By Michael Hurley, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) — If you blinked you might have missed it. But if you’ve paid attention to enough Tom Brady press conferences over the years, there was no way you missed this.
The Patriots’ quarterback was asked a question about James White following the team’s 26-10 loss in Detroit on Sunday night. It’s a spot where, regardless of the specific question, Brady typically answers with straightforward praise of the player before moving on.
This time, though, Brady said something that stood out — something that suggested perhaps Brady didn’t fully buy in to whatever the game plan has been with White for the past two weeks.
Here was the exchange:
Q: Tom, what do you have to do to get James White involved in the offense? It just seems like when he does get more involved, then good things happen.
Brady: Yeah, he had a great catch, and had some good runs there at the end. He’s just a great player for us. So, you’re right. He’s gotta be involved. Guys who can make plays are the ones that should be involved. And James is certainly one of them.
And shining a brighter spotlight on the meat of the quote:
“Guys who can make plays are the ones that should be involved.”
If you really wanted a negative spin, you could say that the comment suggested that some guys who can’t make plays were involved. But leaving that one aside, the necessary flip side to that comment would at least mean that White was not as involved as he should have been. It would be difficult to argue otherwise; prior to the Patriots’ final drive in garbage time, White had just three touches all night long. For the most experienced, accomplished back on the roster, that’s not nearly enough.
Perhaps this is just a statement of opinion from Brady. Maybe it’s just common sense. But there’s no denying that’s out of character — even slightly so — for Brady to make such a comment publicly.
Based on what we saw of Brady’s postgame phone conversations with offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels in “Tom Vs. Time,” a comment like that one seems like it may fit within the structure of such a talk. But to hear Brady suggest a strategical change to the game plan was nevertheless a bit surprising.
The comment coincides with a second straight week where rookie first-rounder Sony Michel was heavily involved in the offensive game plan. Michel managed to rush for 50 total yards on 14 carries, with his longest being a 12-yard run. He also caught one pass (on three targets) which lost a yard. He dropped one pass and failed to connect with Brady on a short pass to the left flat for the second consecutive game.
Meanwhile White was the recipient of Brady’s lone touchdown pass. That was after getting the ball just twice in the entire first half — a five-yard run and a reception for no gain on the Patriots’ field goal drive before halftime.
In total, White was on the field for just 25 offensive snaps — roughly half of the Patriots’ plays. Michel was on the field for 23 snaps.
With Rex Burkhead departing early due to a neck injury and the rookie Michel struggling to make an impact, all signs pointed to White being more involved in the second half. But in the 28 minutes following halftime, the ball went White’s way just once. It happened to be for the Patriots’ lone touchdown of the evening.
So, again, what Brady’s saying isn’t groundbreaking or out of line. But for a Patriots player — let alone Brady — to make such a comment after a bad loss surely stands out.