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Quarterback Comparison (2013): Tom Brady vs. Matt Ryan

Posted on July 18, 2014 at 3:30 PM

If you subscribe to regurgitated hype delivered sans context, you probably took no issue with Tom Brady ranking second amongst quarterbacks on the Top 100 list. Legions of supporters gawked at his "more with less" campaign—leading some to go as far as to describe Brady's 2013 season as the best of his career. His performance was overlooked, as the New England Patriots 12-4 record, along with their birth in the AFC championship game, seemed to become the accolades Brady was lauded for.


On the opposite side of the coin came the lack of recognition, and subsequent perception of Matt Ryan's 2013 season. With the support of an injury-plagued roster, a horrific offensive line, the league's 27th ranked scoring defense and 32nd ranked rushing attack, The Atlanta Falcons sported a 4-12 record while playing in a division with the 12-4 Carolina Panthers and 11-5 New Orleans Saints. Unlike Brady's divison that included two poorly-performing rookie quarterbacks and a sophomore who's yet to ascend, Ryan's Falcons received no such luxury.


Injuries to Julio Jones and Roddy White left Harry Douglas to become the team's next 1,000+ yard receiver. We've heard alot about what Brady did with Julian Edelman, but almost nothing regarding Ryan's work with Douglas' development—even though the two receivers had nearly identical statistical outputs.


From a comparative-performance standpoint, it's really Ryan, not Brady, who did "more with less" in 2013.


Ryan (2013): 439 of 651 (67.4) for 4,515 yards, 26 touchdowns and 17 interceptions. 89.6 passer rating.

Brady (2013): 380 of 628 (60.5) for 4,343 yards, 25 touchdowns and 11 interceptions. 87.3 passer rating.


Ryan was more productive, more accurate and more efficient than Brady. Ryan threw six more interceptions, which would amount to only one more interception every 2-3 games, but the degree of support provided to him vs. Brady easily explains that. The Patriots supported Brady with a Top-10 running game and a Top-10 defense—truly, a far cry from the "perception" of his supporting cast. Conversely, the Falcons supported Ryan with the worst running game in the NFL, and a defense that regularly allowed opponents to score at will—surrendering a horrendous 27.7 points per game.


On October 7th, 2013 against the New York Jets—Ryan completed 36 of 45 passes (80.0 percent) for 319 passing yards, two touchdowns and zero interceptions—and still lost the game, 30-28. Compare that to Brady who faced the same team on September 12th, 2013—completing 19 of 39 passes (48.7 percent) for 185 passing yards, one touchdown and zero interceptions—but won the game, 13-10. Brady was the "clutch" quarterback who got the job done, while Ryan was the quarterback who simply couldn't lead his team to victory. Some actually believe that poor performance on a winning team is actually more impressive than good performance on a losing team.


In 2013, Ryan's 14.0 QBS was higher than Brady's 5.0—and also higher than all of Brady's championship seasons (7.0 in 2001, 8.0 in 2003, 9.0 in 2004).


The same player-vote that ranked Brady as the second best quarterback in the league, also ranked the surgical passer Joe Flacco (-4.5 QBS in 2013) as the tenth best quarterback in the league—ahead of Ryan, Nick Foles and Tony Romo. The opinions of unstudied players and nonsensical masses really do speak for themselves.


But, who played at a higher level, who did "more with less" in 2013? The unpopular and unfamiliar answer—Matt Ryan.

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