Tom Brady's Storied Career, As Told Through His Madden Ratings

Tom Brady’s Storied Career, As Told Through His Madden Ratings

Tom Brady has officially announced his retirement after a week of rumors and two decades of elevating the sport of American football. Whether you loved him as a Patriot, grew to appreciate him as a Buccaneer, or passionately rooted against him as a fan of a forever-bumbling AFC East rival, Brady’s accomplishments are unmatched in football and arguably some of the most impressive feats in sports history. We wanted to look back on his storied 22-year career through the lens of his annual overall (OVR) Madden ratings. From no-name rookie to GOAT, here’s how Brady performed in Madden each year since he first arrived in the league he would go on to reshape forever. If you’re not one for football history, you might also enjoy the year-by-year image gallery of Brady’s player avatar in Madden, from his first proper likeness in Madden 2003 all the way up to today.

Madden NFL 01: 57 OVR

In case you haven’t heard by now–like if you were living on Mars for the past 22 years–Brady was drafted in the sixth round, 199th overall, by the Patriots in the 2000 NFL Draft. He entered the league as an apparently unremarkable QB, and his debut Madden rating reflected that. Brady threw just three passes that year in spot duties behind Drew Bledsoe, connecting on one of them for six yards. No one–least of all the New York Jets–knew who he would go on to become.

Madden NFL 02: 51 OVR

Perhaps due to his lack of playing time to that point, or maybe due to the darts-on-a-dartboard nature of virtually unknown players in Madden, Brady’s overall rating actually went down six points in Madden NFL 02, which coincided with the start of the 2001 season. It wouldn’t be long before he would make his proper debut, though, coming in for an injured Drew Bledsoe after the Jets’ Mo Lewis clobbered the starting QB and sent him to the bench in Week 3. The rest is history. By the time Bledsoe would be healthy enough to return, he had already lost his job to the young upstart Tom Brady.

Brady would go on to lead the team to an 11-5 record (11-3 as the starter) and–after two wild playoff games against the Raiders and Steelers–lead the Patriots franchise to its first-ever Super Bowl victory. If you know this story, you’ll recall that this wouldn’t be its last.

Madden NFL 03: 84 OVR

After besting the prematurely nicknamed “Greatest Show On Turf” St. Louis Rams, Brady came into 2002 as a defending champion and the Week 1 starter. In Brady’s 22-year career, he was the starter for 20 of them (we’ll get to his doomed 2008 campaign later), and he made the playoffs 19 times out of those 20 healthy seasons. The 2002 season was the only one where he missed January football, finishing 9-7 but losing out on a three-way divisional tiebreaker that year that instead sent the Jets to the postseason. It was this early-era Brady who was still seen as something of a game manager, though his 28 touchdowns that season would stand as his career high until Randy Moss showed up half a decade later. This would also prove to be Brady’s last season in Madden where he’d be rated below a 90.

Madden NFL 04: 90 OVR

Despite missing the playoffs the year before, Brady would kick off his 2003 season by cracking the 90+ club in Madden for the first time. That year’s game was famously dominated by cover star and quasi-cheat code Michael Vick, but if you wanted a reliable pocket passer, Brady was a top-tier option. In the real world, Brady would return to the Super Bowl that season and overcome a dramatic final quarter against the Carolina Panthers, whose Jake Delhomme was being eyed as the next Brady–that would prove short-lived. In 2003, and despite two Lombardi trophies by that point, still no one knew how high he would set the bar someday.

Madden NFL 05: 95 OVR

Venturing into truly elite company, Brady would kick off the defensive-minded Madden 2005 as one of the best players in the game, making the Patriots a must-play team in online head-to-head when players were eager to try out the brand-new Hit Stick on defenseless ball carriers. Brady would go on to defeat the Donovan McNabb- and Andy Reid-led Eagles in the Super Bowl, clinching the Patriots’ arrival as the next NFL dynasty.

This would also prove to be Brady’s last Lombardi for several years, despite two stunning failures in years to come. But even by then, you’d have been right to call him a Hall of Famer. As the late, great Chris Wesseling often said of Brady, you could carve his career into two–eventually three–portions, and if each portion represented a different player, each would be in the Hall of Fame. Brady’s sustained success was still a story being written in the mid-aughts.

Madden NFL 06: 97 OVR

Madden 06 kicked off the era where Brady’s Madden ratings would properly reflect his sustained dominance of the league’s annual passing totals, even if he went without a Super Bowl victory for a few years (poor guy). With 4,110 passing yards that year, Brady would lead the league in the statistic for the first time in his career. That number pales in comparison to the pass-happy modern NFL totals–it would only be ranked 11th if stacked among 2022 totals–but part of Brady’s story is his ability to rise with the times. This wouldn’t be his last time leading the category.

Madden NFL 07: 98 OVR

Inching ever closer to his debut in the coveted Madden 99 club, Brady’s resume would continue to grow in both virtual and actual football. He remained one of the most dominant players in all of football and just barely missed out on another Super Bowl berth when the Pats fell to the rival Colts. Brady only notched 24 touchdowns and 3,500 passing yards that season, but it would go on to be the last time anyone could call Brady a “system QB.”

