Patriots

McDaniels: 'He's the same Tom Brady' despite looming appeal

brady_mcdaniels.jpg

McDaniels: 'He's the same Tom Brady' despite looming appeal

FOXBORO -- There are few who work inside the walls of Gillette Stadium that know Tom Brady as well as his offensive coordinator, Josh McDaniels, a man Brady often refers to as a friend.

Brady came to the Patriots organization as an unheralded sixth round draft pick out of Michigan in 2000. McDaniels began his fledging professional coaching career as a personnel assistant with New England a year later. Other than a few seasons where McDaniels left the family -- if you will -- for Denver, the two men have worked closely together and experienced great success.

McDaniels would never betray Brady’s trust, but there’s no doubt that he has a much better feel for Brady’s state of mind as the date for the appeal of the quarterback’s four-game suspension grows near. On Thursday, I asked the 39-year old McDaniels if he had noticed a difference in Brady, professionally or personally. His response shouldn’t surprise you.

"No. No," he said. "He’s the same Tom Brady I’ve always had a chance to coach at this time of year. He’s working extremely hard, he’s got a great attitude. He’s had a very good spring, a very positive influence on our offense and our team. He’s doing everything he can do every day to get better. Nothing different than every year I’ve had a chance to work with him in the past."

Those that are close to Brady have expressed disappointment at the way their friend/teammate has been portrayed since the Deflategate scandal broke and the Wells Report was released. McDaniels, though, took the high road when asked about how the quarterback has been characterized.

"I try to control the things i can control," he said. "I don’t really worry too much about what’s said outside of building. I know he’s working hard to be best he can be and we’re trying to do that with every one of our players."

Doing their best means investing equal time in last year’s second round draft pick, fellow quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo, a man who could very well end up starting a game or four depending on how Brady’s appeal to NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell goes.

To this point, McDaniels insists the Pats have not altered the way they’ve approached the position during this stage of the offseason program.

"Hasn’t changed anything for us," McDaniels said. "We’re doing the same thing we would have always done. Our quarterbacks, the first two, are getting a lot of the same reps, splitting the same periods. So it’s really business as usual for us. This is the time of year when you want everyone to have the time to rep, make mistakes, learn from ‘em and get better . . . For us, the quarterback position is no different than any other."

Much was made of Garoppolo’s struggles late in one of the OTAs last week, when he ended up being intercepted five times.

Never mind that the players are in helmets, shorts and t-shirts, or that he was throwing to players new to the system (Fred Davis) or maybe on their way out of the system (Josh Boyce). With the overall teeth gnashing about Brady, some fans are demanding perfection from the backup. I’m sure McDaniels wouldn’t pass on such a lofty performance, but he’s not dismayed by bad results here in June.

"This time of year, you look at mistakes as an opportunity to grow from ‘em," he said. "We’re not playing games anytime soon. Any rep any of these young guys take, and any mistakes they make, gives us as a coaching staff a chance to improve em. I think he has a great attitude. In Jimmy’s situation, there are no bad days. I mean we’re either going to get better from some mistakes we made, or make progress and be happy about that."

Tom Brady on pace for huge numbers, so why is he down on his play of late?

Tom Brady on pace for huge numbers, so why is he down on his play of late?

FOXBORO -- Tom Brady is on pace for 5,224 yards passing in 2017, just a shade under his total from his career-high in 2011. He's on track to have 34 touchdowns and just five picks. Barring a continued run of ridiculous efficiency from Kansas City's Alex Smith, those numbers would be MVP-caliber in all likelihood.

But Brady's not thrilled with the way he's played of late. What gives? 

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In his past two games, he hasn't thrown the football as consistently as he would have liked. After starting the season with a 10-to-0 touchdown-to-interception ratio, he's 3-to-2 in the last couple of weeks. His accuracy has been at times pinpoint (as it was on his 42-yard completion to Brandin Cooks to help set up a Rob Gronkowski score against the Jets), but it has also been uncharacteristically erratic.

He was picked deep down the middle of the field by Buster Skrine last week, but the more concerning throw may have been the quick out-route to Gronkowski that Skrine dropped for what should have been an easy interception. Brady missed Phillip Dorsett on what looked like it could have been a long touchdown with Dorsett running free behind the defense. He threw behind Chris Hogan twice in the game, one of which opened up Hogan to a rib-shot that landed him on the injury report this week.

Against the Jets, Brady was not sacked and he was hit only four times -- a light day for him compared to other weeks this season when he's been battered. Yet he still completed just under 53 percent of his passes for 257 yards and a season-low 6.76 yards per attempt. 

"Well, I've got to hit the open . . . If the throws are there I've got to be able to make them," he said on Friday. "It's disappointing when I don't. To me, it just comes back to technique and fundamentals and making sure everything is working and that's the consistent daily thing that you're working on. I'm always working on my accuracy.

"I wish I hit them all. I'm capable of hitting them all and I need to be able to do that. I said last week that some of these games wouldn't be as close if I was playing better in the red area. I think some of those missed opportunities in the pass game with me hitting guys would really help our team. Hopefully, I can do a better job for this team."

Brady is no longer listed on the Patriots injury report, but he dealt with a left shoulder injury against both the Bucs and the Jets, and it's worth wondering if that somehow impacted how his passes traveled in those games. Balance is key in Brady's world, and even though he can make flat-footed throws look easy, perhaps an injury to his front side limited his ability to place the ball where he wanted. 

Keeping Brady upright could go a long way in helping the 40-year-old regain his form from Weeks 2-4 when he didn't dip below a 104 quarterback rating. Bill Belichick said earlier this week that part of the reason the Jets pass-rush wasn't quite as effective as others they'd faced this year was his team's ability to run the ball. Productive rushing attempts on first and second down mean manageable third downs, which mean shorter pass attempts. Those of course, in theory, lead to less time standing in the pocket and a healthier quarterback.

"It's great," Brady said of his team's recent surge running the football. "I mean, to be able to run the ball consistently in the NFL is important for every offense. It does take a lot of . . . I wouldn't say pressure, it's just production. If 400 yards of offense is what you're looking for and you can get 150 from your running game, the 250 has got to come in the passing game. If you're getting 50 yards in the rushing game then it means you've got to throw for more.

"I don't think it's pressure it's just overall you're going to get production in different areas and the backs are a big part of our offense and handing the ball off to them is an easy way for us to gain yards if we're all coordinated and doing the right thing. But those guys are running hard. The line is doing a great job up front finishing blocks and so forth."

Against the Falcons and their talented -- though underperforming -- offense this weekend, the running game could be key. First, it could help the Patriots defense by controlling possession and keeping Matt Ryan, Julio Jones, Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman off the field. Next are the obvious advantages for the signal-caller who could use a stress-free day in the pocket to help him solve his recent accuracy issues. 

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