Tom Brady — Master of the QB Sneak
Tom Brady’s throwing ability and leadership have led to six Super Bowl victories, three league MVPs, and four Super Bowl MVPs. However, the QB sneak — which is how he scored his first touchdown as a Tampa Bay Buccaneer — is an often overlooked strength of his game.
Since 2001, Brady has led the NFL with 157 quarterback sneak attempts—85 more than Drew Brees, who is in second place. That equates to roughly one sneak every other game and outpaces his peers.
The first chart highlights both the frequency (x axis) and the average expected points added (y axis) for each QB’s sneak attempts since 2001. Brady is on the far right based on the frequency of his sneak attempts. However, based on expected points added per sneak, he falls in line with others. Expected points added (EPA) are derived using down, distance, yard line and time remaining.
In the bottom left, Peyton Manning, Russell Wilson, Brett Favre and Trent Green average fewer than one sneak every 12 starts and also average a negative EPA. Former St. Louis Rams quarterback Marc Bulger (top left) leads the group in average EPA per sneak attempt, but only averaged approximately one sneak attempt every 20 games.
Taken individually, Brady’s sneaks do not appear to have much of an effect, however the cumulative effect of Brady calling his own number dominates the competition over time. The second chart shows the cumulative EPA on QB sneaks through Week 1 of 2020. Each gray line represents each of the 214 quarterbacks who registered a sneak attempt since the 2001 season.
Brady stands alone in his career success, adding nearly 140 cumulative EPA over his career. That is roughly an extra touchdown each season for Brady-led teams from sneak attempts alone.
The top seven quarterbacks in sneak attempts are highlighted. Cam Newton — Brady’s replacement in New England — has also been a frequent sneaker, as have David Garrard, Donovan McNabb, Joe Flacco, Drew Brees and Carson Wentz.