*Originally Posted October 2016*
Tom Brady former Michigan Wolverine and late 6th round pick has had a lustrous career. From 4 super bowl wins to two NFL MVPs, there is no doubt he is one of the greats. Although he is widely considered the best QB ever, a lot of that has come into question lately with the recent performances of his backups. With all the dominance the Patriots have displayed without Brady, without Gronk, the current question is that what if Tom Brady is a system QB? Well let’s get into tackling this hot take, but not hurting Tony Romo’s back in the process.
Bill Belichick Without Tom Brady In New England
The sorcerous head coach Bill Belichick would take over for the New England Patriots in 2000. In his first season, Bill would underperform to his standards going 5–11, but for good reason. It was his first season and his system was yet to be installed, nor were his methods of dominance. His QB during this season during this year was Drew Bledsoe and his stats were as follows: 58.8% Completion % 3291 Yards 17 TDs 13 INTs and a 77.3 rating, below average stats but a decent year under a new system for a QB that was always nothing more than average.
Tom would take over for Bledsoe in the following season after an injury, and it would be lights out. The Pats would win 3 SuperBowls until Tom went down again. The year is 2008 and incomes 7th round pick, former USC backup Matt Cassel. After tearing his Achilles in the first game of the season, Cassel would step in for Brady and dominate.
In 16 games played and 15 started, Cassel would go 11–5 with the following stat line of 63.4 Comp. % 3693 Yards 89.4 Passer Rating 230.8 YPG 21 TDs 11 INTs. This time above average stats for a QB in his FIRST YEAR starting and another former late round draft pick. After this Cassel would go on to receive a $10M annual salary from the Kansas City Chiefs, at the time making him one of the highest-paid QBs in the NFL. Matt has been cut numerous times since then, and traded and has accumulated 25 wins 39 losses with a 76.9 Passer Rating since leaving NE.
Incomes 2016, where Tom Brady is suspended for four games, and the Patriots 2–2 and 1–3 to start the season bets are the new things in Vegas. The Jimmy Garoppolo fans have also come out of the clearing and proclaimed he will be greatness, which he was. In 2 games played for the Patriots before getting injured Jimmy would put up a line of 71.19 Comp. % 496 Yards 119 Passer Rating 4 TDs, that’s some of the best numbers I’ve ever seen in that type of span. Quite frankly, I don’t think Tom Brady has ever done something similar in a similar span.
Well the Jimmy G sensation is over because it’s on to the next one. Garoppolo would be sidelined for 4–6 weeks in week two against the Dolphins with an AC joint injury. Incomes 3rd round pick, former Florida and NC State QB Jacoby Brissett. Brissett. Jacoby wouldn’t let the Pats nation down either putting up another very good line for a first career start against another very good team. Brissett’s line this past Thursday vs the Texans was as follows: 60.71 Comp. % 195 Yards 81.7 Passer Rating + 60 Rushing Yards and 1 TD, very good stats for a mobile QB even in this first game starting as a rookie.
On top of all this, the average margin of victory without Brady since he took over as the starter? +15.9 in 2008 and +12 in 2016 without him, an average of a little over two touchdowns. Some teams don’t even have a two touchdown margin with their starting QB. Let’s also keep in mind the Patriots let the foot off the gas this season against the Dolphins and beat my NFC SB pick, the Arizona Cardinals week one.
So yeah, the Patriots are 14–5 without Tom Brady playing majority the game and are still pretty damn good.
The System itself, does it affect QB Play?
Since the hiring of Bill Belichick as head coach in 2000, the Patriots have run a modified version of the Erhardt-Perkins system. Ron Erhardt and Ray Perkins were both assistant coaches for New England during in the 1970s. Since Foxborough isn’t the warmest destination, they needed a way to move the ball down the field that wasn’t just running, which was very predictable back then.
The answer was a system designed score fast, take the lead and keep it. This is something the Patriots execute VERY well to this day. Four-times Super Bowl Champions, the New York Giants would adopt this system as well. It enjoyed decent success in its beginnings as most teams weren’t an able to move the ball as fast, so running out the clock was useless.
The NFL would transform into more of a pass-oriented league so the system was modified. Bunch and five wide sets became much more common and the run became useful to set up the pass but also be apart of the passing game.
For this to work to its fullest, the Patriots need/would need a few things. Quick wideouts to get open and that can catch in traffic, hence Danny Amendola, Julian Edelman, Deion Branch and more. They would need a duo of backs, one to pound it and one to come out the backfield and a QB who was accurate, not a gunslinger but accurate.
If you have been following football for the last five years, you would know Bill Belichick has executed every single one of these things to its fullest, even without Brady as seen above. So, back to the original question, does it affect QB play?
Yes and no. Obviously, a non-NFL QB couldn’t do well in it, but the evidence is there that multiple NFL QBs have succeeded in it and have been nothing before or after doing so. See Chart Below.
So as you can tell, the system is really contoured to making the job easier for QBs and now when you add an elite coach like Belichick, the numbers tend to surge, i.e. Brady and Cassel. Garropolo and Brissett have also contributed to this but in a way to small of a sample size. The Patriots are also notoriously known for getting players out in space getting them the ball rather than launching it deep, something to attribute to QBs passing success with very good completion %. The lack of TDs is also explained by being a predominant run team in the red zone.
So is Tom Brady really a system QB?
There is a very fine line between a system QB and a very good QB. Tom Brady does not embody a system QB. He is without a drop of doubt a top 3 quarterback, but whether you view him higher is your prerogative.
Tom Brady has all time numbers across the board in every stat and in every season, Belichick might put him in spectacular positions to make those throws, but he still has to have mechanics. Is Bill a major factor in Brady’s success? Without a doubt, but that doesn’t make him any less of a player. Maybe Peyton Manning got the short end of the stick coaching wise compared to Brady, but he had the upper hand talent-wise. Joe Montanna had Bill Wash as the signal caller and Jerry Rice to throw too, but no one knocks him? Now I’m not saying Tom Brady is the definitive GOAT QB after giving you 1000 words how he could be the product of the system. My point is that Tom Brady has had help along the way and Belichick is phenomenal, but Brady is still one of the greatest to touch a football.