Curran: Final installment of Tom vs. Time hints at Brady's dissatisfaction

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Curran: Final installment of Tom vs. Time hints at Brady's dissatisfaction

The final installment of Tom vs. Time was released Monday and the final two scenes carried with it a heavy sense of foreboding.

Given the editorial control Tom Brady had over the project, there’s no confusing the point. He’s just about had it.


The final words spoken by Brady’s wife, Gisele Bundchen, allude to a sense of disenchantment for Brady with the atmosphere in Foxboro.

“These last two years have been very challenging for him in so many ways,” she said. “And he tells me, ‘I love it so much and I just want to go to work and feel appreciated and have fun.’ ”

After Bundchen speaks, the final scene cuts to a philosophic Brady who is plainly asking if it’s all still worth it. “It’s a big commitment, laying here three days after the game and getting my Achilles worked on and my thumb,” Brady said. “You go, ‘What are we doing this for?’ You know? ‘What are we doing this for, who are we doing this for, why are we doing this?’ You gotta have answers to those questions. And they have to be with a lot of conviction. You know, when you lose your conviction then you probably should be doing something else.”

Even with the qualifier that all this introspection is coming with the wound from the Super Bowl loss still fresh, the tone is a 180-degree turn from what we’ve become accustomed to from Brady.

The question of why he did the things he did always seemed easy to answer. Quarterback wasn’t just what he did, it was who he was.

But the fact his children are quickly growing up – Brady notes that this Super Bowl loss was the first one that affected them – and the fleeting nature of parenting malleable little people who are fast becoming bigger people seems to be dawning on him.

Brady is openly wondering if his conviction to continue competing the way he always has remains. And if the answer is “no,” should he “be doing something else?”


How would this episode have been different if the Patriots beat Philadelphia? How much introspection would there be, how much would the desire to be “appreciated and have fun” be on his family’s mind if the payoff was more than a painful loss? We won’t know. Because that’s not the way that story ended.

Now that Brady’s given voice to the idea his conviction is waning, we have to wonder how close we are to this story ending, too.


Pats can't have it all in free agency . . . but they'll need something

Pats can't have it all in free agency . . . but they'll need something

This time of year, football fans get to turn the clock back a bit. 

Way back. To when they were little kids strapped in a shopping carriage.  Back when every aisle brought a new item for you to thrust a pudgy, snot-encrusted finger at and scream, “I WANT THAT!”

Calm reasoning? You weren’t having it. The logic offered -- too expensive, poorly made, you already have one at home -- did nothing to quell the craving. 


When the carriage rolled past and the item was ignored, the pouting began. 

“I never get anything . . . "

It was the price exacted for having been kidnapped and taken to Stop & Shop in the first place. 

NFL free agency hasn’t even started ("legal" tampering began Monday), but there’s already been a measure of kicking and screaming locally as the Patriots are imagined to have pushed their personnel carriage past two “name” cornerbacks -- Aqib Talib and Richard Sherman.

Talib landed in Los Angeles via trade; Sherman signed with San Francisco after being released. 

Talib wanted to play for Bill Belichick or Wade Phillips. The Broncos made the wise choice and sent him to Phillips and away from the AFC. 

Sherman, meanwhile, signed an incentive-laden contract with the first team he visited. It was a deal he negotiated himself. In Peter King’s blow-by-blow account of the negotiations the Patriots are never mentioned as a possible suitor, though Sherman lobbied Pats players last offseason to put in a word for him about coming to New England. 

In short, not interested. 

There were laments that the Patriots were effectively outflanked by the Rams on Talib and didn’t get in the game on Sherman. Meanwhile, they were also beaten in the race for Michael Bennett by Philadelphia at the end of last week. 

So there were weekend cries of “What are they dooooiiiinngggggg?????” on social media. So the kids are already beet-faced and kicking in their carriages.


Now there’s another corner on the market that could hypothetically fit the Patriots coverage shortcomings. Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie -- released by the Giants -- was a second-team All-Pro in 2016 after moving to slot corner. Prior to that, he’d been an outside corner and a pretty good one. The Giants tried to slide him to safety last season but Rodgers-Cromartie wound up being a lead irritant in New York’s Season of Great Dysfunction. 

Do the Patriots need Rodgers-Cromartie? Probably not. He’s 31, he didn’t want to take a pay cut from $6.5 million to stay with the Giants, he was a pain in the ass last season and -- because he’s built like a praying mantis -- he doesn’t love contact. 

But anyone who watched the Super Bowl -- and there were a lot of you -- would agree that the coverage situation’s got to change. 

(That it could have conceivably been changed THAT DAY if 2015 Pro Bowler and 2016 second-team All-Pro Malcolm Butler was allowed to ply his trade as he did on 98 percent of the defensive snaps during the year is a thicket of confusion we don’t need to enter right now . . . that game was a preview of a Butler-free secondary). 

As Phil Perry noted on Saturday, corner’s a concern but it’s not even the top priority for this offseason. Linebacker, left tackle and quarterback should all trump it. 

That’s thanks in part to the big-ticket free agent signing the Patriots made last offseason, Stephon Gilmore. After his slow start, he was lockdown by the end of the year. 

As for the rest of the crew, Eric Rowe, Jonathan Jones and Cyrus Jones give the defense enough talent to absolutely get by -- especially if Cyrus Jones comes back from his ACL and plays without letting his head get in the way. And there are draft options as well. 

