Tom Brady Ranks Last on ESPN’s Most Dominant Athletes List

PHOTO: Getty Images

To native New Englanders, there’s no question as to who the most dominant athlete of the modern sports era is. Apparently, ESPN didn’t get the memo.

ESPN The Magazine has published their “Dominance Rankings,” a list of the 20 “most formidable, awe-inspiring and downright dominant athletes” from the past twenty years and Tom Brady just made it in, under the proverbial buzzer. The list, released in celebration of the magazine’s 20th anniversary, has Brady in the final spot at number twenty.

What’s worst for Patriots fans, perhaps, is that Brady ranked 17 spots behind former rival Peyton Manning, who placed third on the list. Manning’s ‘dominance rating,’ an arbitrary measuring stick, is twice that of Brady’s.

One of the reasons given for Manning’s dominance rating was his 186 wins, a league record when he retired, only to be surpassed by Brady last October. That, certainly, doesn't make the list any easier to swallow for Patriots fans.

Here’s how the magazine explains their methodology, a.k.a. “foolproof math:”

We used our unpatented five-step process to determine the most dominant athletes of the past 20 years. First we looked at the top league in every sport that has global annual revenues of $100 million or more and for which there are reliable annual overall rankings or ratings of individual athletes for all or most of the past 20 years. Then we rated those sports' athletes in each of the past 20 regular seasons by the best single performance metric available, adjusted these ratings to normalize athletes' scores in each sport across time, narrowed our focus to the top four athletes each year in every sport, then adjusted the data again to put these players, across sports, on a common baseline. Then we added up the results to achieve this list, in which one "dominance share" equals one standard deviation of performance by an athlete beyond the top four players in his or her sport for one season.

In other words, the dominance ratings were calculated based on a single, regular season, key performance metric, which was then normalized across popular sports. In the case of the NFL, the performance metric was defense-adjusted yards above replacement (DYAR), according to Football Outsiders.

The fact that ESPN only used regular season statistics to determine their ratings does shed some light. Peter Keating, the writer who compiled the ratings, said that was done because “there’s no good way to compare playoffs across sports.”

Regardless of how the stats were derived, it’s unlikely that fans of either quarterback will be conceding on behalf of their football hero any time soon. Clearly, the magazine’s intent was to spark the debate - and they’ve already succeeded.

Here’s ESPN's full list:

  1. Tiger Woods
  2. Lebron James
  3. Peyton Manning
  4. Jimmie Johnson
  5. Roger Federer
  6. Annika Sorenstam
  7. Michael Schumacher
  8. Floyd Mayweather
  9. Marta
  10. Usain Bolt
  11. Lionel Messi
  12. Serena Williams
  13. Lauren Jackson
  14. Christiano Ronaldo
  15. Novak Djokovic
  16. Allyson Felix
  17. Barry Bonds
  18. Mike Trout
  19. Manny Pacquiao
  20. Tom Brady



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