Why Tom Brady’s 2018 Season Actually Isn’t As Bad As You Might Think


December 26, 2018

Based on media coverage of Tom Brady this season, one would believe the New England Patriots quarterback had completely fallen off a cliff and is having the worst season of his career.

In all actuality, you don’t have to go back that many years to find worse production from Brady. Let’s look a bit closer at Brady’s 2018 season from an analytical perspective.

Let’s start with Pro Football Focus’ adjusted completion percentage, which uses this formula: ((Completions + Drops) / (Attempts – Throw Aways – Spikes – Batted Passes – Hit As Thrown)).

Brady’s accuracy percentage is 74.9 this season. He had the same accuracy percentage in 2014 when the Patriots won a Super Bowl. It was as low as 72.4 percent back in 2013. For context, it was 76 percent in 2017.

Brady’s accuracy percentage on throws that travel more than 20 yards is 42.4 this season, and only 11 percent of his attempts are deep passes. Only 10.7 percent of Brady’s passes were deep in 2015. His accuracy rate on deep passes was just 33.3 percent in 2014. For context, Brady had a 46.3%/13.8% split in 2017.

Brady’s deep passer rating is 104.9 this season. That’s his second-highest rate since PFF started tracking the stat in 2006. It helps that most of Brady’s interceptions have come on short passes. (Many of them also were the fault of his receivers.)

Brady has been pretty bad while under pressure this season. He’s completing 44.2 percent of his passes with a 62.2 accuracy rate and a 70.6 passer rating. For context, that was a 55.5%/70.2%/96.6 split in 2017. But Brady was similarly not so great under pressure in 2014 when he had a 45.5%/62.6%/53.4 split and in 2013, when it was 46.6%/57.6%/65.8.

Once again, the Patriots won a Super Bowl in 2014. Stories of Brady’s “cliff” first started in 2013, then he went on to improve in each of his next three seasons before leveling off in 2017.

This isn’t to say Brady will similarly improve in 2019, 2020 and 2021 when Brady is 42-, 43- and 44-years-old, but this isn’t the first time we’ve seen Brady’s stats drop off during his career. And they did rebound in the past.

While Brady’s struggles this season could be age-related, it’s also not out of the realm of possibility that they’re just as connected to his offensive weapons. Tight end Rob Gronkowski has been a shell of himself, and Brady hasn’t been able to consistently connect with wide receivers not named Julian Edelman and Josh Gordon, who is now suspended.

Brady hasn’t looked the same this season, and through it all, he’s still completing 65.4 percent of his passes for 4,105 yards with 25 touchdowns and 11 interceptions with a 95.4 passer rating. And he actually was worse — based on many metrics — in 2013 and 2014.

For more grades, advanced statistics and more at Pro Football Focus, go to ProFootballFocus.com.

Thumbnail photo via Winslow Townson/USA TODAY Sports Images
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