Analysis Notebook: Week 4

What is wrong with Tom Brady in 2014? Sam Monson revisits the Top 5 controversy and has a look at what the tape shows

| 2 years ago
AN-brady

Analysis Notebook: Week 4


analysis notebook copyIt’s time to address the Tom Brady thing.

In case you were hiding on Mars in early June, I managed to accidentally break the NFL media world for a few days by suggesting that Tom Brady is no longer a top 5 QB. It ‘went viral’ as they say, generating comment on Sportscenter, First Take, and pretty much anywhere else on TV and the internet. If you were talking NFL that week, the chances are you addressed the topic at some point. My bad.

My ‘idiotic ESPN report’ made the argument that Tom Brady has actually been declining for a while now, it’s just that he was coming down from such a height and the decline was happening slowly enough so as to not draw much attention. His performance under pressure has been getting steadily worse over time, but the New England offensive line had always been one of the better units in the league under long time O-line coach Dante Scarnecchia.

Last year the unit was merely average, and I believe was a significant factor in Brady having a statistical down year. The article argued that now more than ever Brady needs protecting by his line in a way some other passers don’t, and if the line didn’t improve we might see further decline. As it happens the line hasn’t improved – it’s gotten a whole lot worse.

Through four games the New England offensive line has allowed 55 total pressures (sacks, hits and hurries). That is two more than any other unit in the league, 25 more than the league average and a massive 45 worse than the best unit in the NFL (Cincinnati). It’s impossible to separate that completely from the influence of the quarterback – as the longer he holds the ball the tougher it is for linemen to block and the greater the chance they will surrender pressure – but only three passers have averaged a lower time to throw figure than Brady’s 2.3 seconds this season. When he does hold the ball for more than 2.5 seconds he is completing just 40.5% of his passes – dead last in the NFL among qualifying passers.

We saw Brady on Monday night against the Chiefs post his poorest PFF grade of the season, as well as some pretty wretched looking conventional statistics. He threw for just 159 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions for a passer rating of 59.9, but more than that, we got to see on prime time what the tape has been showing for a while; Brady just not playing well.

The offensive line is certainly a major factor. His protection has abandoned him just when he needs it most, but don’t let that fool you into thinking he isn’t part of the problem. On plays where Brady has felt no pressure this season he has a passer rating of just 83.0 and a PFF grade of -4.7.

You only need to look at the interceptions he threw against the Chiefs, both of which came from a clean pocket, to move past that excuse. The line isn’t helping him out, but there is more to his play than poor protection.

This play – his second interception – highlights the biggest problem Tom Brady has at the moment; he is late on too many throws, just not throwing with anticipation. This has never really been one of his biggest strengths, even with Welker at his peak he would wait for him to shake a defender rather than throwing early and trusting him to be there.

Brady1Brady had Danny Amendola in the slot to the left about to run a square-in route against the Kansas City zone defense. The throw was there, and as we can see he was working from a clean pocket, but Brady was just too late throwing it. Instead of putting it in the air for Amendola to catch just after he clears the first man, he waits until he has cleared him and then leads him right into the second defender.

Brady2This isn’t a failing of protection, of receiver, it’s not even a poor decision or play design – it’s just a bad mistake by Brady and a total lack of anticipation. This is the kind of mistake you see rookies making, and not something you expect from a future Hall of Fame quarterback.

The other interception people will claim was a miscommunication between wide receiver and quarterback. That much is true, but that doesn’t mean we can’t look at what Brady was actually throwing to even if the receiver had run exactly the route he was expecting him to run. There is nothing Julian Edelman can run on this play that changes the fact that Brady tossed the ball right to a waiting cornerback who was always going to be a factor in the play. Given the route design Brady will have been expecting him to move inside to cover the hitch from the outside receiver, but he was looking right at him the whole way and should have a clear view of that not happening. Brady can’t just put the ball in the air because the chalkboard says the corner shouldn’t be there when he can quite clearly see that he is.

2014-09-30 19_29_55

The other thing you’ll hear people say about Brady is that the receivers just aren’t getting open. This is an argument brought to you by people not watching the tape. The Patriots are working with a stable of largely unheralded receivers, and Brady’s numbers are down…but unfortunately on this occasion 2+2=17.

A quick scan of the PFF database threw up multiple instances of Brady just missing open receivers.

Brady3You can find a snapshot like that of most quarterbacks, but the point isn’t so much that he is missing receivers but that they are wide open in the first place. He may not be working with Wes Welker and Randy Moss, but Brady isn’t struggling because his receivers can’t get open. Often times they’re open and waiting for the ball that is too late arriving.

Check this pass (top left of the image above). Brady had Edelman breaking towards the sideline and looking for the ball in acres of space. The pass should already be in the air when he looks for it, but it’s not.

Brady4Instead of hitting him as soon as he comes out of his break Brady was late enough to lead him all the way to the numbers and allow the cornerback Sean Smith a play on the ball. Had the pass been there on time Smith would have been nowhere near it and Edelman would have had room to work after the catch, instead it’s broken up and incomplete.

So what does all of that bring us to?

I believe Tom Brady is in decline, but that decline has been highlighted or even magnified by the struggles in his pass protection. I also believe that he has more than enough talent and ability left to succeed this season and is quite clearly the Patriots’ best chance to win games. Those people mentioning a quarterback controversy are crazy. Brady has struggled before in games or even for stretches, but nobody in the AFC East has yet taken advantage of the New England struggles and they are still well in the running to win the division and make the playoffs.

While it’s far too early to stick a fork in Brady we should at least be able to acknowledge his flaws without tarnishing his legacy.

The bottom line is that he is a 37 year old quarterback, and one playing behind arguably the worst offensive line he has ever had to deal with. Anyone expecting him to play at his MVP best is sipping a special kind of kool-aid.

Like death and taxes the decline of every great quarterback is inevitable, we really don’t need to pretend so hard that it isn’t. This takes nothing away from a Hall of Fame career, and the sun will rise again in the morning even if we acknowledge it. The question is can the Patriots get him, and themselves, back on track this season?

Follow Sam on Twitter: @PFF_Sam

 

 

 

 

 

| Senior Analyst

Sam is a Senior Analyst at Pro Football Focus, as well as a contributor to ESPN.