Madden NFL 08: 99 OVR

Brady’s 2007 season already started with a lot of promise, and by year’s end, it would become one of the most statistically impressive seasons for any quarterback in NFL history. Joining forces with Randy Moss, who had spent a few middling years in Oakland after a few incredible years as a Minnesota Viking, Brady set a new NFL record for passing TDs in a season with an even 50, beating Peyton Manning’s record from the previous season by a single touchdown.

Brady threw almost half of them to Moss himself, who set a receiving TD record of his own that year, as the Patriots went on to become the first-ever 16-0 team in league history. Unfortunately for Brady and Patriots Nation, a fierce interior pass rush and one absurd late-game David Tyree catch resulted in the Pats falling short of the perfect 19-0 season, as Brady suffered the first Super Bowl defeat of his career to the New York Giants.

Madden NFL 09: 99 OVR

In 2008, Brady no doubt had a fire lit under his seat. Determined to get back to glory after a heartbreaking loss to the G-Men, Brady wouldn’t get to prove his star-studded roster could return to that promised land. He would suffer a first-half knee injury courtesy of Chiefs safety Bernard Pollard, and would go on to miss the entire season. Naturally, the Madden team could not have foreseen this, so Brady was still dominant in the virtual game that year, even as Matt Cassel tried his best to keep the team afloat in reality. Brady threw just 11 passes that year before being shelved, but his stats in Madden head-to-head were surely much better as one of the game’s only 99-rated players.

Madden NFL 10: 97 OVR

Fresh off of a season of rehabbing his leg, Brady had apparently earned the trust of Tiburon and EA, as the sometimes career-ruining injury hardly resulted in Brady’s Madden rating taking a hit at all. At 97 overall, he was still dominant, even if 16-0 was well out of reach for his real life counterpart. The Patriots went 10-6 that year, but Brady’s most recent Super Bowl victory was starting to disappear from the rear-view mirror.

Madden NFL 11: 95 OVR

Brady’s 2010 season marked the beginning of the Gronk era. The Patriots drafted Rob Gronkowski, and Brady would prosper. His slight dip in real-life numbers the year before translated to a similar shaving of his Madden overall, but his career was about to change forever. The new-look Patriots offense would go on to inspire the league to find or otherwise create dominant do-it-all tight ends like Gronk, but most such QB-TE duos today, a decade later, are still chasing the totals that Brady and Gronkowski would put up together. In Madden, the duo was unstoppable for a period of several years, too.

Brady's reign over the NFL may go down as truly one of a kind.
Brady’s reign over the NFL may go down as truly one of a kind.


Madden NFL 12: 99 OVR

Brady found himself in the 99 club for the third time in Madden NFL 2012–you’ll remember it infamously as the one where Browns fans flooded the fan vote that would decide the cover athlete and got flash-in-the-pan RB Peyton Hillis to “grace” the box art. Brady and Gronk were in year two and riding high, and it led to Brady’s first 5,000-yard season, but an injured Gronkowski hobbled through the postseason and the Patriots came up short to the Giants in the Super Bowl for the second time since 2007.

After three early victories, two recent defeats in the big game suddenly gave Brady a less impressive 3-2 record in the Super Bowl, but that’s something he would work to resolve in due time.

Madden NFL 13: 98 OVR

Another ugly loss from the Super Bowl prior still couldn’t deter Madden ratings adjustors from expecting any “gradual decline” from Brady. He started the year just outside the 99 club and led the team to a 12-4 record, which felt like an annual tradition by that point. He also threw just 8 interceptions, marking the third time that he kept this stat in the single digits. The Pats finished a game shy of yet another Super Bowl berth, but his story was still being written even this late into his career.

Madden NFL 25 (2014): 97 OVR

The oddly numbered Madden 25–celebrating the game’s 25th anniversary–may bring marketing confusion in a few years for EA, but for Brady, it was business as usual. His 2013 campaign was marked by another 12-4 record, another AFC East title, and another hard-fought playoff schedule where the Pats downed the Colts before being defeated by the Broncos, who would go on to lose in spectacular fashion to the Seahawks. That Seattle squad would soon become the second team seeking dynasty status that would be denied by Brady and the Pats.

Madden NFL 15: 93 OVR

At “just” a 93 overall, Brady’s lowest Madden rating in 11 years would soon be on the uptick once more. That’s because in 2014, he brought the Pats back to the Super Bowl, and, like always, gave fans another nailbiter. The Pats would win a stunner at the goal line when Malcolm Butler picked off a Russell Wilson pass, denying Seattle the first back-to-back titles since the Pats did it in 2003 and 2004. Brady orchestrated a fourth quarter comeback to put the team in place for the win, and this more “great” than “elite” 93 OVR, maybe calculated on some expectation of gradual decline, would be reverted quickly.

