We have entered the deepest depths of the NFL offseason. Free agency and the draft are behind us, while minicamp and training camp won't start until early June and late July, respectively. However, while the football world seemingly turns slower these days it does not stop.
After all, until the late-August's roster cuts, players need to have secured their spots on the team. Over the course of the next few months, we will take a look at the men fighting for them on the 2017 New England Patriots. 53 of currently 88 players will be asked to help the team defend its Super Bowl title.
Today, we’ll continue the series with the greatest quarterback of all time.
Name: Tom Brady
Jersey number: 12
Opening day age: 40
Size: 6’4, 225 lbs.
2016 review: Tom Brady's 2016 season started on the sidelines and ended with him on the stage at the Super Bowl, receiving both the Vince Lombardi Trophy as well as MVP honors. In between, the NFL's greatest quarterback delivered yet another season for the ages; one that stands out even by his own lofty standards.
After splitting more reps than usual with backup Jimmy Garoppolo over the course of the summer, Brady was forced to sit out the first four games of the season. When he returned in week 5 on the road against the Cleveland Browns, the future Hall of Famer was already in midseason form – no rust, no chemistry issues.
Brady, like he proved to be all season long, was in total command of the offense and accurate on all types of pass plays. He also displayed a great chemistry with offseason acquisitions Chris Hogan and Martellus Bennett. In short: When he returned from suspension, Brady was his typical self; the premier quarterback in the NFL.
Overall, he appeared in the Patriots’ final 15 games of the 2016 season and played some of the best and most successful football you will ever see. Of the 432 passes he attempted, Brady completed 291 (67.4%) for 3,554 yards, 28 touchdowns and a mere two interceptions. His 14:1 touchdown-interception-ratio not only led the league but is also the best in NFL history.
While his regular season was spectacular, Brady’s magnum opus came in the postseason. After initial struggles against the Houston Texans and torching the Pittsburgh Steelers en route to his seventh Super Bowl start, neither Brady nor the Patriots’ offense got off to a good start against the Atlanta Falcons. The team – in part due to a pick six – found itself in a 28-3 hole midway through the third period.
What happened then, though, was the stuff of legends. Led by Brady, New England dug itself out of the 25-point hole and ultimately beat the Falcons 34-28 in overtime. Brady’s record-breaking performance earned him MVP honors and capped a postseason which saw him complete 93 of 142 pass attempts (65.5%) for 1,137 yards, seven touchdowns and three interceptions.
The 2016 season was, once again, a coronation – a year that further cemented Brady’s legacy as the greatest quarterback to ever don an NFL uniform. Even after having to start the year banned from football, Brady was able to end it on the highest possible note.
2017 preview: In August, Brady will celebrate his 40th birthday. While other quarterbacks have long been retired at that age, the most successful passer in pro football history is still going strong. After all, his rigorous diet, workouts and preparation have helped him stay on top of his game even after all those years of playing in the NFL.
Consequently, it does not seem unrealistic to once again see him among the league’s best quarterbacks – unchartered territories be damned. Especially considering that Brady will be surrounded by one of the most talented and versatile supporting casts he has ever seen assembled around him.
The Patriots invested heavily to upgrade the wide receiver, tight end and running back positions over the course of the offseason. All those investments – ranging from speedy wideout Brandin Cooks to elusive runner Mike Gillislee – should help Brady maintain his excellence and be among the statistical leaders in all major passing categories.
Most importantly, they should help him lead a Patriots offense good enough to bring yet another Lombardi Trophy to New England. It would be the sixth of Brady’s already legendary career. And given its first 17 years, would anyone be surprised to see it happen?