Reimer: Tom Brady held to unfair standard in comparison to all-time great quarterbacking peers

Alex Reimer
November 26, 2018 - 11:07 am

USA Today Sports


Close your eyes and imagine if Tom Brady was winless on the road this season and took two sacks late in the second half to cement his latest road loss against a division rival. Or, if that scenario doesn’t strike your fancy, think about the reaction if Brady threw two ghastly picks, including an interception on the two-yard line with one-minute remaining, that led to a tough road defeat to the sub-.500 Broncos. 

Sports talk shows across the country would probably be dedicated to non-stop chatter about Brady’s decline. Chief Brady haters Max Kellerman and Rob Parker would be taking massive victory laps, just like they did two weeks ago in the wake of the Patriots’ blowout loss to the Titans in Nashville. Kellerman has been predicting Brady’s fall since July 2016, whereas Parker proclaimed six years ago that Brady was finished. It’s a race to declare victory, and as a result, Brady isn’t allowed to play one bad game without his struggles serving as the face of some greater commentary about his impending doom. 

Much of the conversation surrounding the Patriots over the last two weeks has centered around either Rob Gronkowski’s hobbled physical condition or Brady’s recent subpar play. Up until the Patriots’ 27-13 win over the Jets Sunday, Brady had thrown only one touchdown pass over his previous three games. The low point came in Tennessee, where Brady completed just 51.2 percent of his passes in the Patriots’ 24-point loss. 

Since Brady is 41 years old, and we love tearing our stars down, it’s tempting to turn peeks of Brady’s football mortality into harbingers of the end of his career. I admit to falling into the trap as much as anybody. But days like Sunday serve as a reminder that Brady is held to an unfair standard in comparison to his peers. They are allowed to play bad games without hearing Kellerman caterwaul about how they’re approaching the proverbial cliff. 

No quarterback represents this double standard more than Aaron Rodgers, whose Packers are 4-6-1 and seem destined to miss the playoffs for the second straight year. They get a pass for last season, because Rodgers only played in seven contests. But this year, outside of Rodgers’ knee injury scare in Week 1, he’s been under center every step of the way –– laying witness to Green Bay’s 0-6 record away from Lambeau Field.

Most of the Packers’ road losses can’t be pinned solely on Rodgers. Most notably, there was Ty Montgomery’s fumble in Los Angeles and Mike McCarthy’s inexplicable decision to punt on 4th-and-2 in Seattle. The Packers’ committed more blunders in their loss to Minnesota Sunday night, including Tramon Williams’ embarrassing fumble when trying to field a punt with six minutes left in the fourth. 

But Rodgers was presented with several opportunities to make some plays, and failed every single time. On two consecutive drives at the end of the third and start of the fourth, Rodgers took sacks from Vikings defensive lineman Sheldon Richardson. Later, on the Packers’ last possession of the game, Rodgers overthrew Davante Adams, who was wide open in the end zone and would’ve scored to cut Green Bay’s deficit to three points, counting the PAT, with 2:20 remaining. 

Overall this season, Rodgers, 34, has been mediocre in late-game situations. He’s completed just 54.55 percent of his passes when the Packers are trailing with less than four minutes to play, and hasn’t thrown a touchdown when they’re down with less than two minutes left. Outside of Rodgers’ incredible comeback win at home against the lowly 49ers on “Monday Night Football,” he hasn’t engineered any of his patented two-minute drills this fall. In his career, Rodgers is 0-37 when trailing by more than one point in the fourth quarter to a team with a winning record. 

While the Patriots have struggled on the road, too, they did put up 38 points in their win over the Bears at Soldiers Field last month. They also defeated the Chiefs, and Brady put up a perfect quarterback rating in the fouth quarter of the Patriots' win over the Packers three weeks ago. Rodgers, for comparison's sake, completed two passes and took two sacks. 

Despite the negativity surrounding the Patriots, they’re currently the No. 2 seed in the AFC, thanks to their victory over the Jets and Pittsburgh’s loss to the Broncos. Roethlisberger threw two terrible interceptions in the game: the first one went directly into the arms of cornerback Chris Harris Jr., and the second one found defensive end Shelby Harris in the end zone. It was one of the worst passes you’ll ever see.

The throw was inexcusable, because Antonio Brown was covered anyway. If Shelby Harris didn’t pick off the pass, then Chris Harris probably would’ve. It’s almost as if the 36-year-old Roethlisberger didn’t see the field.

Brady, meanwhile, hasn’t thrown an interception since Oct. 21. He might bail on plays earlier than he once did, but he still protects the ball.

At this stage in Brady’s career, he likely doesn’t have the arm strength to lob a 97-yard touchdown pass to JuJu Smith-Schuster or athleticism to dash outside of the pocket and hurl balls towards the end zone. But that doesn’t mean he’s finished. Brady’s peers are allowed to make mistakes. The same courtesy should be extended to him.