Consider for a moment that the only two team sports, baseball and football, allocate wins or losses to an individual player. That cannot be found in basketball, volleyball, water polo, soccer, cricket, lacrosse, hockey, and (most importantly) handball. Let me back track a bit, my first statement isn’t technically true. Baseball is the only sport that officially tabulates wins and losses to a single player, the pitcher. If you go to mlb.com/glossary you will find that “Win” and “Loss” are defined. I will save you the trouble, check out the below…
Win(W) DefinitionA pitcher receives a win when he is the pitcher of record when his team takes the lead for good — with a couple rare exceptions. First, a starting pitcher must pitch at least five innings (in a traditional game of nine innings or longer) to qualify for the win. If he does not, the official scorer awards the win to the most effective relief pitcher.
There is also a rarely used clause where an official scorer can deem a relief pitcher’s appearance “brief and ineffective.” (For example, if a reliever relinquished a one-run lead by allowing three runs, but was still in line for a win after his team scored four runs in the following inning — that may qualify.) If that’s the case, the scorer can award the win to a pitcher who followed that “brief and ineffective” pitcher. Which relief pitcher earns the win specifically is also up to the judgment of the official scorer.
Interesting that there is some subjectivity in a win… Anyway, here is the definition of a “loss” in baseball.
Loss (L) DefinitionA pitcher receives a loss when a run that is charged to him proves to be the go-ahead run in the game, giving the opposing team a lead it never gives up. Losses are almost always paired with wins when used to evaluate a pitcher, creating a separate pitching term known as win-loss record.
Win-loss record took on a greater importance in the past for a different reason. In the time when pitchers routinely pitched complete games, bullpens were rarely at fault for losses. But today’s specialization of relief pitchers has led to starters pitching fewer innings.
A starting pitcher does not necessarily receive a loss every time his team loses — even if he exits the game with his team trailing. In such instances, if his team ties the game or takes the lead before eventually losing, it will be the pitcher who put the go-ahead run on base who takes the loss.
I will spare you the drama of looking up “win” or “loss” in the glossary on NFL.com. The search will be yield the following for a win and a loss: “No results found for search term win,” and “Your search for “loss” matched 1 page(s)”. FYI, the match result for loss is for “Loss of Down”.
The history of assigning wins to a pitcher isn’t clear to me, but I can surmise that it is due to the pitcher (1) having the most control over the opponents scoring, starting the offensive action, and (2) they have the ball in hand more than anyone else. However, as mentioned by the MLB definition of “loss” above, this stat has taken on less meaning as the game has evolved. One example I found would be the Cy Young National League Winners. Jacob deGrom was a back to back winner in 2018 and 2019, but had just a win pct just over .500. (I can feel a Cy Young Winner post coming on in the future!)
Continuing on the comparison of football to baseball for a moment more, we find that the QB is the equivalent of the pitcher in that they possess the ball the most of any player and the QB starts the offensive action (apologies if that was obvious to you. sorry for patronizing you, but it won’t be the last…). Outside of that, it is a bad comparison. Examine some differences between the two sports, but really reflect on the spirit of a team sport. I believe that football embodies that to the fullest extent. Here are some reasons:
- A team game
- 11 players orchestrate practiced plays and must execute to be successful. A player can’t block, throw, and catch all at once. Sorry, QB.
- Per The Football Database, in 2020 29 of the 32 teams passed the ball more than 50% of their plays – this would mean at least nine players (QB, C, 2 OG, 2 OT, 2 WR or 1 TE) on offense were involved.
- I get this bolsters the argument that QB’s are more responsible for the success of a team than any other player, BUT they cannot do it alone. No QB can do it alone. It truly takes a village.
- A QB is only on the field HALF the time and they cannot control a bad defense; cannot defend or counter the opposing QB. An offense relies on it’s defense.
- There are multiple ways to score: Defense, Turnovers, Special Teams (see kicking next). While a QB does throw an interception, they cannot always carry the ball.
- Wanna talk about having an outsized impact on the outcome of game? Look no further than the kicker. In a league of the highest parity, points matter. Around 20% of all points are scored by a kick, which is more than rushing TDs league wide.
