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Does Tom Brady Actually Get More Roughing The Passer Penalties Than Other QBs? The Data Says No

BOSTON (CBS) -- For a very long time, an incorrect assumption has been made about the NFL's rule banning defenders from hitting quarterbacks below the knees. Though billions of football fans tend to say that the rule was made for Tom Brady (following his torn knee at the hands of Bernard Pollard in 2008), it was actually made after Carson Palmer suffered a torn knee at the hands of Kimo von Oelhoffen in the 2005 playoffs.

It's actually the Kimo von Oelhoffen rule, not the Tom Brady rule. But that hasn't stopped the world from believing otherwise.

Likewise, whenever a referee throws a penalty flag following a hit on Tom Brady, the common refrain in sports bars and on Twitter around this great nation of ours is the same: Brady gets every call!

The quarterback doesn't normally respond to such criticism. If he did, it'd consume every waking moment of his life. But he did take the time this week to publicly question whether or not this assumption is actually true.

"Yeah, I always hear that -- to different degrees -- about getting penalties and so forth and roughing the passers," Brady said on his podcast, after he did benefit from a shaky roughing the passer penalty in Sunday's playoff win over the Eagles. "They say that, and I'm always in my mind going, 'I don't remember the last time I got a roughing the passer.' I think we should look that up, over the last, whatever, 10 years, who's got the most roughing the passer penalties."

Brady added: "I hope it's not me, because then I'm putting my foot in my mouth. But I don't feel like I get them as much as people may think that I get them."

Fortunately for Brady, the data has his back. He doesn't need to eat his foot any time soon.

Pro Football Focus' Conor McQuiston looked into the stats following Brady's prompt and found that ... the quarterback was correct.

"So in a (to me at least) shocking turn of events here, It looks like Brady is right here," McQuiston tweeted. "Of QBs who have at least 1250 Dropbacks since 2015, Brady actually has the 4th lowest Roughing the Passer Calls/QB Hits in the NFL at 3.94%."

McQuiston listed players who got the most and the fewest roughing the passer calls since 2017, with a minimum of 1,250 dropbacks. Only Daniel Jones, Philip Rivers and Eli Manning got calls for roughing the passer less often than Brady did. (The top of that list saw Baker Mayfield, Jimmy Garoppolo, and Ryan Fitzpatrick getting calls the most often.)

McQuiston didn't seem happy about the discovery, tweeting, "dammit i accidentally tweeted brady propaganda. sorry guys."

PFF stretched the data back to 2010, and found that Brady only ranks 10th for most roughing the passer calls in the past 11 seasons.

Greg Auman of The Athletic dug into some numbers and found that Brady's gut feeling was accurate.

Perhaps skewing people's opinions is the fact that Brady got five roughing the passer penalties in 2009, when he was coming back from the knee injury. He was a little extra sensitive about the knee that year, no doubt. And one penalty in particular -- when Terrell Suggs made a low dive at Brady and barely grazed his knee, leading Brady to point to the referee before the flag was thrown -- certainly generated a lot of attention. Brady did get five calls in 2015 again, but he's averaged 2.3 calls per season since 2010. He's never led the league in roughing the passer penalties in that span, while some quarterbacks have gotten double-digit calls. Matt Ryan had 10 this year, Josh Allen had 11 last year, Ryan Fitzpatrick had 10 in 2019. Brady got five total calls in those three years combined, including zero in 2019.

Of course, raw data doesn't tell full stories, and there's more that goes into the conversation than a simple tallying of numbers. Just as surely, no matter how accurate data may be, it's often difficult for people to ever change their feelings. So the next time a yellow flag flies following a hit on Brady, the reaction is sure to be the same. But at least for the quarterback's own sake he can sleep soundly knowing his intuition did not lead him astray on this one.

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