  • Junior Taylor

    Great article…too bad that the national media and fans will continue to place all the blame on his WRs and OL.

  • Grisha

    the problem I have with this piece, is that the inevitability of decline is a physical thing, but your argument (at least as you phrase it) is entirely rooted in the mental game… timing, anticipation, reads… so… either you need to argue that Brady has lost his focus (grown out of the sport) or that he has lost confidence in his own physical abilities and thus grown hesitant.

    • Chris

      The hesitancy is a huge part of it. The writer mentions that throwing receivers open is something that Brady has always struggled with, instead tending to wait until they have cleared the defender to throw it.

      When the Patriots were at their best and winning Super Bowls Brady was more of a game manager. They had a running game and a dominant defense – he wasn’t asked to carry the load. Then more recently he’s been asked to carry the team with the passing game…but they gave him one of the league’s best OLs and a great set of targets to work with. Having that kind of supporting cast will make anybody look better than they are. Look at the teams he’s played with since 2007:

      2007
      Targets: Moss, Welker, Stallworth, Gaffney, Watson
      OL: Mankins, Light, Kaczur, Koppen, Neal
      HB: Faulk, Maroney, Morris

      New England ranked 1st overall in offense by double the 2nd place Colts. And this wasn’t because of Brady: Peyton had 58 of the Colts 98 grade, while Brady had just 48 of the Pats 189. Brady’s entire offense was dominant.

      2008
      Targets: Moss, Welker, Aiken, Gaffney, Watson
      OL: Mankins, Light, Kaczur, Koppen, Neal
      HB: Faulk, Morris, Green-Ellis

      The year of Matt Cassel. I only include this to show that even Cassel looked halfway competent with that kind of elite supporting cast. The Pats ranked 10th in total offense this year despite Cassel ranking 28th at QB.

      2009:
      Targets: Moss, Welker, Aiken, Edelman, Watson
      OL: Mankins, Light, Kaczur, Koppen, Neal, Vollmer, Connolly
      HB: Faulk, Maroney, Morris, Taylor, Green-Ellis

      The Pats ranked 4th overall in offense this year despite Brady ranking 12th at his position. Another dominant performance from the entire unit.

      2010:

      Targets: Moss, Welker, Branch, Tate, Edelman, Gronkowski, Hernandez
      OL: Mankins, Light, Vollmer, Koppen, Neal, Connolly Wendell
      HB: Green-Ellis, Woodhead, Morris

      The offense ranked 2nd overall this year while Brady ranked just 8th – he had just 18 of his team’s 128 grade while Peyton had 35 of his team’s 5. Clearly Brady is not carrying this offense.

      2011:
      Targets: Branch, Welker, Ochocinco, Edelman, Gronkowski, Hernandez
      OL: Mankins, Light, Vollmer, Connolly, Solder, Waters, Wendell, Cannon, Koppen
      HB: Green-Ellis, Woodhead, Ridley

      More of the same here. Brady had 45 of his team’s 199 grade (23%) while Rodgers had 64 of his team’s 84 (76%) – I used Rodgers because this is the year Peyton missed with injury. Again Brady is not carrying a dead weight offense, he is playing with an elite supporting cast.

      2012:
      Targets: Lloyd, Welker, Branch, Edelman, Gronkowski, Hernandez
      OL: Mankins, Solder, Vollmer, Connolly, Wendell, Cannon, Thomas
      HB: Ridley, Vereen, Woodhead, Bolden

      Pats rank 2nd with 234, Brady ranks 4th with 51 (22%).
      Broncos rank 3rd with 189, Peyton ranks 1st with 59 (31%).

      2013:
      Targets: Edelman, Amendola, Thompkins, Dobsone, Gronkowski, Mulligan, Hoomanawanui
      OL: Mankins, Solder, Vollmer, Connolly, Wendell, Cannon, Svitek
      HB: Ridley, Vereen, Blount, Bolden

      This was the beginning of the downfall. Despite Brady continuing to rank near the top (5th), the overall offense slipped to 13th. For the first time he didn’t have a legitimate #1 (Moss, Branch, Lloyd) and he didn’t have his safety net (Welker). Mitigating this in 2012 was Gronk and Hernandez, but Hernandez was gone this year and Gronk missed half the year.

      Plus, this year saw some decline in the OL. Wendell was terrible and demoted going into 2014. Mankins had a comparatively down year and they decided they could part ways while he had value. Connolly was terrible and continues to be terrible. His protection was starting to falter as the weapons around him eroded. Not a good combination.

      2014:

      Targets: Edelman, LaFell, Amedola, Thompkins, Dobson, Gronkowski, Hoomanawanui
      OL: Solder, Vollmer, Connolly, Cannon, Devey, Fleming
      HB: Ridley, Vereen, Bolden

      Look at that pitiful cast of receivers. Just like last year, no true “#1″ receiver, and no great safety net. Gronk has only played about half the snaps as he tries to get/stay healthy. This is just an average group of talent.

      And again at the same time his OL has declined. Mankins may have been declining but he is leagues beyond Devey and Fleming. Connolly is already on track to have another terrible year and has been poor at center and guard. Cannon has been terrible as a guard and was benched last week. The rookie Stork really struggled in his debut. The only positive things about this line are the tackles – the interior is in shambles. Is it any wonder they gave up a ridiculous 10 pressures including 2 sacks to interior rushers against KC?

      The Pats rank 30th in offense at -49. While a large chunk of that is the terrible OL (-39), Brady’s -2 isn’t helping. He currently ranks 25th in passing and trails guys like Stanton, Glennon, Hoyer, Davis, Cousins, and Anderson.

      Like I said in the Recap yesterday, Brady is done. He will have an average at best year as he is no longer surrounded by elite talent. The Pats did a great job surrounding the 6th round pick with an elite supporting cast for his entire career. But the truth is, he is not at the same level as guys like Peyton and Rodgers, who can carry dead weight offenses if they need to. I wouldn’t even put Brees in this group as he’s suddenly struggling without a safety net and a struggling defense.

      Long story short, as the writer mentioned Brady has struggled with some mental aspects since he came into the league. But surround him with a great cast and you won’t notice those flaws.

