Getting things straight for true closure on Tom Brady's departure

Jim Hackett
April 17, 2020 - 8:42 am
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I have never much cared about what a motor-mouthed jerk like Max Kellerman says about Tom Brady or anything else he says for that matter, but when the narratives in the local market fall off the cliff (pun intended), it raises my ire.

Listen to your team news NOW.

The record must be set straight regarding Brady’s final three seasons in New England before we can truly move forward.

No cliff. No decline of significance. Period.

Make no mistake that will be proven once again in Tampa Bay, provided we have a season in 2020.

I’ve been grinding my teeth over the last several months whenever the topic of what actually surrounded Brady the last two years is surfaced. The coverage is mind-bogglingly incomplete. Many have talked and written about his lack of weapons but in a separate breath often point to the statistical decline in Brady’s performance the last two years. It makes the bile in my stomach rise.

So in an effort to make the case for truth, I’m going to chronicle the evidence that unequivocally shows in the case of the supposed Brady decline vs. the failings of the team-build and supporting cast, and Brady wins in a unanimous decision.

Let’s start here. Sunday, February 4, 2018 – Super Bowl LII.

Capping an MVP season at the tender age of 40, Brady slung it around to the tune of 505 yards, three touchdowns and a 115.4 rating on the world’s biggest sports stage. In a game where the Patriots defense couldn’t stop a little old lady on a motorized cart, Brady was forced to chuck it all over the field while a fierce defense awaited, knowing it was coming the entire time.

That 2017 season, Brady threw for 4,577 yards and 32 touchdowns compared to a measly eight interceptions en route to his third MVP season. His reward from the Patriots for that MVP effort? A kiss goodbye to two of his most trusted and reliable pass-catchers, Danny “Playoff” Amendola and Brandin Cooks.

Subsequently, with Julian Edelman serving a four-game suspension, the 2018 roster featured an opening day wide receiver core featuring Chris Hogan, Phillip Dorsett and Cordarrelle Patterson. You may know them better as Moe, Larry and Curly Joe. Not even the real Curly. It was an abject off-season failure for the offensive side of the ball across the board. The free agent market, the draft and certainly in review of the teams’ own wide receiver development, which has been tragically non-existent for many years.

From that point on, the offense with Brady under center was never appropriately fortified. For a team led by Brady, the greatest to ever play the position, the offensive team-building has been a joke since the winter of 2018.

This leads me to the 2018 regular season and the introduction of the more balanced attack.

The expansion of the running game.

Contrary to common opinion, the Patriots offensive transformation had little to do with Brady’s performance and more to do with the lack of action by the team and its responsibility to help solidify his weapons. Translated, they failed to get people worthy of catching the ball from Brady, so they pivoted to running it instead.

A smart decision as it led to a sixth Super Bowl title. However, its revisionist history to claim that it was some sort of visible Brady decline that led to this decision. That’s complete BS. Brady was coming off of a brilliant MVP season. It was Belichick’s lazy approach to the free agent market that offseason and his negligence to address problems at both the wide receiver and tight end position that led to their stylistic change on offense. Period.

If you need more evidence to conclude that the Patriots knew they were short at the wide receiver position, look no further than the late addition of Josh Gordon on September 17 of that season. Moreover, you may recall the late free agent running back acquisitions of Jeremy Hill and Mike Gillislee prior to training camp. Belichick knew they had a problem, one of his own creation. He knew he had to pivot. To his credit he did and did so successfully. Kick save and a beauty, but it was based in poor offseason planning to support his superstar quarterback. Make no mistake about that.

The 2019 offseason.

The Patriots defense was spectacular in winning Super Bowl LIII 13-3 over the manhandled Los Angeles Rams. The play I remember most however, was that beautiful Brady throw to Rob Gronkowski to get them in position to win. Before that, how about the against all odds road victory over the Kansas City Chiefs, when the 41 year old Brady went toe to toe with the next great quarterback, Patrick Mahomes and won. I witnessed it and so did you, but Belichick remained unsold.

Additionally, that offseason saw the retirement of the greatest tight end to ever play, Rob Gronkowski with no succession plan in sight. Again, there would be another offseason with no proven veteran to help at wide receiver either. Help not wanted, outside of a rare youth movement in the NFL Draft that saw their first round pick expended on N’Keal Harry and an invitation to undrafted rookie free agent, Jakobi Myers. I still have hopes for each of them, but let’s not fool ourselves that it was any show of faith in Brady. It wasn’t and yet the last time eyeballs were on No. 12 he was delivering the goods in the AFC Championship game and the Super Bowl, yet again.

Entering the season last August, the Patriots let their true feelings be known by offering and agreeing to the first one-year contract of Brady’s Hall of Fame career. From there, everything changed.

To those who cite the Antonio Brown signing in week two of last season as some sort of symbolic gesture of good faith to Brady, you are wrong. Plain and simple, you are wrong.

The Brown signing was a desperate response to five significant injuries that all hit suddenly within a couple of weeks of the start of the season. Center David Andrews unexpectedly was lost for the year. Left tackle Isaiah Wynn was also hurt and missed a significant amount of games. Guard Shaq Mason and right tackle Marcus Cannon both limped into week one less than 100 percent and highly valued fullback James Devlin was lost for the season as well.

No center, no left tackle and two unhealthy starters on the offensive line. No Gronk to help pick up blocks from the outside and no Develin to add support up the middle. 80 percent of the line was either out or hurt within the first month of the season and all of the reasonable surrounding support was down suddenly too.

This is what led the Patriots to sign Brown.

Why? He can get open quickly. Brady could hit him in a split second and they could make the offense work, as evidenced in a 43-0 rout of the Dolphins in Miami Week 2. Those who tell you that Brown was a gift for Brady are misinformed. He never comes here without those injuries, that’s what that was about. A smart move by the way, but again a move falling into the repetitive category of revisionist history as it relates to Brady.

The reality is that Brady had been doing it with a can and string here since 2018. Has there been a statistical decline since his MVP 2017 season? Of course, but the extenuating circumstances in this case far outweigh that statistical performance.

When I last saw Brady live, in his final regular season game vs. Buffalo he looked like the same Hall of Fame quarterback I’ve been watching for the last 20 years. Poised, efficient and in total control.

His final line that December day was 26 completions in 33 attempts, good for a 79 percent completion percentage, 271 yards and one touchdown.

How’s that for a statistical decline?

In the case of the supposed Brady decline vs. the failings of the team-build and supporting cast; Brady wins in a unanimous decision. I rest my case.

Related: Fast Friday 5: Tua Tagovailoa to Patriots talk a terrible waste of time