When passer rating and reality collide: Tom Brady vs. the Bears

| December 19, 2010

Perhaps it’s because I spend my life immersed in trying to evaluate players with numbers that I get so frustrated with football statistics.

It happens at a number of levels: first, how totally useless they can be at giving even the most basic understanding of how someone performed, secondly, their misuse by any number of people who should know a lot better.

Lastly, because, when I let my guard down, they seduce me too with their insidious temptations into thinking (or saying) something completely irrational.

And so it was this week as I graded the Bears-Patriots game and found that the raw numbers and the clear picture didn’t add up as it pertained to a certain soon-to-be MVP quarterback.

This week, I drew the Bears-Patriots matchup as one of my games to analyze and immediately fell into the surrounding hype and numbers. I was hugely looking forward to one of the great QB displays of all time, as in a driving snowstorm Tom Brady dismantled the fine Chicago defense to the tune of 369 yards, two TDs and zero interceptions. I also did the unthinkable: had a quick look at the sacks against, saw three and assumed that he must have been under significant pressure from the Bears D-Line throughout.

As is almost always the case when you start breaking stuff down, the reality was somewhat different. By the time I finished the game and tallied everything up, Brady had a grade of +1.1 — a touch below average, not terrible, but not spectacular. A second run-through by our Sam Monson verified it: Brady did not, in fact, have a great football game.

The virtual ink was barely dry when our site editor phoned me up to ask me if I had lost my mind. How could Brady get such a pedestrian grade after the naked eye (and the stat sheet) showed such obvious mastery? Why, Jake Bleeding Delhomme got a +1.6 for his efforts in a 13-6 loss to Buffalo!

For the love of all things football, what’s going on here?!

Calm down, I told him. Just let me explain …

One thing I’ve found over the three seasons we’ve been doing this full-time is that people tend to see what they want to see.

When the quarterback throws a touchdown pass, it triggers a rush of endorphins and gets looped endlessly on SportsCenter. When he throws an interception, it sticks to the mind like glue.

Similarly, when a team wins a game, all flaws tend to be forgotten. A fumble that goes into the hands of a teammate is no big deal, while one that ends up going the other way for six points is cause for riot.

And so it was for Brady on Sunday.

What we do here at Pro Football Focus is try our best to determine how individual players are performing, without bias. Brady’s performance Sunday was a classic case of how much more complex things are than simply “Raw Stats + Team Success = QB Greatness.”

This was a legendary game, but for the Patriots’ team as a whole. They played quite remarkably. What was most impressive of all was the consistency of every player — there really wasn’t a bad performance and there were many excellent ones. On 45 dropbacks the offensive line surrendered only four hurries, which is absolutely superb. Deion Branch and Wes Welker looked as if they were indoors running routes while the Bears’ DBs were on a skating rink. And if anything, their defense was even better. Blitzing only five times, the front four got consistent pressure and, unlike their opponents, the Patriots’ cornerbacks stuck to their men like glue. On the back of this, cornerback Devin McCourty is certainly getting my Pro Bowl vote. It was magnificent across the board.

And then there was Brady, who is a marvelous quarterback that certainly deserves to be in the discussion for MVP this season.

Was this a great performance from the future Hall of Famer? I doubt he’d see it that way. I’m sure he was very satisfied with the win and some of the throws he made — including the 59-yard touchdown pass to Branch just before halftime.

But on three occasions defenders got their hands on the ball in instances that, on any other day, could have been interceptions. It was simply down to Brady not reading (or seeing) the underneath coverage and in all cases the passes were poor decisions. Just from those three throws, his stat line could as easily have read 250 yards, one TD and three INTs — which would have been a passer rating of 63.54 instead of the 113.4 he actually received. That’s a pretty good example of the limits of the rating, that three bounces either way can result in a 50-point difference.

I’m also sure there were a number of throws he’d like back, even excluding the balls that could have been intercepted,. He had next to no pressure, receivers running open and there were still balls he put into the ground or behind receivers. And as for the three sacks from the fearsome Chicago pass rush, two of those were on him as well, as he had time but decided to scramble and give the defense leverage.

In summary, he did well. He certainly gets extra credit because of the weather and the proverbial win is a win. But if time moves the victory solely onto his shoulders (if the media hasn’t put it there already), I’m not sure that would sit easy with anyone but those young enough to have posters of him in their bedrooms.

Base statistics don’t show the bad throws that should have been intercepted, only the ones that are (even though that could easily be down to someone else, other than the QB). An incomplete pass (or in Aaron Rodgers case, an interception) could be a perfectly thrown 50-yard bomb that a receiver drops, a throw away into the crowd, a spike or many other things.

We’re not saying that our system is perfect. We like it quite a bit, and we think that the attention to individual players is unique and important. But our grades don’t reflect weather (except in a case where a gust of wind might knock a ball clearly off-axis), nor do they reflect the relative (and subjective) strength of the opponent.

