By Michael Hurley, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) — You know, sometimes when you’re in the thick of an argument or discussion, you fail to really grab a good perspective. You can get so busy jumping down the rabbit holes of debating, defending, attacking, analyzing and BREAKING DOWN THE FILM that you can occasionally miss something is just so terribly obvious.
Then, out of nowhere, it can smack you in the face.
So it was, in the middle of this week, a light dawned on a marble head. And I realized … yes, of course Tom Brady is in the midst of his decline.
And that decline? It absolutely kicks ass. It slays. It is the most badass decline in the history of declines.
The realization probably hit somewhere in the middle of Sony Michel’s three touchdown runs from inside the 3-yard line against the Jets two weeks ago. It’s been like that for a year-and-a-half — instead of an easy touchdown pass from the goal line, Brady has been perfectly happy to hand the ball to his running back and take the points. In 21 of his last 24 games, it’s proven to be a winning formula.
As I’ve observed, the stats take a massive hit, but Brady doesn’t care. He’s been happy to keep winning, and when the job requires that he make an A-plus pass, like one of these from this calendar year?
He delivers. And he wins.
Now, one may look at those physical throws and note that the folks who say his arm is weak or he’s too old or whatever other nonsense gets the retweets on the videos from the shows that people aren’t watching are complete and utter bozos. They’d be right.
Yet that cannot determine the entire picture about the current state of Tom Brady.
Brady, 2014-17: 65.4% completion rate, 4,536 yards, 34 TDs, 7 INTs per 16 games
Brady, 2018-19: 65.4% completion rate, 4,404 yards, 28 TDs, 10 INTs per 16 games
Do the stats tell the whole story? No, because Brady can still make some ridiculous throws, he can still move in the pocket as well as he ever has, and he has the added benefit of having a master computer inside of his helmet that no other quarterback in the history of football has ever been able to possess.
He’s still a weapon.
But, again, he’s not the weapon that he was from 2014-17, when we all said he was playing the best football of his Hall of Fame career. (The two years that followed the DeflateGate garbage should go down as some of the best quarterbacking by anybody ever, as he threw 79 touchdowns and 12 interceptions while winning 28 of 34 games, regular season and postseason combined. Ridiculous.)
So, he’s dropped off, declined a bit. And … it’s been amazing.
By now, you might have heard that he’s 42 years old. Do you know who else played quarterback well at age 42? Nobody. Nobody ever has. So there’s nobody to whom we can compare Brady’s last season-and-a-half. So instead of that, we’ll have to look at the final two seasons of a number of Hall of Famers to see how their au revoirs to the NFL went.
We’ll go in terms of passer rating, from best to worst.
Tom Brady, 2018-19, 24 games
65.4% completion rate
6,606 yards, 7.5 Y/A, 275 Y/G
42 TDs, 15 INTs, 2.8 TD-to-INT ratio
96.7 passer rating
Steve Young, 1998-99, 18 games (age 37 and 38)
61.1% completion rate
4,616 yards, 7.7 Y/A, 256 Y/G
39 TDs, 16 INTs, 2.4 TD-to-INT ratio
95.5 passer rating
Kurt Warner, 2008-09, 31 games (age 37 and 38)
66.6% completion rate
8,336 yards, 7.5 Y/A, 269 Y/G
56 TDs, 28 INTs, 2.0 TD-to-INT ratio
95.2 passer rating
Brett Favre, 2009-10, 29 games (age 40 and 41)
65.2% completion rate
6,711 yards, 7.5 Y/A, 231 Y/G
44 TDs, 26 INTs, 2.0 TD-to-INT ratio
92.2 passer rating
John Elway, 1997-98, 28 starts (age 37 and 38)
57.1% completion rate
6,441 yards, 7.5 Y/A, 222 Y/G
49 TDs, 21 INTs, 2.3 TD-to-INT ratio
89.8 passer rating
Peyton Manning, 2014-15, 25 starts (age 38 and 39)
63.9% completion rate
6,976 yards, 7.5 Y/A, 268 Y/G
48 TDs, 32 INTs, 1.5 TD-to-INT ratio
89.5 passer rating
Joe Montana, 1993-94, 25 games (age 37 and 38)
60.7% completion rate
5,427 yards, 6.9 Y/A, 217 Y/G
29 TDs, 16 INTs, 1.8 TD-to-INT ratio
85.0 passer rating
Warren Moon, 1997-98, 24 starts (age 41 and 42)*
58.3% completion rate
5,310 yards, 6.8 Y/A, 212 Y/G
36 TDs, 24 INTs, 1.5 TD-to-INT ratio
81.3 passer rating
*Moon stayed in the league for two more years, but he started just one more game after 1998.