- Kickers have never been better than they are now and are a real weapon
- “But the QB got the kicker in that position to win”…yeah, ask the Bears how they feel about Cody Parkey or Nick Saban how he feels about kickers.
- Kickers lead the league in scoring year after year after year
- The Village or the organization
- Recent examples: Justin Herbert, DeShaun Watson, Jared Goff and Matthew Stafford. Herbert had a loaded team, terrible coaching; missed the playoffs. Watson, bad record due to terrible coaching and bad team; wants out. Goff has a good coach, but was shipped off despite playing in the Super Bowl and having some playoff wins. And finally, Stafford. He has .443 winning record, which is slightly better than Derek Carr (.427), but worse than Kirk Cousins (.495) and Andy Dalton (.514). Go figure. Thanks Lions. Or is he to blame? Are all of these QB’s to blame for their teams performance? I don’t think so.
- My favorite to bring up is Joe Flacco, who has more wins in less games than Warren Moon and Steve Young. He has a better winning percentage than Matt Ryan and Philip Rivers. Guess that was all Joe and not the Ravens.
- But honestly, good players find good teams and good organizations help players. They surround them with talent.
- Coaching absolutely matters. The scheme, the play calls, the clock management. The NFL is razor thin. Mistakes matter a great deal.
Wins and losses may tell part of the story or a trend, but it isn’t the gospel truth. The 49ers took a gamble on a “winning” QB in Jimmy G and are reconsidering. It’s not fair to give all the credit to the QB for a win or a loss. It’s easier, but not accurate.
Finally, I wanna talk Tom Brady. He will go down as the greatest QB of all time. Everyone says so. He has all the wins, the trophies, etc. etc. But, I think the narrative that he would be where he without Bill Belichick is really silly. Equally silly would be that Bill would be where he is without Tom. It was a partnership and this year doesn’t discount that. It doesn’t prove Tom is better or Bill is better. Tom was the one to throw a pick-sick to end his Patriot days, not Bill. This year does prove that Tom can play football at very high level. That being said, Tom’s wins were with a team. So, come take a trip with me down memory lane and look back at his playoffs through the years.
Warning, sarcasm is heavy and I am going to go rapid fire.
2001 – Divisional Round vs the Raiders. The tuck rule game. Watch the video. I remember watching this game live. Without that reversal of the fumble and Adam Vinatieri (hit the 45 yarder in the snow and then the game winner in OT) they do not win (KICKERS!!!!).
FFW to the AFC Championship vs Steelers… first tuddy is a punt return. Bledsoe comes in, throws a TD, and finishes the game due to Brady getting knocked out. Patriots block a kick and return it for a touchdown. Adam hits a FG…but you know, QBs get the W!
In the Super Bowl, Tom throws for 145 yards on 16/27 passes with one TD. But uh, Vinatieri hit the game winner again from 48 yards to beat the Rams 20-17.
2002 – Regular season they go 9-7; missed Playoffs.
2003 – Divisional Round v Titans. Guess who hits the game winning kick? Adam Vinatieri.
In the AFC Championship the Pats face Peyton Manning and they intercept him four times! FOUR! Tom did all of that too… I mean, Ty Law had three of those INTs… And don’t forget our kicker, ADAM FREAKING VINATIERI who hits FIVE FIELD GOALS! They win 24-14, 63% of the points off of Adam’s leg, not Tom’s arm.
FFW to Super Bowl, it’s a hell of a game and shootout. Tom plays well, Adam doesn’t play well until they need him and he nails a 41 yard kick to win the game with four seconds left… I am starting to see a trend. You? (This was also the year Justin Timberlake helped Janet Jackson make it really memorable at the half time show.)
2004 – Divisional Round v Colts. I guess Manning isn’t that good, because head to head Manning loses to Brady. Hmmm. The Patriots defense held the Colts to three points and forced three turnovers. Good thing Tom carried em.
AFC Championship v Steelers. The Pats force four turnovers that lead to 24 points. Look, Brady had serviceable numbers, but again, he didn’t do it alone.
Super Bowl v the Eagles. I was rooting hard for the Eagles… but darn it they turned the ball over FOUR times. Pats win 24-21. Note, all of these are tight games.
2005 – Lost Divisional Round against the Broncos 27-13. This is of course most definitely Brady’s fault. Any loss is his fault alone.
