The Fallacy of 2008 in the Case of “Brady v The Greatest NFL QBs”

It is possible that next month, the Supreme Football Court will hear oral arguments in the case Tom Brady v. The Greatest Quarterbacks on All-Time. For those of you who may have forgotten, this case was heard in 2007 but it was remanded to the lower courts primarily because the Supremes ruled that it was not yet timely.

But if Brady is to add a fifth Super Bowl appearance to his resume this month, watchers of the court suspect the “ripened” case will be added to the Supreme’s winter docket. And that is because Brady’s case– with a record number of Super Bowl appearances and a second MVP – will be deemed sufficiently meritorious that the court needs no more evidence before it rules on the matter.

For the record, I will not be arguing Brady’s case before the court. From what I have heard, Steve Young, backed by the guys from Football Outsiders, will be presenting. And rumor has it that Phil Simms will be filing a “friend of the court” brief in support of Brady’s case. No word on who may speak for the defense when the case is argued but Tony Dungy is one possibility and Eddie DeBartolo is another.

While I am not being paid to make this case, I do want to weigh in on one issue that the defendants in this case – The Greatest Quarterbacks – are preparing to make. And that is the issue of “2008.”

This morning, Mike Golic, a quiet Brady critic and a counsel to the defendants in this case, brought up “2008” as the hole in Brady’s bucket. The 2008 argument goes as follows: Tom Brady was hurt in the first quarter of 2008 and a backup with ZERO NFL starts replaced him and led the Patriots to an excellent 11-5 record. If a newbie with almost no game experience since high school could lead the Pats to eleven wins, there is reason to suspect that New England’s system, and not Brady, deserves a big slug of credit for the team’s success and its passing numbers. Mind you, Golic is not the only one advancing this theory as it is quite popular amongst the ranks of those who pray at the alters of Manning, Montana and Graham.

But here are the holes in this argument.

1) First off, Matt Cassel wasn’t that good in 2008. According to FO, he was only slightly better than a replacement level QB. That is quite a dropoff from Brady’s 2007 which happens to be the best statistical season ever recorded by FO. That the Pats won eleven games with Cassell speaks more to other issues than Matt Cassell’s accumen.

2) Yes, the Pats won 11 games in 2008. But they won 16 regualr season games the year before. Mike Greenburg correctly seized on that issue this morning, arguing that a five-win spread is hardly inconsequential. Golic’s rebuttal was tortured but in his defense, he is not exactly a litigator.

3) People forget that the Pats played a ridiculously easy schedule in 2008 as they were paired up with the woeful NFC West, which was collectively 22-42 that season. Plus, the one “decent” team in that division – Arizona – came to Gillette in December and basically forfeited when it read the weather report. To make much out of those four wins is to simply ignore how inept that NFCW was that year.

4) The Pats also drew the AFC West in 2008, a division that was won by the 8-8 Chargers. Can anyone, with a straight case, argue that Brady’s claim before the Court is hindered because his backup beat the two-win Chiefs, the five-win Raiders and the eight-win Broncos in 2008?

5) A review of the Pats 2008 schedule reveals there were nine wins on that schedule, regardless of whether Brady or a replacement-level QB were behind center. Coaching+Moss+Welker+Faulk+a pretty good defense+a horrible list of opponents+a journeyman QB=nine wins. Given that schedule, it is hard to imagine Brady doesn’t win at least 14 games that season.

6) Here is the cum shot …… it’s telling that the 2007 Pats scored 179 points more than the 2008 Pats against a MUCH tougher schedule. You put Brady on the 2008 team, and the NFL’s revised scoring record has a six-handle, as in something north of 600 points.

Rest assured, the claimants in this suit (Brady) would like nothing better to argue this point. And if the defendants can’t do any better than “2008,” this observer thinks the Supremes could side with Brady, a full five years before this case really should be decided.

That said, all talk of litigating this issue in 2011 really depends on the next two weeks and it is entirely possible that the claimants will slow their case down if the Pats don’t win their next two games. But with that necessary disclaimer aside, you can rest assured that young associates like FO’s Aaron Schatz are putting in extra hours this week working on the appeal. And if things go right, Brady might land on the Supremes desk by the end of the month.


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