NFL Commentary: New England Patriots Quarterback Tom Brady, Declining, or Stuck with Inferior Players?
Before going any further, I feel inclined to both ask and answer a few questions. First, am I a New England Patriots fan? No! Secondly, am I a fan of Patriots quarterback, Tom Brady? No! Finally, do I respect what Tom Brady has accomplished as a quarterback in the NFL? Absolutely!
You don't have to be a fan of a team or a player to admire how great they are. You also don't have to be a fan of the Patriots to know that something is up with Tom Brady this season. This reasoning especially applies to you if you're a Tom Brady fantasy football owner, which I am gladly not this season unlike I was last year.
As a team, the New England Patriots are doing fairly well. They are currently sitting at 6-2 in the standings, and maintain a two game lead over the New York Jets in the AFC East division. Things are looking pretty good for the organization as a whole right? Well, not quite in my opinion. Not only has the team endured media coverage for all the wrong reasons(Aaron Hernandez) along with various injuries to some key players. Their offense has struggled thus far as well.
Offensively, the New England Patriots are not the juggernaut offense that they once were, and it all starts with Tom Brady. Through eight games this season, Brady is on pace for his worst statistical season in his career. Some are questioning whether or not the 36 year old Brady, who is currently in his 14th season in the NFL is still the elite quarterback he has been for years. In the coming sections, I'm going to breakdown the reasons why I think Tom Brady is struggling this season. These are my own personal views.
Overview of Accomplishments.
Since the 2000's, Tom Brady has been arguably the best quarterback in the NFL. Drafted in the 6th round of the 2000 NFL Draft, Brady has personified the notion that whatever round a player is drafted in doesn't matter, and that some of the NFL's best players can come from the later rounds. Brady and Patriots head coach Bill Belichick have formed one of the NFL's most successful coach and quarterback duos.
Tom Brady is a 3 time Super Bowl champion, and a 2 time Super Bowl MVP. He is a 2 time NFL's Most Valuable Player, and has appeared in 8 Pro Bowls. Brady currently is the Patriots All-time leader in passing touchdowns, passing yards, passing completions, pass attempts, and career wins. He also currently holds the NFL record for the most passing touchdowns in a single season.
For his career, Brady has completed 63.4% of his passes for 46,630 yards. He's thrown for a total of 343 touchdown passes, and holds a 95.6 QB rating. Although I don't care much for Tom Brady, he has been an absolute kingpin at the position of quarterback, so it's very odd thinking about his numbers so far this season. Through 8 games, Brady has completed 55.7% of his pass attempts, which is the lowest since his rookie season. He's thrown for 1,824 yards, with only 9 touchdowns, compared to 6 interceptions. These kinds of stats have not previously been associated with a player of Brady's caliber.
Reasons for Brady's Meager Numbers.
So, what exactly is the cause for Tom Brady's unusually poor numbers so far this season? You could probably come up with anything from he's getting old, to he doesn't have the veteran receivers that he once had. At any rate, here are the primary reasons why I feel that Brady has struggled midway through the 2013 NFL season.
- Taking Way Too Many Hits: For the bulk of his career, Tom Brady has always been well protected by a great offensive line. One of the things that Brady has been known for is how cool and calm he remains as he sits in the pocket, and reads his receivers routes. That just hasn't been the case so far this season. Being that Brady isn't a mobile quarterback, he relies a lot on his line. After eight games, Brady has been sacked 23 times. To add to the offensive line woes, the Patriots lost right tackle Sebastian Vollmer to a broken leg for the rest of the season. The Patriots offensive line is going to have to find a way to keep Brady from taking so many hits.
- The Loss of Wes Welker: Losing veteran slot receiver Wes Welker during the off season to the Denver Broncos has proven to be an even greater a loss to the Patriots than imagined. Welker was Brady's security blanket when he worked from the slot position, and he is a sure handed as they come. Although Welker wasn't a touchdown machine in New England, he caught 100 or more receptions 5 out of the 6 seasons he spent with the Patriots. Current New England receiver Julian Edelman has done fairly well in this role, but you just can't replace what Welker meant to Brady.
- Inconsistent Rushing Attack: The Patriots running back position has been all over the place this season. Stevan Ridley, who had a great campaign in 2012 was expected to be the Patriots feature back. However, after a few bad performances and fumble problems in the first few games of the season, Ridley ended up in Belichick's doghouse. Ridley has since improved, but the Patriots as a whole have not been consistent at running back. This is a true running back committee with Ridley, LeGarrette Blount, and Brandon Bolden currently sharing the duties. The Patriots running game needs to improve, but it appears that they're moving in the right direction.
- The Rob Gronkowski Factor: When you think of goal line tight ends in the NFL, Rob Gronkowski is almost sure to be a name that pops up in your mind. Since 2010, Gronkowski has been one of the league's most effective tight ends, especially around the end zone. So how does this factor along with Tom Brady? Brady has been without Gronkowski. Since February of this year, Gronkowski has underwent multiple surgeries for forearm and back problems. He missed the Patriots first six games, and made his 2013 debut against the New York Jets on October 20th. Brady should be happy to have Gronkowski back, but it's going to take several games for 'Gronk' to get fully into game shape. However, to be perfectly honest, I don't think that Gronkowski is completely healthy, but hopefully they can build the rapport that they've displayed the past few seasons.
Can Brady's Play Improve For the Remainder of the Season?
Now that we're all aware that Tom Brady at times this season hasn't looked much like the dominant quarterback we're accustomed to seeing, there's one question that remains; can he improve his play for the remainder of this season? Before I give my opinion on that, I want to say that I don't feel that age has caught up with Tom Brady, nor do I feel that he is washed up. Brady is still one of the leagues best in my opinion.
At this point, I think that Tom Brady has become a victim of his past success from previous seasons. Football fans are used to seeing Brady shred defenses with ease. When a player of Brady's caliber isn't performing like he's been known for doing in the past, people instantly put a cloud of curiosity over their head. The curiosity doubles when you equate a player to being old in sporting years.
I also believe that various team circumstances along with a shaky running game, poor play on the offensive line, and team injuries have aided in pinning Tom Brady up against the ropes right now. Between the off season and now, Brady has lost several key weapons that he's previously had at his disposal, and now he's being forced to make the best out of what he has.
Is Tom Brady still an elite NFL quarterback? Yes I definitely think that he is. Can he improve his play heading into the second half of the season? Of course, he's Tom Brady. However, it's going to take his offensive line stepping up, along with his younger receivers, and the Patriot defense. Despite everything that I've mentioned in regards to Tom Brady, the fact remains that the Patriots are winning and quite frankly, I'm fairly positive that's the only thing that Tom Brady cares about.
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