Tom Brady, Peyton Manning, Drew Brees and Aaron Rodgers. The elite quarterback Mount Rushmore has been in place for a few years now, a comforting constant in an NFL of consistent turnover and change. But it might be time to wipe one of those four faces off our mountain of elite play. The Tom Brady of 2014 no longer belongs on that monument.
On the surface, this sounds crazy. Brady has been quarterback royalty since he burst onto the scene in 2001, at the start of his second year, when Drew Bledsoe went down. Since that season -- along with the Super Bowl ring and Super Bowl MVP that it brought -- Brady has been a constant at the summit of elite quarterback play. He is a surefire Hall of Famer.
However, his decline is well underway, and it's showing up in one key aspect of his game in particular. Let's take a look at why Brady is no longer a top-five NFL QB, the QBs who should be ranked ahead of him, and what it means for the Patriots this season.
Feeling the heat
Pressure affects every quarterback. The difference between the best quarterbacks and those who just keep the seat warm for the next guy is how shallow the drop-off is between plays from a clean pocket and plays when they feel the pressure. The best quarterbacks are accurate on about 70 percent of passes under pressure (completion percentage adjusted for drops less throwaways, spikes, etc.). Manning had an accuracy rating of 69.0 percent in 2013, and at Brady's peak in 2010 he led the league with an accuracy rating of 70.7 percent on passes under pressure. Since then, however, he has been declining steadily. Last year he was accurate on just 57.6 percent of passes under pressure, 28th in the league.