The Short Case for Tom Brady
Tom Brady probably won’t be the MVP of the NFL in 2016. Maybe he shouldn’t be. But with the overwhelming majority of sports commentators and columnists arguing against his MVP credentials, he deserves for his case to be heard. The primary argument I’ve heard is “Tom Brady didn’t play a full season.” Case closed; end of story. Oh, they go on about stats, comparing Brady’s with Matt Ryan’s, Ezekiel Elliott’s, Dak Prescott’s, Aaron Rodgers’, and Derek Carr’s. Some mention Russell Wilson or Matthew Stafford or (fill in the blank).
But they don’t seem to really care about the stats, because no one has ever won the MVP award after playing only three-quarters of a season. Only Joe Montana came close, winning MVP after playing only thirteen games (one more than Brady). They go on about how this stat of Brady’s is great or that stat is great, but this other player’s one stat is a little better and, oh, Brady played only twelve games, so it really doesn’t matter what his stats are. It may sound like I’m repeating myself, and that’s because I am—because the anti-Brady intelligentsia repeat themselves. The criticisms of Brady’s stats seldom go beyond his lack of games played.
To be fair, the lack of full schedule for Brady is significant. It must be one of the variables included in the MVP equation. At what point does the lack of games played become disqualifying? Can we safely say if a player hasn’t played more than half the season? I certainly think so. How about ten games? That still seems pretty low. That’s not even two-thirds of the games. Can we agree that that’s too low? I think if a player missed six games of the season and his team lost all six games miserably, and won all the games he played easily and made the playoffs as a result, then maybe he would actually be a shoo-in for MVP—but the circumstances would have to be something blatantly obvious like that. Missing one or two games is certainly not enough to disqualify a player, so Derek Carr remains in the hunt.
One of the common objections to Brady receiving the MVP is that the Patriots did just fine without him for the first three games. So if Belichick can do that without Brady, it diminishes Brady’s importance to the team. What would those same people say about Jimmy Garoppolo if Tom Brady had been out the whole season and Garoppolo came back from injury in game five after missing two games—and then performed at a level similar to the first two games for the rest of the season? “Oh, well, he couldn’t possibly be MVP because he’s not nearly as great a quarterback as Brady and look how well they did with him anyway.” Would Garoppolo be snubbed for MVP because of the greatness of his coach? (The cynic in me says, “Probably.”) Great coaches help great players become great and great players help great coaches become great. Could Belichick really have accomplished what he’s accomplished the last fifteen years without Brady? If Brady retires and Belichick goes on to coach for another fifteen years and wins four more Super Bowls, then maybe we can say that the Belichick part of the Belichick-Brady equation is the primary variable. Until then, we must look at their body of work together and simply admire the output of that combination.
One stat speaks volumes to me regarding Tom Brady’s performance—beyond the relative, percentile sort of stats. Tom Brady played only twelve games. Matt Ryan played sixteen games. How many games did Matt Ryan win? Eleven. How many games did Tom Brady win? Eleven. Were Matt Ryan’s total numbers higher than Brady’s? Yes. How many games did it help his team win? Only the same amount as the other guy in this discussion. The sheer output of yards doesn’t make you the most valuable. Valuable, yes. Most valuable? Not necessarily.
In addition to that, let's not forget the off-season and pre-season work Tom Brady did in helping his team prepare. So Brady couldn’t participate in anything directly related to the team for four weeks. He worked with the team throughout training camp and pre-season. He worked with Garoppolo to get him ready. And Brady has set the gold standard for off-season work with his receivers. Brady didn’t personally perform for the first four games, and the MVP is built on personal performance on the field, but we can’t look at the missed four weeks and simply dismiss them.
Is Matt Ryan a good quarterback? Yes. Has he had an outstanding year? Yes. Is his performance worthy of the MVP? Probably. Aaron Rodgers? Awfully good the last six weeks, but probably not MVP-worthy. If Matt Ryan wins the MVP, I’ll be happy for him and I’ll say he deserves it, because I think he does. I’m not prepared to say he deserves it more than Tom Brady, so if Brady gets the MVP, I won’t think that’s unjustified.
© 2017 Courtney A Huntington