Tom Brady has been doing more managing than throwing in 2012
The term “game manager” has always been a sore subject in football circles. Normally, it has been reserved for okay quarterbacks on teams filled with talented players at every other positions who have one job and that job is to not make a major mistake. The ultimate game manager was Baltimore Ravens quarterback Trent Dilfer who in 2000 with one of the greatest football defenses of all time led the Baltimore Ravens to a Super Bowl championship by not making many mistakes.
The game manager has three major jobs:
- Don’t turn the ball over and give the opposing teams a short field.
- Change to the correct play if the defense shows something that can be exploited.
- Make enough plays to win the game if need be.
As Sunday’s game between the New England Patriots and the Denver Broncos went on from the afternoon into the early evening, the idea of the “game-manager” constantly popped into my head between plays and sips of beer. Watching quarterback Tom Brady get to the line, calling out the audibles and more than often hand off the ball to one of the Patriots’ running backs, it was hard not to think of him as a “game-manager”.
It seems blasphemous to think of Tom Brady, one of the greatest if not arguably the greatest quarterbacks of all time, as being a game-manager given the common connotation the term game-manager has. It would imply that Tom Brady isn’t that great, that the Patriots don’t need him to be great for them to win games right now. That last one is becoming closer to reality than Patriots’ fans might think. The past two weeks, the Patriots have rushed for over 200 yards as a team on the go, the first time that has happened since the 1970′s. They have a physical offensive line that opens holes for Stevan Ridley, Brandon Bolden and Danny Woodhead to make one cut and go. In fact, the most impressive play of the game for the Patriots was the definition of a game-manager’s plays. With a third and seventeen, the Patriots called a simple stretch-run play to Danny Woodhead in the hopes that he would gain a couple of yards to make the punt a little bit easier. The Patriots, of course, acquired a first-down on the run which is what made it impressive, but the fact of the matter is that the Patriots played the play in a way that they didn’t want to make a mistake and give the Broncos a short field and continue their comeback. One would think that with Tom Brady at the helm, the Patriots would try and take a shot to gain the first down, but they didn’t do that.
Is this a bad thing or a knock against Tom Brady? Not at all. In fact, the Patriots could be better for it in the long run. I don’t think many Patriots’ fans are doubting Tom Brady’s ability to make big plays in order to win games. Outside of the Jets playoff game (and the Ravens game to some extent) it has been the Patriots’ defense that has let them down over the years with Brady having done enough work to usually win those game.
A quick look at his games this year show a quarterback who is qualifying as a game-manager with a little bit of girth to him:
Provided by Pro-Football-Reference.com
: View Original Table
Outside of Buffalo, Brady isn’t putting up huge touchdown numbers or making massive plays to win games for the Patriots, but he is doing enough to win games and making plays when he needs to. In addition, it’s tough to call him a game-manager because he is completing balls at a 67% rate and throwing for 290 yards a game. If anything, it is a throwback to the Tom Brady of old back when the Patriots were a run first team and used the run to set up the pass. The difference now is that Tom Brady is more experienced and has also been the man in the offense for almost 5 seasons now. Not since Corey Dillon in 2004 have the Patriots had a running attack this good.
It’s also a testament to the ability and skill of Tom Brady to fit into many different offenses. If the Patriots needed him to throw for 500 yards and 4 touchdowns to win, he has proven he can do that. If a game-winning drive is needed, Brady can deliver and he can also hand off the ball, prevent turnovers and do enough that is needed for the Patriots to win. Maybe that is what makes him the ultimate game-manager. He can adapt and evolve to whatever the situation is supposed to be. It’s the true definition of “game-manager”, he manages the game and determines what he has to do to give the Patriots the best chance to win.
(Did I twist the term game-manager to my own desires? Of course I did, but what semi-biased Boston sports blog writer would I be if I didn’t do that?)
The 2012 Patriots offense is the most balanced one since the 2008 Patriots and the most balanced one with Tom Brady at the helm since the 2004 Super Bowl season. There are weapons all over the field and defenses are going to try and play them different ways. Each game, Tom Brady has the ability to quickly decipher who or what the Patriots’ have that is trying to be stopped and determine what he has to do to win.
So far in 2012, he hasn’t had to be the all-world MVP passer of years past. As long as they are winning, Tom Brady, game-manager sounds just fine to me.