Tag Archives: Tom Brady

Why there is still a future in New England for Tom Brady

Fans at Gillette Stadium held their collective breath. Tom Brady had the ball with 15 seconds remaining, in his own end zone, the Patriots trailing by a point. We’d been here before. New England would find a way out of it, right?

Wrong. Brady’s pass went straight into the hands of former team-mate Logan Ryan, and the Tennessee Titans secured the upset. This time there was to be no miracle, no ridiculous pass down field, no trick play. The Patriots’ post-season ended with a whimper.

If that is to be the last we will ever see of Brady on a football field, it will be a travesty. Not all great careers have fairy tale endings, but one as good as his at least deserves better than that.

Struggles

On the face of it, it seems crazy that his future is even in doubt. Less than a year ago he was hoisting the Lombardi Trophy aloft, following victory over the much-favoured LA Rams. He has featured in the last three Super Bowls, winning two of them. It seems age really is just a number when it comes to the iconic quarterback.

However, the age factor is not something which can be ignored. At 42, he is unable to do what he once could. Much of his talent remains, but it became increasingly evident towards the end of the season that he is being overtaken by the younger generation.

Brady has previously stated on numerous occasions that he wants to play until he’s 45. Whether his body will let him do that is a question we cannot answer yet, but it would seem unlikely.

‘It would certainly not be fair to place the blame for this entirely on Brady. While he may have had one of his worst seasons by his own high standards, the Patriots offence in general was short on talent’

This season, the Patriots became extremely reliant on their defence. They conceded a mere 195 points in their 16 regular season games, considerably less than Buffalo, who conceded 237, and a huge gap to the third best defence, Baltimore with 270.

On offence, however, they struggled considerably. Six teams outscored them, with the Patriots managing just 420 pre-playoff points. In terms of total yardage gained, they ranked 15th.

Their early season form masked their flaws, with the team winning their first eight games against relatively weak opponents, before falling from 10-1 to 12-4, missing out on a first-round bye before crashing out in the wildcard round.

It would certainly not be fair to place the blame for this entirely on Brady. While he may have had one of his worst seasons by his own high standards, the Patriots offence in general was short on talent.

Tight-end Rob Gronkowski, one of Brady’s most reliable teammates who was with him for three of his Super Bowl wins, retired following their last title. Wide-receiver Chris Hogan, who was part of the Patriots team for their last two championship victories, departed to join Carolina in the off-season.

Other than Julian Edelman, the MVP of Super Bowl LIII, Brady had few dependable targets. Bill Belichick’s men did attempt to fix this with the signing of Antonio Brown, but that always felt like a move destined to fail, with the controversial wide-receiver lasting just one game before being cut amidst various misconduct allegations away from the field.

In many ways, it feels as if Brady was somewhat hung out to dry by owner Robert Kraft. At his age, talent alone was not going to be able to deliver another championship. Last year he was provided with the tools he needed to win, but this year too much offensive talent was not adequately replaced.

Future

So, what of the future? Can Tom Brady still win football games? Of course he can. It is the question of whether he is still capable of winning Super Bowls which both he and the Patriots must answer.

Brady will be a free agent come March 18th if he has not agreed a new deal to stay in Foxborough.

He will have no shortage of options should Kraft and the Patriots decide to move on, with several teams, most notably Miami, Denver, Cincinnati, Indianapolis and the LA Chargers all actively searching for their next quarterback. Even with several talented options available in the draft, the prospect of adding a six-time Super Bowl winner to your team could be too good to turn down.

‘It would appear mutually beneficial for the Patriots to keep him. It would give them time to search for his successor, whilst giving him a chance to avenge this season’s disappointments’

But Brady’s heart belongs in Boston. It would seem wrong to see him pull on another team’s jersey. Never playing again would be a better ending than seeing him struggling with a rebuilding team with little to no chance of getting near a title game.

New England’s options at quarterback are limited. They don’t have a young superstar waiting in the wings to take over. Jarrett Stidham is their current back-up and not considered by anybody as QB1 material.

Had Jimmy Garoppolo not been traded to San Francisco in 2017, he would’ve been a natural replacement. But he’s long gone and unless they are planning something drastic, such as a costly trade-up for a high draft pick, it’s hard to work out what their next move would be were they to cut ties with Tom.