So, as the New England coach might say, the grade “is what it is.” It’s a way of quantifying how one player did his job, from the outside looking in. It’s to be used as a tool to understand the game a little better, and to understand who really does what and what makes a football team tick.

The feedback we’ve gotten from NFL scouts, players, front-office folks and agents suggest that we’re getting it right, and we strive to keep getting it better.

In the end, our site editor thought my explanation of the Brady grade was good enough that I should write a piece explaining it so that others would understand as well. And here it is.

Perhaps I should give Brady himself the last word.

“I think we took advantage of some opportunities we got on offense,” he told reporters after the game. “We also didn’t take advantage of some of the opportunities that we had on offense. Our defense gave it to us on a short field. Some great punt returns. But, it was a fun day. We’ll remember that one.”

Sounds like a man who understands that the NFL is truly a team game, and not one won solely by players with endorsement deals and a million Pro Bowl votes.

Comments (47)

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  1. cjkern1 says:

    Good read. Stats always have to be taken with a grain of salt, specifically in the NFL, and I think you detailed that well here. As this site has mentioned many times before, the Patriots are a team that relies on the sum of their parts.

    Slightly off topic, but I always laugh at NBA announcers who clamor about getting guys like Shaq the ball more and letting him have more FG attempts. “He’s shooting 65%, get the man the ball!” However, if you go back and look at the 8 shot attempts per game Shaq takes, 5 of them are usually wide open dunks. At this point in his career, if he started forcing FG attempts rather than just taking the high percentage shots that present themselves, I think we’d see a FG percentage significantly lower. Numbers are numbers.

    This is turning into a rant, but you know what bugs me? Heisman voters who rely on box scores!

  2. magaca says:

    So is this the same reason that Revis has such a low grade in pass coverage even though receivers he covers have the lowest catch% of all starting corners? Because the receivers are actually open quite often and overlooked/overthrown/drops their passes?

    This article helped me understand how to read the stats in the premium section better. Thanks.

    • magaca says:

      Could i get a response to my question Re: Revis please?

    • Sam Monson says:

      Sort of. His grading is low because early in the season (when he was carrying his injury) when he was beaten, he was beaten badly. If you look at his week-by-week grading you see a marked improvement, but the damage can still be seen when you look at the YPC he allows (17+), compared with say Tramon Williams, who has allowed a greater percentage of targets to be complete, but only gives up 10.7 yards per catch.

  3. PaulK says:

    A Yahoo analyst, probably Michael Silver, said he was at the game and these were the worst conditions that he had ever seen a football game played in. Blizzard whiteouts on the field were intense.

    Brady isn’t a great quarterback because he can hit the receiver perfectly in a 40 mile an hour wind gust. He’s a great quarterback because he put in many hours with his receivers. Deion Branch knew that Tom was going to go to him as time expired in the half, Tom tossed a lazy lob to a wide open Deion, six points. I bet you graded that as an easy pass completed on Brady’s part, not as a thinking man’s touchdown. Some of the open receivers were because Brady misdirected the Bears defensive backs. Some were because the Patriots know more routes and more adjustments, because Tom put the time in and because he knew where the receivers would be.

  4. Rai says:

    Sort’ve agree with PaulK. I think you guys do great in grading players and the way you break it down like you have done here. However, there are some things that you guys, well anyone, can’t really do. These are the little things which can’t be measured like decision making or audibles or as Paul said, manipulating the DBs. Don’t get me wrong though, I still think you guys are the best at what you do in terms of grading players and that’s why you have a lot of followers, amateurs and professionals, who greatly appreciate your work. There’s just some qualities which are going to be very difficult to measure for anyone.

    We all know how good Matt Ryan becomes in crunch time (maybe best in NFL?), especially on 3rd downs and you can judge that accurately, which you rightfully have. However, no one will know no matter how much reviewing they do who is the best decision maker (I’d say Brady – he almost always hits someone that’s open (I realise it’s the receivers themselves that get open but the QB has to identify that. Don’t think there’s anyone better than Brady at that.. Maybe he gets it easier because of Belichick, I don’t know but irregardless, you’ve still got to give him some props for that)) or who’s the best at going through their reads (Brees? Rarely does he lock-on to a receiver and is fast as lightning scanning the field) or who can manipulate the DB the best (Have no idea really, Manning?).

    But yeah, keep continuing what you do, it’s been great so far.

  5. Abrasion says:

    This is the perfect example of why this site is such a XXXXXXX compared to footballoutsiders. Anyone that can watch that game and see what he did in a blizzard against a very good defense and give him a low grade should find a new way to evaluate games because you clearly don’t understand what you are doing.

