By Matt Dolloff, 985TheSportsHub.com
Tom Brady has been far from his best in 2018. There’s no shortage of ways to pick his game apart, especially after Sunday’s debacle in Tennessee. But anyone who’s watched Brady this season, Sunday included, knows that his issues have been mental.
They certainly haven’t been physical. Not consistently, anyway. But since he’s 41 years old, the takes are already coming in hot about Brady’s arm. How some of the national sports media’s more prominent figures are going right to his arm boggles the mind.
Well, maybe it’s not so mind-boggling. Fat chance ESPN’s Max Kellerman, a frequent Brady truther, watched the entire game against the Titans. And if he went back and got a look at Brady’s 20 incompletions, he most certainly didn’t look at them with a truly critical or perceptive eye.
“Tom Brady has a wet noodle for an arm right now. Let’s just say what it is,” said Kellerman on Monday’s First Take program. “They’re dinking and dunking teams to death.
“If we’re going to sit here and pretend that arm looks the same to us, come on. Why is he off target so often? Look at the throws when he tried to put mustard on it yesterday. I’m not inventing this.”
That’s a good question, Max. One that you failed to answer, and failed to understand on a fundamental level.
Also dropping a premeditated napalm blast to Brady was Bleacher Report’s Mike Tanier, who rolled out with the deliciously baity headline “Can the Patriots survive the decline of Tom Brady?” in his Monday Morning Digest. (Don’t click that, unless you’re demanding proof that I linked to Tanier’s blatant gaslighting.) The column reads like he’s had it written since the end of last season and had his finger hovering over the red button, waiting for the right time to strike.
Either these two are being obtuse for the sake of the sugar-rush of clicks and views (perhaps), or they don’t know what they’re watching (surely they’ve watched plenty of football before), or they didn’t watch the game at all beyond a few highlights (the most likely scenario). Because Brady’s arm was not the problem on Sunday. It hasn’t really been the problem all season.
Of Brady’s 20 incompletions, at least four can be credited to drops. There were several throwaways with pass rushers in his face. A few fell incomplete due to what looked like miscommunication between Brady and Josh Gordon (Chris Hogan too). The Titans made four pass breakups, and mainly due to tight coverage and not slow, fluttering footballs.
There’s pretty much one (one!) incompletion that you can even argue was the result of declined arm strength. On third-and-4 in the second quarter, Brady whipped it toward James White at the sticks, but the throw landed low and short. Even that might have been a bit of a throwaway; Brady was definitely trying to put the ball where only White could get it. But sure, give them the “noodle arm” on that one.
Key word one. One play.
There were two other incompletions that stood out because Brady rifled it at the feet of his receiver. The balls looked catchable. But at the same time, Brady had pressure in his face on those plays. You see Brady give up on plays all the time by firing the ball safely at the feet of his receivers to avoid sacks and/or intentional grounding. Those were more like that kind of play, rather than a bad arm.
Yet Tanier has the gall to describe Brady’s arm as “overcooked fettuccine” and the quarterback as a knuckleball pitcher. It doesn’t sound like Tanier saw Brady’s four completions over 20 yards, or his darts over the middle to Gordon or Julian Edelman.
Yeah, arm looks real noodle-y here…
It’s not that Brady hasn’t had his share of problems. He hasn’t always been pinpoint with his accuracy. This isn’t a cry of heresy toward the nonbelievers who refuse to kneel at the altar of TB12. It’s just a plea to, please, criticize Brady where he deserves it.
He deserves it with his decision-making. Brady has been missing open receivers at times and overreacting to the pass rush, two issues that resurfaced on Sunday and arguably hit new lows. But those issues have popped up at times all season, going back as far as Week 2 in Jacksonville.
What hasn’t popped up much is a Peyton Manning-esque physical drop-off. That may come yet, maybe even this year. But it hasn’t happened. That’s the reality, not whatever these guys are trying to peddle. Which is piling on Brady after a blowout loss, a favorite of the national media.
This time, it’s entirely for the wrong reason. The bigger issue could be how many fans outside New England will just buy it. The problem isn’t the criticism, but the source of it. If you’re going to rip Brady, at least be right. These guys absolutely were not.
Matt Dolloff is a digital producer for 985TheSportsHub.com. Any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of 98.5 The Sports Hub, Beasley Media Group, or any subsidiaries. Have a news tip, question, or comment for Matt? Follow him on Twitter @mattdolloff or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.