
I spoke about the striking resemblance in the stats of these QBs in years 1-3, now I am going to speak about the most important piece of the supporting cast which I purposely left out in the last post. The defense. Look, like it or not, its true what they say, defense wins championships. Its that simple. If I'm wrong how do you explain Tom Brady not winning one in ten years?
The fact of the matter is the offense gets all the hype and glory, and the media mostly talk about the records broken on that side of the ball, and the defense gets no love.
Here are a few facts for those that don't believe the offense sales tickets and defense wins games.
Fact: Tom Brady is ten times the QB now than he was when he was winning super bowls. Between 2001-2004 Brady made the Pro Bowl twice. He went on a two year hiatus after getting the nod his sophomore year when he won his first super bowl. One could make the case that he only got in because he played poised late in games that year and no one knew who he was, causing his popularity to grow as people begin researching him trying to figure out his story. People love a good underdog story which he was, making him an overnight sensation and a virtual lock to go to the pro bowl, even though he only threw for 2843 yards, only had one game of 300 yds or more, and had a 18-12 td/int ratio. He was actually responsible for 15 turnovers.
And when you look deeper at his three super bowls in four years, during that time Brady's numbers were 48-14 as a starter, but that elite top notch record over the course of 4 seasons hardly seems like the result of Brady's play. When you consider his average season stats of of 3,479 yds, 17.5 turnovers, and only two 300 yd games a yr (he only had 8 during that stretch). In fact Brady never threw for 4,000 yards until his sixth season in the league and fifth as the starter.
So it should be pretty clear, that amazing 48-14 record was certainly not a result of Brady's stellar play.
Sam is on pace to beat Tom's 4000 yard year, a year in advance. And though he has only averaged 3126 yds season so far, when you take his 216.4 yds per game in 2011 and average it out over 16 games instead of ten, that number rises to 3,558. And his 14.6 turnovers a season, is three less than Brady.
Fact: QB's don't really start to hit their stride until age 28. That's when Brady did it. That's when Aaron Rogers did it. That's when Drew Brees did it. Go back as far as you would like. 28 is when QBs prove to be elite. Don't be fooled by Cam Newton, RGIII, Andrew Luck, or Russell Wilson. Like all overly successful rookies they were a product of a well thought out system. Luck had inflated stats due to Arians excessive verticle passing. RGIII ran a run heavy offense giving him minimal opportunity to make mistakes, and when they threw the ball it was either a bubble screen and 6 yds or less the vast majority of the time. Which explains his high completion rate and ridiculously good td-int ratio. Cam Newton ran the exact same simplistic offense he ran in college his rookie year. And its easy for defenses to adapt to, which is why his stats dropped so much the second half of that season. Russell Wilson actually was the best of this bunch. He easily looked the best with the least amount of opportunity. But he too was protected by a dominate run game forcing teams to give him easy coverage similar to the ones you would see in college. Put these rookie seasons in a normal NFL passing attack and they will have seasons much more similar to that of Brady and Bradford.
Fact: The same thing that made Brady so popular despite one sub par first year starting and three straight years of mediocrity to follow was his poise and clutch like demeanor in the fourth quarter, has been overlooked when it comes to Bradford. According to situational stats on NFL.com, Bradford plays his best ball in the first and fourth quarter. These are excellent traits for a QB to have because it allows him to do two things. One is come out the gates firing on all cylinders and get a head start in the game. And two allows the QB to put the nail in the coffin as well as buckle down and make a late push for a come back win. According to pro football reference Bradford has 5 fourth-quarter comebacks and four game winning drives for his career.
That number could have been higher in this past year alone had the defense stopped Detroit (Jo-Lonn Dunbar let the back get out in the flat with no time left to score the go ahead touchdown). And had the defense been able to stop or at least slow down the Seahawks in the final two min in week 17. In both games Bradford again showed his poise and led the team down the field on scoring drives late in the fourth to take the lead.
The simple truth is you can find more games where Sam Bradford has put us in position to win than to lose. When I say that I am talking about close games that we lost simply because of a late mistake or games we won or should have won because of his stellar late game play.
So if Brady wasn't playing like the Brady we see today and yet still had championship success what was the major difference between him and Bradford? Lets look at some more facts.
Fact: During those four years in which the Patriots won 3 super bowls. There was a grand total of 18 pro bowlers. Of those 18, ten were defensive players and two were the kicker. And one of the offensive players was Damien Woody, who was a NT playing center and later moved back to defense. During that same span there was nine all pro selections. Eight were defensive players one was a kicker.
Brady had a defense during those times that consisted of:
2. Lawyer Malloy
5. Ty Law
7. Tedy Brushci
All being players having legit arguments to make the HOF. And lets not forget about the guys who weren't HOF caliber but damn good in their own right:
1. Ty Warren
2. Mike Vrable
3. Larry Izzo
4. Roman Phifer
These guys all played amazing football and complimented the HOF caliber players very well. In total both lists of players included have 39 career Pro Bowls and 32 All Pro selections. Needless to say Brady had some top notch defenses. You go back and add up the last 15 years and still wont reach those numbers for the offense.
Now heres where I know a lot of people read that last tid bit and said "oh well our defense is pretty good and will probably finish in the top ten." And I agree whole heartedly. I actually believe that we probably finish top 8. But we are still making those mistakes that screw us. And its because we are young. Top ten or top eight is merely a prediction and not a fact. Everyone thought Buffalo would be a top defense last year but that wasn't exactly the case coming out the gates. We still have some ways to go and some hurdles to clear.
For example, we dont have any pro bowls or all pros on our recent resume. I would honestly say the only one a case can be made for is Chris Long the last two seasons. He hasn't gotten the love he deserves. I would exclude James Laurinaitis because the truth is he has not been better than Patrick Willis or Navarro Bowman. He has been a top ten MLB but I wouldnt say top five yet.
Our defense is good but we still have some ways to go. While its a positive to have youth, just like having old heads who bring disintegrating skill sets but wisdom, you get exhilarating skill sets and minimal wisdom when young. That lack of wisdom against a wily veteran offense like Atlanta or Houston, and you find yourself getting in trouble when relying so heavily on the physical instead of the more important mental.
Sam doesn't have guys like the ones Brady had on defense. But he has some who could become very similar to those guys in a few years.
1. Asante Samuel=Janoris Jenkins (only better)
2. Richard Seymour=Michael Brockers
3. Rodney Harrison=TJ McDonald
4. Ty Law=Trumaine Johnson
5. Willie McGinest=Chris Long (only better)
6. Tedy Bruschi=James Laurinaitis (only better)
7. Roman Phifer=Jo-Lonn Dunbar
Am I saying we are the next Patriots? No. HELLLL NO!! But I am saying we are starting to develop pieces to give our QB the most important supporting cast he can have that will help him succeed.
Remember, offense sales tickets but defense wins games. And I feel sorry for anyone we play and we have a QB who thrives in the first and a defense that gets after your QB. If Sam gives an early lead and the defense can hold it, come fourth-quarter Sam has proven he will elevate his game and then the opposition will be forced to pass. I like our chances in those games.
For whatever reason none of the links would work, so here I put them here: