We’ve made it! After three earlier installments, it’s finally time for the final installment of the Ranking Tom Brady’s Seasons Series. Even without these four seasons, Brady would still be remembered as one of the best to ever play. These seasons, however, are what truly established him as the greatest of the great. Each of these seasons is arguably among the top 10-15 seasons any quarterback has ever had. Without further ado, here are the four best seasons of Tom Brady’s career.
Ranking Tom Brady’s Seasons: The Top Four
Number 4: The 2017 Season
Stats: 66.3 completion percentage, 4,577 yards, 32 touchdowns, eight interceptions
Season Result: 13-3, Lost Super Bowl 53 to Philadelphia Eagles
Brady’s latest season comes in as his fourth best ever. The 40-year old quarterback had a lot going against him heading into the season. He lost Julian Edelman to an ACL tear in the preseason and had to carry a streaky defense that had its highs and lows throughout the year.
Nonetheless, Brady was still able to dominate the league en route to winning the third MVP award of his career. His regular season was good enough to earn his most valuable player for a third year, but it was his work in the postseason that helped to put this season this high.
After a poor finish to the season, Brady put together arguably the best postseason run of his career. In his three postseason outings, Brady threw for 1,132 yards, eight touchdowns, and no interceptions in his three playoff outings.
The Patriots lost the Super Bowl, but that was due to a series of terrible coaching decisions. If it weren’t for Brady’s phenomenal 505-yard performance, New England would have lost that game in a blowout. Additionally, the Patriots wouldn’t have made the Super Bowl to begin with were it not for Brady erasing a 10-point fourth quarter deficit against the Jacksonville Jaguars and the best defense in football.
Brady’s postseason run was historic for another standpoint. In the Super Bowl era, only Joe Flacco has ever been able to throw eight or more touchdowns without an interception in a playoff run. Flacco, however, needed four games to reach that mark. Brady did it in three. History will forget about this postseason run since New England lost the Super Bowl, but it truly was one of Brady’s finest works.
Why 2017 Isn’t Higher
While Brady’s regular season was good enough to win MVP, it still wasn’t his best. Brady started the 2017 season on a torrid pace, throwing for 24 touchdowns to just three interceptions through the first 11 games. However, Brady ended his season on a downward skid.
In the final five games, Brady threw just six touchdowns to five interceptions. He threw interceptions in five straight games for the first time since 2002, and just didn’t look like himself. There were two big factors behind this. One was injuries being too much for Brady to overcome. Edelman and Malcolm Mitchell were done for the year, but Chris Hogan missed the majority of the second half of the season with a shoulder injury. Danny Amendola was being saved for the playoffs, so the only reliable weapons Brady had were Rob Gronkowski and Brandin Cooks.
The other big factor was his Achilles injury. Brady suffered an Achilles injury at some point against the Oakland Raiders, and it clearly bothered Brady for the duration of the regular season. His dip in production began right when the Achilles injury came up, and his injury wasn’t listed on the injury report at any point during the postseason. Ultimately, this was a phenomenal season for Brady, but he has had better.
Number 3: The 2010 Season
Stats: 65.9 completion percentage, 3,900 yards, 36 touchdowns, four interceptions
Season Results: 14-2, Lost to New York Jets in AFC Divisional Round
The 2010 season was the first real year of the new Patriots dynasty. Nobody save for Vince Wilfork was left from the 2001-2004 defense, and the offense jettisoned Randy Moss after Week Four. 2009 was a disappointing season, and New England essentially decided to rebuild on the fly. Brady responded to these drastic changes by posting one of the best seasons of his career.
Finally recovered from his 2008 ACL injury, Brady authored one of the most efficient seasons a quarterback ever had. Brady led the league with 36 touchdown passes, and his 36:4 touchdown to interception ratio was the best in football history. All four of those interceptions came in two games, and one came on a Hail Mary.
What’s more impressive is who his targets were. With Moss gone for essentially the entire season, Brady was working with young, inexperienced players or veterans that were past their prime. Wes Welker was still around, but he was recovering from his own ACL injury. He never looked like himself, and 2010 was his only Patriots season in which he didn’t record 100 catches. Brady did have the tight end duo of Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez, but both players were rookies in 2010. They flashed talent, but neither was anything close to being the type of players they would later become. Nonetheless, Brady turned this ragtag cast into the best offense in football. Brady’s season was so impressive that he became the first ever unanimous MVP in league history.
Why 2010 Isn’t Higher
Most of the reason 2010 isn’t higher is due to just how good his other two seasons were, but we’ll discuss that later. The biggest strike against Brady’s 2010 campaign is how it ended. For only the second time in his career, Brady went one and done in the playoffs, losing at home to the rival New York Jets.
The team as a whole didn’t come to play, but Brady had a poor outing. Brady threw an interception on the game’s opening drive after not throwing a pick for 335 consecutive regular-season pass attempts. The night didn’t get much better for Brady after that opening pick. Jets coach Rex Ryan threw together a game plan that completely befuddled Brady. The quarterback held on to the ball too long on multiple occasions and ended up taking five sacks.
Perhaps the lowest point of the game came on the now infamous “Drive To Nowhere.” Down 10 points late in the third quarter, Brady and the Patriots took the ball looking to get back in the game. Historically, these are the moments where Brady thrives. However, he didn’t that night.
