Tom Brady is really, really, really good at his job going on 15 years, and hasn’t lost a step this season. But no one is completely free of critique, even the New England Patriots quarterback.
So, while acknowledging a lack of qualifications to give perhaps the greatest quarterback in the history of football advice, Brady needs to start picking his spots while throwing the deep ball.
Take a look at Brady’s game-by-game deep-ball numbers (defined by the NFL as a throw over 15 yards through the air) and see if you sense a pattern:
Week 1 vs. Steelers: 3-6, 89 yards
Week 2 at Bills: 5-12, 157 yards
Week 3 vs. Jaguars: 2-3, 46 yards
Week 5 at Cowboys: 2-3, 75 yards, TD
Week 6 at Colts: 3-4, 99 yards
Week 7 vs. Jets: 4-6, 95 yards
Week 8 vs. Dolphins: 3-6, 76 yards
Week 9 vs. Redskins: 2-5, 66 yards, TD
Week 10 at Giants: 2-8, 130 yards, TD
Week 11 vs. Bills: 2-7, 51 yards, INT
Week 12 at Broncos: 2-9, 85 yards, TD
Week 13 vs. Eagles: 4-11, 93 yards, INT
Week 14 at Texans: 2-5, 80 yards
Week 15 vs. Titans: 2-5, 49 yards
Week 16 at Jets: 3-6, 80 yards, INT
Week 17 at Dolphins: 0-4
Div. Round vs. Chiefs: 1-2, 42 yards
AFC Champ at Broncos: 4-11, 106 yards, INT
Week 5 at Browns: 4-6, 180 yards, 1 TD
Week 6 vs. Bengals: 4-4, 123 yards
Week 7 at Steelers: 2-3, 73 yards, TD
Week 8 at Bills: 3-8, 124 yards, 2 TDs
Week 10 vs. Seahawks: 3-9, 89 yards, INT
Week 11 at 49ers: 2-9, 77 yards, TD
Well, actually two patterns.
First, Brady is much better when averaging six or fewer deep attempts. He has completed 37 of 68 (54.4 percent) deep passes for 1,173 yards with four touchdowns and one interception while attempting six or fewer throws of over 15 yards in a game.
He’s 27 of 84 (32.1 percent) for 912 yards with five touchdowns and four interceptions while attempting seven or more throws of over 15 yards in a game. To simplify: Brady is the best deep passer in the NFL while attempting six or fewer and even worse than Blaine Gabbert (but still better than Brock Osweiler and Nick Foles!) while attempting seven or more.
The second pattern is that Brady seems to get overexcited by early success throwing the deep ball and then ramps it up to the point of either exhaustion or ineffectiveness as the season progresses.
Brady’s sudden over-reliance on deep passes is understandable to a certain degree. He began the last two seasons with unsustainable accuracy on vertical passes and likely believed the offense would be even better if he could continue that success on more passes. It hasn’t been the case.
Brady also seems to rely on deep balls more against top-tier defenses, probably because the chance of a deep strike is easier to fathom than dinking and dunking against a slew of great players. He is a combined 9 of 29 for 280 yards with a touchdown and two interceptions against the Seattle Seahawks and Denver Broncos over the past two seasons. That’s three losses.
It’s not only quality teams against which Brady forces deep balls. He attempted seven deep passes to Julian Edelman and Danny Amendola on Sunday against the 49ers and didn’t hit a single one. He went 2 of 2 on deep throws to Malcolm Mitchell. So, Brady also has to pick his spots in throwing deep passes to the right receivers.
Brady is completing 50 percent or more of his deep passes to tight ends Rob Gronkowski and Martellus Bennett and wide receivers Chris Hogan and Mitchell over the last two seasons and just 24 percent to Edelman and 40 percent to Amendola. He went just 2 of 9 to undersized running backs Dion Lewis and James White last season.
Brady’s been above average on deep passes over the last two seasons, completing 42.1 percent of attempts. But if he starts picking his spots better, he could rank among the best vertical passing QBs in the NFL.
Thumbnail photo via Greg M. Cooper/USA TODAY Sports Images