Is Drew Brees better than Tom Brady?

There is a debate here about Brees being as good a QB as Brady. About comparing QBs in general, I have some points to make:

  1. It is hard to compare QBs of different eras when the rules are completely different. Bradshaw (not that he is a top 10 QB of all time), Montana, etc. played in an era where “Kill the QB” was literally the status quo. These QBs took hits and faced threats of hits that today’s QBs don’t have to deal with. Most people don’t know that Montana had a much higher sack/pass attempt rate than Brady during his career also. Being sacked (and likely hit after the pass) more often and much harder, does impact performance, if for no other reason due to injuries. Check out Montana’s health today to see what I mean.
    We don’t know what Brees or Brady had done in the 70s and 80s, but we can theorize that focusing and pressure situations would not have been quite as simple, and playing to 40 would have been unlikely. The league’s QB ratings have increased by about 9 points on average during the past 25 years due to defensive rule changes, most notably hitting the QB hard. That is all I will say since my point is “We don’t know”, and speculation varies widely.
    Obviously, this doesn’t apply when comparing Brees to Brady…but it does when the question expands or “Best of all time” is being evaluated.
  2. The teams you are on the matter a lot! I will say that one more time. The teams you are on matter A LOT!
    Brady has had the best average teammates relative to the competition of any QB in history except maybe Bart Starr, including the pre-Superbowl era. His defense and the offensive line have been far, far better than Brees during their mutual careers. His team’s coaching has also been better. He has been a very good component of a well-oiled machine, one that is hard to replace, but replaceable without crippling impact to that machine. The Patriots winning record, or QB stats for that matter, hardly changed at all when Brady was injured. People talk about the 2019 season while forgetting that being in the Super Bowl for three straight years comes with a cost with respect to drafts and other options to build for the future. It is going to take a few years for Bill. B. to recreate a great team.

For reasons #1 & #2, I think Brady is arguably the best QB who has played both decades this century, and certainly one of the top 3-5 QBs to ever play, depending on how much you weigh different things. I think Brees is near par with Brady unless team results (or team-heavy personal results) are weighted very highly. In my book, Brees and Manning were both greats, like Brady, in the modern era. I think Rodgers is not quite there, but close. I think Montana, Staubach, and Graham are the leading contenders for best QBs of all time considering #1 & #2, but Brady deserves to be in the conversation.

Edit: Based on one comment thread I am adding some clarity to point #2.

We can say that a team’s effectiveness is equally weighted on defense on offense, say 46–48% each, with special teams playing a very minor role taking up the rest. Furthermore, a team’s defense, which obviously does not contain the QB, strongly impacts the QB rating over the course of a year. If you look at defensive ranking by year, you will clearly see a pattern with any QB, and this is true for both Brady and Brees. They had their best years when their team had stronger (relative to other years) defenses and their worst years with (relatively) bad defenses.

Average Defense ranking since 2002:
-Brady’s team defense: 6.6 average ranking, 18.3 ppg avg, and 3.3 average defensive SRS (Wow!!)
-Brees’ team defense: 19.0 average ranking, 23.1 ppg average, and -1.1 average defensive SRS

NE Super Bowl Analysis by Offensive SRS (OSRS) and Defensive SRS (DSRS) average
6 Times winning: 4.1 and 4.2 respectively
3 Times losing: 10.5 and 2.2 respectively
The two powerhouse offensives of the 9 games (2007 & 2011) lost the Super Bowl because they had only average plus defenses alongside them. What does this say? This says that Brady won a lot and was in the Super Bowl a lot because he was on a fantastic team, with a great coach.

Over the course of Brady’s career (specifically the past 17 years), his teams’ defenses have allowed about 4.4 points per game fewer than Bree’s teams’ defenses have. That is mind-boggling! This means more opportunities and often in a better position.

Similarly, Brady has had a better offensive line, better running back and comparable receivers to what Brees has had. Brady has benefited from having one of the best of all-time coaches leading the team.

Edit 1/27/20: I know this is not a conventional answer, since the status quo is to look at hardware and media attention and go with the bandwagon. However, the data strongly suggests Brees is/was a better QB, and stronger yet playoff QB.

Here is another surprise. Confession, I am a 9er fan, and believe Montana is arguably the best QB of all time, just like Brees is. It is possible to conclude either is better, depending on which stat argument you weigh more (remember, QB ratings are about 9 points higher between the eras due to QB protecting rules). What is not suggested by any objective data is that Brady is the best QB ever since he played concurrently with Brees, with better teams, and yet has worse statistics, especially during the playoffs.

Similarly, one may argue Rice has the best accomplishment record, and there is no displacing him from best of all time, but Moss was more gifted. If Moss’s career had been swapped with Jerry’s, playing with Montana and Young, he may have eclipsed half or more of Jerry’s records. Jerry’s work ethic is hard to duplicate…no taking that away from him. His career records were largely due to that outlier work ethic.


Since some of the comments talked about QBs and “Clutchness”, here is a list of QBs approximately ranked by clutchness weighted career rating. No, I do not think Mahomes has proven himself enough yet (not enough data) to be on this list, but he is there since so many asked me about his GOAT-potential.

Clutchness is one of the most important aspects of evaluating the greatness of a player. You can see that given four SuperBowls, Montana and Staubach are clearly the GOAT leaders. For those with only one Super Bowl, Stabler, Young, Rodgers, and Brees all look strong.

Brady is in the average-minus range in this group, both for career rating and for clutchness. He faced pretty weak defenses in the Super Bowl and was very inconsistent, with 1 world-class game, 1 great game, 2 good games, and 3 chokes.
Manning and Marino also look overrated with this perspective.

Source: Quora


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