How Patriots Would Have Fared With Tom Brady, Not Cam Newton, At QB In 2020

Would the Patriots have made the postseason with Tom Brady at QB?


Jan 9, 2021

With the Patriots at home and Tom Brady playing in the wild-card round of the postseason, it would be easy for Pats Nation to do some Monday morning quarterbacking on New England’s decision to let their longtime QB depart for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Ultimately, it’s a waste of time. Brady wanted to leave, and the Patriots weren’t going to show up to the QB’s mansion in Chestnut Hill, Mass., holding a boombox playing Jay Z’s “Public Service Announcement.”

Would the Patriots have been better if they had somehow reached an agreement with Brady? Moderately, probably. Would it have been enough to get the Patriots into the postseason? Honestly, probably not.

The Patriots went 7-9 this season with Cam Newton, Brian Hoyer and Jarrett Stidham playing quarterback. The Patriots finished 12-4 in last year’s regular-season but 4-5 over their last five games with Brady at the helm (including their wild-card round loss to the Tennessee Titans).

And that was with a much better team. If the Patriots would have brought back Brady, then left guard Joe Thuney likely would not have been on the 2020 roster. The Patriots would have needed the money they paid to franchise Thuney to re-sign Brady.

The Patriots also lost linebackers Kyle Van Noy, Jamie Collins and Elandon Roberts and defensive tackle Danny Shelton, among others, to free agency, safety Duron Harmon to trade and linebacker Dont’a Hightower, right tackle Marcus Cannon and safety Patrick Chung, among others, to opt-out. Wide receiver Julian Edelman, cornerback Stephon Gilmore and running back Rex Burkhead missed significant time to injury, as well.

The 2020 Patriots gained center David Andrews, who returned from injury, plus Damiere Byrd, Michael Onwenu, Josh Uche, Anfernee Jennings, Kyle Dugger, Adrian Phillips and Myles Bryant, among others.

But ultimately, this year’s team that went 7-9 hardly resembled last year’s squad that went 12-4 or even the one that went 4-5 down the stretch. It was significantly less talented.

Brady was, statistically, significantly better than Newton in 2020 despite going through some rough patches. He went 11-5 with the Buccaneers while completing 401-of-610 passes for 4,633 yards with 40 touchdowns and 12 interceptions for a 102.2 passer rating. He also lost a fumble.

Newton went 7-8 as a starter and completed 242-of-368 passes for 2,657 yards with eight passing touchdowns and 10 interceptions for an 82.9 passer rating. He also rushed 137 times for 592 yards with 12 touchdowns and lost a fumble.

Brady had much better weapons around him, however, with Mike Evans, Chris Godwin and Antonio Brown at wide receiver, Rob Gronkowski at tight end and Ronald Jones and Leonard Fournette at running back.

Brady registered an 88 passer rating in 2019 and threw 24 touchdowns with eight interceptions.

The Patriots probably would have won a few more games with Brady at quarterback. But even if they had matched Brady’s 11-5 record with the Buccaneers, there’s no guarantee New England would have even made the playoffs. All seven of the AFC’s postseason representatives finished 11-5 or better. The Miami Dolphins missed the playoffs with a 10-6 record.

Ultimately, it’s unfortunate that Brady didn’t finish his career where it started in New England. But eventually, through free agency or retirement, his tenure with the Patriots was going to come to an end anyway. And for the 2020 Patriots, it wouldn’t have mattered if he was under center or not.

The Patriots must figure out who will be their quarterback of the future moving forward, however.

Thumbnail photo via Winslow Townson/USA TODAY Sports Images
Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady and wide receiver Antonio Brown
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