2006 – Lost the AFC Championship, 38-34 to the Colts. This loss is because of Brady. He gave up a 18 point lead! Colts went on to win the Super Bowl vs the Bears. Brady had a real chance to make things right on his own, but couldn’t. Start calling him Tom Loss Brady.
2007 – 16-0 in the regular season, the Pats were on fire. They get to the Super Bowl and they run into another Manning! Eli and the Giants pull of the win due to a lucky helmet catch… SCRATCH that.. that pass was all ELI! Luck and skill have nothing to do with it.
2008 – 11-5 miss the playoffs. BRADYS FAULT
2009 – Pats go 10-6 and lose the Wild Card against the Ravens, 33-14. Tom SUCKS.
2010 – They lose the Divisional Round to the Jets after going 14-2 in the regular season. Bill or Brady’s fault. Who is it?
2011 – Let’s skip right to the Super Bowl again. It is the Giants and Eli. Pats are up 17-9 mid 3rd quarter, but don’t put up another point. Eli has the Giants kicker hit a 38 yarder and a 33 yarder. Then in the 4th, Eli has his running back rush in a six yard TD for the win.
2012/2013 – Loses in the AFC Championship. Brady must have just losing steam and like losing. They go 12-4 both years. The Pats need him to pull his head out of his bum.
2014 – Head is pulled out! They go 12-4 again and Brady shows out against the Ravens in the Divisional Round. He goes 33-50 for 367 yards and three TDs.
Pats crush the Colts in the AFC Championship.
In the Super Bowl the Pats face the Seahawks…. you remember this one? Run the ball on the 1-yard line, right? Nah. Undrafted, Rookie, Malcom Butler makes a game saving interception for the Pats win, 28-24. But you know. It was all Tom. He chose that play for Seattle and practiced with Butler a lot.
2015 – 12-4 record in the regular season. This is so weird man. They go 12-4 for four straight years. They lose to the Broncos in the AFC Championship 20-18. Tom with the L!
2016 – This is a memorable Super Bowl. Falcons are up 28-3 in the 3rd and then the world witnesses a total collapse. Tom throws for 466 yards on 62 attempts, two TDs, one pick. Pats win in OT 34-28. Tom is 39.
–As I have been going through this it is more apparent to me how incredible the run was for Tom Brady and the Patriots. The worst record was 9-7 in 2002. Amazing.
2017 – Super Bowl ala Philly Special. Here we have Nick Foles come in for Carson Wentz and get a big ole win vs Tom. 41-33 is the final score. That was all Nick right? The same guy who was in Chicago this last season and uh, well, wasn’t great. Tom threw for 505 yards and three TD’s in the game. What an idiot loser. Big loss.
2018 – I have been glossing over these years, but this year is interesting due to this year’s Super Bowl. The Chief faced the Patriots in the AFC Championship with Patrick Mahomes at the helm. The Patriots win in overtime 37-31. This was a much better game than the Super Bowl with Rams (Pats won 13-3).
Right around this year or even the year before everyone (yes, everyone) is saying, “but he was throwing to a bunch of scrubs.” This is isn’t true. Were they top shelf? No, but don’t forget they are professional athletes, working with professional coaches and staffs.
2019 – Tom is 42 years old. They go 12-4 and meet the Titans in the Wild Card. They lose 20-13. Tom’s last throw as a Patriot is a pick six to end the game. He will soon become a Buccaneer.
2020 – The Buccaneers were 7-9 in 2019. They had the likes of Chris Godwin, Mike Evans, Shaquil Barrett, Jason Pierre-Paul, and Ndamukong Suh. I bring this up to once again illustrate that Tom wasn’t and isn’t all on his own. Rob Gronkowski came out of retirement for this last hurrah. Also, this year the Buccs defense has a pro-bowler in Jason Pierre-Paul and two AP All-Pros in Devin White and Lavonte David.
The most notable event in this playoff has been the Green Bay game, where the Packers decided to kick the FG rather than go for it late in the game.
- At this juncture, here is what Tom has “won” all on his own:
- Six Super Bowls
- Four Super Bowl MVPs
- Three League MVPs
Tom is on a good team. He is good. He is legendary and he had a supporting cast.