BOSTON (CBS) — If you thought Tom Brady was underrated in NFL Network’s top 100 list when he was ranked the fourth-best player in the league by his peers, then you are not going to like this.
The Patriots’ quarterback was ranked as the 13th-best player in the NFL in 2011 by Pro Football Focus, a website that aims “to provide the most in-depth, accurate and thought-provoking information on professional football player performance available on the web.”
The No. 13 ranking is actually an improvement from Brady’s ranking in 2010, when Pro Football Focus ranked him as the 33rd best player that year, despite the fact that he was unanimously named MVP that season.
“[Brady] is outside the Top 10 because he just didn’t challenge teams vertically this season,” Khaled Elsayed explained on the site. “Brady completed just 20 passes that went over 20 yards in the air (15th in the NFL) and had some of his worst games against the best teams. He still firmly in command of a New England team that steamrolls most foes.”
The deep passing stat can’t be overlooked, but Brady threw for 5,235 yards this season, the second-most of anybody ever. Only Drew Brees’ 5,476 yards this year rank higher, which helped Brees earn the No. 3 ranking from PFF. Brady also threw for 39 touchdowns, which is tied for the ninth-most ever in one season and Brady’s second-highest career total. In the playoffs, he completed 75 of his 111 passes (67.6 percent) and threw eight touchdowns (but four interceptions) in three games.
As far as having “some of his worst games against the best teams,” he had just five regular-season games with fewer than 300 yards passing, and two of his three playoff games. PFF doesn’t look at just stats though, instead assigning a grade to every play of every game, therefore making arguing with the rankings without the grades impossible. However, it’s as thorough a system as there is for player grading, so it should not be discounted in any way.
On PFF’s list, Brady ranked as the fourth-best quarterback, behind Aaron Rodgers (No. 1), Brees (No. 3) and Eli Manning (No. 8). The next quarterback on the list is Ben Roethlisberger at No. 48, with Matt Ryan (No. 78), Matthew Stafford (No. 81), Philip Rivers (No. 89) and Cam Newton (No. 95) rounding out the quarterback field. Last year, Brady was the sixth-ranked QB on the list, with Peyton Manning, Rivers and Ryan all ranking above him.
The NFL Network’s list of the top 100 players was a bit different, as it was voted on by players. In that ranking, Brady was No. 4.
“Best. Best ever. Best ever. Best in the game,” said Jets cornerback Darrelle Revis.
Pro Football Focus also ranked Rob Gronkowski at No. 6. He ranked No. 21 on NFL Network’s list.
Ultimately, the ranking is what the ranking is. It’s a look at each play of every game and an assigned grade on each. It’s far more advanced than the votes of fellow NFL players, but that doesn’t necessarily make it more accurate or reliable. It also (as far as I know) doesn’t account for variables, like the fact that Brady played zero games indoors until the Super Bowl, while Brees played 12. There’s also the number 15, which is how many football games Brady won, which is the whole point of taking the field in the first place. (Eli Manning had just 12 but earned a rather important one against Brady and the Patriots in February, so it’s not worth arguing his placement.)
For me, Brady should be higher, but it’s impressive that he’s still in the mix at 34 years old. Rodgers is 28, Eli was 30 last season and Brees was 32. Brady’s still among the very best of the best, and that’s certainly good enough to give the Patriots more than a fair shot at getting back to another Super Bowl in 2012. A ranking in the teens won’t change that.