“only three things can happen when you pass and two of them are bad.”
Again, Woody Hayes has infiltrated my brain with his right wing rhetoric – and from beyond the grave, even. The former Ohio State University head coach was so conservative that he makes Richard Nixon sound like Bill Clinton.
And he’s wrong, you know. There are many other bad things that can happen when you pass other than just an incompletion or an interception, and if you include the entire play from the snap, there are literally a dozen things that could go wrong – which Hayes would have accepted as inevitable, so why even try?
Ah, why indeed? And that’s enough about Hayes and his paranoid game planning. He didn’t even listen to his own flaky gibberish in the 1978 Gator Bowl when he let Art Schlichter throw into the end zone on what was to be a game winning play – and the ball was intercepted by a Clemson University lineman who was eventually shoved out of bounds right in front of Hayes who punched him in the throat.
The question looms, however: Would Hayes have had a different philosophy if Tom Brady were his quarterback?
Probably not. Brady has had his share of ill-advised throws, including a few picked off in the end zone – and if Patriots’ Head Coach Bill Belichick wanted to punch the offending defender in the throat, he hasn’t let on – or at least hasn’t let his feelings manifest into violence.
Regardless, the Patriots’ quarterback is a sure-fire, first ballot Hall of Famer – of that, there should be no question. Even Hayes would agree – begrudgingly, since Brady went to the University of Michigan – and we all know the story of Brady’s assention to the zenith of professional football, but it hasn’t been without a few divots in the turf.
Overall, Brady’s body of work is the stuff of legend, and his list of accomplishments is unparalleled in NFL history; League and Super Bowl MVP awards, five AFC titles, three world titles and various passing records.
Off the field, he walks around with a different funky hair style every other week and endorses something called “Uggs”. His conservative demeanor echos that of his coach and he always speaks in accordance with the Patriot Way. At times he seems scripted, almost robotic, and nary a discouraging word will be said about an opponent.
But that’s off the field – On the field he is a demon. In formation, he is stoic – standing tall, surveying his multiple prey like a cornered wolverine, pointing directly at the “Mike” linebacker as he shouts the blocking assignments, keeping his prey in their prone position long enough for their legs and back to start straining…and in the pocket, still standing tall, carnage happening all around him as he spots the safety – making his decision immediately, then firing the ball toward his target with perhaps the quickest release in the game…
…many times finding Wes Welker, his most reliable target for the past half dozen seasons, many more times Rob Gronkowski, or Aaron Hernandez or Brandon Lloyd…and yet sometimes to absolutely no one at all, which is the puzzling part. He has the speed of a three-toed sloth and sometimes flinches away from pocket pressure that isn’t there and has a penchant for committing penalties for intentional grounding.
At age 35, Brady’s game has plateaued – some would say his game was on the down side of the plateau, but I’m not one of those. I subscribe to the thought that Brady has reached his full potential and is operating within it.
He is a better quarterback at 35 than he was at 25 or even in his prime at 30, and he finally has a reliable running game to take some of the pressure off his damaged shoulders. He has an elite group of receivers to throw to and an offensive line that is among the best in the game. His career has come full circle, as he is now the veteran leader on an offense that is the youngest in the NFL, and is built to garner Brady another championship or two before Belichick kicks him to the curb.
That being said, the Patriots are 5-3 heading into what looks to be a very difficult second half schedule, starting with the visiting Buffalo Bills this Sunday, to be followed by visits from the resurgent Indianapolis Colts and elite squads in the San Francisco 49ers and Houston Texans plus a home and home series with the suddenly potent Miami Dolphins as well as a Thanksgiving night duel with the hated New York Jets – so their margin for error is very small.
But Brady is quite adept at fitting the ball into tight spots, and he has the weapons around him to be dominant - so the Patriots are relying on his knowledge and leadership as much if not more than his physical skills at this point…and he’s in the perfect position to cement his legacy with another late-season, momentum-building run towards the ultimate prize.
Not that he needs to pad his qualifications for football immortality, because that’s already set in stone. The only thing left to do is to quiet his detractors of which, despite his shiny resume, there are still many…and leading New England to another title or two is the only way that’s going to happen.