By Michael Hurley, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) -- Yesterday, I examined the current state of the Patriots' offense, specifically as it relates to Tom Brady. The quarterback has been asked to carry a disproportionate amount of the load for the offense, and it has him currently on a pace to finish the year with the fourth-most single-season pass attempts in NFL history.
In a vacuum, that sounds like a suspect strategy for any team with a 38-year-old quarterback who's getting viciously hit more often as the year wears on and is also losing his most talented receiving options. Certainly, it's fair to wonder how or if he and the team can survive a run through January.
Yet expanding the scope to include every quarterback who's ever finished a season with 600 or more passing attempts, the picture looks quite dour for the Patriots' Super Bowl hopes. (Brady has already thrown 507 pass attempts, most in the NFL, and he's on pace to throw 676 passes by season's end.) Of the 43 quarterbacks who have thrown 600-plus passes in a season, more than half (22) have been on teams that failed to even make the postseason.
In total, a quarterback has finished a season with 600-plus pass attempts 43 times. Zero of those quarterbacks have been on Super Bowl-winning teams, and only four have even made a Super Bowl (Peyton Manning in 2013, Brady in 2011, Rich Gannon in 2002, Drew Bledsoe in 1996).
Obviously, the concept of "quarterback wins" is not a comprehensive statistic. Not even close. And in some of those seasons, the quarterbacks' teams lost for various reasons that had little to do with the man taking snaps. Matthew Stafford's Lions last year, for example, lost their only playoff game because of officiating tomfoolery. Drew Brees' 2011 Saints went 1-1 in the playoffs, despite the quarterback completing 68.9 percent of his passes for 928 yards, seven touchdowns and two interceptions.
To say that quarterbacks with 600-plus regular-season pass attempts always lose in the playoffs is not to say it is entirely their fault. Yet one could rightfully deduce that when a team asks its quarterback to throw 600 or more times, it's likely in an effort to cover up some warts. And invariably, if the team is even good enough to make it to January, when there's no place to hide, those warts bubble back to the surface. That quarterback is also likely to be drained when the team plays games 17, 18 and 19 on the schedule.
Does any of that mean that the Patriots have zero chance to earn a trip to Santa Clara and a chance to become the first back-to-back NFL champs since the 2003-04 Patriots? Of course not. This year's Patriots have a bit of a unique situation, where the two most dynamic receivers are expected to return in the playoffs, thereby potentially reshaping the designs of the offense. And if anyone can handle heavy demands, it likely would be Tom Brady. Plus, had Wes Welker held on to the football that was between his hands ... well, there'd be at least one Super Bowl winner on this list.
Yet with Brady almost assuredly set to throw more than 600 passes (but more likely closer to 700), here's the company he'll find himself in by season's end.
Most Single-Season Pass Attempts All Time/Postseason Stats And Results
1. Matthew Stafford, 2012, 727 pass attempts
2. Drew Bledsoe, 1994, 691 pass attempts
0-1 record, 21-for-50, 235 yards, 1 TD, 3 INT
3. Peyton Manning, 2010, 679 pass attempts
0-1 record, 18-for-26, 225 yards, 1 TD, 0 INT
**(Projected) Tom Brady, 2015, 676 pass attempts**
4. Drew Brees, 2012, 670 pass attempts
5. Matthew Stafford, 2011, 663 pass attempts
0-1 record, 28-for-43, 380 yards, 3 TDs, 2 INTs
T-6. Drew Brees, 2014, 659 pass attempts
T-6. Peyton Manning, 2013, 659 pass attempts
2-1 record, 91-for-128, 910 yards, 5 TDs, 3 INTs, LOST SUPER BOWL
8. Drew Brees, 2010, 658 pass attempts