Keeping Brady would not be a costly exercise, as he would likely agree to a short-term deal worth considerably less than his last contract. Retaining him, for one more year at least, would seem the obvious thing to do.

In the end it depends as much on what the man himself wants as it does his team. Would he really be willing to play elsewhere? Moving his family across the country, for one last contract on a team most likely not ready to win, is something it would be hard to see him doing.

Following that loss to the Titans – who have also since dumped No.1 seed Baltimore out of the playoffs – he reiterated his desire to continue playing and all but ruled out retirement. Whether he would feel the same if an offer to stay with the Pats was not on the table remains to be seen.

It would appear mutually beneficial for the Patriots to keep him. It would give them time to search for his successor, whilst giving him a chance to avenge this season’s disappointments.

If Brady bows out, he will do so as the greatest ever to throw the ball. But don’t bet against him walking out at Gillette Stadium again next autumn.

Photo via Flickr by Keith Allison at https://www.flickr.com/photos/27003603@N00/3866185527

What next for the Eagles and the Patriots?

The 2018 Super Bowl clash between the Philadelphia Eagles and New England Patriots was an NFL showpiece to savour.

Guided by veteran quarterback Tom Brady, the Patriots were tipped to claim their sixth title since the turn of the century, putting the upstart Eagles in their place.

However, Philly hadn’t read that particular script, and Nick Foles steered them to a stunning 41-33 victory in Minneapolis.

Foles, who only came in for injured starting QB Carson Wentz towards the end of the regular season, became the first man to both throw and catch a touchdown pass in the big game.

A hugely entertaining match-up ended with the Eagles winning their first Super Bowl crown, having failed in two previous NFL finales.

But even as the celebratory ticker-tape was being swept away, thoughts were turning to next season.

Can the Eagles now establish themselves as serial winners? Has Brady still got what it takes to push the Pats to fresh glory in his fifth decade?

Defiant

Under head coach Bill Belichick, New England have reached seven Super Bowls, winning in 2002, 2004, 2005, 2015 and 2017.

The way in which the team played against Philadelphia, especially on offence, suggests that the Patriots haven’t lost their groove just yet.

They gave it their all, but it wasn’t enough against the underdog Eagles, and their defeat will surely have left them shattered.

Shattered but defiant. Franchise owner Robert Kraft, Belichick and Brady have all come out and said that the Pats will regroup and go again.

There were times when the three clashed during the season. For example, allowing second string QB Jimmy Garoppolo to switch to San Francisco – a deal sanctioned ultimately by Kraft – was a shock move, but at 26 he’d clearly had enough of being Brady’s understudy.

Irreplaceable?

The big question is: how long can Brady, who turns 41 this summer, hope to continue?

With Garoppolo gone, the Patriots re-signed Brian Hoyer last November, having released him in at the end of pre-season in 2012.

In an ironic twist, he had been with the 49ers, starting their first six games in 2017, but was released at the end of October, having been replaced by Garoppolo…

So Hoyer was Brady’s back-up in Minneapolis, but is he really the long-term successor to one of the game’s all-time greats?

If he’s a stop-gap, and simply covering for Brady in the twilight of his career, who is Belichick going to go for?

As Super Bowl runners-up, the Patriots have the 31st overall pick in this year’s NFL Draft, and only a huge amount of trading will allow them to select from the best QBs available.

Belichick may put off a decision while Brady plays on, or may turn to the free agency market. One thing is for sure: Brady has had an amazing career but cannot go on forever.

Any sign of his powers waning once the new season gets underway in September will surely see the ruthless Belichick take action, despite his strong bond with the player.

Also in the head coach’s inbox is what to do about cornerback Malcolm Butler, the man who denied the Seattle Seahawks a Super Bowl win three years ago with that amazing interception.

Butler, 27, will surely not be playing in New England’s colours again. He was benched for the Super Bowl and becomes an unrestricted free agent this year, and most likely he is going to move on.

Foles v Wentz

What comes next for the Eagles after their first Super Bowl title, and in particular what does the future hold for the game’s MVP Foles?

One man’s misfortune is another’s lucky break, and Foles took full advantage of the ACL injury suffered by starting QB Wentz 13 games into the regular season.

In the play-offs, he threw for 971 yards, six touchdowns and only one interception, an incredible 115.7 passer rating in the post-season.

