Early Monday, Tom Brady said he spent his bye week thinking about football. Weirdo.
Of course, that's what makes him brilliant. So good, in fact, that even when he rolls up a first half in which he throws 16 touchdowns and three picks and is on pace for a 5,000-yard passing season, there's rumbles of slippage.
On Monday, I asked offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels for an appraisal of Brady's work in 2012.
"I think that the quarterback in general, and Tom specifically, is really evaluated on his decision making, his accuracy and his ability to take care of the football and then ultimately get our offense into the end zone," McDaniels began. "There are certainly things that he can do better than what weve done in the first portion of the season. I know hell work hard at trying to maximize his performance going forward."
Brady's ability to manage the game from the pocket and be aware of pressure has always been seen as a strength. There's rarely been cause to question his stomach for standing in against pressure. But he has, in 2012, occasionally shown happy feet. And his willingness to get rid of the ball and fight another play has been seen in some circles as a sign he's an aging quarterback concerned about contact.
It's really nothing different than anything he put out there earlier in his career -- he generally subscribes to "discretion is the better part of valor" when a play is going South. He undeniably avoids contact, whether running with the ball and hitting the deck fast, going down quickly in the face of a rush he cannot beat or getting involved in tackling on an interception return.
But McDaniels says Brady's awareness continues to be exemplary.
"I think his pocket awareness and the things he does in the pocket have always been strengths of his," said the offensive coordinator. "I think he does a great job of understanding the quarterback position. There is always kind of an invisible clock in your head and you know based on the scheme or the protection how many blockers were keeping in, how many receivers were sending out and that may change or alter how much time you have to deliver the football.
"I think hes very aware of those different dynamics that can happen on each pass play," McDaniels added. "He does, generally, a really good job of distributing the ball where it needs to be distributed and also understanding on certain plays there is a time and a place to hold it and there is a time and a place to take the check down or throw the ball underneath or even throw the ball away and move onto the next play and try to get the first down some other way. Hes somebody who obviously understands our passing game and his ability to operate within that system and do the right thing is certainly a big thing for us and will be going forward."
As each season enters crunch time, Brady often shows a little more doggedness in the pocket. Witness some of the punishment he stood in to accept in the last two Super Bowls. The clock in Brady's head moves a little slower when the games get a little bigger.