Let’s get one thing out of the way first: I don’t care about the National Football League. I do not care for the immaturity of Chad Ocho Cinco and Jeremy Shockey; I do not care for Roger Goodell, for Al Davis, for John Madden and Chris Berman. I don’t. They all work to make the game much less entertaining than the college version.
But I also don’t care for inaccurate reporting.Even if I were to assume that Tom Brady is the best quarterback in football and the most popular player in football, the previous being something that may not be too far from the truth, to claim that he has “carried the NFL on his shoulders since the turn of the millennium” as Prem Ramkumar has is so ludicrous that I can’t help but laugh.
It’s not even close to the truth.
Just looking at the television ratings, it’s easy to tell that Tom Brady is not the most popular quarterback in the league.
With the exception of last year’s Super Bowl in which New England attempted to become only the third undefeated team in NFL history after the 1929 Green Bay Packers and 1972 Miami Dolphins, the Patriots Super Bowls rank on the lower half in terms of household ratings and market share this millennium.
The Rams-Patriots Super Bowl after the 2001 season is one of the least ratings-dominant Super Bowls of all time, sporting a 40.4 household rating. It had a lower rating than even the blowout Tampa Bay-Oakland Super Bowl after the 2002 season, which had a 40.7 mark.
Each rating point represents one percent of the households that own televisions in the United States. Currently, Nielsen Media Research estimates that there are currently 112.8 million homes with televisions, an amount that goes up a little more than one percent each year.
The Patriots next two triumphs in Super Bowls XXXVIII and XXXIX were hardly more impressive, scoring a 41.4 and 41.1 rating respectively.
Super Bowl XL between Pittsburgh and Seattle? A 41.6. And the year after with Peyton Manning and no Tom Brady? A 42.6.
Not sure how any of that proves Ramkumar’s thesis.
Additionally, if I were to look at the NFC Championship game last year, which was in prime time, and the AFC Championship game from the 2006 season, which also was in prime time, there would not be any doubt as to which person is the most popular quarterback in the league.
Brett Favre versus Eli Manning in the NFC Championship game in 2007 scored a 29.0 household rating. Tom Brady versus Peyton Manning in the AFC Championship game one year earlier scored a 26.4.
Am I expected to believe that nearly 3 million more households became football fans in one year because of Tom Brady’s performance in defeat in the 2006 AFC Championship game? Or is Brett Favre slightly more popular?
Jersey sales would confirm such suspicions, or at the very least that Brady is not number one.
In the just less than five months from April 1 to August 26, Favre had the most-sold NFL jersey. True, he was traded to a new team, promoting sales in both his archaic Green Bay Packers jersey and just-released New York Jets jersey, but that trade does not account for Brady finishing fourth.
Both Tony Romo and Eli Manning, two other quarterbacks returning to the same team as they played on in 2007, had greater quantity of jersey sales than Brady. Peyton Manning, Eli’s older brother, rounded out the top five, surprisingly behind Brady.
The older Manning had finished sixth in 2007, one spot behind Vince Young. No other quarterback finished in the top five that year, not even the man who supposedly is carrying the NFL on his shoulders. Others in the top five were running backs LaDanian Tomlinson and Reggie Bush of San Diego and New Orleans respectively, inside linebacker Brian Urlacher of Chicago, and strong safety Troy Polamalu of Pittsburgh.
And none of this takes care of the fact that the least valuable television contract the NFL has is with CBS, which was scheduled to air nine of the Patriots 16 games this year.
The deal, which was made in 2005, allows CBS to air AFC road games and one Super Bowl every three seasons, as well as four other playoff games each season. CBS pays the NFL $622.5 million.
By comparison, FOX pays $712.5 million a year for the NFC version of CBS’s package, a deal that nets the network only two Patriots games this year.
NBC’s Sunday Night and ESPN’s Monday Night packages each cost more than CBS’s. They get three and one Patriot games respectively.
The NFL Network, which the league owns and operates, has the rights to the other game.
The NFL makes more television money for games not involving Brady than for those involving him.
Sure, last year was great- last year was fun if you are a fan of the NFL. And yes, Tom Brady did lift the NFL to heights it had not seen since the millennium began. But none of that proves that he has been the best quarterback in the NFL since 2001.
He might be, but it doesn’t prove it.
Yet Ramkumar makes such an assertion and takes it one step further: he claims that Brady is also the most popular quarterback in the league and has carried it through the first eight years of this millennium. He goes on to state that whoever wins the Super Bowl this year will not be viewed as a legitimate champion because he would not have had to go through Brady.
So let’s start rewriting the record books.
We must first take away two of Padraig Harrington’s major golf titles because Tiger Woods wasn’t in the field. Clearly we must also strike every tournament Venus Williams and Serena Williams have won because they came after Martina Hingis retired the first time due to injury. Every World Series winner between 1942 and 1945? Goodbye, Ted Williams was fighting World War II. And don’t get me started on the Dallas Cowboys of the early 1990s- if Bo Jackson doesn’t destroy his hip playing for the Los Angeles Raiders in the playoffs, none of those teams would have come close.
And before I forget, let’s give Spectacular Bid the Triple Crown in 1979 since he ran with a hoof he injured after stepping on a safety pin that morning, the Chicago Bulls the Houston Rockets’ two titles won while Michael Jordan was playing basketball, and Ayrton Senna the seven World Championships won by Michael Schumacher after Senna died at Imola in 1994. Lord, please forgive any other sports injustice I may be forgetting.
You see how ludicrous that would be?
But it’s not nearly as ludicrous as claiming that Brady has “carried the NFL on his shoulders” when you consider that none of the numbers defend that.
Sure, Brady has sometimes helped, but I doubt the NFL would be much less profitable without him. In fact, judging by the facts, it might be more.