      Take away all that supporting cast and the flaws are amplified. Even more so now that he’s 37 and the arm strength is going. But you don’t need arm strength to succeed at 37, just look at Peyton. You can get by with elite level smarts and intangibles. Brady doesn’t have these and never did, and now we are finally getting to see them.

      • Pete Johnson

        Chris if you aren’t on twitter please make an account, this insight and analysis is simply amazing.

      • Dohkay

        Excellent points.

      • Jay

        His first “Elite Talent” came in “07” before then it was Patten, Brown, Wiggins, Faulk, Smith, Redman in 01, in 03,04 &05 it was Branch, Givens,Brown, Dillion, Graham, Ben Watson, Dedric Ward, Bethel Johnson. In 06 it was Gaffney, Grabriel, Caldwell, Watson, Correy Dillion, Marony. You are correct in the PFF grading stance but please understand what the word “Elite” means.

        • Chris

          And it was prior to 2007 that Brady won all his Super Bowls, leaning on the running game and the defense.

          As I said in my post, he went from being more of a game manager on a couple “Elite Super Bowl quality teams” to being asked to carry the team with the passing game. They gave him weapons and one of the best OLs to do this. But now without those weapons and a poor OL we are starting to see him the mental errors and poor decision making that was masked by his “elite” team.

          • Jay

            I was with you on your first post until you said that you “never had elite smarts” that is where your credibility was lost.

          • Chris

            Does he have them now? It doesn’t appear so – both his picks last week were the result of terrible decision making. Rookie mistakes. If he doesn’t have elite level smarts now, but he had it before, where did it go? Did the MonStars steal his powers?

            I’d rather believe he never was actually as good as he seemed. He was not on Peyton’s level, but a cast of great players around him made him seem elite. Brady was just a really good QB who won a couple SBs with a great defense, but now that he’s old and doesn’t have that cast around him we can finally see his flaws. The reasons he was drafted so low.

            This is not a knock on him. There are very few “elite” QBs. I’d say only Peyton and Rodgers can carry a team of average players. Everyone else needs some kind of support.

          • Ajit

            My personal take on Brady the qb:

            Brady in 2001 was a limited game manager of a qb. His strengths were not taking sacks and not turning it over. This formula largely worked as his defense was forcing turnovers and holding teams in check.

            2002-2004 Tom Brady – A much better game manager. The talent around him wasn’t great, but the o line and run game were steady. He developed much better throwing ability and pocket movement by this time. In fact, his pocket presence and movement were two things he did better than PM at that point. Still, he wasn’t asked to do a whole lot.

            2005-2009 : This was the first times I saw the pats being exclusively a passing team. The 05 squad failed to run the ball and Ne crafted and designed the perfect offense that would turn out to be revolutionary. I don’t think Brady was ever a great deep thrower or good throwing outside the numbers, to the pats constructed an offense based on attacking the middle of the field and stretching you out of the slot. It matched up perfectly with Brady, who could move in the pocket, read the defense, and make the quick passing plays. Defenses had never seen this before.

            2010-2012 – Yet another innovation for the Patriots. They moved to a two tight end spread version. This allowed them to stay in the same personnel, but force teams to stop the run or defend the pass. Everything was super slot based. Gronk cleared the deep middle, hernandez was the stretcher from the middle to the outside, and welker was there for short gains for first downs. The run game was dominant during this stretch. Again, this style accentuated all of brady’s strengths and limited all his weaknesses. Namely, – make quick decisions, move in the pocket, run when it was optimal, avoid turnovers, and move the chains rather than hit you deep. And score in the red zone. Brady maybe the greatest red zone qb of all time just on his knack of movement in the pocket and attacking the linebackers and safeties with tight ends.

            2013-2014 NE : Somewhere in 2011 – I noticed the first cracks in Brady’s signature skill – his pocket movement. He started to duck at rushers coming at him. He was also hesitant to throw the ball and started taking sacks. By 2013 – his arm had declined and he was no longer able to even hit the few deep throws he use to in order to keep defenses honest.

            Not coincidentally – the talent started to decline, especially the o line. I agree with Sam, these issues have only magnified Brady’s decline, but we’re still asked to answer what Brady’s true value is at this point.

            I think we may also be going overboard here. Brady’s abilities weren’t about accuracy and anticipation throwing as they were about pocket movement and pre-snap awareness. The movement in the pocket is gone now and his arm strength has deteriorated. We’re left with just his pre-snap abilities, but the o line sucks so the entire offense is stalled.

            I think in a vacuum, Brady is still a top 10 qb even with just his pre-snap intelligence. I’d rather have him than cutler or Romo, but I think he’s now behind players like Big Ben and Matt Ryan. He simply cannot carry an offense anymore.

          • Jay

            I’m not really sold on Matt Ryan, never have been. He is talented but he is not great under pressure and hasn’t been since he’s been in the league. Ben on the other hand is maybe the best QB under pressure the league had ever seen. He has had a truly bad O – Lines and has always been a very good QB. Imagine if he was protected like Andy Dalton.

          • Ajit

            Ben has also had many games where he’s been pretty bad too. He scored 6 pts against the ravens just two weeks ago.

          • Jay

            No question. But at his best he thrives under pressure which is what makes in a HOF QB in my opinion.

          • Ajit

            Ben also takes a ton of sacks and he’s had many games where hes played poorly under pressure. I don’t want to knock ben too much, he’s a great qb that’s had some very bad o lines. He’s also been the beneficiary of a very stable organization with some great defenses too.

            I always felt like of the 3 qbs of 2004 – Philip Rivers was the best of that group. Unless he wins mvp and the sb this year, he won’t be remembered that way and it’s a shame. He’s never had the defenses that Ben or Eli have had.

          • Jay

            Eli has had decent defenses that play extremely well in the post season, Ben’s defenses are the other way around great in the regular season but begin faltering in the playoffs. The Chargers have had top ranked defenses but for some reason late in the season they just couldn’t keep up the level they established. But I love watching Philip he is great. I loved watching him play against Cincinnati last season in the wildcard.

          • Chris

            Great post.

          • Ajit

            Thanks.

            Another thing Brady was so good at was manipulating people with his eyes. So good in fact that I’m stunned that its deteriorated too. I suspect once things go bad, its hard to maintain all the mental facets of your game.

