The New England Patriots Might End the Tom Brady Era After 2013
Every so often the greatest players in a sports are allowed to leave the game and their team on their terms. All-timers like John Elway, Jerome Bettis and Michael Strahan went out as champions. Dan Marino bowed out when he was ready after a brilliant career with the Miami Dolphins. Yet for every success story, there is a load of sad endings too. Joe Montana gets traded after winning four Super Bowls for San Francisco. Brian Urlacher is forced to retire after negotiations break down with the Chicago Bears. The immortal Peyton Manning leaves the Indianapolis Colts despite four MVPs and numerous passing records. It's just proof that no matter how iconic a player is, his job is never truly safe. That is why Tom Brady is in trouble.
Brady and Bill Belichick fighting time
Sometimes the simplest reasoning is the same one the ownership is looking at. Frankly, Brady and New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick no longer have Father Time on their side. The All-Pro quarterback turns 36-years old in August, while Belichick turned 61 in April, making him the second oldest coach in the NFL behind Tom Coughlin of the New York Giants. Fans will argue that age is just a state of mind. Brady guided the best offense in football last season, averaging 34 points per game on 4,827 yards and 34 touchdown passes. Why should anyone think he is in danger of losing his job? After all New England was in the AFC championship for the second year in a row and went to the Super Bowl in 2011. It doesn't make any sense to change the formula when it is so close to producing another championship. What people don't realize is that refusing to change when the formula doesn't produce championships anymore is the single reason contenders begin rebuilding.
New York Giants offer insight to Patriots problems
A good way to clarify the matter is by pointing out the key figures. For all the aura surrounding the Patriots and their typical regular season dominance, there is one stark fact they can't escape no matter how hard they argue. They haven't won a championship in nine years. The last two Super Bowls they went to were losses to a Giants team that was 11-5 one year and 9-7 the other. The Patriots normally crushed such teams in their dynasty days. Don't forget in 2001 they beat the 14-2 St. Louis Rams and the powerful 15-1 Philadelphia Eagles in 2004. These days they're struggling to beat good teams in their own conference. Joe Flacco and the Baltimore Ravens beat them 31-30 in the regular season before slumping to a 10-6 finish. That didn't stop their eventual humiliation of the Patriots by beating them again, in Foxborough, 28-13. In the game Brady tossed for 320 yards, but again looked human by tossing two costly interceptions. At times he looked positively flummoxed. It was not the look of a two-time Super Bowl MVP.
Ryan Mallett can't wait forever
One must say something about those Giants defeats have done something to the Patriots confidence. While they are still business-like and sharp in the regular season, almost routinely winning home field advantage, teams have started to see their edge disappear in playoff time. So why is Brady sitting on a heating up seat? For the same reason a lot of older quarterbacks do. New England has a promising young gun behind him. Many experts believed the Patriots got a steal when they selected Arkansas quarterback Ryan Mallett in the third round of the 2011 draft. At 6'6" and boating a huge arm he came into the league with a lot to prove. What scouts believed he lacked was polish in his technique and mechanics. After two seasons behind Brady it's fair to assume that has cleaned up. So if they don't plan to trade him, which they could have during the off-season given how weak the 2013 draft class was, then what do they plan to do with 24-year old. He's too valuable to get dealt but too talented to sit on the bench.
The sour truth is no matter how well Brady plays this regular season the Patriots will have a long look at how he plays in the playoffs. If he can't get his team over the hump, then whispers are sure to start about making a change, unless they already have. New England fans may consider this sacrilege, but as proven in the past by the very same team they cheer for, the business is about winning championships.