Though fans and analysts have questioned Tom Brady’s play and the New England Patriots’ record more this season than last, he plans to return in 2019 and beyond.
Even with a win on Sunday against the Jets, the New England Patriots are already guaranteed to finish with their worst season record since 2009. Tom Brady is also sporting his worst quarterback rating since that year, and is coming off a home game against the Bills in which he barely completed over half his passes, and threw twice as many picks as touchdowns.
And yet, New England is right where they’re supposed to be this time of year. The Patriots are AFC East champions and headed to the playoffs. Unless they slip up at home to a rookie quarterback in Week 17, they’ll finish the 2018 season as the No. 2 seed, and earn a first-round postseason bye for the eighth consecutive season.
There’s also an outside chance the Patriots could finish as high as the No. 1 seed and garner home-field advantage throughout the AFC playoffs, assuming they beat the Jets, and then the Chargers and the Chiefs both lose their regular season finales.
It’s seemingly more of the same in Boston. And yet the mood around Beantown is anxious – apprehensive even – as nervous followers of the team wonder if it’s even that good anymore.
Count quarterback Tom Brady among those not experiencing the winter doldrums though.
“I feel great. I really do,” Brady told reporters Monday, adding that he felt “100 percent” in terms of his health.
"“It is a long season but for this time of year, I feel great. I feel ready to go. I am excited for this week. I would like to go out there and play our best game, play a lot better than we did yesterday in the pass game and complement our run game and try and go out and see if we can get a really good win against a tough team, a tough division team, and try and make sure we can get ourselves a first-round bye if we get a win.”"
In his weekly interview on Westwood One, Brady also reiterated his desire to play next year and beyond, assuming his contract is renewed after it expires at the end of the 2019 season.
“I absolutely believe I will. I know I’ve talked about it for a long time: I have goals to not only play next year, but beyond that.”
Still, the 41-year-old future Hall of Famer acknowledged that continuing his NFL career wouldn’t come easy. “It will certainly be a challenge. I don’t take any of these things for granted, but I hope I can keep playing, and I hope I can keep playing at a championship level.”
Brady has previously stated he plans to play well into his mid-40s, assuming good health and assuming he “doesn’t suck.”
Fans worried about the latter half of that equation may need to take a breath and a step back to fully appreciate what they have starting for them under center, even in a “down” year.
Brady’s numbers are better than most people might think – he’s actually playing better football than he did in his 20s when the Patriots won three Super Bowls in four years. It’s possible we’re all just spoiled by the kind of production he’s had during more recent seasons, where at times he’s had to carry the team on his back almost single-handedly (look no further than his gaudy numbers in last year’s Super Bowl for a great example).
This year’s Patriots might be closer in semblance to the run-heavy, Corey Dillon-led teams of the early millennium than the aerial assault squads of the last five years.