  6. Seels says:

    Honestly couldn’t agree more with Abrasion. I’m stunned at how the site rewards for difficult pass attempts but doesn’t reward for simply not turning the ball over / making bad decisions, or does nothing to consider conditions or defenses.

    And seriously, anyone who thinks a guy that passes for 350 yards in a blizzard against a top 3 defense is a below average performance is either trying to be contrarian for the sake of it, has some bias that isn’t being reflected, or is the entire methodology is opposing to what actually matters as a QB – efficient scoring and not turning the ball over.

    • Sam Monson says:

      The Bears defenders dropped interceptions. Are you suggesting we reward Brady simply for the defenders not being able to catch the ball? You could throw every pass right to a defender (not saying he did before people go nuts!) but if they fail to catch a single one the QB would get a bonus you suggest for not turning it over.

      The point we try to get across is that we’re evaluating what the throw was, not what the end result says it was on a stat sheet. A ball thrown to a defender is not the same as a throw that was in the receiver’s hands but he dropped it, yet both look identical on the stat sheet – 1 incomplete pass.

      • bsr says:

        “To do what Brady did in those weather conditions in Chicago? That might be one of the most outstanding quarterback performances — ever,” said LeBeau, 73, a cornerback and coach for 51 years whose defense was lit up by Brady 39-26 on Nov. 14.

        I don’t know…it could just be a flaw with your rating system. I think when all reasonable observers see one thing and you see something else, it may just be time to start questioning your methods. Something in your system just isn’t working correctly.

        • Rai says:

          But if them 3 simple INTs were actually caught, who would’ve said that?

          • rw1251 says:

            They weren’t simple interceptions. But what does Lebeau know anyway, his credentials don’t compare to the football fans who started this site.

          • bsr says:

            They would have said those were three bad decisions. How bad those decisions were depends on the circumstances. Obviously incredible plays by the opposition would lessen those discounts as would say a breakdown by a teamate. The problem is that at the end of the day they are still only three bad plays. Are we really saying that all of these other QBs made less than three bad plays? That’s doubtful. The problem seems to be that they aren’t giving enough credit to positive plays and what goes into them.

            Brady this year is dominating the league both statistically and on the scoreboard with a horrible defense and a receiving core that nobody is envious of. The story after trading Moss was that NE was giving up on the season and that their offense was going to go in the gutter. The reality is just the opposite and that is on the entire offense coming together but mostly its on Brady running it.

      • rw1251 says:

        Sam – I’d hesitate to say that the Bears defenders “dropped” interceptions. Those were tipped balls, which is very different from dropped. Simply by you’re misrepresentation of those plays, the agenda of this site is clear.

        That agenda, of course, is to provide a contrarian take to justify your own existence.

        Having “broken down” the Jets-Pats game as you do (re-watching the TV copy), I can say this site’s evaluation of the Mangold-Wilfork battle was completely inaccurate, as was its negative demerits for Cunningham.

        I’m only a few series through the Pats-Bears game, but no surprise, I find your continued knocking of Brady off the mark once again.

        I’d be curious if you could “break down” for us a few more plays where Brady earned demerits, aside from the “dropped” interceptions, which you subjectively – and incorrectly – decided were routine catches by the defense.

        • I think there’s a difference between “knocking” and “suggesting that his season isn’t as good as the general consensus thinks it is.”

          • rw1251 says:

            The fact that every poster on this site comes out of the woodwork to defend the site’s unilateral position on Tom Brady itself suggest an agenda, which, yes I will call “knocking”.

            And again, where are the credentials, what is Neil Hornsby’s experience in scouting and football:

            “Perhaps it’s because I spend my life immersed in trying to evaluate players with numbers that I get so frustrated with football statistics.”

            His “life” – this site started a matter of years ago, and for every “scout” involved in this site, that is the extent of their football scouting experience.

  7. Rai says:

    Actually Seels, they’ve stated many times before that they do consider bad decisions/INT and defense coverages in their analysis. As they said, the Bears defenders were slipping all over the place whereas the Patriots receivers were running their routes just fine. And don’t say that doesn’t matter because the Bears were a top-3 defense, that ends up creating a ton of separation between the receivers and defenders.

  8. rw1251 says:

    “None of us are, have been, or will ever pretend to be, scouts” – Sam Monson.

    Yet, you get people to pay for your analysis. Well-done.

    In part, because of articles like this, which are contrarian and sensationalistic, not at all based in what was actually on the tape.

  9. Sam Monson says:

    Do you need to be a scout to identify a drop? Watch the ball Roach steps in front of. Tipped ball or dropped interception? When we say dropped interception, we are not talking about tipped balls, we’re talking about dropped interceptions. That doesn’t require a scouting internship.

    • rw1251 says:

      Are you referring to the play before the first TD? Because if so, that was off a tipped ball – and you routinely excuse other QB’s of demerits when the ball is tipped. That’s rich if now you would place the blame on Brady for it.