          • Jay

            Intelligence usually doesn’t diminish. The picks were a result of Brady forcing the ball trying to get something going knowing that he doesn’t have the weapons nor protection to really attack. So he takes more chances than usual. Which of course happened after they were down by 24. But if you don’t want to think he was ever as good as advertised than that is your opinion. They don’t have the running games like they did in 01, 03, and 04. Which were ranked 23rd, 30th and 18th in yards per attempt.

        • ChickenHunter

          It was more the rule changes that allowed this group of elite talent to work, not so much his ability. Brady’s most successful teams were those that had him as a game manager, and his D did the rest.

          • Jay

            He had lost two Super Bowls by a combined 7 points each. And really it came down to two drops. If he was really reliant on his D to do everything then the Pats wouldn’t have been in a Super Bowl with the worst defense to make it to the big game and then in the end it came down to a drop.

          • Anonymous

            That was not a drop on Welker, he was WIDE open and Brady missed him. He would have deserved the SB MVP trophy for that play alone had he made that catch.

          • Jay
          • Anonymous

            It doesn’t matter what that image shows. He was running one way, the throw was completely behind him.

            It was a bad throw, behind a wide open receiver with the game on the line. You can blame Welker all you want, there’s AT LEAST equal blame given to Brady for this play. The receivers get paid to make catches like this certainly….and the $20 million QB gets paid that to make better throws then this.

            He would have been bailing out Brady by catching this. Bad throw combined with receiver not making the play to cover up the bad throw = loss.

          • Jay

            http://assets.sbnation.com/assets/935806/welker.gif

            If the throw was shorter the DB on the back end would have made a play on it. If the throw was Longer the Saftey on the deep end would have made a play on it. Brady put it in one of the few places that made the play executable. Ball hit him in the hands and he dropped it.

          • Anonymous

            And if the throw was to the front shoulder instead of the back, he catches it in stride and probably runs it in for a TD. It didn’t need to be shorter or longer, it needed to be more inside. The play was a busted coverage by the Giants. None of those guys are in position to make any play on it, whether the pass was shorter, longer, left or right. That’s as open as you can be. In this image, you see 3 Giants to recover to get even anywhere near him, when the ball was thrown there’s NOBODY anywhere close to him.

            Like I said, at least equal blame. Should he have caught it? Yes. Should it have been a better throw? Without question.

            Even the Brady jock sniffer Skip Bayless puts some blame on him.

            http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gy1YBFJriuM

      • joba

        Chris, I could not have said it better myself.

      • DrAWNiloc

        Great analysis, Chris. One question: How would you compare the talent around Peyton Manning to that surrounding Tom Brady through the years?

        • Chris

          Hard to make a comparison like that over such long careers, but it’s not like Peyton was hurting for weapons most of the time.

          Harrison, Wayne, Gonzalez, Collie, Garcon, Clark, Tamme, Addai, Rhodes, Brown on the Colts.

          Thomas, Decker, Stokley, Welker, Caldwell, Big Julius, Tamme, Moreno, McGahee on the Broncos.

          That’s what I get scrolling through PFF rosters back through 2007 which is where I stopped for Brady. So they both had pretty good weapons around them, although Brady had a better OL than Peyton did while he was with the Colts.

          However if I had to make a snap judgement, the offenses Peyton has played on the last couple years have been better top-to-bottom than Brady ever had. Hence why the Broncos set so many records last year.

          • eYeDEF

            So I gotta ask, which Manning teams were you thinking of when you asserted that unlike Rodgers and Manning, Brady has never been able to carry dead weight teams? Agree on Rodgers but when has Manning ever had to carry a dead weight team? He’s never had an assembly of receivers as pathetic as the Patriots the last few years. In Indy he always had at least Marvin Harrison or Reggie Wayne to stretch the field and keep defenses honest. Only in 2010 did he only have Reggie Wayne and a not elite but well above average Pierre Garcon to throw to, all the other years he had his Hall of Fame staples Wayne and Harrison. He also had 6 seasons of a very elite Edgerrin James to hand off and 2 years when Joseph Addai rushed for 1k+ yards. His one losing season came when talent he was counting on faltered, his 4th season when James went out injured after six starts, but he still had an elite Marvin Harrison to throw to in spite of finishing 6-10.

            Brady only had one year he could savor the benefits of an elite runner when he had Corey Dillon rush for 1500+ yards in ’04. Dillon would never crack 1k yards again. Actually, I’d argue that Brady’s 2006 year when the team traded away his favorite target Deion Branch he was left with a cupboard as bare as the last few years and he did carry that team by turning a shitty receiver like Reche Caldwell into his leading pass catcher for a career year. You could argue he still had great protection, but Manning had decent protection most of his years in Indy too even if it wasn’t on the level of the Patriots. And again, unlike Brady, Manning always had an elite weapon on offense to complement him. When were you thinking he carried a ‘dead weight team’?

          • Jay

            In 04 the Pats running game was ranked 18th in efficiency. Never once did their Super Bowl teams have even a top 16 running game.

    • Adrian Brody’s O face

      Not necessarily. So much of the mental game, particularly timing, is predicated on taking certain physical baselines for granted. The problem with physical decline is that it is often something you don’t consciously feel. You don’t wake up one morning and just know from the way your body feels that you have lost a step, or dropped a few ticks off of your fastball. You largely feel the same until you go out on the field and that stop clock tells you differently. The article indicates that Brady never really threw with a ton of anticipation, but he was always good about locating the ball with good timing to a receiver. A physical decline would disrupt the mental timing he has established. Making a small divergence, Peyton Manning’s late career injury could arguably be contributing to his late career resurgence along these arguments. He had to physically start from scratch and establish new physical baselines for his mental aspect of the game. Being more consciously aware of his new physical reality may have contributed to Manning being able to maintain his quality of play through his mental approach.

    • Jacob Basson

      That’s an interesting point…usually you think of the declining vet getting by on his refined savvy. I’d love for the author to address Grisha’s comment.

      • Chris

        Guess you got your wish haha.

    • PFFSamMonson

      Not sure that’s true. Mental ability declines as well as physical. If it didn’t snooker players would never deteriorate with age, it’s not like their physical skills makes that difference. Decline is inevitable across the board.

