There has been speculative assertion related to Tom Brady’s supposed decline (if not his outright quarterbacking demise) plenty of times before — all of those instances proving to be wildly inaccurate false alarms.
He was supposed to be primed for a dip on countless occasions. You remember them; when the rumors swirled that time was catching up and that the New England Patriots’ dream window was readying to slam shut.
The whispers have come for Brady in off-seasons, preseasons and regular seasons, after defeats and victories alike, amid supposed quarterback competitions and even on birthdays, as the six-time Super Bowl winner defies age simply by still being employed in football.
And now, with defending world champions New England sat at 10-2, tied for the best record in the National Football League, and the behind only the Baltimore Ravens as the odds-on favorite to win it all once more (the Pats are currently at +400 on FOX Bet to win the Super Bowl, with the Ravens at +260), the naysayers are coming for Brady again.
Will it be different this time? Is this finally the beginning of the end, the one that really counts after all those beginnings-of-the-end that were actually just new beginnings? Sunday’s loss to the Houston Texans wasn’t pretty, saw the Patriots surrender presumptive home field advantage in the AFC, and was the catalyst for a fresh wave of doubt.
Or is Brady primed to act as the great silencer of skepticism again, rebounding from a patchy few weeks for the Patriots offense to lead the team to more postseason glory?
“It has nothing to do with Tom Brady’s ability. It has everything to do with X’s and O’s. Think about who he is missing. It’s not b/c it’s Gronkowski … it’s b/c of how their offense has been set up for 10 years.”@BMarshall breaks down why Brady is missing Gronk on the field pic.twitter.com/jKmrQz56FC
— First Things First (@FTFonFS1) December 3, 2019
“I don’t think anyone’s happy when we lose, except for the people that are rooting against us,” Brady told Westwood One. “I’m sure there’s quite a few of those. We’ve lost games in the past, I’ve lost games in the past, and as much as it hurts to lose, you have to keep it in perspective and realize the place we’re at the in the season. You can’t let it discourage you from waking up the next day and working hard, and hopefully it refocuses us and makes us work even harder.”
Admirable words … yet the truth is there is a bit of a different feel about Brady’s struggles this campaign. The backbone of the team this season has been New England’s marauding, swashbuckling, seemingly irrepressible defense, and that unit’s performance level has obscured difficulties elsewhere.
FS1’s Nick Wright pointed out on First Things First that Brady this season is 26th in yards per attempt among NFL quarterbacks, 29th in completion percentage and 21st in passer rating, with numbers far behind the San Francisco 49ers’ Jimmy Garoppolo and Indianapolis Colts QB Jacoby Brissett — both of whom were moved on from New England.
“You’ve got a 42-year-old quarterback who looks like it,” Wright said. “A QB that is in the bottom third of the league in every major category, whose defense is playing great, who has to win a very specific style of football. I understand, because he is the GOAT, we make excuses. Great quarterbacks make it work. Tom Brady is the greatest quarterback ever, but he is, right now, not a great quarterback.”
The Patriots schedule is one of the league’s coziest this season, with five of their first seven wins coming against the New York Jets (twice), New York Giants, Miami Dolphins and Washington Redskins. Things aren’t much tougher the rest of the way, except that this weekend’s home clash with the Kansas City Chiefs will see Brady square off against Patrick Mahomes, widely seen as the heir apparent of quarterback greatness — Lamar Jackson’s superb season in Baltimore notwithstanding.
A win there, and some measure of normalcy will have been restored. A defeat, potentially putting the Patriots on shaky ground in terms of playoff seeding with the Buffalo Bills refusing to go away in the AFC East, and a few more alarmists will start sounding their bells.
The Patriots are favorited to win the matchup, at -162 on the money line and favored to win by three points as of Wednesday morning, according to FOX Bet.
2019 QB Comparison:
Garoppolo: 69.0 Compt %, 21 TDs, 10 INT, 101.2 Passer Rating
Brissett: 64.3 Compt %, 16 TDs, 6 INT, 93.2 Passer Rating
Brady: 61.1 Compt %, 18 TDs, 6 INT, 88.2 Passer Rating
— First Things First (@FTFonFS1) December 3, 2019
“When you talk about Mahomes and Brady, you certainly have to factor in the defense they are playing,” former All-Pro Philadelphia Eagles star Brian Westbrook said on First Things First. “I have no faith in Kansas City and this new defense that has produced a bunch of turnovers. I am not sure they can do that, going into Foxborough and winning there. I would take Brady over Mahomes because of who (the Chiefs) have to go against.”
Brady was visibly frustrated during the Texans game, caught on camera flinging his helmet in anger, then shouting in the direction of his young receivers on the sidelines. He doesn’t have the same quality of players to aim at these days, relying on Julian Edelman, James White, Sony Michel, Mohamed Sanu, N’Keal Harry and Matt LaCosse as his primary targets.
There is no Rob Gronkowski, off into retirement and last seen dancing with Laker Girls. There is no Josh Gordon, because that didn’t work out … and no Antonio Brown, because that really didn’t work out.
And still … 10-2.
“You know what competitors do?” three-time Super Bowl champion Mark Schlereth told FS1’s Speak For Yourself. “They compete. (Brady) is the ultimate competitor. It takes far more courage for a guy to continue to play even though he is not at his best. What I don’t understand is the desire that everybody has to bury Tom Brady.”
There is animosity towards the Patriots; of course there is. They’ve earned that vitriol and they should wear it like a trophy. That’s what happens when you’re that good for that long.
Given his track record and how many times his obituary has been written before, Brady deserves the benefit of the doubt — for now. But despite New England’s record, the numbers don’t lie, even if they deceive a little bit. The doubt is there for a reason, until Brady, once again, can prove otherwise.
“This is what I know about the Patriots at home — they’ve won 21 straight, including the playoffs, going back to last year. The last 3 QBs that have played in New England have only averaged 189 yards passing. … I would take Brady over Mahomes in this matchup.” — @36westbrook pic.twitter.com/oOFBVayEnB
— First Things First (@FTFonFS1) December 4, 2019
Source: Fox Sports