This is part one of an eight-part series.
Leave it to anonymity to give someone confidence.
According to either a coach, a scout, or front office personnel, whose identity will remain anonymous, someone thinks time is catching up to Tom Brady:
Did you see old-man (Tom) Brady? Time is catching up to him fast. Remember the fourth down at the end of (the AFC Championship) game—he could not outrun a nose tackle (Haloti Ngata). Then when he slid, he put his leg up in the air to protect his body. He looked (soft). I hate to see him go down like this, but he is playing soft right now. I thought the whole team followed his lead. They got punched in the mouth in the second half, and they did not respond. They lost their identity.
There are two ways to look at this opinion. One is to view Brady’s statistics from the 2012 season (4,827 yards, 34 TDs, eight Ints, 98.7 rating) and assume the observation comes from an esoteric analyst who has been huffing deer antler velvet. The other is to evaluate Brady’s performance, pass by pass.
Unless you have every game recorded and enough energy drinks and coffee to watch close to 30 hours of film non-stop, parsing every Brady pass is practically impossible. But there were times where the “Brady isn’t the same player he used to be” analysis looked true.
New England couldn’t put away Seattle and Baltimore in the regular season by protecting fourth quarter leads with time-consuming drives, for example. Sometimes the accuracy wasn’t there. A lot of passes fell short of their intended target. The game-winning drives that were routine for Brady didn’t always happen.
These failures aren’t totally on Brady, but he deserves his share of the blame.
Maybe what this scout, coach, general manager, water boy, mascot, or whatever he is said has some truth to it. Maybe he/she is right to say time is catching up to Brady.
The truth is an older Brady is still better than about 90 percent of the starting quarterbacks in the NFL. The chance this nebulous critic would trade his team’s quarterback for Brady in a heartbeat would be excellent.
There’s a reason why Brady was part of the NFL MVP debate into December. Looking ahead to next season, barring injury, Brady will be part of the MVP debate again. Give him a healthy offense and Brady will direct another prolific unit that will finish near the top of the league again.
What isn’t a sure bet is who will back up Brady. Ryan Mallett held the clipboard for the season and barely got on the field, as he attempted just four passes and completed one, with one interception.
What’s relevant was Mallett’s disappointing performance in the preseason. With the opportunity to prove his worthiness as Brady’s backup, Mallett struggled to consistently drive the offense to touchdowns while completing just 49.3 percent of his passes.
According to reports, new Cleveland GM Michael Lombardi is high on Mallett, as Lombardi considered Mallett the best quarterback of the 2011 draft class. If Lombardi makes the right offer, Patriots head coach Bill Belichick might part with the talented pocket passer with a rocket arm.
That would leave the Patriots down to just Mike Kafka, but adding competition for the backup job is probable. New England spent draft picks on quarterbacks (Mallett, Zac Robinson) or signed rookie free agents before (Matt Gutierrez, Brian Hoyer).
The surprise might be if they add an athletic passer to the mix. It’s the direction the league is going in as more collegiate quarterbacks are coming out and are almost equally adept at throwing with accuracy as they are at running with the ball.
Belichick is set in his classic ways. But he’s not too stubborn to ignore what works in the NFL. If time has caught up with Brady, maybe the right successor to The Franchise is someone who can stay a step ahead of time.
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