Hannable: Fair to say Tom Brady has slipped a bit to open 2018 season

Ryan Hannable
October 17, 2018 - 10:29 am

Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

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Sorry Max Kellerman, Tom Brady hasn’t fallen off a cliff, but the 41-year-old has seen his play decrease a little to open the 2018 season.

It needs to be noted it is just six games, so a relatively small sample size, and he was without Julian Edelman the first four, but there have been signs the Patriots quarterback isn’t the same player who won the NFL MVP award last season.

For starters, Brady has made some very uncharacteristic poor decisions. 

The worst play may have come in Sunday’s 43-40 win over the Chiefs when on a third-down play in the third quarter Brady was careless with the ball in the pocket and was stripped, leading to a turnover. The offensive line gave him upwards of eight to 10 seconds of time, but instead of throwing the ball away when the didn't see any open receivers, the quarterback rolled back towards the middle of the field where most of the defenders were and ultimately lost the ball.

Brady looked like a rookie on the play and not the greatest quarterback to ever play the game. 

“It is just a mental error," he said on Kirk & Callahan Monday morning. "For me to roll right and avoid the guy, and swing the ball around really with no chance to complete it. I had Julian [Edelman] on the sideline, I just didn’t see him. Usually when you roll right you just have to keep rolling right and try and make a good throw. To stop and move around with all the bodies coming, it just was really a mental mistake, which I am not going to have any more of those this year. I won’t do anything like that again.”

In addition, there have also been some poor decisions with throws, which have led to six interceptions on the season. Brady is on pace to throw 16 picks, which would be the most in his entire career. He hasn’t had double-digit interceptions since 2013 when he had 11. Some of these interceptions have been the results of drops by receivers, but he's also had a few throws that should have been picked, but weren't. It all evens out.

Also, just look at how he compares statistically to other quarterbacks across the league. Even with offenses rolling all over defenses this season, Brady isn’t in the top 10 in most major categories.

The quarterback is 145-for-214 (68 percent) with 1,559 yards, 13 touchdowns and six interceptions for a quarterback rating of 98.2. 

He’s 17th in yards with players like Joe Flacco, Case Keenum, Andy Dalton, Eli Manning and Blake Bortles all having more passing yards than him. His yards per attempt (7.4) are 18th with C.J. Beathard, Ryan Tannehill and rookie Sam Darnold all ahead of him. The only major category where he’s in the top 10 is in touchdown passes, as he’s sixth.

Even the eye-ball test doesn’t do him any favors. Did Sunday’s game feel like a 340-yard passing game? Without his late 42-yard completions to Chris Hogan and Rob Gronkowski he wouldn’t have eclipsed the 260-yard mark.

The Week 3 game against the Lions was one of the worst performances of his entire career, as he finished 14-for-26 with 133 yards, a touchdown and an interception for a QB rating of 65.1. He also checked out of that game extremely early, something we’ve rarely seen from the QB.

While the numbers back up he’s taken a step back notion, it is worth pointing out what he was working with the first three or so weeks of the season. He didn’t have Josh Gordon yet, so he had Hogan essentially being the No. 1 receiver with Phillip Dorsett and Cordarrelle Patterson behind him. Now, with Edelman and Gordon in the mix, Dorsett and Patterson both saw less than 10 snaps apiece in the last game against Kansas City.

It is fair to say Brady wasn’t working with much in the early going of the year and that could have certainly played a role in the slow start for the quarterback. 

The 41-year-old seems to feel the best is still to come for the offense, and if that is the case then the narrative with his own play will change, too.

“I think we all feel like there are plays still out there, and we’re still getting familiar with one another,” he said. “And if we can just keep grinding and keep practicing and keep making improvements, it’s tough to stop us. So that’s a good feeling.”

But, for right now it is completely fair to say Brady’s play has slipped. 

And yes, he’s better than almost every quarterback across the league and it would be hard to pick against him in a big game, but for all the praise he’s received over the years, it’s only fair to point out things are not going exactly like they usually do, at least through six games.

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