Brady doesn't think about MVP: 'I've always been about winning'

Brady doesn't think about MVP: 'I've always been about winning'

Even after playing in just 12 games this season, Tom Brady has a legitimate shot at being named league MVP. He finished the year with a 28-to-2 touchdown-to-interception ratio and he led the Patriots to a record of 11-1 once he returned from his four-game suspension for Deflategate. 

There are others who will be in contention for the honor, like Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan, Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers, Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott and Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott. But judging by what Brady had to say on WEEI's Kirk and Callahan show Monday, it sounded as though he would be just fine with it if one of those players were to be named more "valuable" than him. 

"I get messages from friends that say, 'Man, you've had such a great year.' But I really don't think about it," Brady said. "Football's a team sport. The reality is the MVP is usually a quarterback that's on a good team. It [eliminates] every defensive player, every running back, every receiver that are all the greatest athletes in the world. It's really a quarterback award, and there's a lot of great quarterbacks.

"It's impossible to choose someone that's most valuable to a team. There's a lot of great players in the NFL. It's very flattering to be mentioned as one of those players. But I've always been about winning, and our team winning. That's always been most important to me, and that will always be most important to me."

When asked if he felt as though he was playing as well as he's ever played, Brady didn't say yes or no. He did, however, point to one statistic that he was particularly proud of.

"I love throwing [only] two picks," Brady said. "That's the highlight of what my season has been for me. That's something that I really love being a part of because it's not just the quarterback. Those come down to receivers catching the ball, and being in the right place, and the great protection up front. We've had all those things play into it.

"I think the No. 1 thing for a quarterback that means the most to me is that I never want to be the reason we lose a game. Every week our No. 1 goal is not to turn the ball over. For us to have two interceptions on the year as a quarterback group . . . I think that does put your team in a great position when you're not throwing picks.

"Coach [Bill Belichick] always says you can't win until you stop from losing. That's a great formula. Turnover ratio, turnover margin, there's no stat that correlates more to winning than that. That's why I think our team's been so successful over the years because we don't turn the ball over as often as our opponents do."

Brady, Jimmy Garoppolo (zero picks) and Jacoby Brissett (zero picks) combined to break the NFL record for fewest interceptions thrown in a season. The previous record was five, and Brady was well aware.

"Going into the game, I didn't want to throw three," he said with a laugh. "But it's a good stat. It's a good stat. It correlates to team success, and that's what it's all about for me."

Don't pigeonhole me: How will Adrian Clayborn fit into the Patriots defense?

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Don't pigeonhole me: How will Adrian Clayborn fit into the Patriots defense?

Looking for a two-word answer from Bill Belichick during a press conference? Ask him how a new addition to the roster might fit into the Patriots scheme. 

"We'll see," is Belichick's typical reply in those situations. 


We point that out here because it's hard to know exactly what any new player's role will be with the Patriots, particularly for an edge player like Adrian Clayborn. That spot in Belichick's defense can take on a variety of roles, from pass-rusher, to edge-setter, to coverage player. 

But we can take an educated guess as to how Clayborn will fit in the Patriots defense, based on what we know. That's what the Patriots did when they signed him. They saw certain skills. They saw Clayborn perform in certain situations. They made their projection. 

There's always the chance Clayborn asserts himself in a way that wasn't expected. Or maybe the way he fits with his new teammates will open his coaches' eyes in ways they weren't anticipating. But at this point, as is the case with every new addition, they're hypothesizing. So we will too. 

AGAINST THE PASS: Clayborn was, for the vast majority of his snaps, a pass-rusher for the Falcons last year. He played 631 snaps for the Falcons, which was 53.4 of their defensive snaps. Of those 631 plays, Clayborn rushed the quarterback 477 times, per Pro Football Focus (76 percent of his workload). And of those pass-rush snaps, only one came from the left side. (Clayborn was born with Erb's palsy, which means his right arm has some limitations compared to his left, which impacts the side of the field he aligns on. He played 91 percent of his snaps from the right side in 2016.)  Clayborn played over 80 percent of the snaps during each of his first three seasons in the league as a member of the Bucs so he's been a three-down player before. But recent history would suggest the 6-foot-2, 280-pounder is now more of a sub option.

Here's how Clayborn responded during a conference call on Wednesday when asked if he could chip in on first and second down for the Patriots. "I believe that’s what people have pigeon-holed me in as a third-down player, but I know I can play first, second, third down if need be," he said. "That was my role in Atlanta because that’s what they asked me to do, but I mean, I can play all three downs if you ask me."

AGAINST THE RUN: According to Pro Football Focus, Clayborn has been a negatively-graded player against the run during each of his seven seasons in the NFL. Last year he checked in as PFF's 78th-ranked run defender among edge players, which was far below the ranking Trey Flowers received (19th) but ahead of Deatrich Wise (85th) and Eric Lee (96th). During each of his last three seasons with the Falcons, he has seen his snap-counts break down similarly: about 75 percent of his work came against the pass, about 25 percent came against the run. He can defend the run. He's capable of it. He just hasn't been asked to consistently hold up on the edge on a down-in-down-out basis during the most recent phase of his career. 

THE FIT: Based on his history in Atlanta, it would make sense if the Patriots asked Clayborn to come off of the right edge in passing situations in 2018. That's where his recent experience has been. Keeping him away from the left side not only makes the most of where he's strongest, but it also keeps him from finding himself in coverage. As Belichick has explained in the past, the left end spot (Rob Ninkovich's old spot), going against right-handed quarterbacks, is typically asked to do more in coverage. The right edge has been Flowers' area in the recent past -- he played almost 65 percent of his passing-rush snaps last season off the right, per PFF -- but if the Patriots are fully-healthy up front, Flowers could kick inside to do his rushing. An ideal sub package for the Patriots, it could be argued, would have Clayborn on the right edge, Flowers and either Wise or Adam Butler on the interior, and Derek Rivers or Dont'a Hightower on the left edge. Rivers saw some work off the left side before suffering an injury in last year's training camp. Early last season, Hightower saw time on the left edge. 


Clayborn will have an opportunity to show he can do more than rush off the right side. He said on Wednesday that the Patriots have discussed multiple roles for him. (Perhaps he could rush from the interior, though he's not as long as Flowers or Wise, whose arms make them good matchups for stouter guards and tackles.) Wherever those opportunities come, Clayborn knows he'll have to make the most of them if he doesn't want to be pigeonholed. The deal for two years and $10 million he just signed in New England doesn't guarantee him myriad responsibilities.

"Whatever I can prove I can do,” he said. "I know I can rush the passer. I know I can set edge in the run. I mean, there’s a couple of different positions that they believe I can play, so it’s up to me to prove I can play them."


Ex-Patriot Ricky Jean-Francois signing with Lions

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Ex-Patriot Ricky Jean-Francois signing with Lions

Former Patriots defensive tackle Ricky Jean-Francois is signing with the Lions, according to Jordan Schultz of Yahoo Sports.

The 31-year-old had six tackles in six games for the Patriots in 2017. He'll reunite with ex-Patriots defensive coordinator and now Lions head coach Matt Patricia in Detroit.