The New England Patriots, who are in the middle of their 2019 mandatory minicamp, currently have the maximum of 90 players on their active roster. However, only 53 of them will be able to survive the cutdowns on August 31 and ultimately make the team. Over the course of the summer, we will take a look at the players fighting for those spots to find out who has the best chances of helping the Patriots defend their Super Bowl title.
Today, the series continues with the greatest quarterback the league has ever seen.
Name: Tom Brady
Jersey number: 12
Opening day age: 42
Size: 6’4, 225 lbs.
2018 review: Tom Brady entered the preparations for the 2018 season amidst plenty of speculation. Coming off a Super Bowl loss in which he played an outstanding game but ultimately had to watch the Patriots come up just short, the veteran opted to sit out his team’s voluntary offseason workouts for the first time in almost a decade. This, in combination with his age, was a hotbed for retirement rumors.
But retire he did not, and instead joined the team for its mandatory minicamp — sounds familiar? — to show that he was still the Patriots’ main man. Brady continued to prove this over the course of the summer, and while working with a cast of characters that looked drastically different than the one he worked with in 2017: gone were Brandin Cooks, Danny Amendola, Nate Solder and Dion Lewis; replaced with a returning Julian Edelman and some offseason acquisitions.
This new-look supporting cast in combination with Edelman missing the regular season’s first four games due to suspension, led to Brady and New England’s aerial attack starting the year in inconsistent fashion. The team opened the season with a 2-2 record, and while Brady’s numbers during that span were solid — 64.4% completion rate, 918 yards, 9 touchdowns, 4 interceptions — they and his overall confidence within the offense were not on the same level they were at during his 2017 MVP campaign.
The return of Edelman and the trade to acquire Josh Gordon changed the whole complexion of the Patriots’ passing offense, however, and Brady’s performances went from ‘very good’ to ‘excellent’ again. As the season went along, New England’s attack became one of the most lethal in the NFL — one capable of hanging with the league’s premier units — even after Gordon was lost to an indefinite suspension. Brady was as a big a reason as any for that.
On a weekly basis, the future Hall of Famer proved his command of the offense and that he was still among the NFL’s elite quarterbacks. And while he was not infallible, he still finished the regular season on a high note and with a respectable stat line: playing almost all of the Patriots’ offensive snaps yet again (97.6%; 1,092 of 1,119), Brady completed 375 of 570 pass attempts (65.8%) for 4,355 yards as well as 29 touchdowns and 11 interceptions.
Brady, who was ranked as the fourth best quarterback in the NFL by Pro Football Focus despite his comparative early-season slump, was no less impressive during the playoffs — even though the numbers do not quite reflect it: while his completion percentage and yards per game went up to 68.0% (85 of 125) and 317.7 (953 yards in total), respectively, he only threw two touchdown passes compared to three interceptions.
However, Brady did what Brady does: he came through in the clutch, as both the Kansas City Chiefs and the Los Angeles Rams found out. In the AFC title game in Kansas City, Brady led two lead-changing drives in the fourth quarter before converting three 3rd and 10 situations en route to an overtime victory. Two weeks later, in Super Bowl 53, he was again fantastic in crunch time by leading the Patriots to 10 points in the final period of a 13-3 contest.
His late-game playoff heroics therefore helped him add another championship to his already legendary career: by beating the Rams, the team against which he won his first, Brady earned his sixth Super Bowl victory. For comparison, that is as much as his former rivals for the title of ‘greatest quarterback of all time,’ Joe Montana and Peyton Manning, have combined.
2019 preview: For the second year in a row, Brady decided to skip the voluntary portions of New England’s offseason workout program to instead train on his own (at times in the company of Edelman and first-round rookie wide receiver N’Keal Harry, though). Given how well things worked out last year, the 41-year-old should again be given the benefit of the doubt when it comes to the design of his offseason training regimen.
When the workouts and games count, the most decorated player in league history is/will be back on the field anyway, and there is little doubt he again will be his usual productive self. Mandatory minicamp, which opened on Tuesday with Brady in attendance, already gave us a glimpse of his 2019 version and it looked no visibly different than last year’s. After all, his rigorous diet and preparation have helped him stay on top of his game even after all those years of playing in the NFL.
It does therefore not seem unrealistic to once again see him among the league’s best quarterbacks entering this year — despite turning 42 in early August and playing in an offense that underwent some major changes for the second offseason in a row: from Rob Gronkowski’s retirement, to numerous new (and unproven in the Patriots’ system) pass catchers being brought on board, to left tackle Trent Brown leaving in free agency.
Unlike any other quarterback in league history, however, Brady has shown an ability to adapt to change — be it in terms of scheme or personnel — and still stay successful. 2018 was a good example for that, and 2019 will likely not be any different: expect the GOAT to once more be among the NFL’s elite.