      • Jimmy

        I think mental ability doesn’t really decline. While snooker isn’t a physical game, there is some physicality to it in terms of touch and fine control, both of which could lead to players deteriorating overtime since they can’t control their motor skills as well.

        • Doug Emerson

          You start going downhill mentally in your mid thirties. Its nowhere near
          as steep as the physical decline, but youth has more intelligence while
          age has more wisdom. With wisdom, if you’ve seen almost everything already and nothing not much can surprise you then you can do very well but new things can get you. With intelligence, you can react more easily to different scenarios, but you won’t have everything else down as well.

      • Jimmy

        Also, coaches can be effective for decades. Most of the time, coaches only start to “decline” when the game evolves over time a certain way that counteracts their strengths.

  • davathon

    It shocks me that Brady’s numbers are so bad when he has time to throw. I guess I should have known better than to trust the mainstream liberal media, but I was believing that Brady’s struggles were mostly the result of his offense line. Clearly, that’s not the case.
    Cincinnati has a defensive line that’s almost as good as the Dolphins’ D-line. Brady is going to get squashed on Sunday night. He’s too old to take this kind of pounding.

    • Phil

      Not to make this political, but what does “liberal” media have to do with anything?

      • Ethan

        It doesn’t have anything to do with the “liberal” media. There is no political aspect to the coverage that the Patriots are getting, it’s more to do with bias and the fact that the analysts who are covering the Patriots don’t see the same problems as the writer of this article does. Davathon’s take was not very insightful.

        • ChickenHunter

          He probably meant the biased East Coast media. It slants their coverage
          in everything from BCS/SEC teams to coverage of NFL teams, to giving too
          much importance to the Yankees & Boston at the expense of the West
          Coast because the major media outlets are are mostly based in the East
          Coast. The best teams in the NFL right now are all in the West Coast,
          yet if you look at the coverages of all the major networks they cover mostly East Coast teams in both volume and emphasis.

          And gee, since the major media outlets are based in the East Coast, they cover politics in the EXACT BIASED DISHONEST WAY!! LOL.

          • Chris

            Whoa whoa whoa, why you gotta hate on the SEC, home of the best college football??

          • Doug Emerson

            At least the West Coast is treated better than the Midwest… :(

      • Daniel Kenmar

        While I’m no fan of liberal media, that was a really stupid use of the words “liberal media”. ¯_(ツ)_/¯

        • krissberg

          you guys every1 knowz sportscenter was in on the bengazi consperacy. check ur facts then you’ll know the truth. also jim rome planned 9/11. #liberalmedias

          • Bom Trady

            You know, you may be right about Jim Rome. I wouldn’t be a bit surprised if he was behind 9/11. He’s the worst.

  • The Green Miles

    It boggles my mind that everyone knew the interior OL stunk last year AND that Brady can’t handle pressure up the middle, yet Belichick’s response was to sign zero interior OL free agents, wait until the 4th round to draft an interior OL, and trade our best interior OL (sure, Mankins is no longer a Pro Bowler, but he was the best we had).

    • Chris

      Mind boggling. I agree 100%. And they’re already shuffling around the line, as Cannon was benched, Connolly moved back to guard, with Stork and Fleming getting their first starts. Arguably the worst interior line in the league.

    • corners

      i think mankins veteran experience being traded away was a huge downfall of this years oline

    • JJ

      clueless

    • Lord Mad

      Now you look dumb.

    • PubliusK

      How boggled is your mind now, genius?

  • Chris

    That INT they show in the gif really caught my eye. That route combination is almost identical to the one the Broncos used to force OT in Seattle.

    http://imgur.com/a/8d4Ec

    Except it doesn’t work here and Brady throws it right at the defender because he isn’t reading coverage, instead staring down his primary receiver.

    • [email protected]

      Yeah, the Seahawks were playing some DB’s in their nickel who hadn’t been with the team very long. Pete Carroll said that it was Gurley, and he pulled him from the game to talk to him about it and his replacement did the same thing on the very next play. Walter Thurmond is New York, Browner is in New England and Tharold Simon and Jeremy Lane were injured, so they were VERY thin at nickel. Pete Carroll is the best defensive back coach on the planet, so its not a long term problem.

      • Anonymous

        I don’t think he was dissing the Seattle secondary so no need to get defensive. It’s a diss of Brady for not reading coverage.

        • [email protected]

          I’m just saying there is nothing special about that play :)

          • Anonymous

            Agreed. There are certain route combinations that tend to work against certain coverages. It’s up to the QB to read those coverages.

          • Jay

            That and the play in Seattle was wide open.

      • eYeDEF

        Who is Gurley? There’s no one on the roster by that name. I think you must be confused about the player and that play. There’s a Georgia Bulldog running back named Todd Gurley though.

        What happened was that Marcus Burley was injured after a collision in which he took the brunt of a friendly fire hit by Chancellor and had to leave the game. He had been defending the slot well in Lane’s absence, and had done an excellent job on the play before on disrupting Emmanuel Sanders on press, getting him off his route when the Broncos ran the vertical switch and the pass to him was incomplete. That meant they had to put Josh Thomas in, a guy they got off the streets just a week before after he was cut by Carolina. Unlike Burley, he didn’t jam Sanders off the line, and when Maxwell is not there to pass off to in the deep third off his zone, he inexplicably passed him off to no one at all leaving him wide open for that initial 42 yard pass by Manning. To Manning’s credit, his strength is knowing what defensive personnel is playing at all times to exploit the weaknesses, which is why he went right at Josh Thomas with the same play they ran and failed on just before. But passing off to an invisible teammate oblivious of zone concepts is high school stuff. I’d be surprised if Josh is with the team much longer.

        • [email protected]

          Feel better about yourself? I said Gurley instead of Burley be sure to jump all over that.

          So what that big wall of text says is that i was correct about everything but i made a typo. Thanks.

  • He Hu Pu

    For years, the over-privileged NE fanbase complained that the Patriots “sucked” despite the division titles and deep playoff runs year-in and year-out. Now they get to see what it really looks like when their team sucks. Let the fair-weather fan exodus begin!

    • Lord Mad

      How’d that work out?

