It happens to every player sooner or later, and after watching Tom Brady look frazzled and bewildered against the Kansas City Chiefs Monday night, one gets the feeling that the three-time Super Bowl winner may be nearing the end of his brilliant career with the New England Patriots.
But before it’s time to fit Brady with a CBS blazer and put him in the booth next to Jim Nantz (and hopefully get rid of Phil Simms in the process), there are plenty of reasons behind New England’s sluggish 2-2 start.
Brady is part of the problem, but he’s got plenty of company. Start off with an offensive line that has gone from resourceful to sieve-like. Trading guard Logan Mankins just before the start of the season has something to do with it, but who could have foreseen that left tackle Nate Solder would have turned into a jelly-legged oaf?
Solder is supposed to be protecting Brady’s blind side, and he isn’t doing it at this point. Instead of Brady stepping back into the pocket with confidence and surveying the field for an open receiver, he has to play chuck and duck.
Brady drops back, and he knows he simply has to get rid of it or he will get his head taken off. Would a more mobile quarterback have a better chance of throwing his passes on the run and making a few plays? Certainly, but that’s not the way Brady has gotten it done since 2001. Obviously, the 37-year-old quarterback is not going to start changing his ways at this point.
What of the receivers? A majority of Brady’s passes have been thrown to wideout Julian Edelman and tight end Rob Gronkowski, who is still working his way back to top form after injuries have ruined the last two years for him.
When it comes to receivers like Danny Amendola, Kenbrell Thompkins and Brandon LaFell, Brady is simply not looking for them. Part of the issue is the lack of time he’s getting from the offensive line and the other part is that he has not developed a decent rapport with that trio. There’s no sense of confidence when Brady looks for those receivers.
The Patriots’ running game is also an issue in the team’s offensive shortcomings. Stevan Ridley does not have the power to break tackles once he gets through the line of scrimmage. LeGarrette Blount was a key factor for New England last year, but Bill Belichick did not think him worthy of a major investment, and he was allowed to leave through free agency. Now Blount and Le’Veon Bell have become the Doobie Brothers in Pittsburgh, and given the Steelers a credible ground game.
OK, we have established the problem areas that Brady is facing, and the excuses he has at his behest. But he’s the man pulling the trigger and he looks bad at this point
He should be able to overcome these issues – at least some of the time – and keep his team in contention. But Brady is struggling in perhaps the most important statistical area for a quarterback. He is averaging 5.77 yards per pass, and that’s not going to get it done.
Consider that Andy Dalton of the Bengals is leading the league with an average of 8.60 yards per attempt and Philip Rivers is second with 8.43 yards per throw. Stars like Aaron Rodgers (7.69 ypp), Drew Brees (7.47) and Peyton Manning (7.33) are well above Brady, ranking 13th, 16th and 18th, respectively.
The sad truth is that Brady is the 33rd-rated quarterback in yards per pass, and the only quarterback worse is Oakland rookie Derek Carr (5.52). Geno Smith of the Jets is averaging 6.78 yards per pass, so he’s got Brady beat by more than a full yard every time he goes back to pass.
When opponents see this stat, they tighten their pass coverage considerably because they know the quarterback can’t stretch the field.
This is a new issue for Brady, who has a career mark of better than 7.4 yards per pass.
Despite his age, physical issues don’t appear to be the cause of his problems. Brady says he still loves the game and wants to play into his 40s.
It did not look like that would be possible Monday night when he fumbled once and threw two ill-advised interceptions.
But here’s what you have to remember. In addition to his brilliant track record, he is working with one of the game’s all-time great head coaches in Belichick, who is perhaps the second-best coach ever behind Vince Lombardi.
Belichick comes up with answers to problems. He has found workable solutions in the past, and he will continue to do so in the future.
So, it looks awful for Brady right now and it may get worse before it gets better.
But the combination of Belichick and Brady has been too strong for too long to get written off at this point.
Let’s see where Brady is in a month before he gets shunted off to the discard pile.
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