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Article:Tom Brady: Luckiest postseason QB ever?

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As I explained in my article on my Points Generated formula (and its offshoot, which measures efficiency), there are better ways of measuring how effective and how productive a quarterback is than meager QB/passer rating. I decided to go ahead and plug this in with playoff performances and see how closely efficiency correlated to winning in the postseason. The answers weren't really shocking, but what it means is. Regardless, there are two major points that I unearthed.

The first is that, in championship games, the team with the more efficient quarterback has won 77 of 87 title games. That’s only a .885 winning percentage, so needless to say there’s a strong correlation between single-game efficiency and winning in the playoffs.

The other thing dealt with benchmarks of efficiency in playoff games. What I discovered is that there are certain benchmarks where a win is almost certain if a quarterback hits it, and another where a loss is almost certain if he falls below it. Although it would be easy to say “When the efficiency score is 1.00 and higher, the team always wins”, this is obvious but also extremely rare. As in, out of something like 1,100 man-games in the playoffs, a quarterback has qualified for (2+ passes, 5+ offensive attempts) and hit that mark exactly 15 times. And yes, the teams are 15-0.

Now, if I bump that benchmark down to 0.80, the overall record becomes 32-1*, if I go to 0.70 it becomes 62-5 (with two of those losses coming when the quarterback in that realm relieved the starter), and if I go to 0.65 it becomes 83-10. Instead, I went slightly lower, down to 0.60. If a quarterback is at 0.60 or higher, his team in the playoffs is 105-17 (.861 winning percentage). That’s a staggering winning percentage. *That one loss among 0.80 and higher was in the 1943 championship game; Sammy Baugh scored a 0.8722 and his Redskins lost to the Bears, whose Sid Luckman posted a 0.8987.

On the other hand, what to do on the other side? The benchmark there is 0.30; if a quarterback scores below that, his team is 85-306 (.217 winning percentage).

The winning record when broken down by efficiency score in playoff games (5+ OO, 2+ pass attempts) is as follows.

2-0 when over 1.50 (1.000) 0-0 when between 1.40 and 1.499 (0.000)
1-0 when between 1.30 and 1.399 (1.000)
1-0 when between 1.20 and 1.299 (1.000)
7-0 when between 1.10 and 1.199 (1.000)
4-0 when between 1.00 and 1.099 (1.000)
9-0 when between 0.90 and 0.999 (1.000)
17-1 when between 0.80 and 0.899 (0.944)
30-4 when between 0.70 and 0.799 (two losses in relief) (0.882)
21-5 when between 0.65 and 0.699 (0.808)
22-7 when between 0.60 and 0.649 (0.758)
28-8 when between 0.55 and 0.599 (0.778)
49-16 when between 0.50 and 0.549 (0.754)
45-27 between 0.450 and 0.499 (0.625)
48-37 between 0.400 and 0.449 (0.565)
42-38 between 0.350 and 0.399 (0.525)
45-65 between 0.300 and 0.349 (0.409)
37-69 between 0.250 and 0.299 (0.349)
18-81 between 0.200 and 0.249 (0.182)
13-63 between 0.150 and 0.199 (0.171)
5-37 between 0.100 and 0.149 (0.119)
6-27 when between 0.05 and 0.0999 (0.182)
3-17 when between 0.00 and 0.0499 (0.150)
3-12 when under 0.00 (all three in relief) (0.200)

Top 100 single game scores – 90-10 overall record Bottom 100 single game scores– 16-84 overall record

This gave rise to what I call the spite/luck factor. It’s nothing earth-shattering, really. It’s simply a running count of what the team’s actual record in the postseason is when the quarterback is on the extreme side of those benchmarks. If he is above 0.60 and the team loses the game, that would be a spite game (the team has lost in spite of a brilliant effort), and if he is below 0.30 and the team wins, that would be a luck game (the quarterback is lucky that his team bailed him out of a feeble game).

Anyway, I ran through the playoff history of all the quarterbacks who are considered great to see exactly how they stacked up. The first record is in 0.60+ games, the second is 0.30- games. Here you go.

Aikman, Troy – 3-0, 2-2 (luck factor of +2)
Anderson, Ken – 0-0, 0-1
Baugh, Sammy – 0-1, 1-2 (luck factor of 0; Baugh’s spite game came when Sid Luckman was even better)
Blanda, George – 1-0, 2-3 (luck factor of +2)
Bledsoe, Drew – 0-0, 2-3 (luck factor of +2)
Bradshaw, Terry – 4-0, 0-2
Brodie, John – 1-0, 0-2
Collins, Kerry – 1-1, 1-2
Conerly, Charlie – 2-1, 0-1 (luck factor of -1)
Dawson, Len – 1-0, 1-1 (luck factor of +1)
Delhomme, Jake – 1-1, 0-1 (luck factor of -1)
Elway, John – 3-0, 0-3
Esiason, Boomer – 1-0, 1-1 (luck factor of +1)
Favre, Brett – 3-0, 2-4 (luck factor of +2)
Gannon, Rich – 1-0, 0-5
Graham, Otto – 2-0, 2-2 (luck factor of +2)
Griese, Bob – 3-0, 1-3 (luck factor of +1)
Hostetler, Jeff – 2-0, 1-0 (luck factor of +1)
Jaworski, Ron – 1-0, 2-1 (luck factor of +2)
Kelly, Jim – 2-0, 3-6 (luck factor of +3)
Manning, Peyton – 3-0, 2-3 (luck factor of +2)
Marino, Dan – 1-0, 1-5 (luck factor of +1)
Montana, Joe – 4-0, 0-4
Moon, Warren – 0-1, 0-2 (luck factor of -1)
Morrall, Earl – 1-0, 2-1 (luck factor of +2)
Morton, Craig – 1-0, 2-4 (luck factor of +2)
Roethlisberger, Ben – 1-0, 1-0 (luck factor of +1)
Simms, Phil – 2-0, 2-4 (luck factor of +2)
Starr, Bart – 4-0, 1-1 (luck factor of +1)
Staubach, Roger – 4-1, 2-3 (luck factor of +1)
Tarkenton, Fran – 1-0, 1-4 (luck factor of +1)
Unitas, Johnny – 2-0, 1-3 (luck factor of +1)
Warner, Kurt – 1-1, 1-0
Young, Steve – 1-1, 1-3

As for Tom Brady, who inspired this bit of research? The Patriots are 3-0 in playoff games when he scores 0.60 or higher. When he’s below 0.30, the Patriots are….5-0. Four of those games were the divisional and conference championship rounds in 2001 and 2003, so it’s safe to say that if the rest of the Patriots hadn’t come through in all of those games, there is no such thing as a “Patriots dynasty” and Brady would probably be regarded as a flash in the pan. Brady, it can be deduced, has benefited from an almost obscene amount of positive fortune in the postseason; if not "obscene", it's still unprecedented

Those who are generally regarded as the top five quarterbacks in history (Graham, Unitas, Montana, Baugh, and Marino) combined over their careers for a +4. The second-highest luck factor number in history is a 3 (by Jim Kelly), and he had 9 games to do it with. Kelly and Brady are the only two passers to score higher than a +2.

As for the other bit of research about how often the more efficient quarterback wins a title, remember that that holds true in 77 of 87 title games. Thus, there have been 10 games that are anomalies. Brady has two of them. When were they? The 2001 and 2003 seasons. That’s two entire playoff years in which established trends were bucked that resulted in championships.

So now the question comes full circle. Were Brady and the Patriots “amazingly clutch”, or simply beneficiaries of an amazing run of bizarre good fortune?

You decide.


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