  • ChickenHunter

    Greatest Flag Football Player in history. Most of us over 25 and not living in the in the Northeast, always knew he wasn’t on Joe Montana’s level. Joe could perform against some of the greatest pass rushing teams of all times while getting beaten to a pulp sometimes. And make no mistake about it, they beat on him because it was legal to do it back then. Some of those injuries kept him from having 5-7 Super Bowl wins. He had enough mobility to buy time and pick up first downs with his legs if the D over committed and you never saw him yelling at his teammates for his F-Ups.

    Brady is good, but mostly if you keep his uniform clean and that’s what he’s been used to his whole career. Most of the QBs now are products of the rules that makes sure they’re not touched and neither are their receivers.

    • Chris

      Get off my lawn!

    • JJ

      ?????

    • Lord Mad

      What a bunch of nonsensical tripe.

  • karen labanca

    These are posts are great by everyone in this group thank you all. I saw Brady in decline last year the WR’s he was missing were wide open and he had time. I could not believe my eyes. ..

    • Lord Mad

      You saw WRONG!

      • karen labanca

        No I did not he stunk in the AFC championship game. Could not hit open WR. Just plain fact. Lets see what he does this year. Peyton is the best… Brady lucky to have a coach who is the best there is. That is why Brady is as good as he is.. Can not match Peyton Manning’s natural talent and brain power.

        • Lord Mad

          again..terribly anecdotal observation. You talk about Peyton being the best but then fail to understand that he was the biggest detriment to his team’s winning the SB but meh..brush it under the rug for your anecdotal nonsense.

          • karen labanca

            Oh come on give it up. Thats how I feel and you feel differently nothing else is relevant. Please with all this anecdotal baloney I am not impressed. You are on meds if you think Peyton cost the team the SB I feel sorry for you. Whew!!!

          • Lord Mad

            History checks out..go check his stats from those losses and put it to game film. Poor little Manning drones.

  • Cory Marquis

    I’m sorry Sam, but this is at best extremely lazy analysis, and at worst click bait. As someone myself who has all-22 access, and does a comprehensive review of the tape, this is pretty embarassing. Lets start off by looking at play selection. You purposefully chose 4 of Tom Brady’s worst 5 plays of 2014 so far. Every QB has poor throws, I could create a similar article for anyone if I wanted to be selective. Instead of “going to the tape” like you suggest, you’re really just looking at your spreadsheet, picking the ones with the biggest red numbers under it, and choosing to “analyze” those plays. That’s not how you’re going to get a comprehensive analysis if Brady’s support is lacking.

    Look at it this way:

    Here was the opening drive from last weeks game,

    Play 1) Screen pass to Shane Vereen.

    http://i.imgur.com/V5KnlQU.gif

    This play was well designed, Brady throw the ball at the right time with Vereen having space to run upfield. Dan Connolly fails at his cut block, and what should have been a nice 20ish yard gain that would have slowed the pass rush from the get go limited to a 4 yard gain.

    Play 2) Deep Fly to Edelman

    http://i.imgur.com/v2PCtlk.gif

    This play is a recurring problem with the Patriots offense, in that teams choose to go single high and play press man on the outside, and the Patriots offense which consists primarily of former slot receivers has no vertical X receiver to challenge these coverages.

    Watch closely at the play, Brady has 3 men release to in routes. Lafell on the near side left, runs a vertical route vs. Marcus Cooper yet gains no separation, and Cooper stays on his hip pocket with him bounded to the sideline the entire time.

    Amendola in the slot is absolutely destroyed by the corner in press and is effectively useless as the hot route receiver.

    Edelman on the far side hash is the right read. He has the most space to work with, the problem is that he doesn’t separate nor does he have the ability to adjust to the ball in the air because of his short stature vs. a lanky boundary CB. Brady tries to lead him, but ultimately he can’t run under it, and it falls harmlessly incomplete a yard past Edelman. Given the situation the play was the right read on the field, but the Patriots did not have the personnel to attach a very aggressive Chiefs defensive formation. If a true #1 X receiver in this offense existed, that play could have, and should have been huge.

    Play 3) Incomplete out route to Lafell

    http://i.imgur.com/BPmnTLO.gif

    This one could moreso go either way. Brady made a smart decision to throw the ball into the dirt. He saw a OLB turn the corner past him, and had the safety who was coming the on the blitz bearing down on him. His first read was to Edelman who was sitting down in his route, but the linebacker was crossing. The 2nd read was to Lafell on the out route, with the corner closing. Sure Brady could have pressed and tried to hit Amendola up the middle, but the smart play by the smart QB is not to aggressively throw down the field deep in your own territory.

    This isn’t something that is new to the Patriots offense, it’s something that drive by drive you consistently see. The Patriots can’t beat press man in single high because they lack a receiver with the requisite talent to do so, and they have been executing terribly on the little things like screen passes and rub routes regularly whiffing on blocks and blatantly picking people off (rather than subtly picking people off) drawing the flag. It’s putting the offense in tough spots.

    Also your criticism of Brady on the Sean Smith breakup on Edelman is a joke. Watch that play again, a QB isn’t going to be able to see every WR at every second of a play. Edelman is his 3rd read, and he delivered an on strike pass with a pass rusher in his face. He looks to Lafell first for the long ball, looks for his checkdown in Vereen, and then hits Edelman on the out route which is designed to be the longest developing route. It was a nice play by Smith, but realistically if Edelman is a bit taller to shield that play like most receivers are, that is a completion. You can’t just sit back and watch the all-22 and say oh this guy was open for a split second here and Brady missed him. He was going through his progression, and Edelman was his 3rd read.

    I’m not trying to be overly critical, but it just seems like you have an axe to grind. If you’re honestly watching the all-22, and believe that Brady’s receivers aren’t the prominent issue over his own inconsistent play, then you are not qualified to do this job. I think you’re just trying to hard to be the guy that is different that you’re being awfully selective to make your point.

    • PFFSamMonson

      When you’re picking a few plays to demonstrate something, you are by definition cherry-picking. Every QB in football is completing more passes than they are missing, so even the most Tebow-like trainwreck passer will have a series of plays where he completes passes and moves the offense as it’s supposed to. The screen pass you drew up – what would that show exactly? That Brady is still capable of throwing a pass a five year old could make?

