This weekend’s NFL conference championship games offer up two of the best quarterback matchups fans could’ve hoped for.
In the AFC, all signs point to Chiefs star Patrick Mahomes being ready to take the field against Josh Allen and the Buffalo Bills this Sunday in a clash of two of the league’s most exciting young quarterbacks.
And in the NFC, two living legends square off with a trip to the Super Bowl on the line — and the chance to further solidify their legacies as two of the greatest to ever play the game.
The first of Sunday’s games pits 37-year-old Aaron Rodgers, fresh off arguably the best regular season of his Hall of Fame career, against 43-year-old Tom Brady, back in his 14th conference championship despite switching teams in the off-season.
It’s not all that often that we get a game of this magnitude with two quarterbacks of this stature, so ahead of Sunday’s NFC title game at Lambeau Field, we decided to take a look at the statistical careers of these GOAT signal-callers.
Unsurprisingly, the below numbers confirm what we already knew: These guys are really good.
To say Rodgers and Brady are aging gracefully would be putting it mildly. The pair were two of the best quarterbacks in the game this season despite being among the league’s oldest at the position.
Let’s start with Rodgers, who put together a remarkable campaign in his second year under head coach Matt LaFleur. With a flame seemingly lit underneath him when the Packers took Jordan Love in the first round of last spring’s draft, Rodgers put up a career-high 48 TD passes while quarterbacking the league’s top offence to the best record in the NFC, and he’s the heavy favourite to take home his third MVP award.
While Rodgers dealt with questions about his future in Green Bay this off-season, Brady cut ties with his long-time Super Bowl–winning partner, Bill Belichick, to spread his wings elsewhere, and it really couldn’t have gone much better. TB12 threw the second-most TDs in football and tore opposing defences apart down the stretch as the Bucs have won six straight heading into the NFC title game — a run that includes knocking off rival New Orleans last weekend.
Our main takeaway from the stats above? These two QBs are not only defying the odds, but in some ways are getting better.
HEAD TO HEAD
Another part of what makes Sunday’s game so juicy is that Rodgers and Brady don’t really have much of a history. Until this season, they were in different conferences and rarely faced off against each other.
The most recent was a clash in Week 6, where the Bucs gave Rodgers fits — it was by far his worst game of 2020, and the only one in which he didn’t throw a TD. Meanwhile, Brady was decent (17-of-21, 166 yards, two TDs), but didn’t need to do it all because the Tampa defence had its way with the Packers offence.
Is that a sign of things to come this weekend? We’d be surprised, as the Bucs blitzed Rodgers like crazy in that matchup and had a ton of success doing it — the type of success teams don’t usually have when blitzing A-Rod.
The other two matchups between Rodgers and Brady were in 2014 and 2018, and the two split the series. Brady’s Patriots also beat the Packers in December 2010, but Green Bay’s QB that day was the legendary Matt Flynn because Rodgers was out due to concussion.
These numbers really speak for themselves, not only reinforcing the place of these two quarterbacks among the all-time greats, but also affirming Brady’s spot as the undisputed GOAT of GOATs.
Brady’s all-time stats jump off the page. All football fans are well aware of his dominance, but these numbers are still a bit mind-boggling to look at.
Some could argue the wins and touchdowns are merely longevity stats, but they’d be wrong. Tom Terrific has been winning consistently for two full decades and throwing a ton of scores the entire time. His nearly 77 per cent win rate is insane — we’d bet right now that no other QB in the rest of the NFL’s existence will come close to touching this stat.
Also impressive are Brady’s game-winning drive (GWD) and fourth-quarter comeback (4QC) numbers, which speaks to just how clutch Brady has been his whole career.
Again, Brady’s numbers here are just ridiculous. His 32 career post-season wins are by far the best in NFL history. Joe Montana is the next closest … with 16! Brady’s 77 career post-season passing touchdowns are also first by a mile, with Montana again sitting a distant second with 45, and Rodgers’ 42 are the closest among active players.
And once more, the clutchness of Brady is evident in the game-winning drives and fourth-quarter comebacks – many of which came in Super Bowl victories.
This is also where the knocks on Rodgers start to creep in. While his playoff numbers are nothing to scoff at, he hasn’t had nearly the success that many Packers fans would have hoped he’d have at this point in his career, especially after winning a Super Bowl in his third full season as a starter.
This is more for fun than anything else.
We should all take a minute here to appreciate that Rodgers, already a lock for the Hall of Fame before this season, just put together arguably the best campaign of his career in 2020. Rodgers’ 2011 MVP season is the only other one that an argument could be made for, but more touchdowns and fewer interceptions in 2020 put it over the edge for us.
Brady has had a lot of great NFL seasons, but that 2007 campaign was on a whole other level. Brady led the league in touchdowns, yards, completion percentage, yards per attempt, yards per game and passer rating, and took the Patriots to the first and only 16-0 regular-season record in league history. Obviously, we all know how that ended, but the season Brady and that team put together was extraordinary.
TD % = Percentage of TDs thrown when attempting to pass
INT % = Percentage of times intercepted when attempting to pass
GWD = Game-winning drives
4QC = Fourth-quarter comebacks
Note: Most statistics via Pro Football Reference