      You do realize that you are replacing on statistic devoid of context (incompletion) with another statistic devoid of context (dropped interception) and that you have added no value to the analysis.

      You can’t base your judgment off of what didn’t happen – Brady did not get intercepted on that play, the ball was not caught by the defense. The fact is, on any given throw or play, there are things that could have happened that could lead to a completion or incompletion or interception or touchdown that may or may not occur, that you are unable to see to the naked eye. A tipped ball, or a play where a defender gets his hands on the ball is just one of those things.

      Ultimately, you are still going based on the blatantly obvious tangible visual evidence – which is no different than a statistic. You are not offering insight into coverages, progressions, reads and all the other factors that make up a play. Since you cannot account for these variables, you might as well take into consideration how the play did end up, and not how it could have ended up if one of the dozens of variables that go into a play had been different.

      In that specific play, Brady made a poor decision to throw it to Branch since he was double covered in the end zone. But that was one of his few poor decisions of the day. Urlacher is an extraordinarily long player, and got his hand on the ball, just as he did later in the game for what was by no means a “dropped interception”, but you surely are counting as such.

      Again, the fact that the four main contributors to this site all come out to back this opinion, and back this agenda is rather transparent. Considering one of the site’s motives is to provide analysis that differs from the norm, I don’t trust your conclusions.

  10. I really enjoyed this piece. I haven’t seen the game but have seen every other Pats game in detail so it doesn’t overly surprise me. I haven’t come away from a Brady performance in awe (maybe outside of that second half against the Lions) like I have with some of the other great QBs this year (and there are a lot of great QBs this year).

    It’s impressive that Brady hasn’t thrown any interceptions but it should be noted this does tend to owe something to a bit of luck (he even came out and said he should have been picked off by the Bears), as well as the excellence of the Pats team meaning he’s not in a position as much as other quarterbacks that require the risky throws.

    I commend his decision making and I also commend his protection and his receivers. I think he’s a legit MVP candidate for the reasons people have mentioned, and stuff that PFF can’t grade (how can anyone quantify how much time a QB spends with his receivers without knowing what every other QB does) and he’s having a tremendous season. But then that whole team is having a tremendous season, and in my opinion that is getting lost in all the Brady love (not by Brady whose sentiments I’m merely echoing when he’s speak of the team). I guess PFF isn’t a great way for quantifying who should be MVP, but a more useful tool (or aid – it’s not gospel after all) when it comes to the offensive and defensive players of the year.

    It’s all about situations to a degree, and some QBs are put in situations where their team (IMO) is more reliant on them. Having spent hours watching the last four Drew Brees games I don’t care as much about the interceptions as I do that there isn’t a quarterback alive who from any formation, with any set of personnel on the field I think could put the ball in the endzone (or if they so desired lead a long drive to break down the defense). His most recent game would have looked a lot better on the stat sheet but for Meachem dropping a TD and a punt like interception that was about taking a chance where the risk was low, and the reward high. Even if it hurt his stat sheet.

    But I’m rambling a bit now.

  11. rw1251 says:

    And might I remind that your site, Hornsby in particular, spent the last few weeks apologizing for Manning’s interceptions and excusing his poor decision making with such imprecise comments as “it’s just part of the game”. And now you are downgrading Brady for interceptions that did not take place. Take that 3rd “drop”, the one where Urlacher jumped up and got his hands on it – was it not a great play by Urlacher to get his hands on it?

    The reality is if that’s any other MLB in the league who isn’t 6’4, or maybe if it wasn’t in a 40-50MPH wind/snowstorm, or maybe if Brady throws it 2 inches higher to compensate for the epic winds, that’s probably a TD to Gronk in any of those scenarios. And since you guys are keen on creating results that didn’t happen, why not credit Brady with a TD to Gronk on that play in your imaginary “what-if” world. Was that really a terrible read?

    A bad read is a bad read whether it was tipped, pick or complete. The problem is, your analysts do not have the experience to make the judgments on what a bad read is.

  12. Ben24626 says:

    Not at all saying I disagree with you, but you are a very brave man to publish this lol.

  13. cjkern1 says:

    rw1251,

    It appears you are not fond of the work they do here. I wonder however, why you continue to post in thread after thread. I for one, recently stumbled (via an ESPN columnist who name dropped you) onto this website and have been quite impressed. They state clearly what they grade and how they grade, even pointing out clearly that they are not scouts and are not always aware on every play what a player’s responsiblity is, thus ignoring the play in question. This seems completely reasonable to me. And as for the mthodology, I like it myself. They measure TANGIBLEs. Brady’s ability to manipulate a defense is not tangible and therefore obviously not taken into account. However, Brady throwing a ball behind a wide open receiver is something that can be recognized by even an untrained eye. And if what they do is consistent, I think that’s all one can ask for. Many of us enjoy your work fellas, keep it up.

