He’s one of the best quarterbacks of all time. There’s no arguing the mark that Tom Brady has left on the NFL since 2000. Whether it’s records, highlight-reel plays, or crushing defeats, Brady has been through it all.
He’ll face the criticism, but at the end of the day, the guy wearing number 12 in New England has the stats to push the skeptics away.
2013 brought new challenges for Brady and his crew. Wes Welker and Aaron Hernandez were gone, a Super Bowl victory continued to elude them since SpyGate, and Brady would turn 36 at the start of the season. Many thought they could make the Super Bowl run; and as a team they played particularly well.
The New England defense held together throughout the season and the running game was heavily relied upon from the start. The Patriots ultimately weren’t able to compete for the Lombardi in February, but that might not be the only concerning factor heading into the offseason.
There’s no hiding that there are a few receivers in New England that aren’t elite. Aaron Dobson struggled all season and Kenbrell Thompkins is far from perfect. Brady did have weapons, however. Shane Vereen, who may be the most under-rated back in the whole game, was relied upon from the beginning and made an impact starting in week one. He was a Brady favorite along with Julian Edelman. Rob Gronkowski was available for a crucial stretch of games, LaGarrette Blount turned it on, and Danny Amendola made some tremendous catches throughout the year.
The statement that Brady didn’t have any receivers was a myth. Were there dropped passes? YES. Were there poorly run routes all season? YES. I won’t deny that Bill Belichick’s squad had it’s weak links, but there was a particular link that was as weak as it’s ever been–the guy under center.
I went back and watched every throw that Brady made in 2013 and I wasn’t impressed one bit. I expected to see a warrior that made the guys around him better with precise long-balls and tight throws in small windows. What I did see was concerning. I saw at-least 80-percent of Brady’s passes be completed on underneath crossing routes and 70-percent of his completed passes be to wide-open receivers. I can’t even begin to express how many routes were ran across the field within eight yards of the line-of-scrimmage. New England’s wide receivers dominated opposing cornerbacks and were able to get wide open in the majority of the regular season. Brady didn’t have many tough throws, and when he did, he failed to produce.
I couldn’t find more than five really good long-balls that Brady threw all season. For the first eight games of the year, his performance was dismal. The balls he completed were ones I expect to see college all-stars make. He missed open receivers and had accuracy problems until week nine. Critics can put the blame on receivers all they want, but Brady was simply mediocre in the first eight games.
Week five against Cincinnati was when it started to get real. He missed open receivers, had poor accuracy when it counted, and struggled to complete contested passes. I watched this film twice to ensure what I just saw. After looking at this tape, I checked what ESPN set his “QBR” at for that game. Brady managed a 16.8 number, his lowest in the regular season since December 10th, 2006. Overall, Brady’s “QBR” for the season was 61.1–more than 16 points lower than 2012 and Brady’s lowest since ESPN started keeping this stat in 2006.
As a whole, the offense didn’t play well and the blame shouldn’t be placed solely on Brady. He started to come alive in the second half of the season and was able to up his grade with good games against Pittsburgh and Houston. New England also didn’t rely on Brady late in the season. As soon as the running game emerged, the Patriots shifted their focus to the ground and wouldn’t look back. When they needed Brady the most in the AFC Championship game, he couldn’t deliver the perfect performance he needed to in order to take down Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos.
It was an average season for a guy that will be 37 next year. How long can fans in New England hold out hope for one more Lombardi in the Brady-era? No, he didn’t get all the help from the guys around him, but guys like Amendola and Edelman got open–it’s pretty simple. Brady is regressing, and his time is coming to a close. It might even be time to take a look at what Brady was able to do about ten years ago, because those three Super Bowl rings seem like a memory in the past.