At this point in the draft season, the consensus at the top of the QB draft board is well established. The top tier boasts the fab five of Rodgers, Brady, Brees, Newton and Stafford. The latter two — last year’s new kids on the block — are clearly a notch below the position’s royalty, at least until they extend their track record. And with almost no exception — our own Mr. Boser notwithstanding — Rodgers tops the rankings, if only for the suspicion that his best is yet to come.
And there sit Brady and Brees. The former holds the NFL record for passing touchdowns in a single season (50, 2007), and the latter the NFL record for passing yards in a season (5,476, 2011). Brady has four 4,000-yard seasons to his credit — including 2011’s career-high 5,235 — as well as three campaigns with at least 36 passing scores. Brees has exceeded 4,388 yards in an astounding six consecutive seasons — leading the NFL on three occasions — and has tossed at least 33 touchdowns in four straight seasons.
Clearly, you cannot go wrong here. But for many of us, there will come a time, with the clock bearing down, where we will have to make a choice. Rodgers is off the board, QB is the call, and both Brady and Brees are there for the taking. Who’s your pick?
Who has better weapons?
Both these guys went nuts in 2011; Brees for the mammoth yardage and a career-high 46 TD strikes and Brady for his career-high yardage and a nothing-to-sneeze-at 39 scoring strikes. Both preside over remarkably stable offenses with no shortage of pass-catchers. Having said that, New England added deep-threat Brandon Lloyd in an attempt to take the top of opposing defenses for the first time since the Randy Moss experiment fell apart. He joins Rob Gronkowski, Wes Welker, and Aaron Hernandez to give Brady options underneath, down the seam, and deep downfield.
New Orleans brings back virtually everyone, but they did lose vertical weapon Robert Meachem in free agency. A hit-or-miss fantasy commodity, Meachem certainly paled in the pecking order to Jimmy Graham, Marques Colston, and Darren Sproles. However, with Lloyd joining the Pats huddle and Meachem leaving for greener pastures, the more complete cadre of pass-catchers is in New England.
What about offensive coaching?
OK, before we go any further, who are you Italicized Interview Guy? Who died and made you Bob Costas?
Needless to say, both Brady and Brees are proverbial coaches on the field. In helmets, of course. But the big question hanging like a dark cloud over the Saints is the loss of head coach and offensive mastermind Sean Payton to a year-long suspension. Anyone who’s seen one of those contrived ESPN MNF segments with Brees and Payton sitting at sitting in an empty conference room getting off on potential play calls has to be at least be mindful of Payton’s absence. To be sure, Saints offensive coordinator Pete Carmichael is playing footsie in that hotel room as well — love triangles sure are awkward — but it’s hard to imagine that Brees, the offense, and the team in general isn’t at some point going to suffer without their ultimate leader.
On the other hand, Josh McDaniels’ “Burn Bridges” NFL Tour has come to an end, and he returns to New England, where in 2007 he presided over one of the most explosive attacks fantasy football has ever seen. Brady posted career highs in yards and touchdowns that season, and also led the NFL in completion percentage, TD percentage, yards per attempt, and yards per game. McDaniels also happened to make Lloyd a household fantasy name (1,448 yards, 11 TDs) in Denver in 2010, causing fantasy owners to salivate at how diverse and unstoppable the Patriots can be with a capable deep threat (no offense, Brandon Tate).
Who has had the statistical edge?
You see that bold text up there, Mr. Narrator? That’s right, boss, you ain’t the only show in town.
This is a bit like quibbling over supermodels, certainly, but given an option some do prefer Kate Upton to Adriana Lima, right? A close look reveals that Brady is probably the safer TD option, while Brees has the higher floor from a yardage standpoint. Over his last four healthy seasons, Brady has posted annual averages of 4,585 yards and 38.25 TDs to Brees’ 4,888 yards and 36.5 TDs. Again, Julianna Hough or Mila Kunis? You’re not kicking either out of bed.
Which QB has more competition from his running game?
Just when I’m completely fed up with your shtick, you go ahead and ask a quality question like that.
Clearly, with these two guys under center, all of their weapons to choose from, and coaches unafraid to keep their foot on the gas, this isn’t a huge concern for either quarterback. In fact, both have managed their ginormous totals above despite having productive rushing attacks at their disposal. Over the past five seasons, New England has ranked in the top six in rushing touchdowns every single year, while New Orleans has been in the top 10 in that category five of the six years since Brees’ arrival.
Having said that, the Saints rushing attack has ranked sixth in the NFL in ground yardage twice in the last three campaigns, while the Pats have rated 20th, 9th, and 12th in those three seasons. Further, New England said good-bye to BenJarvus Green-Ellis, their most proven red-zone rusher, while New Orleans retains a bevy of capable scoring threats (Sproles, Mark Ingram, Pierre Thomas, Chris Ivory).
Is offensive line a factor?
Frankly, given the numbers these two have piled up in recent seasons, both have had plenty of protection up front. The Saints failed to re-sign All-Pro guard Carl Nicks, but acted quickly in replacing him with Pro Bowler Ben Grubbs. We’ll call that a wash. There’s little denying that Brady is subjected to quite a few more hits than his New Orleans counterpart, but it’s tough enough to predict stats let alone injuries. We’ll give Brees the nod here, but clearly, the Pats front five is more than capable.
Who has the hotter companion?
Edge: Brady. Just saying…
What about the other side of the ball? Either defense good enough to prevent their QB from slinging it?
I can only assume that’s a rhetorical question, sir. New England ranked 31st and 25th in yards allowed the last two years, while the Saints ranked 24th in that same category in 2011. And even if either defense rises up this year, it’s not in the nature of either offense to take their collective foot off the pedal.
Who has the easier schedule?
Another dangerous game to play, given how much changes from year to year in this league. Based on last year’s records, the Patriots have the single easiest schedule in the NFL, facing teams with a collective record of 116-140. By comparison, the Saints face the 11th-toughest slate at 129-127. But there are simply way too many variables here. The numbers say Brady, but he still sees Darrelle Revis and the Jets D twice a year, not to mention a vastly improved Bills pass rush featuring Mario Williams. If his schedule is easier, will Brady be slinging it in the fourth? If the Saints are trailing more often, will Brees be dropping back and playing catch up often? This is futile analysis; too many variables.
Make up your mind, already. Who are you taking?
Watch your tone, sir. 1300 words later, and it’s very apparent this is every bit as tight as Olivia Munn’s bikini top. Brady and Brees have both been so consistent over the years, and from time to time they’ve each handed in monstrous seasons. As such, it’s much less about their floor than it is about their ceiling. Neither is more or less likely to bust out on you, but who’s in better position this season to make another run at the record books?
The two most significant factors in this analysis are the additions of Lloyd and McDaniels in Brady’s corner for 2012 and the unsettling absence of Saints head coach Sean Payton in New Orleans. Brady is the pick.