You’ve probably heard the word reductive? Just a fancy way of saying something is being grossly oversimplified.
We’ve got a clear case of reductive reasoning right under our noses this week.
The thinking goes that, because Jimmy Garoppolo and Jacoby Brissett combined to win three games for the Patriots this year and Matt Cassel won 11 in 2008, Tom Brady is merely a schmoe who happened to be in the right place at the right time in 2001, plugged into a can’t-miss system.
Tom Brady is...a system quarterback.
Patriots safety Devin McCourty was presented with this piece of reductive logic Friday on NFL Network’s Good Morning Football program (nice to see two-thirds of a Quick Slants reunion with McCourty and our great friend Kay Adams).
“That may be taking it a little too far,” said McCourty. “Just a system guy? That’s wrong. Obviously, everyone knows Tom Brady’s legend. His game speaks for itself. We obviously can’t wait to have him back in the locker room, he’s the leader on our team. To say that is ridiculous. Obviously, here in New England we find ways to win. It’s a little different here without Tom but to try to say he’s a system quarterback I don’t even think you should waste your time asking questions like that.”
For anyone who’d like a more detailed dismissal of the notion of Brady being a system guy, let’s look at the season that is most often used to discredit Brady’s singular excellence, 2008.
In 2007, the Patriots set NFL records for points (589), touchdowns (75), highest point-differential (315), Tom Brady set the NFL record for touchdown passes (50) and Randy Moss set the record for touchdown catches (23). The team recorded the NFL’s first 16-0 regular season and got to 18-0 before losing the Super Bowl.
In 2008, the Patriots scored 410 points, put up 43 touchdowns, Cassel threw for 21 touchdowns (Moss catching 11 of them) and the team won five fewer games than when Brady was there. I mean, 11-5 is still pretty good even if those Patriots did miss the playoffs, but the offense was barely half as effective.
Every team has a system. Every quarterback is a system guy. You know what system the Texans run? The same system the Patriots run. They didn’t score on Thursday. You know who else was a system quarterback? Joe Montana. And Steve Young.
Anyway, McCourty also had this to say about Bill Belichick and the trait that sets him apart.
“Consistency,” said McCourty. “You come into a short week, third-string quarterback, rookie quarterback, I think a lot of people would be expecting the head coach to come in and try to draw up all these different things you have to do, give you a big Kumbaya speech. He came in the same way he was three years ago, week one, week, two and let us know, ‘We need to do this, this and this and we can win the game.’ I think as players, you see that and the head coach comes in focused and you say, ‘Oh, he knows. We’ll follow him. We’ll do these things and see how it turns out. Over the years you see it. You do those things, you come out as a winner.”