Fantasy Football: The 'Angry Tom Brady' Narrative Needs to Stop
This assumption and idea that Tom Brady will be -- or was -- better at playing the quarterback position because he's angry over a deflategate suspension needs to end.
Because if Tom Brady's anger is the reason he performs well, then I think we need to reevaluate the way we've viewed one of the greatest quarterbacks of all time.
Last Season Fueled the Narrative
I'm not joking when I say there's a real push out there amongst folks who think anger drives Tom Brady. Sure, I would assume his competitive spirit only feels even more competitive because of this frustration over what seems like an unfair suspension. And there's no doubt in my mind that some athletes don't hit their full potential because of motivation issues -- we see that all the time.
But we're also talking about Tom Brady, one of -- if not the -- greatest quarterbacks of all time. We're talking about a player who's known for being ultra-competitive, sometimes overly-competitive.
Here's the thing that's helping fuel this narrative, though: Tom Brady balled out last year, the season that followed the deflategate scandal. And, as a result, there's a tie being made between being angry and being good at real and fantasy football.
Let's start by looking at Brady's week-by-week numbers in fantasy football, which will exclude Week 17 because it's fantasy irrelevant.
What's obvious in the table above is Brady started the season off really hot, averaging 26.63 fantasy points across his first seven games (he had a Week 4 bye). For comparison, fantasy football's leading scorer, Cam Newton, averaged just a little over 24 fantasy points per game last year.
It was Brady -- not Newton -- who was the elite fantasy football QB1 to start the 2015 campaign.
We all know touchdowns drive fantasy football success. In fact, unsurprisingly, no statistic correlates better to fantasy success at the quarterback position week to week than touchdowns.
During that seven-game stretch, Brady threw 20 touchdown passes and had a touchdown rate of 6.9%. For reference, the league average touchdown rate over the last five years has been 4.5%. Yes, Brady is a better-than-league-average quarterback, but his touchdown rate hasn't been that high since 2010.
Moreover, high scoring paces simply don't continue forever. As I mentioned earlier in the offseason in an article on touchdown rates:
Since 2000, we’ve seen just 15 instances where a quarterback threw 200 or more passes while maintaining a touchdown rate -- again, this is the percentage of attempts that result in touchdowns -- of 7.0% or higher. Of the 11 who threw 200-plus passes the following year, none finished with a higher touchdown rate as they did during the 7.0% or better season. And the average drop in touchdown rate was 2.45%.
Was he simply better? Was he just far more efficient?
Better than recent seasons from him, yes. At that point in time, his yards per attempt average was 8.3, when his career average is 7.4. That's certainly a plus.
But let's not pretend players don't go through stretches of strong play which are then likely to regress given the fact that we're messing with small sample sizes.
In fact, despite Brady's 2014 not being up to his usual standard thanks to a really slow start, he actually had a seven-game stretch that year where he averaged 24.30 fantasy points per game. And if you shrink that by two games, he had a five-game stretch that was actually better, fantasy-wise, than his amazing start last season -- from Weeks 5 through 9 that year, Brady averaged 27.20 points per contest.
Was Brady angry then -- pre-deflategate -- or was there something else motivating him? Maybe he lost to a friend at a game of Texas hold 'em and he needed to show that friend who was boss?
We also can't forget about the fact that Brady's production dipped after he started so strong. You can probably look at the lack of weapons in the offense as part of the reason for that, that's for sure.
This may simply fuel Angry Tom Brady narrative truthers, because all this shows is that his numbers dropped fairly dramatically when his weapons didn't play, as designated by a lack of "x" in a particular cell above.
But if Tom Brady being angry is a thing, then why should these injuries matter as much as they did? Why isn't Julian Edelman getting any love for how important he was to the Patriot offense last year? And what about the emergence of Dion Lewis? He was far more effective last year than Shane Vereen had been in the offense -- why isn't Dion Lewis getting more love for Brady's success?
Because it doesn't fit the narrative.
Tom Brady Is Just Good
I won't sit here and say intangibles are irrelevant because they can't be measured by numbers. I will say, though, that players who are hard working, prepare well, and show lots of grit when they perform will often see that play out in production.
For instance, you'll often hear phrases like "he grinds film" or "he's such a smart off-the-field learner" thrown around to describe NFL players. Generally speaking, those types of intangibles will show through production. And production is really what matters at the end of the day.
It's why of all people, associating a narrative like this for Tom Brady doesn't make a whole lot of sense. It's not as though we have a sample size of an unmotivated Tom Brady. And it's not like we've never seen Tom Brady do what he did during that stretch in 2015 -- he did nearly the exact same thing in 2014.
So let's end this narrative. Instead, let's draft Tom Brady in fantasy football because he's an all-time great.