    • rw1251 says:

      I keep posting in the hopes of deterring suckers like yourself from spending good money on a product which is admittedly amateur.

      When did Brady throw behind his receiver?

      Can one of these “scouts” tell me which 3 plays in question they are referring to? Because otherwise I am going to assume its the Urlacher tip, Roach lunging and getting a hand on it, and Urlacher almost making a pretty nice grab. None of the 3 were routine, yet they are being counted as interceptions by this site.

      Just to make this perfectly clear, if you want to know how to grade on PFF, follow these simple rules:

      – If Peyton Manning or Drew Brees throws multiple interceptions that are thrown directly at a defensive player resulting in a sure-catching, and in Manning’s case, in a position on the field that results in an easy pick-6 – then chalk it up as either “part of the game” (Hornsby) or say you don’t care about it (Elsayed). Do not cite these interceptions as demerits. Let me go on record saying I think these are the 2nd and 3rd best QBs in the league.
      – If Tom Brady throws a pass which is almost intercepted as the result of a great defensive play, but was by no means a routine play, chalk it up as an interception. Use these interceptions as demerits.
      – Talk about how passer rating is irrelevant and not an indicator of how the QB played. Unless you can make up Tom Brady thrown interceptions that didn’t occur and use it to show how bad his passer rating really should’ve been and was therefore an indicator of how he played.

      Someone please tell me where I have gone wrong with the above.

      • motorcycle says:

        rw1251: Why don’t you just watch every pass Brady attempts from the Chicago game and mark each throw from +2 to -2. and then post your results for each play on here? Then we and PFF will be able to see which throws you and them disagree on.

        I really don’t see the anti-New England bias that you see. Any fan of any team can disagree vehemently with what PFF write, but at the end of the day it is just their opinion that is backed up by data that you can view if you subscribe. If you know of another website that gives the amount of data that PFF provides then link me to it, but such a website doesn’t exist.

        Yes, it is just an opinion on how players are graded, but that is what I view the grading as: an opinion. If you know of another website that grades every player on every play, then like I said, link me to it.

  14. urrymonster says:

    There is a lot of opinion on this and it’s pretty evident where the criticisms are coming from. Every single one of them has referred to the conditions. Every single one has referred to other opinions. I would imagine ‘those at the game’ saw the conditions and assumed everything he did was a feat of excellence, whereas objectively you can break down his peformance.

    Anyone who is disagreeing with the ‘interceptions’ is completely missing the point. Brady made those throws because he thought he could get the ball to the receiver, In actuality the throws were either telegraphed or thrown poorly enough for the defenders to get to the ball. That is a bad play no matter what angle you look at it.

    To those that feel ‘not turning the ball over’ should be graded positively is completely avoiding the concept that that is the aim for ever pass in the NFL. Not turning the ball over IS average. A GOOD throw will be rewarded, a pass to a wide open receiver is AVERAGE.

    The analysts who offered their opinion almost certainly would have been basing their thoughts and opinions based on the game they watched, not the individual throws and decisions that PFF re-watched. Not many analysts have the resources to break down every game and every player, so they focus on the big plays and the game changing decisions.

    Of course you can disagree, but the fundamentals of how PFF analyse is sound and for everyone to be aware of. It’s not like they have suddenly changed the way they have broken down the games. They obviously think highly of Brady, as he is in the top 5 of the MVP race, but they disagree that Brady put in the greatest QB display ever. Remove the weather and the plays played out exactly the same and it was average. He had countless opening an opportunities due to his receivers and OLine, but simply because it was in bad weather has allowed the media to run with it.

    • bsr says:

      Sorry Urrymonster, but that totally misses the mark. You can’t just “remove the weather” and treat the game as if those 40mph gusts didn’t exist. They did exist and they effected passes and were responsible for some of those incompletions and passes behind the receiver. As for your statement that “a pass to a wide open receiver is average” that is probably the most disturbing part of these assesments to me. Throwing to the open receiver is the definition what a QB is supposed to do on a given play after having read the defense and gone through their progressions. If that really is the mindset they use then I think that is really the problem with their assesments. I don’t think anyone would really fault them for discounting a QB for making a poor decision but obviously they just aren’t giving enough credit for all the other good decisions.

      • urrymonster says:

        There is no point in arguing about this because you feel so strongly about this.

        Look someone completing a pass to someone wide open is average, because anyone can achieve this. No one bar the coaching staff know the progressions and so it is impossible to be positive about a play like that. A case in example is Jimmy Clausen’s lone TD pass to Jonathon Stewart this season. So far it seems like he has an inability to scan the field and take advantage of matchups, however he got luckily with a blown coverage and threw a poor pass to a wide open receiver. The plan was average because the pass required was non existent, he also didn’t need to read defences because he was obviously open, however the end play was a 30 yard+ TD pass.

