Can Tom Brady Stiff-Arm MVP Regression in 2018?

Can Tom Brady Stiff-Arm MVP Regression in 2018? article feature image

Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports

Tom Brady was named the 2017 Most Valuable Player for the third time in his career on Saturday. At 40, Brady is the oldest player to win the award. The Patriots star led the league in passing yards (4,577) while finishing third in adjusted yards per attempt (8.36), passing touchdowns (32) and passer rating (102.8).

The 18-year pro led New England to a 13-3 record and a ninth straight AFC East title. The Pats’ season ended in a 41-33 shootout to the Eagles in Super Bowl 52.

Brady and the Patriots’ success is typical of an MVP winner. Last year, Matt Ryan set career marks in passing yards (4,944) and touchdowns (38), helping the Falcons win the NFC South for the first time in four seasons. The year before that, Cam Newton set career-highs in touchdowns and the Panthers started the season 14-0. Same story when Aaron Rodgers took home the hardware in 2014. The Packers star threw 35 touchdowns against five interceptions a season after playing just nine games and Green Bay won the NFC North for a fourth consecutive time.

A player needs an exceptional, if not career-year to win the award. However, it is called a career-year for a reason, as MVPs tend to regress the following season. How big of a step back will Tom Brady take in 2018?

To get an idea, we analyzed every quarterback that won the award since 1990 and compared how they performed the year after winning the MVP. There were two instances where the MVP played only one game the next season (Tom Brady, 2008) or didn’t play at all (Joe Montana, 1991), so we used the stats from the season after the injury for the analysis.

On average, quarterbacks throw for 14.9% fewer yards (639), 25.7% fewer touchdowns (9.3) and 16.9% more interceptions (1.8). If these trends hold, TB12 will throw for approximately 3,895 yards, 23.8 touchdowns and 9.4 interceptions in 2018

Quarterback performance and team success are tied together. On average, NFL teams score 12.4% fewer points and win 21.2% (2.76) fewer games the season after their quarterback wins the MVP. One-in-four teams failed to make the playoffs the year after their quarterback won the award, but this has only happened once since 2003 (Newton and Panthers in 2016).

Can Brady Stiff-Arm MVP Regression?

For starters, not every quarterback regresses after they win the MVP. Peyton Manning, Brett Favre and Steve Young all improved upon their award-winning seasons. They are also the only players to win the award in consecutive years since 1990.

The projections for Brady next season, approximately 3,895 yards, 23.8 touchdowns and 9.4 interceptions, based on MVP regression would also be below his career averages of 4,129 passing yards, 30.5 touchdowns and 10 interceptions. The GOAT’s 2018 projections are low because he didn’t have a career-year, it was just another excellent season as we have all come to expect from the future Hall of Famer.

It is easy to imagine Brady exceeding the projections with the return of a healthy Julian Edelman, plus another season with Brandin Cooks in the system and the continued benefit of having Gronk, the greatest receiving threat in the game.

Will MVP regression catch up to Brady? If Father Time can’t sack the quarterback, what chance does regression have against TB12?

Photo via Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports