Plenty of people have recently been second-guessing Tom Brady in recent days. Patriots coach Bill Belichick won’t do it, at least not publicly.
Asked during a recent press conference regarding Brady’s decision to not throw the ball to running back James White short of the end zone instead of throwing the ball to the end zone one snap before the final offensive play of the game for New England, Belichick launched into a lengthy defense of/deference to the 41-year-old quarterback.
“Well, again, Tom’s a very experienced quarterback in our system, very experienced playing against our opponent, Pittsburgh, last week,” Belichick said, via a transcript distributed by the team. “He has excellent judgment and decision-making abilities and so, again, when the play is called, the ball is not supposed to go to anybody unless it’s a screen pass or something like that. We’re not trying to throw it to one guy. All the questions about why don’t we throw to this guy — because there’s five guys out on the pattern and we’re going to try to do what’s best on that play. In Tom’s judgment, which I would certainly not second-guess his judgment, which given the game situation and the time and all of the things that went into that play, he made the best decision that he thought he could make at that time and I’m not going to second-guess it.
“You can second-guess it if you want to, but nobody knows better at that time, with the ball in his hands, where he feels like he’s got the best chance. If we complete a pass and the clock’s running and how much time that’s going to take and what we have left, that’s a split-second decision that he’s got to make. I don’t think anybody will make it better than him. You can second-guess it all you want, but that’s the person we have doing that and we have great confidence in him doing that. It’s a tough situation.”
That’s arguably the most Belichick ever has said to defend anyone, and it sort of feels like a modern-day equivalent of T.O.’s sniffling “that’s my teammate, that’s my quarterback” press conference, which was widely viewed as a passive-aggressive attack by Owens on Tony Romo’s decision to take a Mexican vacation during the bye week prior to a Dallas playoff game.
Belichick may not publicly (or privately) second guess Brady, but if Brady starts consistently making decisions that are conducive to second guessing, eventually Brady won’t be “the person we have doing that.”
And that continues to be the elephant in the room when it comes to Brady’s endgame in New England. The head coach routinely has made dispassionate decisions regarding players who can and can’t perform at the acceptable level, constantly choosing between players for roster spots and playing time. If Brady really is in decline, with a desire to avoid being hit impairing his decision-making by accelerating his internal timetable for choosing where and when to throw the ball, Belichick will know it — and Belichick eventually will do something about it, unless Brady does it first.
Tom Curran of NBCSportsBoston.com recently made the case that the decline is indeed unfolding before our eyes. Again, if our eyes can see it, Belichick’s already have. And the fact that he went so far out of his way to defend Brady could be the precursor to a far less charitable separation.