        With regards to the weather, you also have no idea how much affect it has on each throw either, so it’s impossible to grade someone up or down because of it. All you can do is judge the play as a whole and who was responsible for it failing, or succeeding. In this example you can use the given facts to say that it was remarkable that he played to that level considering how bad it was. However to not even consider poor play because of the weather is equally as naive as what you are claiming. The fact is, to PFF it seemed as if the positive plays were more down to the receivers always being open and the OLine allowing just 4 pressures, whereas the poor plays were down to poor decisions by Brady.

        You seem to take someone’s words and then carry it out to the extreme. Of course if a QB goes through all his progressions to find the right person to through to, then that is a great sign of a QB. However I was saying that the act of completing a pass to an open receiver is average, not what goes on before it. Stop using your feelings about the grading to fuel a non existent argument.

        Some people just seem reluctant to concede that Brady can make bad throws and throw to players who are heavily covered.

        • rw1251 says:

          This logic is flawed.

          There are usually receivers open on every play – it is the quarterback’s job to find the open man based on his read of the defense.

          The quarterback’s job is not to find difficult throws and make them. It is to read the defense and find the open man.

          Brady does this. The fact that you would demerit him for throwing to the “open man” is rather laughable. Last I checked, that was the QB’s job description.

          • Rai says:

            >There are usually receivers open on every play

            I think this is the difference between the Patriots system and every other in the league. For the Patriots, there appears to be near ALWAYS someone is open and they’re open quite quick too. With Brady’s excellent decision making and defense reading, it’s a perfect match and the system is geared towards Brady as to making sure that these receivers are open quickly, hence the YAC they gather and why the Patriots avoid many 3rd downs and 3rd down + long.

            Anyone mentioning that Brady should be given a higher grade because of the conditions should think again. The conditions didn’t only make it harder for Brady. The Bears defenders were struggling themselves playing in them conditions… It works both ways. Who knows, maybe if it was indoors on turf instead, they could have had them INTs. Would it then be counted as the greatest QB performance ever?

        • rw1251 says:

          And Brady has been “throwing-open” his receivers all year, FWIW.

          We need to clarify the definition of open. Brady has thrown the ball into tight windows plenty this year, and put it in a place so that the receiver was open. That’s good QB play.

          You are intimating that these players are often wide open and free.

    • rw1251 says:

      Pretty sure Dick LeBeau saw every play of the game. And he thought it was one of the greatest QB performances of all time.

      The fundamentals of PFF are not sound. No coaches tape. No trained scouts. No experience in football. No extraordinary knowledge of the game.

      These guys are just like the readers of this place, they are fans. They admit this, but resent it if you point it out.

      They do change the way they scout – for different players. See my post above. They have a different criteria for Brady. Why? Because right now he’s a popular MVP candidate and has been for most of the year, and to confirm what the average analyst says would be to admit this site offers no insight beyond the average. It’s that simple.

    • PaulK says:

      The question now becomes, why hasn’t anybody successfully intercepted Tom Brady since Bristol Palin’s friends started vote-stuffing on Dancing with the Stars? Here are some possibilities:

      Brady knows full well that he’s playing in horrid conditions, the ball is icy and the snow is in people’s faces. It’s hard for defenses to react and to intercept the ball. If the weather were sunny and warm he wouldn’t be so stupid as to make those same throws because defenders were in the lane. As it were, he made the tosses, Brian Urlacher got his tips, and none of the Bears could react quickly enough to make the interception.

      Perhaps when Brady tries a fairly well-defensed pass he zings it. Hard throws might be tipped but they are still harder to intercept after the tip. So, maybe there are successful balls to try and tip and unsuccessful balls to tip.

  15. urrymonster says:

    rw1251 tell me how ANYONE can know the progressions other than the coaching staff. Heck I doubt the receivers know what they are beyond if they are the primary target or not.

    Secondly, stop twisting what people say to fuel your borderline obsessional anger. I didn’t say he seeks out difficult throws, because that shows poor judgement. I said that the whole thing needs to be looked at using what knowledge you actually have at your disposal, something which you do not seem to grasp. You just pointed out a good throw, which is a throw that only the receiver can get. A good play is finding the guy in single coverage and using that good throw. An average play is throwing to someone who has a 5 yard cushion where you place it so they have to adjust. A poor play could be a poor pass or a poor decision. There are so many variables that you just use the information you can see.

    By the way, you flaunt this ‘professional’ status around a lot. Not all NFL scouts are pros. Some GMs come from obscurity to suddenly be the guy making the final decision on personal moves (Marty Hurney was a journalist). The guys working on the TV programmes are not necessarily professional either. The fact is, often people who have an obsession with these kind of things actually end up in the profession anyway.