      As for the receivers being covered thing – I agree that the lack of a deep receiver is an issue, and on that play sure, his receivers are blanketed, but there have been plenty of plays where they haven’t been, they have been open deep and Brady has still missed them. I can immediately think of one vs Minnesota. My point is that the receivers aren’t the issue. They’re not Moss+Welker, but they are more than serviceable and not the reason Brady is throwing balls in the dirt, to defenders or way over everybody’s head. I’m not sure how you can balance that without posting another 500 words drawing up a few plays where he did indeed suffer covered receivers, but again that’s an issue every QB will have at times, and it turns this into a dissertation rather than an article.

      Now let’s take that Edelman pass – I think you’re just wrong here.
      There’s no way that is his third read. At worst it’s his second, and second as a natural counter to his first – it’s an either or route combination. He’s looking outside to LaFell, but when that’s not open, the reason that isn’t open is the same reason Edelman’s complementary route IS open. He’s just late reading it or at least trusting it and putting the ball in the air.

      As for the rusher in his face – why does that happen? Because Brady drifts to his left a few yards from his drop and drifts right into the pressure! Not exactly an argument in his favor. This is a bad play that perfectly highlights what I’ve been claiming.

      • Daniel

        your big claim that your statement in June was thrown out by the others across the media is trying to be proven at just right the moment. A decline isnt just the first four weeks of a season, especially when that team over the first four weeks has easily the worst graded offensive line. Yet to defend yourself youre taking this one game that the Patriots JUST lost by 30.. offense has simply looked horrible this year and youre choosing the most convenient time to try and prove your point of calling out Brady’s performance. Its week 5 and this offense has no identity so, maybe, when a season is actually over, and the Patriots are not an 11 win team, and are not in the top 10 of scoring offenses,then maybe I can listen to your tape analysis as something of real evidence to say Brady is declining

        • Anonymous

          I think he VERY clearly made it evident that this is not the first time he was claiming Brady to be in decline. He said it BEFORE this season started. And through 4 games, Brady’s done nothing to prove him wrong. This isn’t a “convenient time” for him to be saying anything. This is a reiteration of something that’s been already said.

          Geno Smith scored more points against Oakland than Brady did. And Geno Smith also has suspect talent around him (with a better O-Line) and Geno Smith sucks (I’m a Jets fan).

      • Cory Marquis

        The screen pass was simply to show a general failing in the offense. There were 2 more equally poor screens in the same game, and multiple examples of the receivers getting no separation against press with single high in the same game. What you fail to realize when you watch play by play by play is that these things have an aggregate impact.

        Screens slow down the rush, rub routes create running lanes with easy yards, and vertical passes force safeties back. The Patriots can’t do any of these things right now, which makes it far more difficult to complete the same short 5-10 yard short option routes when you have defenders flooding the field. That coupled with the worst pass blocking line play in the league right now (your standards not mine) is really messing up an offense that has been forever predicated on spacing. That’s the issue with your analysis. You’ve gone back to your chart and picked the worst plays, with the Minnesota throw to Edelman you’ve now mentioned 5 of the 5 worst, and centered the analysis around that rather than the gobs of yards being left on the field play by players failing basic fundamentals and not being able to beat coverages in any tangible way. You’ve gone straight to the outliers.

        I make good use of my coaches film for a good amount of other non-Patriots games, and the receivers failing to get open is certainly not as common as it is in NE.

        On the Edelman pass look at his eyes Sam, It’s 2nd and 6, the natural progression of that route is deep first, checkoff to flat for easy yards, and the out route should take the longest time to develop, JE’s in the slot running a 15 yard out route with about 15 yards from the sideline. That should be his last read. I don’t know how you could possibly think a QB going through his progressions, finding his 3rd read, and throwing an on target pass with a defender in his face being a poor throw. Especially since the PD was partially a result of a size matchup 5’10” vs. 6’5″ that doesn’t normally exist giving Smith the ability to go right over his head and knock the ball down. It’s not a logical play to try to make a point on Brady.

        Now your analysis makes sense if your trying to show inconsistencies in Brady’s play, because I’m not going to lie there have been some. However, your piece was more ambitious than that, essentially calling out people who have made correct statements that the offense needs more help, by saying they’re not watching film. That’s simply not true. People who are watching film are seeing the obvious failings in the Patriots offensive personnel, all 11 of them. However, in a long laundry list of issues Brady should be pretty low. By in large he’s making good reads and protecting the football. There is no explosion in his offense, so he needs 15 play drives to score. He can’t do that when his offense can’t execute simple plays, attack all types of coverage, protect him, or run the football.

        This isn’t rocket science Sam. Young, Dilfer, and Barnwell are correct on this once.

        • PFFSamMonson

          It is not his third read on the play, or certainly shouldn’t be. It is a simple combination route. If the go isn’t there then the out is by definition because one takes the other away. When he came of LaFell he should immediately have hit Edelman. The height difference in WR/CB is irrelevant because the ball shouldn’t be anywhere near the CB. It’s only because Brady is so late coming to it that it’s even a factor, the ball should be five yards away from where it is and much earlier.

          The pass also wasn’t on target, it was high. If it was on target, even with it being late, it would have required Smith coming through Edelman to make the play. The fact he could make it from behind over the top is because the pass was high.

          • Cory Marquis

            Edelman was the 3rd guy he looked to on the play. That isn’t a debatable point as there is visual evidence as such. You can question the fact that he looked to him 3rd, but Brady knows what the progression if his reads should be, you’re just guessing. The out route is a natural final progression because it is the longest developing, and it gives him the sideline if he needs to throw it away.

            As far as the throw goes, it was good enough. If you watch enough tape you’d know that not every pass, especially ones with pressure hit guys in the numbers. It was a pretty neutral play which you’re incorrectly labeling as a poor one.

          • PFFSamMonson

            That play is one read. He looks to LaFell, when LaFell is covered by definition Edelman is not. The ball should then be in the air as he breaks. Brady is late on that play and it has nothing to do with anybody other than himself. To make it worse he also causes the pressure AND throws the ball high enough to allow Smith to make a play on it.

            Defend him all you like on that play but there is no way of making that play look like anything other than a series of mistakes.

          • Cory Marquis

            We’ll have to agree to disagree on that one. I think everything that can be said has been said.

            The larger issue is with the analysis in total. The assumption that you’re making requires a much larger data set than the one you are presenting, and when you actually look at the data set in its entirety the evidence as it’s been presented by myself, and many other people more knowledgeable about football than either you or I have said the talent is lacking.