Jim Kelly, 1995-96, 28 games (age 35 and 36)
57% completion rate
5,940 yards, 7.1 Y/A, 212 Y/G
36 TDs, 32 INTs, 1.1 TD-to-INT ratio
77.6 passer rating
Dan Marino, 1998-99, 27 games (age 37 and 38)
56.7% completion rate
5,945 yards, 6.6 Y/A, 220 Y/G
35 TDs, 32 INTs, 1.1 TD-to-INT ratio
74.9 passer rating
Troy Aikman, 1999-2000, 25 games (age 33 and 34)
59.5% completion rate
4,596 yards, 6.5 Y/A, 184 Y/G
24 TDs, 26 INTs, 0.9 TD-to-INT ratio
74.9 passer rating
Some of those fellows went out on fairly solid terms. Others, not so much.
But all of them went out as much younger men than Tom Brady, and none really came close to his success. Among those Hall of Famers, Brady has:
–The best passer rating
–The best TD-to-INT ratio
–The highest yards per game,
–The best winning percentage, and
–The second-best completion rate.
And yet Brady:
–Is much older than the lot of ’em, and
–Still has eight games left this season to add to his resume.
That is a dynamite fade-out, if you were to ask me.
(If we were to compare Brady’s age 38 and 39 seasons to the rest of those QBs’ seasons of the same age, it would be downright goofy.)
Anyways, long story short: Yes, Tom Brady is in the midst of his decline.
Yes, a declining Tom Brady is still a historic ass kicker.
It’s quite the sight to see.
(Home team in CAPS; Wednesday lines)
Went a bit long with the Brady talk, so let’s go with quick-hit picks this week.
San Francisco (-10) over ARIZONA
Against the Bengals, Falcons and Giants, the Cardinals have outscored their opponent 87-77. Those three teams are a combined 3-21. In their other five games, they’ve been outscored 146-83.
Jacksonville (+1.5) over Houston (in London)
Jags in London? SAY NO MORE!
BUFFALO (-9.5) over Washington
A get-right game for the Bills, who are a not-completely-terrible football team at a time when few teams can say the same.
CAROLINA (-4) over Tennessee
Chicago (+5) over PHILADELPHIA
SEATTLE (-6) over Tampa Bay
Minnesota (-2.5) over KANSAS CITY
Maybe Patrick Mahomes will play. Maybe he will not. If he does play, I will watch while peeking through the cracks in my fingers. I’d really prefer for him to properly and fully heal before returning to an NFL game … but I suppose my opinion on the matter is not very relevant.
New York Jets (-3) over MIAMI
Nobody thought they could do it, everybody said it’d be impossible … but the Miami Dolphins have gotten worse.
The 0-7 Dolphins traded Kenyan Drake last week and then lost Xavien Howard to a season-ending injury.
A very bad team had a very bad week. But hey, they covered the spread on national TV!
Indianapolis (-1) over PITTSBURGH
Can’t really feel good about either of these teams. The Colts came this close to losing a HOME GAME to the BRONCOS. Gross.
I’ll give the Colts the edge due to better coaching and the Pittsburgh short week. But I don’t feel good about it.
Detroit (+2) over OAKLAND
Against my better judgment, I’m riding the Detroit Lions bandwagon. It’s more like a Detroit Lions caboose, come to think of it. Or maybe one of those old-timey things on the train track where you move by pushing the lever up and down?
Yes! That same exact cart, moving at that same exact speed, with a Lions logo painted onto it. Lions fever, baby!
Green Bay (-3.5) over LOS ANGELES CHARGERS
Kind of unfair that the Packers get to have a home game in L.A. this weekend. It’s a competitive balance issue. Not cool.
Cleveland (-3) over DENVER
Remember before the season, some actual real-live people said that the Browns might be playing for a Super Bowl title this year? Now they’re three-point favorites against a quarterback named Brandon Allen. He’s allegedly been in the NFL for four years? Smells fishy to me. Sounds like a ruse. Some Elwayian subterfuge.
It would be exceptionally funny if the Browns lost this football game. But they probably won’t.
New England (-3.5) over BALTIMORE
It’s possible that the Patriots get run over by Lamar Jackson on Sunday Night Football. It’s also possible that some magic fairy is going to seek you out and make your debt disappear. It’s also possible that I could still grow tall enough to dunk a basketball. A lot of things are possible.
Dallas (-7) over NEW YORK GIANTS
The moment that I saw Pat Shurmur on the sideline in a preseason game against the Patriots in August 2018, I said, “That guy looks like the coach that comes up when you go to create a coach in Madden.” I’ve since extended that analysis to say he looks like one of the wooden human characters from Thomas the Tank Engine. (He does!) And then last week I said he reminded me of Michael Scott following his GPS directions into a lake.
I guess what I’m trying to say is that when it comes to inspiring confidence as a leader, I am not seeing it from Pat Shurmur.
Last week: 9-6