For the first time in a decade, the AFC Divisional Playoff is void of the team from Foxboro. The New England Patriots incredible run ended with a lackluster performance against the Tennessee Titans in the Wild Card round.
Aside from the rest of America celebrating outside the New England region, there was one key storyline afterwards: “Is that the final game for Tom Brady, at least in New England?”
It is hard to fathom but Brady, who was probably the best quarterback in the NFL in probably TWO eras, may end up looking around for a job come March.
If the Patriots are dumb enough to allow him to do so.
Nobody will doubt Brady’s greatness and the greatest quarterback ever moniker. We can say a lot about Brady with Deflategate and whatnot but the guy has performed at a level for almost 20 years in the NFL.
That said, Father Time has *finally* caught up with Tom Brady. We should have been somewhat forewarned even in last year’s Super Bowl when Brady only mustered 13 points despite the win over the Rams for his sixth ring. The accuracy was off and made questionable passes. Still, we overlooked it in part because the Rams had a stout defense and well, he is Tom Brady.
For the first half of the 2019 season, Brady looked similar to his old self, completing 65% of his passes, 13 TD, 4 INT and a QBR of a 95. Not the MVP numbers but he was doing his thing. Adding on top of things, New England was 8-0 and rolling especially on defense to the point many were penning the Pats going 16-0 en route to their 7th Super Bowl ring. I pointed out once New England’s schedule was pertty weak until that point (Jets twice, Redskins, Browns, and a weak Dolphins team in disarray), but people shrugged it off saying “well, it’s still the Patriots. They will beat the better teams when needed”
Then the second half arrived. New England had to go through foes of Baltimore, Kansas City, Houston, etc. And New England went 4-4 including a home loss to the same Dolphins team who they beat 43-0. And Brady in the second half? 57% completion pct, 11 TD, 4 INT and QBR of 80. In a run of five games (against the Cowboys, Bengals, Eagles, Chiefs and Texans) he barely completed 50% of his passes and had a QBR of 75. In that same time period Sam Darnold put up better numbers and had a 96 QBR. And if you really want to get technical, Darnold in the second half of the season outperformed Brady.
What was more alarming about Brady was the missing of open receivers and zeroing in too much perhaps on his favorite targets Julian Edelman & James White. Furthering problems was the Patriots run game disappeared as Sony Michel had a sophomore slump making New England VERY one dimensional. The playoff game against the Titans showed how much Brady was no longer the guy we deemed to be the GOAT but more of a game manager at best when he is on. However, he wasn’t on. Short screen passes, quick passes, and other key passes were missed. This wasn’t the Brady we knew that could make plays on a dime when absolutely needed. Yes, Brady’s impact on the game is non-existent.
WITH ALL OF THAT SAID…the Patriots need to keep Brady for 2020 if Brady is still inclined to play. The numbers may have been misleading to an extent with the halves, but Brady still threw for 4,000 yards and was not a turnover prone machine even when he was off. And New England needs to find their next quarterback in the draft. Jacob Eason? Jake Fromm? Those two seem to have similar styles to Brady when Brady was at a higher level. But Brady, for as much as he wants to play until he is 50, needs to understand he is finally on the decline of his career and maybe the adjustment from being “elite” to a “mentor” will be tough for him.
Brady may have one solid season left in him, but that is about the highest fans or even Brady can expect. The transition for New England to get another QB has arrived. Letting Brady go would be a bad idea as we know what happens with teams missing that stability at quarterback (Cleveland?) but at the same time, the Patriots need to look towards the future and find their future franchise guy. If they let Brady go and draft a rookie, fine but New England isn’t one to throw a rookie into the mix Week 1. Brady needs to stay and remain the starter. But for only one more year. The decline is finally real for Brady and the Patriots can’t afford to keep him, but can’t let him go right away either.
-Fan in the Obstructed Seat