Tom Brady Among the Best Deep Ball Passers in Football

Tom Brady
BOSTON, MASSACHUSETTS - FEBRUARY 05: Tom Brady #12 of the New England Patriots displays the Vince Lombardi trophy during the Super Bowl Victory Parade on February 05, 2019 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Billie Weiss/Getty Images)

New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady is good at football. That much has been evident for quite some time, as Brady owns three MVP’s, four Super Bowl MVP’s, and six rings over his 19-year career. However, the uninformed masses have always claimed that Brady’s weakness lies in stretching the field. While that narrative has never been accurate, we now have the data to definitively prove that Brady is one of the best deep ball passers in the league, even at an advanced age.

Tom Brady An Elite Deep Ball Passer

The Film

Just watching the film alone shows that Brady can still stretch the field with the best of them. While 2018 wasn’t his best season by any means, he still played like a top-five quarterback for the majority of the season. He didn’t have the weapons to push the ball down the field like he used to, but he managed to hit his downfield targets whenever they were open.

He was even better in 2017 when he had a true deep threat in Brandin Cooks. With Julian Edelman sidelined, New England’s transformed into a deep passing team overnight. The Patriots normally don’t do this, as they normally don’t have the weapons to pull it off. If Brady wasn’t capable of stretching the field, then there’s no way he would’ve won MVP with Brandin Cooks as his best wide receiver.

The Advanced Numbers

Watching film helps, but it’s impossible to show every single throw from every single season. Fortunately, this is where the good people of Pro Football Focus come in. PFF records every play from every season and has the most comprehensive set of football data available to the public. According to PFF’s Steve Palazzolo, Brady has been the best quarterback in the league on passes thrown 10 yards beyond the line of scrimmage. When adjusted to 20 yards beyond the line, Brady is second to only Patrick Mahomes. It’s worth noting that this data goes back to 2016 and Mahomes didn’t become a starter until 2018.

This isn’t due to a small sample, either. While some question Brady’s willingness to push the ball down the field, the fact of the matter is that he doesn’t shy away from working the deep and intermediate portions of the field. Since 2016, Brady has thrown 659 passes beyond 10 yards of the line of scrimmage, most in the league. In fairness, this includes playoffs, and Brady has played significantly more playoff games than anyone else over this timeframe. Still, Brady’s pushes the ball downfield more than the average quarterback despite not typically having traditional downfield receivers.

The last narrative Brady haters use is that he’s throwing to wide open targets. In their twisted world, the defensive-minded Bill Belichick is such a genius that receivers are constantly wide open and anyone could hit those targets. However, facts also disprove this notion. NFL’s Next Gen Stats tracks “aggressive throws” which are defined as passes thrown to targets with less than one yard of separation. According to Next Gen Stats, Brady’s aggressive throw percentage typically lies in the middle of the league and is actually ahead of Aaron Rodgers. Josh McDaniels and Bill Belichick are phenomenal coaches, but they’re not scheming receivers open more than the typical coaching staff.

Tom Brady – The Best At Everything

Tom Brady is the best quarterback to ever play the game, and anyone disputing that fact is just living in denial. Nobody can deny Brady’s masterful ability to win pre-snap and get the ball out quick. However, thanks to advanced data, we’re now able to prove beyond a doubt that Brady is also one of the game’s best deep passers.

The crazy thing is that Palazzolo’s data only starts in the 2016 season, when Brady was 39 years old. At this point, Brady should have started losing some of his arm strength. Instead, he’s still one of the best at pushing the ball downfield, and that shouldn’t change any time soon. Even though he’s entering his age-42 season, don’t be surprised to see Brady remain one of the best at stretching the field.

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4 COMMENTS

  1. I don’t agree with your definition of a “deep pass” as being 10+ yards. I believe a deep pass to be 20+ yards.

  2. It is much much much harder to move the chain AND SCORE than downfield passes, because
    #1, it takes lot of more first downs to score.
    #2, defenders look at QB in the eyes.
    #3, much more demanding on timing and spot.
    #4, any penalties may kill a drive.
    #5, QB has to worry about passing lanes

  3. really wish more writers would pay attention to my favorite QB stat:

    Career winning percentage..%. THIS IS IT… please write about

    1. Brady. 2. Montana 3. P. Manning

    the top 3, it is no accident that the top 3 QB’s in modern era are 1 2 and 3 In career winning %

    TB .740 winning % is ridiculous (has led in this category for most of 2 decades) ….That is regular season and post season which means he has faced far more winning teams in his career than any other QB.

    Interesting to look at top 10 in this classification…unlike most stats there are No flukes taking up space of a top producing QB….. believe Dan Marino # 10 >>>>.

  4. Over the past 5 seasons Tom Brady has won 74 games.
    The next closest QB has 57.

    In Brady’s last 16 postseason games he has thrown for a total of 5,230 yards.
    If it were a 16 game regular season that would be the 4th highest yardage total ever.

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