    So once again, stop getting hung up about things no one can analyse, focus on what they are offering and take it at that.

  16. I must admit, RW, I’ve come to look forward to your comments in a “What will he say next?” kind of way.

    Here’s the last of mine to you.

    What we do here is try and figure out what is really happening on the football field, to the best of our abilities. In a case like Tom Brady’s, where the game reviews suggest a player who didn’t play up to common perception, we point that out. That is more or less what we are doing, looking deeper at the game and offering counter views where they exist.

    You can call us amateur if you want, that’s fine. We are not pro scouts, just astute football observers. You can question our methods. They are not perfect, nor are we done refining them. You can suggest that anyone willing to pay for the work we do is absolutely mad. Perhaps they are!

    But please cease suggesting that we’re making things up just to get noticed.

    In the old days before internet courage, there was something called “libel,” defined as “A false published statement that injures an individual’s reputation (as in business) or otherwise exposes him or her to public contempt.” By questioning our fundamental honesty without any real knowledge of our inner motivation, you are certainly crossing that line — along with millions of other flame-baiters in this Wild West online era. That’s just the way of the world these days, unfortunately.

    We’ve been nice enough to allow you to post here, which is not a God-given right, because we believe that the exchange of ideas is important. But if there are any more inflammatory and untrue statements about our motives or honesty, your rights to do so will be taken away.

    Ah well. I’ve said enough already. Best to you and yours in this holiday season.

    — Jonathan Comey, managing editor, Pro Football Focus

    • rw1251 says:

      Jonathan – I don’t think its out of line to question any business’ motives as soon as there is an exchange of money. Get off the high horse.

      • rw1251 says:

        And again, as I’ve said many times before, I appreciate what this site is TRYING to do. It’s the execution that falls short. This used to be a regular site for me.

  17. motorcycle says:

    I rewatched the game and graded Tom Brady from +2 to -2 for each play (as PFF does). I don’t work for PFF and am a Green Bay fan, and I’m not a scout!

    I graded Brady +1.5 overall. I accounted for the weather overall (some passes I graded positive on fairly simple throws and didn’t mark down the throw at 2:51 left in the 3rd quarter for example). I thought that most of the time Brady had no pressure and his receivers were wide open.

    I counted one definitive pass thrown behind the receiver (8:00 left in 3rd Q) and I marked him down twice for holding onto the ball too long resulting in sacks. I graded 3 plays of his +1 (the 2 TDs and the last throw he made in the game), 10 plays at -0.5 (these ten plays included the 2 times I marked him down for holding the ball too long) and 7 plays were marked +0.5. All other plays by Brady I graded him zero.

    If you thought Brady had an astounding game, then I would suggest you grade each play individually and you will see that he didn’t. He played well but I thought he was helped by great protection and poor Chicago coverage.

    I have only graded one other non Green Bay game myself, where I graded Matt Ryan +6.5 v Baltimore (PFF gave him +5.5). I do have ‘QB power rankings’ where I rank the QBs on how well I think they are performing overall this season and Brady is top overall, though this isn’t based on having seen every play of every game).

    • Sam says:

      Excellent post and work motorcycle. We don’t mind people disagreeing with us, and openly encourage debate about football, but the point we make repeatedly is that if you actually go back and objectively look through the facts of what happened, you’ll likely come to the same conclusion as we did.

      Most of the time the impression you can get from simply watching a game doesn’t come close to the reality of what happened if you look it analytically – your mental highlight reel lies to you. And that’s before you get into any kind of obvious team bias at play.

      It mentions it in the article, but we knew we’d be writing a piece on this, so Brady’s grades were double checked in detail to make absolutely sure we had them right – the double checking didn’t result in any changes, so the number of sets of eyes that are coming to the same conclusion is growing.

  18. cjkern1 says:

    You’re a hardcore Brady fan, we get it. Not everyone is able to be objective. If the “execution” here is not to your liking, feel free to move on.

    Again, I’m newer to the site, but I’ve been impressed with what I’ve seen thus far. They clearly define a methodology and do their best to carry it out consistently.

  19. rodneyhartjr says:

    Let me first say that I think the ratings on this site are objective and very impressive. That said, I do think there might be a “everyone thinks Brady is the lock MVP, but here’s why we don’t think he should be” effect going on here. I understand, you guys put in a ton of work and there are a lot of great players having good years so it is probably a frustrating thing to hear people talk about Brady as the lock for MVP. But, I think there is a slight bias against Brady for him to be given a +1.1.