            There are so many instances of offensive failures by so many players throughout the tape, that trying to isolate it on Brady is disingenuous. I picked 3 plays, the simplest sequence I could think of, and there are major failings of basic fundamentals or an apparent lack of talent on 2 of the 3 plays. This isn’t something that is a one time thing either. It’s everywhere.

            If they fix the line and get a traditional X receiver it’ll allow them to attack multiple levels of the defense and allow them to dictate the coverage and pass rush packages rather than have it be dictated to them.

            You’re looking at a handful of option routes, and saying Brady was early or late. How about they work on spacing so they can attack more of the field, instead of killing Brady for not hitting the route at the exact point in time where people are open on short routes? The deck is stacked against him, and he needs talent to open things up again, instead of killing him for not being flawless on every single throw.

          • PFFSamMonson

            I’d agree if I hadn’t said the same thing in June, and identified numbers that have been trending down for 4 years now. Brady is in decline. This is pretty much fact at this point. The only issue is how much other factors like OL, coaching, supporting case are accelerating the evidence and magnifying the problem.

          • Cory Marquis

            True, I don’t disagree that Tom Brady is in decline, but at the same time the physical profile isn’t drastically different besides the fact that that he doesn’t navigate the pocket quite as well, and his deep ball isn’t quite as on point.

            However, the leap of Brady from Brady isn’t a top 5 QB to Brady is the problem with the Pats offense is a bit overstated. It’s the same reason why Rivers went from your #28 QB in 2012 to the MVP at the quarter poll this year. QB’s are a function of the talent around them. The more you’re pressured and the longer it takes your receivers to get open on one play effects your rhythm on the next play, and leads to mistakes. The plays while evaluated in isolation need to be considered as functions of one another.

            This offense is the most limited in the NFL by personnel when Dobson and Wright dont play. If they can’t execute on the simple stuff like screens, rub routes, vertical patterns, and off tackle runs, it makes it harder to execute on the handful of plays where you’re running what was formerly your bread and butter which is short to intermediate option routes.

            Brady needs help diversifying what this offense can run, so as a passer in his advanced age can play to his strengths which are making sight adjustments and finding the open man. Right now the throwing lanes are consistently too small and the area of the field where the Pats can attack looks like a bell shaped curve. They need to give him better protection and a vertical sideline option. Brady can still run a high powered offensive machine like Rivera was capable of running in 2012, but the pieces need to be there for him to do so.

          • Lord Mad

            EAT THAT CROW!

          • shadicar

            lol

          • JJ

            Sensitive , eh mate …
            A critic who doesn’t like criticism … too funny

      • JJ

        Sam ,

        You cherry pick all the time in your analysis .
        Your analysis is weak and hypocritical at least , morally corrupt at most

        • PFFSamMonson

          Morally corrupt? lol.

          • DrAWNiloc

            Sam, please do not feed the trolls.

    • remnant1988

      Koolaide is good?

      • Cory Marquis

        It has nothing to do with Kool Aid. I will readily admit that Tom Brady isn’t playing as well as he normally does, but to take point A which Sam has outlined with his analysis, and try to make it into point B that the receivers aren’t an issue is a joke, because there are hundreds of examples to the contrary over the last 20 games.

        PFF could do an analysis that shows the many failings of the Patriots offense, with an example of each which would be more comprehensive, and explanatory, but they chose click bait by going solely after Brady. Which for the many people who watch all of the tape, not just the plays that the Junior Analysts highlight red, can see is a shallow analysis.

        • Anonymous

          There’s plenty of guys around the league with “suspect” weapons, yet no one gives them the benefit of the doubt by blaming the pieces around them. And none of those guys have Gronk, who is virtually unguardable, even if it’s only for half the game right now.

          He’s made bad throws and bad decisions. You don’t see people saying “oh well Geno Smith sucks because there’s no weapons”, or “Chad Henne sucks because there’s no weapons and they can’t block”.

          Part of the blame is on Brady and there’s no doubt about that. As for the “Top 5 argument” as if assuming only the best 5 QB’s are “elite”. Can you honestly say Brady is better, right now then any of the following: Peyton, Brees, Rodgers, Luck, Rivers, Wilson, or Matt Ryan?

      • [email protected]

        If you don’t go to Guyana with Jim Jones you don’t have to worry about drinking the Koolaide. Statistics are pretty equivalent to faith healing.

    • Neil

      Get off Brady’s Dick bum what are his wife

  • Daniel

    Very excited to see what everyone has to say when the Patriots are again in the final four at the end of the season. Happy week 5 everyone

  • Anonymous

    One thing I have to question on that “INT to Edelman”, was is it possible it was supposed to be to LaFell? LaFell was having a good game and that throw, if it was to Edelman, was so BAD I almost can’t believe it’s a throw Brady would make, even on the decline. And trust me, I HATE Brady and the Pats, but I respect how good he’s been.

    IF Brady was expecting LaFell to keep running upfield as opposed to breaking in, then it’s not as terrible as it seems because it’s a jump ball for a guy who was making plays. The throw actually looks like it would have ended up exactly where LaFell and the corner were gonna meet if he was anticipating him running upfield. If it was actually for Edelman, that is the worst throw I’ve ever seen Brady make.

    LaFell did get open when he broke inside so maybe Brady threw too soon and I’m not saying it was LaFell’s fault for the miscue, but that throw if it was to Edelman was just so bad I almost can’t believe it was intended for him.

    • Anonymous

      If it was to Edelman, I should clarify that it’s the worst throw I’ve ever seen Brady make for this reason: He’s running up the sideline and that throw is a good 4 yards away from the white sideline. They teach you should throw it only where your guy can get it.

      But that’s what makes me believe he was expecting LaFell to do something different.

  • [email protected]

    Whoever the conventional wisdom thinks the best QB is hasn’t been for some time. Perception lags behind reality.

  • [email protected]

    ‘When we can tell that they don’t want to get hit anymore’. -Tim Hasslebeck on when the elite QB’s are done.

  • JJ
  • TitleTownDynasty

    WE GOT THAT SPECIAL KIND OF BLUE KOOL-AID!!!

    TFB is the GOAT!