It seems that Brady is becoming even more critical of his, as well as his teammates’, performance this season. This past Sunday, his frustration boiled over on the sidelines with offensive coordinator Bill O’Brien and receiver Tiquan Underwood.
Tom Brady: just typing the name brings thoughts of greatness, superiority, and above all an unbreakable focus on winning. Brady has maintained this focus, along with his hard-working mentality towards self-improvement, since day one of entering the NFL and continues to do so in his 12th season as if he were still a rookie looking to prove himself. This has kept him amongst the top of the league’s elite quarterbacks year-in and year-out, and as remarkable as it is has allowed him to keep getting better despite being past the so-called player career peak at age 34.
Following his 2010 MVP season in which he threw for 3,900 yards with 36 touchdowns and just four interceptions, Brady has had another terrific season in 2011. Currently with 4,273 yards, 33 touchdowns, and 11 interceptions, he is on pace to break Dan Marino’s single season record of 5,084 passing yards. Despite his impressive statistics, this year has been far from a cake walk for the future Hall-of-Famer.
With arguably the league’s worst defense that, in the words of Bart Scott, “can’t stop a nose bleed,” Brady has been forced to play almost perfect football every time he steps foot on the field. Perfection is impossible, even for a quarterback with Brady’s talent and drive for further excellence, and it seems that this predicament has put some added pressure on him whether he’s willing to admit it or not. It has the quarterback being overly critical of both his fellow offensive players and himself, a characteristic Brady has carried for much of his career. Until this past Sunday, however, it was unclear just how severe his criticism is getting.
Sitting with the likes of offensive coordinator Bill O’ Brien and Taiquan Underwood on the sidelines, Brady was caught on camera being visibly frustrated with the receiver and then getting in an animated shouting match with his coach. This outburst came right after an interception thrown in the end zone by Brady just when the offense was poised to score, a touchdown that would have put the Redskins away. The pass was slightly underthrown at the back of the end zone to Underwood, yet Brady seemed convinced that his receiver could have made a greater attempt to either catch the ball or at least knock it out of the defender’s hands.
Although the argument was brief and brushed off as something that happens often by those involved, the intensity of it leads me to believe that Brady was not only angry with Tiquan but has simply had enough with the constant ineffectiveness of the team’s defense. It’s hard to blame him. Brady is a perfectionist in his own right, yet even he feels there has to be some give-and-take between his offensive unit and the defense. As he should. There’s a reason football is categorized as a team sport, and as Brady knows better than anyone it’s teams that win championships, not individuals.
His frustration hasn’t simply been limited to the defense, however. Drawing from his anger at Underwood, Brady seems to be aggravated with the lack of consistency among the talent of all his receivers. I know he has the ‘man beast’ Rob Gronkowski, a very talented number two tight end in Aaron Hernandez, and of course the reception-machine Wes Welker, but for the second straight season he is lacking a legitimate deep threat. Not since Randy Moss was on the team has Brady had the security of throwing deep and knowing that the ball would get caught almost every time. Gronk, Hernandez, and Welker all have great receiving skill sets but none have the trust of their quarterback to get thrown go patterns with consistent success. In the offseason, it was expected that Chad Ochocinco would fill this void; might as well rename himself Ochostinko with the way he’s played so far. He looks as comfortable with the offense as Belichick is in front of the media during a post-game press conference: not at all. Taylor Price was supposed to be the answer given his “development” with the offense the past two seasons, but with limited playing time he got cut. Who does that leave? Deion Branch, whose age is showing, Underwood, and Julian Edelman, who has basically switched sides of the ball permanently as a full-time defensive back. Exactly, not much.
The Patriots can win without a deep threat, no question. They did it last year and they’ve done it this year while also maintaining their reputation as an offensive firepower. Will a versatile offense alone be enough to win in the playoffs, though? No. Given the abysmal defense and lack of team balance the Patriots have in comparison with the title-hoarding squads of the past, it seems unlikely that they will make a legitimate run at a Super Bowl title this year. Not that I’m saying that it can’t happen, however; I would love nothing more than to see the Brady-Belichick duo cement themselves as the greatest ever in the history of the NFL by raising their fourth Vince Lombardi trophy together this February. Unless this defense makes a marked improvement in these last three weeks before the playoffs, I don’t see my wish or the championship dreams of other Pats fans coming true this season.
But as I’ve said before, stranger things have happened in sports.