    I am a Patriots fan, but I have listed four games (all which I watched completely) below as a reference point for why I think that Brady’s rating is not on par with your gradings of quarterbacks the rest of the year (including previous games by Brady):

    Peyton Manning
    Week 11: +5.1, he had 3 ints (1 forced by pressure, but 2 BAD throws) and cost his team the game
    Week 12: +2.1, he had 4 ints (all 4 were BAD throws) and two returned for TDs
    Week 13: +3.1, he had 4 ints (all 4 were BAD throws) and two returned for TDs

    Ben Roethlisberger
    Week 10: +8.2 (his highest of the year), in the game their offense was anemic and through 3 quarters he had 80 yards passing and had been sacked 5 times (his line didn’t play great, but 3 were solely his fault). Then he goes on to throw for 300 yards in the 4th quarter against a prevent defense cause his team was being blown out. All his throws (despite some being deep) leading to the 300 yards were ridiculously easy.

    It seems that the “Brady isn’t THAT great” bias took effect in the sense that you downgraded him for everything that could argue against him. So I guess I am accusing you of becoming subjective when you are normally so good at being objective. Like the Peppers sack that was “Brady’s fault.” Peppers spins completely inside which Brady (who has great pocket presence) reacts to by taking two steps outside to give Light leverage to ride him inside, and Peppers flips back outside like 90% of NFL DEs can’t do. If you ask Brady if it was his fault he would tell you yes, but you ask anyone else in the NFL they will tell you what a great play Peppers made.

    The point is well taken, stats DON’T reflect performance. However, even when I step back and look objectively and consider Brady’s +1.1 rating, it simply isn’t on par with your gradings the rest of the year.

  20. cantabrigian says:

    This article is ridiculous. When Peyton had terrible games against the Chargers and Dallas, he is given a free pass because he was still responsible for putting up his team’s points? His horrible throws that led to INTs and Return TDs cannot just be marked as “bad.” They were horrible.

    According to this site, Manning’s horrible pass that led to an INT and a return TD would get the same demerit as Brady throwing the ball away when nothing opened up. Manning’s horrid throw would have the same demerit as Brady ALMOST throwing an INT because it was a tip ball. This is just blatantly unfair.

    Given the way the writers have been uber-defensive on the series of comments, it would appear that they are not really open to constructive criticism either. With this article, PFF almost did a good job but they will assume they did do a good job because in their world, “almost = actually.”

    That’s about it for me. I am going to go to bed to I can almost go to work tomorrow and almost do my job and insist to my company that I have earn my pay cheque. Hey. Almost = actually right?

  21. Sam Monson says:

    Throwing an exceptionally poor pass that leads to a touchdown (ie a pick-6) most certainly DOES get more of a negative than simply a poor throw, whether that poor throw is intercepted or not.

    Remember we’re working with grades that have several negative increments, a poor throw is not just a poor throw. For example, not one of the negative throws Brady had in this game were of the very poorest increments (I can see a case to be made for the dropped INT by Roach, but anyway…).

    Now any throw where a quarterback’s throw DIRECTLY led to a pick 6 (so a pick returned for a TD isn’t necessarily the worst kind of throw if the defender had to beat several players on the return for a TD) would definitely grade worse than any of Brady’s throws in this game.

    So that particular criticism just doesn’t apply.

    The point we’re making is that you need to look at the throws and decide how bad it was in and of itself, then look at the outcome and surroundings. There are a lot of people that are dismissing some of the Brady throws as outstanding plays by Bears players, and that’s really a bit of a distortion of the truth. Two were pretty athletic plays by Urlacher, but on both of those occasions Brady shouldn’t have allowed Urlacher to be a factor, and one of them it appeared that he simply never accounted for him. The Roach drop was in my mind the poorest throw of the lot, and looked like Brady simply never saw the dropping linebacker. If Roach hangs on to that ball, it’s possibly a pick-six, and people would be talking very differently about the throw.

    Just because a defender drops a ball, it doesn’t make the throw any better. We do absolutely differentiate between throws that just get picked off, and throws that directly result in a defensive TD, but we don’t differentiate between throws that get hit a defender in the hands and then hit the floor, and throws that hit a defender in the hands and he holds on. The exact same throw can have two totally different outcomes depending on the defender’s catch, we don’t believe that the QB should get rewarded for something completely outside of his sphere of influence.

    Perhaps we’re wrong on that point, and we’re happy for people to disagree, but we’re just putting our viewpoint out there. :)

  22. doogolas says:

    How come nobody is paying attention to the fact that Brady was only hurried /four times/. Everybody is saying “player X was given a free pass. But are people not accounting for this sort of thing? I’m actually wondering.

    Also, isn’t it possible that a +1.1 in these conditions is still absolutely amazing? Isn’t it perfectly possible that a +1.1 in that kind of weather is equal to a +7 in regular conditions? I don’t know, but it’s something worth thinking about I’d think.

    • Rai says:

      I don’t think you can factor in the weather so much. It was terrible conditions, for any QB, but Brady wasn’t the only one being disadvantaged by it – The DB’s of the Bears were struggling too.