QBs in Focus: Tom Brady

Breaking down Tom Brady's 2013 season, Steve Palazzolo dives deep into the numbers.

| 3 years ago

QBs in Focus: Tom Brady

qb-month-bradyThough we certainly miss football during the offseason, it’s always a good time to take a step back and analyze our plethora of data.

We’re often so busy grading and collecting data during the season that we’re unable to put a lot of the information to good use. With that said, we’ve decided to declare June as “QB Month” as we break down NFL quarterbacks every which way.

We’re going to examine quarterbacks from a number of situations before looking at each of them individually. The grades and numbers should reveal each quarterback’s strengths and weaknesses from the 2013 season.

As we go through this series, it’s important to understand the relationship between QB Rating (NFL’s version) and PFF Grade.

While QB Rating is obviously supposed to be a QB statistic, it’s actually a better gauge of what the entire offense did in a given situation. This is the type of information that is actually extremely valuable to our NFL team customers as their game planning efforts must go towards stopping an entire passing offense, not just the quarterback.

If the quarterback throws an easy dump off pass to the RB who then weaves through the defense for the touchdown, it’s certainly not a great indicator of quarterbacking skill as it is the running back and defense accounting for the majority of the work on the play. Of course the QB Rating will look quite shiny in that situation.

On the other hand, PFF Grade is a good indicator of how well the quarterback actually performed in a given situation. Whether they throw an accurate pass that was dropped, or perhaps an inaccurate one that should have been intercepted and the defense dropped, the PFF grade will account for those situations with a positive and a negative grade respectively while QB Rating will simply reflect the 0-for-1 passing.

It’s important to distinguish between QB Rating and PFF grade, though there’s a good chance they’ll match up in most situations.

After taking a look at the entire league in various situations, it’s time to break down each quarterback individually.

Tom Brady

Tom Brady

Tom Brady (2)

Tom Brady (3)

All categories with a * are normalized so that the league average is 0.0.


•  Led the league with a +10.3 grade on 2nd-and-medium.
•  Second-highest grade on passes in the 1-to-10-yard range at +12.3.
•  Among the league’s best in the 11-to-20-yard range (+7.6).
•  Graded at +11.8 on throws outside the numbers to the left and +15.8 on throws in between the numbers.
•  Ranked third with a +28.9 grade in a clean pocket.
•  Graded at +6.4 against the blitz.
•  Led the league with a +11.1 grade on 4-to-6-yard drop-backs.
•  Tied for the league lead with a +11.0 grade in the fourth quarter and OT.
•  Led the league with a +19.3 grade on drop-backs lasting 2.1 to 2.5 seconds.
•  Graded at +11.9 on passes thrown to outside wide receivers (by alignment) and +9.5 on passes thrown to the slot (by alignment).
•  Led the league with a +10.3 grade on slants while ranking second on post routes at +10.4.


•  Graded at -4.2 on 3rd-and-10+
•  Struggled on throws in the 21-to-30-yard range (-6.4) and finished at -3.6 on all throws of 20+ yards.
•  Graded at -4.3 on passes thrown outside the numbers to the right.
•  Graded at -2.4 against third down blitzes.
•  Struggled on drop-backs lasting 2.6 to 3.0 seconds (-3.9) and ones lasting 3.1 to 3.5 seconds (-4.6).
•  Graded at -3.3 on crossing routes and -1.6 on in routes.


•  Took 34.6% of drop-backs from under center; ninth-highest in the league.
•  Left the pocket or used a designed rollout only 1.4% of the time; lowest percentage in the league.
•  54.2% of passes came in the 1-to-10-yard range; third-highest in the league.
•  Faced pressure 32.6% of the time; below the league average of 35.5%.
•  Used a 7-to-8-yard drop-back 64.4% of the time; third-highest in the league.
•  Used a drop-back of at least 9 yards only 12.2% of the time; fifth-lowest in the league.
•  Only 15.1% of attempts went to tight ends; third-lowest in the league.
•  Threw 34.8% of passes to the slot (by alignment); sixth-highest in the league.
•  32.6% of drop-backs last two seconds or less; seventh-highest in the league.
•  Blitzes turned into pressure only 36.0% of the time; fifth-lowest in the league.
•  Threw out routes on 14.7% of attempts; third-highest in the league. Threw post routes 9.7% of the time, also third.


For the entire set of “Quarterbacks in Focus” posts, click here.


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| Senior Analyst

Steve is a senior analyst at Pro Football Focus. His work has been featured on ESPN Insider, NBC Sports, and 120 Sports.

  • laura23451

    This is like Brady early in his career (pre Randy Moss). He can’t throw deep. It’s amazing how skewed his numbers are. On passes more than 10 yards, he’s a below average QB. On passes left or right, he’s a below average QB. All he can do is throw short/middle dump off passes. At least that’s the only thing he does better than other NFL QBs at this point in his career.

    I can’t figure out why he’s so far below average from the shotgun and so far above average from under center. Is he that reliant on play action for his receivers to get open?

    • Trepur

      Not sure if you’re still interested, as your comment is five months old, but there are a few reasons:

      Tom Brady’s lack of mobility gives him less time to make deep/medium throws and the lack of an ability to rollout of the pocket hurts accuracy on sideline passes (When Rodgers, who frequently rollsout of the pocket, makes a throw on the sideline, he’s ~15 yards closer then Brady to his intended receiver.)

      Tom Brady’s has never been superb with the deep ball, you mentioned pre-Randy, and that’s the point. The Patriots deep threat in 2007 had nothing to do with Brady, it was about Moss being able to change his speed, route etc. to account for the occasional miss-throw by Brady.

      The best aspect of Tom Brady’s game is his ability read defenses and identify/exploit mismatches. The Patriots wide receiver corp made mismatches more likely to be in between the numbers, then on the outside. The most obvious mismatch is Gronk, if Gronk is lined up against a smaller defensive player, you’re going to instantly dump the ball off to him and have him truck through to the first down. Bonus points for calling a play action (as you asked earlier) to have Gronk get behind the defensive front instantly. The other main mismatch is that slot receivers covered by a larger line backer, he will have a significant speed advantage and more easily gain separation. Slot receivers are also generally going to be open when in between two linebacker zones.

      The New England Patriots lacked tall receivers. A small receiver is going to be better at inside cuts then outside cuts (which is why Brady is the best at Post and Slant routes), this is because an out route can be too easily undercut when throwing to a smaller receiver. Short slot receivers are also useless on deep throws, and Brady has little success on deep throws because he doesn’t have a player who is a deep threat (well he does in LaFell now, didn’t last year).

      So yeah, the Patriots offense is better suited for short throws down the middle then deep threats, and that’s why Brady is so much better.