To me, the defense’s greater shortcomings are everywhere but the secondary. 

More aggression in the front seven might mean an end to pedestrian quarterbacks looking like stars when they get up against the New England defense. 

It would be nice if third-and-8 felt like a bad down-and-distance for opposing offenses. In the playoffs, the Patriots' three opponents went 14-for-27 on throws when the down and distance was between third-and-3 and third-and-10.  They were 9-for-20 on third-and-(6 to 10). 

If the Patriots were considering Bennett -- whose on-field disruptiveness can only be beneficial if the defense is attacking rather than reacting -- maybe that’s a sign of a change to come now that Matt Patricia’s gone to the Lions. 

The Danny Shelton addition over the weekend was a low-cost move with the potential for high returns. Regardless of why he was rendered moot in Cleveland -- scheme, conditioning, motor, technique -- the size and athleticism are there and he can fit in where Alan Branch was. 

If you want to tally up the moves made so far, Shelton hits a bigger area of need. Regardless of how much of an upgrade Talib and Sherman could be over Rowe and Co., they would have come at a decent cost and could potentially have gummed up the works with other signings. 

Like with Nate Solder. The tampering with the best tackle option on the board has begun in earnest:

The Patriots let him hit free agency, which means they'll give other teams a chance to set the market and then have to pay to keep him. It worked in the case of Dont'a Hightower last year. It nearly didn't with Devin McCourty in 2015. 

The Patriots have north of $20 million in 2018 cap space available. Solder is going to get offered a deals by someone that -- if the Patriots match -- will chew away at that cushion significantly. 


If they don't and Solder goes elsewhere, the Patriots will save money at the spot but also be reduced to projections and hope as to who takes over for Solder. 

In short, if you want to kick, scream and throw your Nuk during free agency, you'll probably have your chance. But don't do it over cornerback. 


With Solder's return uncertain, Pats could in trouble at left tackle

With Solder's return uncertain, Pats could in trouble at left tackle

The Patriots have painted themselves into a corner at left tackle. Next week, Nate Solder -- who turns 30 in April -- will become a free agent.

Since being taken with the 17th overall pick in the 2011 draft, Solder's established himself as one of the league's better players at one of its most difficult positions. He's missed significant time just once. That was in 2015, when he tore his biceps against the Cowboys. The offensive line was never really the same after that and the AFC Championship Game against Denver was its nadir as Tom Brady took a merciless beating in a narrow loss.


The start to Solder's 2017 wasn't up to his standards. At all. But by midseason, he spun his year around.

Speaking to Phil Perry at the Super Bowl, this is what offensive line coach Dante Scarnecchia said about Solder, "I think the switch just flipped, and I think it flipped for the better. I think we've seen a really good football player. I don't think he's really outspoken or really verbal, but when he says something everybody listens to it. The guy is a really bright guy and he's a really good player. He's a great guy . . . He's a dynamic run-blocker and a really good pass-blocker. I really like him. I like being around him."

Truthfully, Solder needed to do that. Because no matter how good he's been and no matter how direct and impactful he is as a leader in the Patriots locker room, what matters going forward is his performance. Whichever team signs Solder has to ask itself how good he will be at 32 or 33, playing left tackle against players who just keep getting faster, stronger and more impossible to block for 70 plays every Sunday.

He is at the top of the free-agent tackle class. Somebody is going to pay him. And it's a tribute to how shallow the pool is that teammates Cameron Fleming and La'Adrian Waddle are also in the mix as the best free-agent tackle prospects.

So the Patriots have three expiring contracts at left tackle. Last offseason, they traded a first-round pick to acquire Brandin Cooks and took a flamethrower to their second-round pick by trading it for Kony Ealy, who never played a down.

In the third round, they drafted Antonio Garcia from Troy University. Garcia had trouble keeping weight on in college -- he was consistently below 300 pounds as a senior -- then missed his rookie season with an illness that caused him to drop even more weight.


The Patriots -- primarily Scarnecchia, the lineman whisperer -- have had success through the years shepherding players from nowhere to capable. Marcus Cannon should present Scarnecchia in Canton if the voters were shrewd enough to realize he's been a Hall of Fame assistant.

Maybe that happens with Garcia. But it's a big “maybe.” And until Garcia or someone else develops, the Patriots will ask their 41-year-old quarterback to -- still, again, forever -- bail them out by taking the thrashing he'll surely get and keep on getting back up.

As much credit as Scarnecchia deserves for what he's done as a coach, Brady's ability to get the ball out quickly has covered for offensive-line development periods. So has the scheme and the skill position personnel, but it really comes back to Brady.

My sense from talking to Solder during the season is that he'd prefer to stay in New England. But he is also amenable to listening to other teams. My feeling is he will take into account all the information and make his decision. He doesn't know what's going to happen either.

Over his seven NFL seasons, Solder's made a little north of $35 million. Here are the top salaries at left tackle.

Anthony Castonzo, left tackle for the Colts, was taken five spots after Solder in 2011. He's made $43 million and is on the books to make $59 million through 2019.


This isn't to suggest the Patriots should do their business like the moronic Colts. Only that, when it comes to making his decision, these will be the things that inform Solder's decision.

Since 2001, the Patriots have had two main left tackles -- Matt Light and Solder. And Solder got to serve an apprentice season because the Patriots planned well at the position. It hasn't shaken out that way this time. And it should be a point of concern.