Whether you love him or hate him, no one can really argue with Tom Brady’s NFL resume at this point in his career. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback has done it all on the gridiron, claiming seven Super Bowl titles, three NFL MVP crowns, and virtually every other award imaginable.
But at age 43, how good is TB12 in terms of raw, on-field performance?
If you believe Bruce Gradkowski, pretty good. According to the former Buccaneers quarterback’s Pro Football Focus ranking, Brady is still the second-best quarterback in the entire league.
Tom Brady proved his doubters wrong in 2020
While it may seem like an eternity ago, Brady left the New England Patriots in March 2020. At the time, some fans and analysts were skeptical of the quarterback’s decision. Was it really the right move to leave Bill Belichick behind and join a franchise that hadn’t made the playoffs since 2007?
During the early part of the season, those concerns seemed to be well-founded. Brady, as we now know, struggled to grasp Bruce Arians’ complex playbook. He looked human, and, on the whole, the Bucs didn’t seem like world-beaters. After a defeat at the hands of the Kansas City Chiefs, the club sat at 7-5. The season seemed poised to be a flop.
After the bye week, though, things were different. Tampa rattled off four straight wins to enter the playoffs at 11-5. During the postseason, the Bucs won another four games to lift the Lombardi Trophy.
While you could argue that Brady got plenty of help during the big game — the Tampa defense terrorized Kansas City’s patchwork offensive line — the quarterback did lead another franchise to Super Bowl glory. At the end of the day, that still goes on his legendary resume.
TB12 is still the second-best quarterback in the NFL, according to PFF
Right now, Brady is 43 years old; he’ll turn 44 before the 2021 campaign begins. While that reality alone would spell doom for most other professional athletes, TB12 does things a bit differently.
Ahead of the new NFL season, Bruce Gradkowski released his Pro Football Focus quarterback rankings. The former Buccaneers signal-caller placed his old team’s current QB pretty close to the top of the list.
“Brady capped an incredible 2020 season with his seventh Super Bowl win, and his overall performance was the catalyst for elevating the Bucs to their second championship in franchise history,” Gradkowski explained while ranking TB12 second, behind only Patrick Mahomes. “Not only did he accomplish that after changing teams, but he endured a reduced offseason while having to learn a whole new offense, which makes it that much more remarkable.”
Gradkowski also cited Brady’s increased comfort within Arians’ system and the fact that Tampa Bay will be bringing back virtually its entire roster as factors why TB12 should have a strong 2021.
At this point, pick against Tom Brady at your own risk
For some football fans, seeing Brady ranked second on the 2021 power ranking may feel a bit excessive. For all of his experience, TB12 isn’t going to scramble out of the pocket and uncork a 50-yard pass like Mahomes. He’s simply not capable of moving like Lamar Jackson or Deshaun Watson.
While all of that may be true, the Buccaneers starter has more than earned the benefit of the doubt.
Last season, Brady threw for 4,633 yards and 40 touchdowns. As Gradkowski mentioned, those numbers came in a season of transition. This year, the quarterback will know the offense and all of his receivers. That might not guarantee an extra 400 yards and 10 more touchdowns, but it can’t hurt.
While talking about intangibles can be a fool’s errand, leadership is also an inescapable part of what Brady brings to the table. Arians and his Buccaneers players have spoken about the role TB12’s mere presence played in lifting the Lombardi Trophy. After claiming the NFL championship, for example, the head coach said that Brady gave the entire organization the belief that it could actually win the big one.
When the 2021 season kicks off, every quarterback on the list will get a chance to prove just how good they are. While it’s possible he’ll struggle to live up to the No. 2 rating, betting against Brady has never been a wise idea.
Stats courtesy of Pro-Football-Reference