The Tom Brady Myth
Let me first say that I think Tom Brady is a great quarterback. You don’t win three Super Bowls by luck. If I were going to make a list of the 5 greatest quarterbacks to play football during my lifetime it would include Dan Marino, Joe Montana, Tom Brady, John Elway, and Brett Favre. I have no issue with sports writers and fans giving Brady the praise he has earned and truly deserves. What I do take issue with is the tendency to assign him the laurels of greatness even after he has played a mediocre, or downright bad game.
I was thinking about this as Brady was preparing to take the field in the closing minutes of the classic game played last night between the Colts and Patriots. He appeared calm and ready on the sideline, taking warm-up throws in anticipation of yet another miraculous win. He looked like he knew that the Patriots were going to pull it out and I thought to myself, “He doesn’t have it this time.”
Throughout these playoffs, Tom Brady has been less than great. His combined stat line for this post-season was:
70 completions out of 119 attempts, 5 touchdowns with 4 interceptions, and a quarterback efficiency rating of 76.5.
If he would have put up those efficiency numbers during the regular season, he would have been the 19th rated quarterback in the NFL behind Jon Kitna and Eli Manning, and in front of Matt Hasslebeck and Mike Vick. While passable, those aren’t the kind of numbers that deserve praise. His previous two post season passer ratings were 92.2 and 109.4. I may have a poor understanding of how these ratings are calculated, but a drop of 20 odd points would seem to indicate to me a player having a subpar playoff run.
The Patriots won their game against the Chargers last week because they got all the bounces and their defense made plays when they had to, not because Tom Brady was a cool and calm leader. He threw a crucial interception that would have been crushing if Troy Brown hadn’t stripped the ball from the defender and given the Pats new life. Yet at the end of the day announcers and sportswriters were tripping all over themselves like Reggie Wayne, rushing to declare that Tom Brady had once again come through when it mattered. They conveniently forgot that his mistakes throughout the first three and one half quarters put the Patriots in the position of needing heroics in the first place.
Brady made a throw that was nearly identical to the Troy Brown fumbleruski to end the Patriots hopes last night. It was a forced pass over the middle that was intercepted not because the pass itself was thrown poorly, but because he made an error in judgment by throwing it at all. As with the infamous Chargers pick, Brady threw the ball into the congested middle of the field, completely misreading the coverage.
Brady is nearly deified by the sporting press in all things he does, and this shouldn’t surprise me. Many sports writers like the easy story. It takes fewer words to say, “Tom Brady won,” than it does to explain the true dynamics of what occurred on the field and why. But this slant takes enjoyment out of the game. In addition to being intellectually dishonest, this approach to sports reporting robs the game of drama and depth. So instead of the sometimes dull, sometimes transcendent true story of the game viewers are instead treated to pre-packaged montage segments with voiceover by Bob Costas. When reporters keep it simple and honest, the game can create all the necessary drama.
Last night Peyton Manning, a great quarterback that has played some poor games against the Patriots in high pressure situations, played a strong game and came through at the end of the night. If reporters took the same approach with Manning as they do with Brady in downplaying poor performances, the game would not have had nearly the dramatic impact. Then I would have to watch another segment about how the hero of the game, Peyton Manning, overcame a troubled upbringing by his NFL quarterback father to win the big game and make millions of dollars looking like a dork in MasterCard commercials.
Labels: sports reporting