I stopped writing this column for two seasons and Tom Brady is better now than when I left. At the time, there was fitting awe that he hung on to as a top-10 in the regular-season quarterback before turning on the AFC on his way to his final Patriots title. He fell further in his final New England season, closer to league averages. Just 18 months later, it’s obvious that no NFL quarterback has played better since December last year, a stretch of nine Bucs games.
Brady was Pro Football Focus’ highest rated pass from week 13 onwards – and he just topped the PFF board again in week 1 of 2021. Justin Herbert, sensational in every respect, was played by a man who was in the NFL , when Herbert was 2 years old.
Composing a “Tom Brady is still good” tag is one of the most challenging endeavors an author can embark on – has it all been said before? – but I’m fascinated by the shape of Brady’s latest top. He’s another player, which makes “wow” throws more consistent. His average goal depth is deeper than it has ever been. He’s a lot more fun to watch at 44 than he was at 24.
An analyst with an anti-Brady bias is easy to know when questioning his arm strength. Even in 2019, when he earned his QB index rating No. 14 at the end of the year, Brady still had his speed. The fusion of what Brady does best with Bruce Arians’ offense has encouraged the veteran signal caller to take more chances, helping TB12 lead the league in PFF’s “Big-Time Throws” poll in the 2020 campaign. He made more big-time throws last season than Patrick Mahomes! And Brady had five more such throws in Week 1 — that’s as many as he posted in any game during his record-breaking 2007 season, one less than Week 1 leader Kyler Murray and the same amount as Dak Prescott. Unlike Murray and Prescott, however, Brady did not have a single “Turnover-Worthy Play” per. PFF. Unlike them, he also became the oldest starting quarterback ever to win a game.
There have been several Brady peaks, from the ’07 dream season to the up-tempo corridor 2010-11 to the late 30s / early 40s of 2015-17, which was the last proof that his career had a form unlike any other. Maybe this food bombs stretch in Tampa will not last that long, but it’s time to acknowledge that Brady is not just playing well for his age. He plays as well as he has ever played.