Celebrity status aside, the most important aspect of Tom Brady’s reputation is his performance on the gridiron, and last season, the Californian golden boy couldn’t match his quarterbacking standards, throwing errant passes more frequently than usual.
Unfortunately, his wide receivers—Kenbrell Thompkins, Aaron Dobson and Josh Boyce—were young, severely inexperienced players. Once again, though, the defense wasn't helping him, and championship-caliber quarterbacks still must have help from the other side of the ball.
Taking a deeper look at Brady's underwhelming 2014, injuries to key offensive players, specifically Rob Gronkowski, also contributed heavily to the 36-year-old’s unpredictable gunslinging.
Facing the Denver Broncos, Brady mounted a spectacular comeback with Gronkowski’s seven-catch, 90-yard performance . Three contests later, against the Dolphins, the former Michigan man would flounder in the pocket. Gronk was injured then, so viewers saw Brady holding onto the ball too long and missing wide-open targets.
2013 season statistics clearly display Brady’s passing issues. His 60.5 completion percentage and 87.3 passer rating haven’t been lower since 2003.
As the team stands now, though, it appears that those glory days are over. Brady has improved significantly as a passing quarterback, but the Patriots no longer maintain the suffocating defense that was customary of early Belichick squads. Last year, the Pats’ defense ranked 26th in the total yards and 30th in rushing yards allowed.
Those numbers are really a testament to weak New England defenses over the years. Can Brady and the Pats survive 2014 with such vulnerability?
Based on previous spells, it’s clear that the Patriots cannot be championship contenders with a lackluster defense.
We saw Brady spearhead one of the most dynamic offenses in NFL history in 2007. Still, he fell short to the Giants at University of Phoenix Stadium because aggressive offensive plays couldn’t consistently carry the team. The future Hall of Famer needed his teammates to make an impact in critical situations, as David Tyree did for the Giants with his catch.
Consequently, if the Patriots and Brady want to win another championship, the offseason additions shouldn’t be focused around tight ends and wide receivers. Defensive contributors should be an absolute necessity, plain and simple.
The Patriots' front office realizes a fill-in practice squad player won't get the job done, but rather, a big-name, big-money playmaker like Darrelle Revis, who can change the outlook of the defense to one that thwarts both opponents' total points and yards.
This is a top-ranked defense that Brady needs, and now, a greater level of consistency could arrive during the playoffs, the period of the season when the Patriots falter.
So, with Revis playing, plus a healthy Jerod Mayo and Vince Wilfork, the sky is the limit for the future Hall of Fame quarterback, or, at least more so than in recent years.