Luckily for New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady, Kansas City Chiefs defensive back Husain Abdullah's interception return for a touchdown in the fourth quarter took some attention away from his horrid pass attempt. At the end of the play, Abdullah, who practices Islam, bowed to Allah (similar to Christians kneeling), and got flagged for a penalty, which obviously caused the media to bring the injustice to the forefront, ending with an official apology by the NFL. Brady escaped the negative attention, as the NFL referees took the brunt of it. A 14-for-23, 159-yard performance with two INTs and just one touchdown pass was swept under the rug.
It seems as though there are three schools of thought concerning the future Hall of Famer Brady.
The first are the Brady worshippers. For these fans, mostly made up of Patriots and Michigan Wolverines supporters, Brady is a godsend who led his team to five Super Bowl appearances, winning three of them. To them, he isn't lucky to be married to Giselle, but instead, Giselle is lucky to be married to him. Those Uggs commercials? Perhaps the coolest look ever. After taking over for Drew Bledsoe and winning three Super Bowls in four years, with the most recent one in 2004, Brady has been and still is the best quarterback and player in the entire NFL for these superfans.
The second are the Brady haters -- mostly Jets, Dolphins, and Bills fans. They point out Brady hasn't won a Super Bowl in ten years, has finished with a passer rating over 100.0 in just three seasons in his career, and is on the stark decline. A washed up has-been, Brady poses no threat, according to the haters. In other words, they are a little bitter that Brady has absolutely dominated the AFC East throughout his career.
Then there are the logical Brady onlookers, which is where I fall in. Despite my fanhood leaning towards the Patriots more than any other NFL team, it's important to not ever let yourself fall in line with the narrow-minded scope of the two schools of thought described above. Here are some assumptions about Brady that are logical and based solely on facts.
The first assumption is that he is declining in production. Since his outstanding 2011 season in which he threw for 5,235 yards, 39 touchdowns and 12 interceptions while completing 65.6 percent of his passes, he has progressively thrown for less yards, a worse completion percentage, worse yards-per-play, for less touchdown passes, and a worse quarterback rating. This season, through four games, he has a 59.1 percent completion percentage to go along with an average of 5.77 yards per play, four touchdowns, two interceptions, and a shocking five fumbles. That's already more fumbles than he had in seven different entire seasons during his career.
The second point is that he can't do everything on his own, especially as he is advancing in age. A shaky offensive line (and that's being nice), few targets other than Julian Edelman and Rob Gronkowski, and with opposing defenses getting constant pressure on him, Brady has struggled this season. No NFL player can single-handedly do anything without a productive team effort.
The third logical assumption is that Brady and his receivers haven't been on the same page... and haven't been since the departure of Wes Welker. This season, 144 passes have been thrown to receiving targets, but only 87 passes have been completed. Brandon LaFell has caught 10 of the 22 passes thrown his way, Gronkowski has caught 13 of 26 passes thrown to him, and Edelman has has slightly better success, catching 26 of 36 passes that Brady has thrown him. But, Edelman has been the only reliable option, with no viable option on the outside.
The fourth and final is not really an assumption, but a statement about what Brady represents, or represented. Not many players could accomplish what Brady has done, both in terms of team success and personal statistics. He set records. He was and is a leader. He has stayed out of trouble, on and off the field. He has a beautiful wife, a family, and seems to genuinely be involved with them in a loving way. He has been everything that the Patriots could have hoped for over the course of his career. But, it's time to hold him somewhat accountable. It's time to point out that he is declining on the field, not in terms of leadership, but in terms of production and output. Even a living NFL great can gain some criticism if they deserve it, and so far this season, Brady does.
So, while we should all appreciate what Brady has accomplished and meant for the NFL over the course of his career, it's important to note that his dominance can now be thought of in the past tense. While he can't do it all by himself, he also can't get a complete pass.