There is no question that Tom Brady of the New England Patriots is one of the greatest quarterbacks in the history of the NFL — some might even say he is the greatest. He holds the single season touchdown record and a year ago his 36 touchdown, four interception season earned him his second MVP award. Yet, watching him play this season you’d almost think he was a different player.
After throwing just four picks all last season, Brady has already tossed 10 in just eight games. I’m not saying he’s having a bad season. He’s in the top three in the NFL in yards, touchdowns, QB rating and completion percentage, and he’s on pace to set a career high in passing yards. And even with all those picks, he’s still the
fourth highest scoring quarterback in fantasy football.
Yet it seems, especially in the Patriots last two game, both of which were losses, as if Brady is struggling more this season than in the past. He seems to be forcing more passes and making more mistakes. Even with all the time the offensive line gives him, it sometimes seems as if he doesn’t know what he wants to do with the ball. Part of this might be Brady’s fault for relying on tight end Rob Gronkowski and wide receiver Wes Welker too much. While both Gronkowski and Welker are exceptionally talented, their offense can’t succeed if Brady only wants to throw to them. One of the most important factors in New England’s success over the years was rooted in Brady’s ability to spread the ball around to different receivers, making it impossible for opposing defenses to cover everyone.
However, it is more likely that Brady is simply trying too hard to make up for the shortcomings of a Patriots team that may have been overrated from the start. The Chad Ochocinco experiment has clearly failed. He is a nonfactor in the offense, and because of that the Patriots have lacked a real deep threat all season. They have also been unable to establish a consistent running attack. There have been weeks when it seemed like BenJarvus Green-Ellis was finally going to step up and take control, but he remains inconsistent. Both of these factors have forced Brady to move down the field, relying almost entirely on short routes, which are easier to defend but don’t always provide the necessary or desired yardage.
The defense has struggled as well. Albert Haynesworth, like Ochocinco, has failed in his time with New England and was released on Tuesday. The defense started the season by giving up huge chunks of yards through the air to Chad Henne of Miami, who has since struggled mightily; they have been just as generous to each and every quarterback they have faced since, and yet the glaring holes at cornerback have yet to be fixed. The unit’s only saving grace has been Vince Wilfork and an opportunistic defense that may get lucky forcing turnovers.
Yes, Tom Brady is still one of the best quarterbacks in football and is still a must start in every fantasy league week in and week out. But it is an absolute fact that he is struggling right now, at least compared to his usual god-like standards. And whether those struggles are his fault or the teams, I have a feeling that they are going to continue into the future.
Pick Up of the Week: Andy Dalton, QB, Cincinnati Bengals. If you read my column last week you already know that I think very highly of Mr. Dalton. If you didn’t read my column last week, shame on you. Go read it.
Daily Nexus NFL columnist Joshua Greenberg expects a lot from Brady, like he expects a lot from his morning Wheaties.