Instead of a quick paced scoring drive, Brady and the Patriots offense went on a maddeningly slow, eight-minute drive that ended with a failed fourth down attempt. Brady would boost his stats on later drives, but the game was already decided. Following a season of such greatness, this was a painful way for Brady’s season to end.
Number 2: The 2007 Season
Stats: 68.9 completion percentage, 4,806 yards, 50 touchdowns, eight interceptions
Season Results: 16-0, Lost Super Bowl 42 to New York Giants
This was the season where Brady and the Pats reinvented the passing offense as we currently know it. The league had no answers for a pissed off Brady, a motivated Randy Moss, and slot receiver Wes Welker.
While this offense was absolutely stacked with talent, Brady was the engine that made the whole thing run. The 2007 Patriots offense was the greatest offense in league history, and Brady had arguably the greatest single season in history up to that point. He led the league in completion percentage, yards, and touchdowns, and the 50 touchdowns were the best in NFL history
Brady was absolutely unstoppable all regular season and the offense never really had a down week. Every team knew that Brady was going to throw it, and nobody figured out a way to stop it. It’s hard to pick the best performance for this season, but it likely came in Week 11 against the Buffalo Bills. Brady connected on 79 percent of his passes for 373 yards and five touchdowns. That’s a stupidly good stat line, but honestly, there are about four or five other games that have similar stat lines. Brady was just that good all year.
Why 2007 Isn’t Number One
This is nitpicking at its most extreme. Brady’s 2007 was easily one of the top five seasons a quarterback ever had, and a lot of people would put it as his best season. However, Brady’s success had a lot to do with the weapons around him. This offense wouldn’t have been what it was without Brady, but sometimes Brady got his numbers just by throwing bombs to Moss.
Moss was also on another level in 2007, as it was the best season of his Hall of Fame career. There were stretches where Brady ignored the open man in favor of just chucking it deep for Moss. That strategy worked out most of the time, but Brady’s stats were artificially inflated to an extent.
Additionally, Brady’s playoff run was a mixed bag. He crushed the Jacksonville Jaguars in the AFC Divisional Round, completing an astonishing 26 of 28 passes. However, next week Brady threw three interceptions against the San Diego Chargers. The Chargers probably win that game if Philip Rivers wasn’t playing on a torn ACL.
Brady’s Super Bowl was something of a mixed bag too. He was clearly flustered all day, and only put up 14 points. However, he was able to lead a go-ahead touchdown drive in the fourth quarter. Had the defense been able to hold the lead, it would have been the fourth time in four Super Bowls that Brady had won a Super Bowl in the fourth quarter.
This was a historic season for several reasons. From the undefeated season to the passing touchdown records, 2007 was one of the best years any quarterback had ever had. For a long time, it looked as though Brady couldn’t possibly exceed that level of success. He came close in 2010, but he finally topped himself in 2016.
Number One: The 2016 Season
Stats: 67.4 completion percentage, 3,554 yards, 28 touchdowns, two interceptions
Season Result: 14-2 (11-1 under Brady), won Super Bowl 51 against Atlanta Falcons
This is how the quarterback position was meant to be played. Brady missed the first four games due to the DeflateGate suspension, but he came back to post the greatest season of his storied career. Brady’s numbers extended through a 16-game season would come out to be 4,442 yards for 35 touchdowns and just three interceptions.
As it was, Brady’s 28:2 touchdown to interception ratio was the best in league history. Brady threw for three or more touchdowns without an interception in five of his 12 games and showed a mastery of the position the league has never seen before. League MVP Matt Ryan had a great season, but the award would have almost certainly gone to Brady were it not for the suspension.
What makes these numbers even more impressive is Brady did most of this without his top weapon. Gronkowski played in eight games in 2016, but only finished five with Brady. Brady had to work without his big tight end for the majority of the season, including the entirety of the postseason. In years past, Gronkowski’s absence had hindered the offense and ultimately kept them from Super Bowl aspirations. In 2016, Brady was able to survive without the best tight end in football to bring home his fifth Lombardi.
Why 2016 Is Number One
Some would say that Brady’s suspension would eliminate 2016 from being number one, but that’s not fair. The suspension was completely out of Brady’s hands, so there’s no logic in holding that against him. He shouldn’t have been suspended to begin with as air pressure naturally decreases in cold games, but that’s an issue for another time.
2007 was a great year, but Brady didn’t play his best in the biggest moments. In 2016, Brady saved the greatest moment of his career for the biggest moment of the season. Super Bowl LI was anticipated to be a tight battle between the Patriots and the Atlanta Falcons. Early on, it wasn’t.
The game was an absolute blowout. The Falcons led 28-3 with just over 19 minutes left. Mathematically, the Patriots had a 0.3% chance of pulling off the upset. By every conceivable measure, this game was over.
Then Brady happened. He went on a furious tear to get his team back into the game. Atlanta didn’t do themselves any favors by throwing the ball as often as they did, but there’s no quarterback in history who could’ve done what Brady did that night. With Atlanta focused on taking away Julian Edelman, Brady turned to the likes of Amendola, Mitchell and James White to win the Super Bowl.
The Patriots sent the game to overtime, and when New England won the toss everyone knew the game was over. Everyone watching the game knew that Brady was about to march down the field and score the game-winning touchdown. Lo and behold, he did. Brady pulled off the biggest comeback in Super Bowl history by a wide margin, capping his greatest season with perhaps the sweetest championship of them all.