By: Steve Balestrieri
Tom Brady is looking to rebound in a big way in 2014. (USA TODAY Images)
Tom Brady is at the crossroads in 2014 for the New England Patriots. The soon-to-be 37 year old quarterback is facing questions about his ability for the first time since taking over the starting job for the Pats in 2001.
Brady is a sure bet first ballot Hall of Famer when he finally decides to hang up his cleats for good, but after a rough 2013, many are stating that he no longer ranks among the elite of the NFL quarterbacks. They believe that he’s in decline and will only slide further as Father Time catches up to him.
There is no doubt that Brady suffered his worst statistical season in many years in 2013. But how much was on him and how much was due to factors outside of his play? Brady’s numbers last season passing were 380 for 628, good for only 60.8 percent which his far below his normal percentage. But he did pass for 4343 yards and 25 touchdowns against only 11 interceptions.
He had issues to be sure, with his accuracy, his decision making and his movement in the pocket. All of which begin to show in quarterbacks at his age, but there were many other important factors that came to bear as well.
Losses in 2013 Too Big To Overcome: Gone in the off-season were Wes Welker and Danny Woodhead, free agents who signed respectively in Denver and San Diego. Brandon Lloyd was released and made a career change to an actor and was making zombie films.
Aaron Hernandez was arrested in June and is currently still in jail awaiting murder charges for not only the Odin Lloyd homicide, but a double murder committed in 2012 just prior to him signing his long-term extension.
Rob Gronkowski had numerous off-season surgeries on his broken forearm. He subsequently needed back surgery in June that held him out for the first six games of the regular season.
So starting the season in 2013, Brady was missing targets totaling 338 receptions for 3984 yards and 30 touchdowns the year prior. Worse, two of the targets that were supposed to take a lot of pressure off of his revamped and young wide receiver core, running back Shane Vereen and wide receiver Danny Amendola, both went down with injuries in Week 1.
While both came up big in the Patriots opener, their injuries were a huge blow to Brady’s already stretched-thin receiving crew. Help was found in the place of Julian Edelman, who turned in a career season of 105 receptions for 1056 yards and six touchdowns.
Once Gronkowski returned the offense took off. Brady’s completion percentage returned to levels more around his norm and the Patriots were scoring at a rate even higher than Denver. After Gronkowski went down against Cleveland with a season-ending ACL injury, the offense once again had issues, especially in the red-zone. Rookie wide outs Aaron Dobson, Kenbrell Thompkins and Josh Boyce all struggled at times with the playbook and injuries to themselves.
As a result in the AFC championship game in Denver, Brady was throwing passes to Austin Collie, Matthew Slater and tight ends Michael Hoomanawanui and Matthew Mulligan. While the roster wasn’t what was needed to win in Denver or beyond, Brady did have his share of issues during the season, making some wrong reads and suffered from some poor throws as well. Was the 2013 season just an anomaly due to outside factors or has Brady truly slipped and is no longer and elite quarterback?
We tend to disagree that Brady is no longer a Top 5 QB here and we’ll spell it out further as we lay out the reasons why we think Brady will rebound in a big way in 2014: