Monday, September 08, 2008

Patriots' Tom Brady Out for Season

Those few Republicans who live in New England have gone from exultation over the selection and performance of Sarah Palin to deep despair over the news this afternoon that Tom Brady will need knee surgery and is out for the year. Everyone who watched his knee bend the wrong way as he was hit in Sunday's game against the Kansas City Chiefs has been holding his breath waiting to hear the results of medical tests. Now we know.

Can Belichick win without Brady?

Tony Massarotti September 7, 2008 (Excerpt)

"Where do the Patriots go from here? Late Sunday afternoon, Patriots players spoke about picking up the slack in the absence of their leader, but this really is not about them anymore. Rather, it is about their coach, the estimable Bill Belichick.

More than Bill Parcells and Drew Bledsoe, more than the entire Kraft family, the tandem of Belichick and Brady has made the Patriots what they are today. Since the early stages of the 2001 season, when Mo Lewis knocked Bledsoe senseless, the Patriots have always had the security and comfort of a B&B, granting all of New England a certain coziness in even the most difficult and hostile circumstances.

The Patriots didn't merely have the best coach.

They had the best quarterback, too.

Along the way, while the Patriots were going to five AFC Championship games and four Super Bowls while winning three league titles, we encountered a chicken-and-egg conundrum: Who comes first, the quarterback or the coach? Seemingly, the Patriots have won because they had Belichick first and Brady second, Belichick second and Brady first. In the end, all that really mattered was that the Patriots had them both, simultaneously, which gave them two unflappable and impenetrable decision-makers in a game in which decisions must be made quickly and decisively.

Consider this: With Brady as his starting quarterback, Belichick is 87-24 as a head coach during the regular season, 14-3 during the postseason. He is 3-1 in Super Bowls. Without Brady, Belichick's career regular season record is a mere 41-57 and he is 1-1 in postseason play. (Gulp.)

As such, now might be a good time to point out that the Patriots will likely be forced to change their entire offensive approach without Brady. Over the last seven or eight years, New England's entire attack has been built on Brady's ability to read defenses, make the right choice, find the open man. His mind and his poise always were his best weapons. From David Givens to Deion Branch to Doug Gabriel and Randy Moss, the Patriots always have said that the receiver they throw to is the one that's open. Unsaid in all of that was that they had a quarterback who could find the open man, almost unfailingly, and who played the rest of the NFL like a pinball machine last year when the Pats finally got him some big-time receivers.

Now, Brady appears to be headed to the sideline for an extended period of time, which would offer Belichick arguably the greatest challenge of his coaching career: Can he win without Brady? The Patriots have great depth at running back, a stable of first-round draft picks on the defensive line, three Pro Bowl linemen protecting the quarterback. They have some accomplished veteran linebackers and a bright, promising young one. They have some question marks in the secondary and arguably the best tandem of starting wide receivers in the NFL.

What the Patriots might have, too, is an enormous void at quarterback that could unmask or further elevate one of the great coaches in NFL history."


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