Tom Brady could help tie an old NFL mark Sunday against Seattle. (Jeremy Brevard/USA Today Sports)

Former Browns QB Milt Plum reflects on possibility of Tom Brady, Patriots tying his interception-free record against Seahawks

November 10, 2016 - 7:45 pm

Milt Plum will be watching Sunday night from his North Carolina home to see whether or not Tom Brady and the Patriots’ quarterbacks will take down one of his old records.

The former Browns quarterback was one of the most accurate passers in the league in 1960, when he went the first nine games of the season without throwing an interception. In all, Plum went 115-for-170 for 1,705 yards with 13 touchdowns through the first nine contests before throwing a pick in Week 10 against Washington. The team finished 8-3-1, and Plum ended the year 151-for-250 (60 percent) for 2,297 yards with 21 touchdown passes and five interceptions, including four in the regular-season finale against the Giants.

Plum didn’t think much of it at the time, but that nine-game streak to start the year has now lasted more than 50 years. The only guy who came close? Jason Campbell. In 2008 with Washington, Campbell went 152-for-230 for 1,754 yards and eight touchdowns through the first eight games before throwing two picks in Week 9 against the Steelers.

Now, Brady and the New England quarterbacks stand one game away from tying Plum’s old mark. Through eight games, Brady (98-for-134, 1,319 yards, 12 TDs, 0 INTs), Jimmy Garoppolo (42-for-60, 496 yards, 4 TDs, 0 INTs) and Jacoby Brissett (34-for-55, 400 yards, 0 TDs, 0 INTs) have all combined to throw for no picks this year, leaving the Patriots as the only team in the league without an interception, one shy of tying Plum’s record.

“I’ll be watching on Sunday night,” the 81-year-old Plum said Thursday when reached by phone. “I’m a football fan, so I don’t think that’ll be a concern of mine. I mean, if he breaks it, he breaks it.

“I didn’t know they had records for that kind of thing,” Plum added. “I really wasn’t thinking about it much at the time. Peyton [Manning] broke one or two of my records before. Now, they have records for everything: How many times you go to the bathroom during a game. They know everything.”

Plum, who spent 13 years in the league (five with the Browns, six with the Lions, and one each with the Rams and Giants), finished his career with 17,536 yards passing, 122 touchdown passes and a passer rating of 72.2. He knows the game has changed since he was under center: The Patriots have already attempted 249 passes this year (Brady has 134 through four games), and are two shy of tying the record for most pass attempts to start a season without an interception, set by Campbell and the Redskins in 2008. 

As for Plum, he had 250 pass attempts the entire 1960 season

“I have to give Brady credit — he and the rest of the quarterbacks on that roster have probably thrown twice as many times as I did already,” he confessed. “I threw it probably 15 to 20 times a game, tops. These days, they’re throwing it 35 or 40 times a game. Even 50 times a game. There are more chances of them throwing interceptions than I ever had to worry about.

“We didn’t have an audible system when I was with the Browns. I mean, if the defensive backs went to the bathroom, we were still going to run the ball,” he said with a laugh. “If Paul Brown was going to lose the game, it wasn’t going to be because of the quarterback. If we lost, it was going to be his fault. We didn’t really do any shifting, even after teams started to blitz.”

Plum has followed Brady for his entire career, including the farce that was Deflategate. He isn’t sure why it was such a big deal; he recalled a game against Pittsburgh in the 1960s where he complained about a soft football. 

“The ref said, ‘Forget it and play ball,’” he remembered with a laugh. “I never liked new footballs. I always preferred Tuesday’s practice footballs. You could grip them better. I never liked the new balls. But I just can’t believe Brady would go to [Bill] Belichick and say, ‘I could do better if some of the air was let out.’”

When it comes to record accuracy totals, Brady has been through stretches like this in the past. The overall team record for most consecutive games without an interception is eight straight games, set by the veteran in the second half of the 2010 season. That was part of a remarkable stretch of accuracy for the quarterback, when he didn’t throw an interception between Oct. 24 and the end of the regular season before he got picked off in the playoffs against the Jets.

But the current run is something special for a few reasons, including the fact that Brady could help push it to nine straight Sunday against one of the best pass defenses in the league.

Sometimes it comes down to quarterback decision making, it comes down to protection in the pocket, it comes down to what the scoreboard looks like,” Brady said of the interception-free streak. “If you’re down 14 points in the fourth quarter, that risk-reward scenario that I talk about a lot changes in your mind and you’ve got to start trying to make tighter throws. 

“This week is all about turnovers for us,” he added. “I know [the Seahawks] preach that a lot. I know the coaches talk to us a lot about Coach [Pete] Carroll’s philosophy and saying, ‘It’s all about the ball, it’s all about the ball.’ They really thrive with turnovers. It’s a really turnover-driven defense.”

Regardless of what happens Sunday, Plum said he remains a fan of classic modern quarterbacks like Brady and Manning.

“They know before the snap what’s going to happen. And if something happens, they can get rid of the ball real quick, like to a back out of the backfield or something. He knows that no matter how long he stands in the pocket, sometimes, a receiver isn’t going to get open. He’ll just give the ball to a back. They can dump it off, because they know it won’t work. They know where the open receiver is going to be.

“With Brady, he’s always thinking. These other quarterbacks look and look and they’re sacked because they hold the ball too long. That doesn’t happen to him. You take four or five seconds, you’re going to get hit. He can get it out quickly.”