By Jonathan Comey
Cold, Hard Football Facts History Buff
Tom Brady is such a special player that even when he throws four picks in a game, he's still better than average.
Brady became only the second quarterback in the last 20 years to post a passer rating of over 85 in a game where he threw four passes to the other team. Brady's was 86.1 in the 34-31 loss to Buffalo on Sunday, the best in a four-INT game since Gus Frerotte's 87.0 in 2000 for Denver in a 38-37 win over San Diego. He's also the only quarterback ever to throw for 1,300+ yards in his first three games, and is on pace for
He's also on pace for 26 interceptions, which is, of course, preposterous -- he only threw four all of last year! That'll never happen!
Or will it?
A look at the all-time great no-interception seasons in NFL history show some inconvenient truths, the most glaring of which is that almost all of those quarterbacks were not just worse the next year but downright pick-happy. Brady's ratio of .8 interceptions per 100 throws was the second-best ever. Here are the 10 best other seasons:
2006, Damon Huard: 0.4 per 100 passes to 3.9
1990, Steve DeBerg: 0.9 to 3.2
2007, David Garrard 0.9 to 2.4
1983, Steve Bartkowski: 1.2 to 3.7
1998, Neil O’Donnell: 1.2 to 2.6
2008, Jason Campbell: 1.2 to 3.0
2000, Brian Griese: 1.2 to 4.2
1966, Bart Starr: 1.2 to 8.5
2007, Jeff Garcia: 1.2 to 1.6
2008, Seneca Wallace 1.2 to 1.7
Average jump: .94 per 100 passes to 3.48 per 100 passes.
Now, none of those quarterbacks, with the exception of Starr, were in Brady's league. But they also all found struggles the next year, suggesting that those balls that bounced off opponents' fingertips in their dream seasons found unwelcome arms the next year.
The average QB coming off a hugely outlying interception season will throw +2.54 more interceptions per 100 throws the following seasons -- which would add up to 15 or 16 INTs for Brady, assuming that he has the same amount of attempts. But that's almost certainly not going to be the case. Brady only threw 492 passes last year, but is on pace to throw an NFL-record 709 passes this year.
At his current rate of 3.8 interceptions per 100 throws, he'll throw 26 interceptions. At the "outlier average" detailed above, he'd throw 24. Either way, if he's asked to pass as much as he is right now, a season with interceptions in the high teens is almost a certainty.
But when you're averaging a centimeter less than a first down on every pass attempt (9.98 yards per), and are on pace to throw for 7,077 yards and 59 touchdowns, a few interceptions are probably the cost of doing business.