By Michael Hurley, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) — Football fans won’t appreciate hearing this, but we’re all about halfway through the 2018 NFL season. Life moves fast.
While fans may not appreciate knowing that half the season is already gone, it does provide a neat and tidy opportunity to project out some season stats. That’s of particular interest in New England, as both Tom Brady and Rob Gronkowski are playing under some incentive-laden deals this year.
While the boosting of finances for the unfathomably rich Brady and the reasonably wealthy Gronkowski may not be of particular concern to average citizens who have heating and electric bills to pay, how well or poorly those two players make out on these deals should be of some interest, considering their reported displeasure with various aspects of the Patriots organization served as the central talking point surrounding this team all offseason long. Following the Super Bowl loss, there were reports of frustration, retirement contemplation, skipping of OTAs, and talks of big trades. Things appeared to be a bit dicey.
Ultimately, though, both players returned to work, and they agreed to do so with contracts that required them to perform at the very top of their profession in order to earn what they’re worth.
So, though eight games this season, here’s a look at how they’re doing. Spoiler alert: It’s not looking great.
As a reminder for how Brady’s contract works, he can earn $1 million for finishing the year in the top five of each of the following five categories:
–Yards per attempt
If he finishes in the top five of all five categories, he’ll earn the full $5 million incentive. Additionally, if the Patriots win the Super Bowl, any earned money will be doubled. So if he finishes in the top five of just two categories but ends up winning the Super Bowl, then he’ll earn $4 million instead of $2 million. The money is capped at $5 million, so even if he hits three or more and wins the Super Bowl, the max money he can make is $5 million.
But it looks unlikely that most of that will come into play. Here’s where Brady ranks through eight games:
Passer rating: 14th
Completion percentage: 11th
Yards per attempt: 19th
Brady is close on touchdowns, with 16. He’s just one touchdown shy of being tied for third place. That mark certainly seems achievable. But his passer rating of 97.6 is far behind what he’s finished with in recent years — 102.2 in 2015, 112.2 in 2016, and 102.8 last season. The passer rating has certainly taken a hit from the uptick in interceptions (seven), three of which happened after a receiver dropped a pass.
Brady’s not significantly far away on completion percentage, as he’s at 67.5. Carson Wentz currently ranks fifth at 70.7. Brady would have to pass the likes of Matthew Stafford, Eli Manning, and Philip Rivers to climb to fifth, which seems possible — though far from a sure thing.
Likewise, he’s not tremendously far behind in yardage, despite ranking ninth. He’s at 2,200 yards, just 135 yards behind Matt Ryan and 177 yards behind Eli Manning, who rank fifth and fourth, respectively. Nipping at Brady’s heels, though, are Andrew Luck (2,187), Deshaun Watson (2,176) and Andy Dalton (2,102).
Gronkowski’s incentives work a bit differently, and they are much simpler to comprehend. There are four targets that are available for Gronkowski to hit. He’ll earn $1.1 million for hitting each one, with a maximum earning of $3.3 million. If he hits all four, he’ll still earn just $3.3 million.
Here are those targets:
–70 or more catches
–1,085 or more receiving yards
–9 or more touchdowns
–80 percent of offensive snaps
Those numbers weren’t pulled out of thin air; they’re all just one number higher than what Gronkowski produced last season, when he caught 69 passes for 1,084 yards and eight touchdowns, while playing 79 percent of the team’s offensive snaps. If Gronkowski could essentially match the production of last year — when he missed one game due to suspension and received zero targets in the final game of the season — then he’d be making some good money in 2018.
But, well, here’s how Gronkowski has done thus far: 29 receptions, 448 yards, and one touchdown on 80.25 percent of the team’s offensive snaps.
Gronkowski didn’t play in the team’s Week 7 game in Chicago due to a back problem that flared up a couple of days prior, but even when he has been on the field, he has not been the same offensive threat that he was last season.
His current pace has him set to finish the year with:
–58 receptions (12 shy)
–896 yards (189 shy)
–2 TDs (seven shy)
—80 percent of offensive snaps
Even the one that he currently is on pace to reach is as precarious as can be, so none of this money appears to be even close to a sure thing at this point.
At the same time, Gronkowski can significantly alter all of those projections with just one typical Gronkowski-type of game. For instance, if he were to turn in a 10-catch, 140-yards, two-touchdown performance this coming Sunday, he’d up his season totals to 39-588-3. That would put him on a pace for 69 receptions, 1,045 yards, and five touchdowns.
If he has two excellent games — call it, eight catches, 125 yards, and two touchdowns per game for a two-week stretch — then he’ll emerge from Week 10 and head into the bye on pace for 72 receptions, 1,116 yards, and eight touchdowns.
With a dominant performance or two, Gronkowski can still reach these numbers. It’s just that through half of a season, those big-time showings have been few and far between.