Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Best Ever?

Lots of columns this week about Tom Brady being the best QB ever, but it is so hard to compare across time.  Why?   Because the game is easier and harder than it was a while back, and it is not clear which matters more.

How is football easier?  The rules have changed to facilitate offense as offense is more exciting and as making football nominally safer has meant less (but still plenty) danger for receivers in the middle of the field and QBs being rushed.  While Brady has been hit hard over his career, lineman cannot tee off against him (at least the past several seasons) compared to what they did in the 80s against Montana and his contemporaries. 

How is football harder?  The defenses are bigger, faster, smarter.  The salary cap means that it is hard to keep talented teams together.  There is less continuity as a result.  In the 80s and early 90s, you can have a few teams dominate year in and year out with huge Super Bowl wins--the 'Skins, 49ers and Cowboys (and Giants here and there).  These days, repeating is really hard, and there is less dominance in the Super Bowls--each Pats SB was decided by 4 points or less. 

Does that make Brady more dependent on luck than Montana?  Maybe. 

I am reluctant to call the QB of one of my favorite teams the best ever since I am very aware of recency bias and I am very aware that Brady could be 6-0 or 1-5 in Super Bowls, depending on the lucky plays in key moments.  On the other hand, Brady did go 13 for 15 in the 4th quarter against one of the best defenses, even if it was a bit roughed up.  A few weeks after coming back from two 14 point deficits....   Of course, they got into bad spots because of his mistakes and those of others.   Hmmmm.

The conclusion--Brady is damned good even if he cannot complete the long pass anymore.  Anything else is far less clear.

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