But the 29-year-old’s role at Philadelphia is the subject of much speculation, even after his role in the greatest moment in the team’s history.

The Eagles moved heaven and earth to select Wentz, 25, as the second overall pick in the 2016  NFL Draft, and he repaid them by setting records galore in his rookie season.

His is clearly the franchise’s marquee talent, which leaves Foles facing uncertainty.

He has a year remaining on his contract, but does he simply return to being a back-up, or should he seek to capitalise on his Super Bowl success with another team?

Foles could certain command a salary of more than the $4m he is set to earn in the remaining season his existing deal.

Surprise package?

Away from this year’s Super Bowl winners and runners-up, which team might create a stir in the new season?

How about the outfit that failed to win a single game in 2017? Yes, the struggling Cleveland Browns.

It might sound far-fetch given their recent history of failure, but last season’s abject showing means the Browns will have plenty of scope for improvement via the Draft in April.

Great things are expected of quarterback DeShone Kizer, picked in the second round last year, but has his confidence been damaged by only the second 0-16 season in NFL history?

The most important thing for the Browns now is patience. Head coach Hue Jackson is 1-31 in his first two seasons, but has surrounded himself with a very solid coaching staff, and should be given time to turn things around.

So maybe – just maybe – the Browns might turn a few heads and cause one or two shocks when the 2018 campaign begins.

Super Bowl LII: Ajayi can provide UK fans with reason to cheer

This year’s Super Bowl is expected to be seen by a TV audience of well over 100 million in the United States alone.

But British NFL fans have more reason than ever for staying up late on Sunday to watch the New England Patriots take on the Philadelphia Eagles in Minneapolis.

London-born running back Jay Ajayi will be taking his place behind the Eagles’ offensive line, with many believing he will have to play a significant role if Philly are to come up with a formula to beat the legendary Pats partnership of head coach Bill Belichick and quarterback Tom Brady.

Ajayi, who is also a lifelong Arsenal fan, was born in London in 1993 and moved to Texas at the age of seven.

The 24-year-old first impressed at high school and then became a college star with Boise State, becoming the only player in their history to rush for 200+ yards in three separate games.

In the 2015 NFL draft, he was picked up by the Miami Dolphins, and he began the 2017 season with the Florida outfit.

However, a surprise trade in October saw him move to Philly in a deal which gives Miami a fourth round 2018 draft pick in return.

Foles steps up

The Eagles went on to have a fine campaign, ending the regular season 13-3 and losing only to the Kansas City Chiefs, Seattle Seahawks and Dallas Cowboys.

Philadephia's Nick Foles
Philadephia’s Nick Foles

However, when star quarterback Carson Wentz was sidelined in week 14 with an anterior cruciate ligament injury, Eagles fans feared the worst.

But experienced back-up QB Nick Foles has stepped up, with the help of the NFL’s fourth ranked defence – as well as Ajayi’s explosive running style – and their 38-7 demolition job of the Minnesota Vikings in the NFC Championship game was particularly impressive.

Meanwhile, this will be the eighth Super Bowl for the Brady-Belichick partnership, with victories for the Patriots coming in 2002, 2004, 2005 2015 and 2017.

Despite establishing a winning dynasty since the turn of the century, New England have failed to score a touchdown in the first quarter of seven of those Super Bowls.

Unpredictable

But it’s not how you start, it’s how you finish, and the Patriots – who also went 13-3 in 2017 – have Super Bowl experience in abundance, unlike Philadelphia.

The feared combo of Brady and Belichick

In their two previous appearances in the NFL showpiece, the Eagles lost to the Oakland Raiders way back in 1981, and again (and narrowly) to New England in 2005.

So will it third time lucky for Philly as they attempt to lift the Vince Lombardi Trophy for the first time in their history?

Not if the wily Belichick has anything to do with it. And with Brady now an elder statesman of the game at 40, his coach’s talent for assessing opponents on the day and adjusting his game plan to exploit their weaknesses will be more important than ever.

New England are the favourites in many people’s eyes, but may not have things all their own way.

The combination of the success that Foles has had in the play-action pass game, along with the added dimension Ajayi provides for the Eagles, could just make them unpredictable enough to outfox Belichick, Brady and the Pats.