From now until the start of training camp, Tom E. Curran will pose -- and answer -- questions facing the Patriots. Today's question:
Is Tom Brady at a crossroads?
Hell, yeah. When Bill Belichick was discussing the drafting of Jimmy Garoppolo and said, "We know what Tom’s age and contract situation is” my eyebrows rose so high I wouldn’t have needed Dr. Leonard.
The coach is noting the amount of sand left in Brady’s hourglass. I was still seeing a guy that, in 2013, threw 25 touchdowns and 11 picks to a collection of players he’d never met before and carried a team to the AFC Championship that had no business being there.
So, even if I don’t say crossroads, the guy who makes the decisions does. So, Brady is indeed at one. What next? Well, we’ll see a few things that determine which road the Patriots take because that’s what a crossroads is. A pause and then a decision as to which path to follow.
How well Brady throws in 2014 is the first indicator. I still think a lot of his accuracy “issues” in 2013 were related to him taking care of the ball and putting it where his guy and only his guy could make a play. And the fact that, in a timing-based offense Brady neither knew what time – nor in what state of preparation – his receivers would be arriving at the appointed spot. Which caused him to hold the ball a heartbeat longer and deliver to smaller windows. With high velocity. He threw a lot of passes that were tough to handle. I believe you’ll see a far different level of accuracy and precision this year, especially early in the year.
How well does Garoppolo orient himself over the course of the season is the second thing to watch. I’m not talking about training camp or preseason as much as I’m talking about where he is at the end of the year in terms of understanding how to run an NFL team. Undrafted Brian Hoyer coming out of Michigan State would have been a safer bet early in his rookie year than Garoppolo – coming out of Eastern Illinois – will be. The upside of Garoppolo – what he projects to be in 2016 or 2017 – is what will impact Brady.
When Belichick said during the draft, “I think we’re better off being early than being late at that position,” he put Brady on the clock. How fast it ticks depends on how well Brady plays. And even if I think he’d still get you 11 wins if he was playing in a johnny and rolling an IV tree out to the huddle, Belichick doesn’t seem willing to want to find out if he can.