Madden NFL 16: 97 OVR

Brady and the Pats continued their reign of dominance through most of 2015. Back near the tip-top of the Madden player rankings after yet another Super Bowl win, Brady would come back in 2015 and lead the league in touchdowns for the fourth time in his career. The Patriots’ season would end a bit earlier that year, when the eventual-champion Broncos dragged Peyton Manning’s nearly retired body through January. Manning’s new jersey was an odd sight for football fans, and though we didn’t know it then, it would be a sign of things to come for the Patriots’ own superstar QB.

Madden NFL 17: 94 OVR

In 2016, Brady was suspended for the first four games of the season for what became known as “Deflategate.” Depending on who you ask, it was either an unforgivable blight on the idea of sportsmanship or the equivalent of doing a month in prison for running a stop sign. Brady’s preference for a football that was slightly less inflated than the league minimum became a massive story for anyone hoping to put an asterisk next to his name in the Hall of Fame he was already pacing toward.

Nonetheless, Brady has never been one to let doubters go unused. In perhaps the greatest Brady moment of all time, the QB returned to the Super Bowl for the second time in three years and rallied the Patriots from a 28-3 deficit all the way to a 34-29 victory over the Falcons in the first-ever overtime Super Bowl. If his 94 in Madden seemed low, blame it on the laughable “gradual decline” expectations creeping up again, before once more being thrown out.

Madden NFL 18: 99 OVR

Marking the first time (and long time coming) that Brady would be on the cover of Madden, the QB would once again find himself in the middle of postseason drama. After a season in which he led the league in passing attempts and yards, Brady won his third MVP award before losing a heartbreaker to the out-of-nowhere Eagles led by spot-starter Nick Foles, who replaced Philly’s own MVP candidate, Carson Wentz. While this would mark Brady’s third Super Bowl defeat in eight tries, he wasn’t done winning them just yet.

Brady and Mahomes reunited as cover stars for Madden 22.
Brady and Mahomes reunited as cover stars for Madden 22.

Madden NFL 19: 99 OVR

By the time Madden 19 came out, Brady was supposed to be over the hill as a 40-year-old, but he was still playing like the best QB in the league. That was well-reflected in his Madden rating, as he was given a seat at the 99 club for the fifth time in his virtual career. A typical Madden launch only has about four to six players rated 99 overall, and Brady was by far the oldest of them at this point.

He defied all projections of what a pro QB’s career arc is supposed to look like, and it was all capped off with yet another Super Bowl win as a Patriot. In a surprisingly forgettable game, the Patriots did away with the Rams via a 13-3 final score that didn’t ask much of Brady for a change. It would be his last Super Bowl as a Patriot, but remarkably still not his last overall.

Madden NFL 20: 96 OVR

Brady’s 99 overall seasons were behind him for good, finally, but he was still dominant on gridirons both real and virtual. His final season with the Patriots ended in the first week of the playoffs when a collection of former Patriots, then playing for the Titans, beat him in Foxboro, and it looked like the Pats-Brady union was finally at its end.

But Brady wasn’t done with the game yet, even if his home away from home was asking him to move out. With just 24 touchdowns that year, Brady’s pedestrian numbers were to blame for his subsequent rating decrease in Madden, but we’d come to find out all Brady was missing was a roster with a few more talented targets on it.

Madden NFL 21: 90 OVR

Suddenly donning the jersey of the Tampa (Tompa?) Bay Buccaneers, Brady looked like a fish out of water in Florida, but not for long. Going from one great coach to another certainly helped, and the ragtag Patriots receivers of his last year in New England were suddenly swapped out for stars like Mike Evans and Chris Godwin–and, oh yeah, Gronk came out of retirement to join him too.

In total, Brady’s new bunch helped him earn a remarkable 10th Super Bowl appearance, and it came in a game in which the Bucs would wipe the floor with the once-thought insurmountable Chiefs. Brady wasn’t retiring yet though, so you could expect another delay on that “gradual decline” we’d been hearing about for a decade.

Madden NFL 22: 97 OVR

In what will go down as his final year as an active player in Madden–barring any Favre-like second thoughts–Brady debuted in Madden 22 as a 97 overall. He also graced the cover for the second time, joining Patrick Mahomes, who was doing the same. Incredibly, he once more led the league in touchdowns, yards, completions, and, for the first time, attempts. He threw the ball more than 700 times and connected on 68% of those passes, showing no signs of the aging process that has, to this point, spared no one else in football, least of all someone with the wear and tear like Brady has.

Brady’s status as an annually dominant Madden superstar and two-time cover athlete are virtual trophies for one of the greatest winners sports have ever shown us. Brady retires as the all-time leader in nearly all passing categories, including career yards and career touchdowns–not to mention his record-shattering seven Super Bowl victories. There has never been another NFL star quite like Tom Brady, and maybe there never will be. The NFL’s loss is one shared by the Madden community, who now must look elsewhere for a hero when they’re in a must-win league title or piecing together their Ultimate Team. Farewell to the greatest of all time.


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