0-1 record, 39-for-60, 404 yards, 2 TDs, 0 INTs
9. Drew Brees, 2011, 652 pass attempts
1-1 record, 73-for-106, 928 yards, 7 TDs, 2 INTs
10. Warren Moon, 1991, 655 pass attempts
1-1 record, 55-for-76, 596 yards, 5 TDs, 2 INTs
11. Drew Brees, 2007, 652 pass attempts
12. Matt Ryan, 2013, 651 pass attempts
13. Drew Brees, 2013, 650 pass attempts
1-1 record, 44-for-73, 559 yards, 2 TDs, 2 INTs
14. Tony Romo, 2012, 648 pass attempts
15. Tom Brady, 2012, 637 pass attempts
1-1 record, 54-for-94, 664 yards, 4 TDs, 2 INTs
16. Drew Bledsoe, 1995, 636 pass attempts
17. Drew Brees, 2008, 635 pass attempts
18. Matthew Stafford, 2013, 634 pass attempts
T-19. Matt Ryan, 2014, 628 pass attempts
T-19. Tom Brady, 2013, 628 pass attempts
1-1 record, 37-for-63, 475 yards, 1 TD, 0 INT
21. Andrew Luck, 2012, 627 pass attempts
0-1 record, 28-for-54, 288 yards, 0 TDs, 1 INT
T-22. Dan Marino, 1986, 623 pass attempts
T-22. Drew Bledsoe, 1996, 623 pass attempts
2-1 record, 59-for-105, 595 yards, 3 TDs, 7 INTs, LOST SUPER BOWL
24. Rich Gannon, 2002, 618 pass attempts
2-1 record, 73-for-115, 841 yards, 7 TDs, 6 INTs, LOST SUPER BOWL
T-25. Jay Cutler, 2008, 616 pass attempts
T-25. Andrew Luck, 2014, 616 pass attempts
2-1 record, 70-for-120, 3 TDs, 4 INTs
T-27. Matt Ryan, 2012, 615 pass attempts
1-1 record, 54-for-77, 646 yards, 6 TDs, 3 INTs
T-27. Dan Marino, 1994, 615 pass attempts
1-1 record, 46-for-67, 519 yards, 5 TDs, 0 INTs
29. Joe Flacco, 2013, 614 pass attempts
30. Brett Favre, 2006, 613 pass attempts
31. Tom Brady, 2011, 611 pass attempts
2-1 record, 75-for-11, 878 yards, 8 TDs, 4 INTs, LOST SUPER BOWL
32. Drew Bledsoe, 2002, 610 pass attempts
33. Dan Fouts, 1981, 609 pass attempts
1-1 record, 48-for-81, 618 yards, 4 TDs, 3 INTs
34. Ben Roethlisberger, 2014, 608 pass attempts
0-1 record, 31-for-45, 334 yards, 1 TD, 2 INTs
35. Brett Favre, 2005, 607 pass attempts
T-36. Dan Marino, 1988, 606 pass attempts
T-36. Warren Moon, 1995, 606 pass attempts
38. John Elway, 1985, 605 pass attempts
39. Bill Kenney, 1983, 603 pass attempts
40. Matthew Stafford, 2014, 602 pass attempts
0-1 record, 28-for-42, 323 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT
T-41. Eli Manning, 2014, 601 pass attempts
T-41. Tom Brady, 2002, 601 pass attempts
T-41. Warren Moon, 1994, 601 pass attempts
0-1 record, 29-for-52, 292 yards, 2 TDs, 2 INTs
The combined postseason record of those quarterbacks comes out to 18-21, and again, 22 of the 43 QBs played on teams that failed to make the postseason.
Also of note: Brady is 38 years old. Only Warren Moon, who turned 39 during that 1995 season, is older on that list. Aside from Moon, only Peyton Manning (37 in 2013), Gannon (turned 37 in '02) and Favre (36 in '06) are close to Brady in terms of age. Though Brady has looked like someone who hasn't quite aged like other quarterbacks, the factor nevertheless has to be considered.
You also might be interested to know that the Super Bowl-winning quarterbacks who had the most regular-season pass attempts were Eli Manning in 2011, with 589, and Brady in 2014, with 582. Super Bowl XLVI, won by Eli, featured a quarterback who threw 589 passes against a quarterback who threw 611 passes, after a season which featured five quarterbacks who threw more than 580 passes. Last year, 10 quarterbacks threw 580 or more passes. This season could see eight or nine quarterbacks throw more than 580 passes, an indication that in a pass-happy league, a pass-happy quarterback may well end up hoisting the Lombardi in February.
With four games to go, and with two of them being outdoor December games in the Northeast, there's still time for the Patriots to limit the workload of their quarterback and perhaps preserve some of his mental and physical energy for the postseason. History shows that may be the best course of action.
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