The New England Patriots’ last three playoff appearances all resulted in losses. Curiously, this losing streak was led by a healthy and regular-season wonder, Tom ‘Terrific’ Brady, and Bill ‘Genius’ Belichick. Yes, both blame and credit are equally applied to the QB and Head Coach, even when it cannot be justified. But then again, this story is not being told by your average Patsie fan, so …
It is curious to me to hear from the average fans that Brady had this perception of being “dissed” throughout the Patriots’ winning ways; especially back when he led them (completely) to back-to-back championships (2003, 2004) and took credit for the first one (2001) provided by Drew Bledsoe’s off-the-bench winning performance in his second AFC Championship game while “The Team of Destiny” brought home the improbable win against the heavily-favored, 2000 champion St. Louis Rams. But what did the average fan expect, all the while Genius and Terrific were (selflessly?) promoting “The Team” above “individual stars”? Did you want it _both_ ways? Do you believe that without QB Tom Brady performing at the helm, “The Team” had no chance? If that is so, then what exactly was the Coach-QB tandem selling to the team, the media, and its fans?
But after pedestrian 2005 and 2006 playoff appearances (Terrific was not so with the two losses coming from 3 interceptions thrown, and despite “The Team” and referees bailing his ass out with another improbable win when he delivered 3-interceptions to San Diego’s defense), the 2007 perfect* regular season finally brought Terrific some personal recognition: both the NFL MVP and Offensive Player awards. Sure, he got two Super Bowl MVP awards (with the highly debatable first one), but not too many non-QB players get those game honors to begin with, so not of his cause. No, despite the addition of an elite game-breaker in Randy Moss, who was apparently the lucky recipient of a record-breaking 23 TD tosses from Terrific, the personal glory was squarely Brady’s own. I wonder just how many of the other 52 “professional athletes” were genuinely agreeable and supportive?
I am guessing it fell short of consensus. The wave of media love that has followed Terrific since has swelled proportionately with the NFL Golden Boy’s head since 2007. I think Genius and Terrific are believing the hype, which usually spells doom for those who follow them. Is that justified? After all, Tom Brady’s career regular season wins he is credited for (.776) is untouchable by his peers: #1 “statistical QB” Peyton Manning (.678) and #1 “clutch QB” Ben Roethlisberger (.704).
And yet, this current losing streak of historical importance started after that national personal validation that Terrific _is_ an elite QB. But what followed was a marked dropoff in personal performance, which really began with another improbable win against San Diego in the AFC Championship game. MVP Tom Terrific came up small with a 66.4 rating from another 3-interception game. But that got him another handed opportunity to the 2007 Superbowl against the New York Football Giants, whereas Tom Terrific blew a perfect* season and a chance to sit alongside QB titans #1 Joe Montana and #2 Terry Bradshaw — not only did both lead their teams to all four world championship opportunities, but they also individually performed at a high level recording 101+ passer ratings in each game. Terrific did record an efficient 86.2 rating in his first appearance/win, just perhaps not worthy of the MVP honor endowed; as well as an acceptable 82.5 rating in his loss against the New York Giants championship defense:
Follow up that haunting nightmare of one epic loss with missing the 2008 season with an injury. Wow, Terrific must have worked his butt off in rehab, because he came back in 2009 listed as an inch shorter down to 6’4″ and 13 pounds lighter down to 225. Terrific has to give some credit to the world-class trainers and rehab facilities, because he was listed as a 6’5″ 205-lb rookie and got 33 pounds “bigger” at the 2001 training camp. That is pretty amazing stuff — Tom is a terrific human being.
But “The Team” somehow went on without Terrific and played to a very respectable 11-5 season, and only to miss the playoffs because they were bested by a pivotal NFL Thursday night pay-per-view overtime loss to the legendary QB Brett Favre and his NY Jets. We can only wonder what Terrific might have done in 2008. In the offseason, I suggested “The Team” keep the younger and now game experienced Matt Cassel and trade away Brady to Buffalo. Think of the TV ratings we could have gotten with the “Brady Bowls”? Instead, we kept an older and now gimpy Tom Brady and lost our star GM Scott Pioli, who obviously took notice of Kraft’s reluctance to let go of the past who allowed both Cassel and Vrabel to follow Pioli to the Kansas City Chiefs.
2009 was yet another lackluster regular season, just a one-win dropoff to 10-6, probably because of Terrific’s accelerated comeback from West Coast medicine with under-the-radar rehab. Of course, that got Terrific another gaudy accolade for being a Comback Player of the Year award — it validates his New England branding of being a tough guy (really?). But it was enough to once again go to the postseason AND with home-field advantage where Terrific can convince the referees to throw a flag after an unsuccessful 3rd down. I can almost here Terrific cry, “Do over! Do over!”. D-O-O-M was never spelled more prominently than when the Ravens ripped off an opening 83yd TD run. Oh, wait, that one is on the Genius’ complex defense schemes, not Terrific — instead, the Golden boy proved himself just as good as his predecessor by standing tall in the pocket like a statue, getting stripped of the football inside their own 17 to lead to another Raven’s TD:
But the 2010 Patriot postseason personal stat line looked acceptable enough to win, except that most of Terrific’s passing contributions came late in a game when it clearly did not have any relevance to its outcome. The critical error on their opening drive — overthrowing a screen pass — for a huge interception return was enough to put Terrific and Genius into a spotlight they are not accustomed to and cannot hide from — scrutiny:
Scrutiny for benching Welker on violating Genius’ edicts; scrutiny on Terrific’s personal shrinking act on the big stage: an average 10-point drop in postseason passer rating over the regular season and now three playoff loses in a row, one on a neutral field and the other two on their own turf. WTF??!? Will it really be over 1450-days when the Patriots MIGHT get a chance to win another playoff game?
2011 may yet bring an NFL season to our homes, as they continue to bicker over the unaccounted for billions at their disposal. I don’t see the Brady lawsuit really accomplishing much, since Brees is covering up for Terrific’s absence and doing all of the talking. But if it’s a complete season, then I must chant “go STEELERS!!” If it is shortened, I must rant “comeback Favre!!” and “go BILLS!!” That rant alone should get the talks moving, eh?