MINNEAPOLIS – Despite a chorus of scoffing from media, the “Tom vs. Time” documentary goes beyond being a fascinating watch for voyeurs wanting to see what Tom Brady’s kitchen and office look like.
There are things you can glean from it that give insight to where things are and where they could be headed. Football things.
Specifically, as it pertains to Josh McDaniels.
In the second installment of the documentary series, Brady is seen breaking down film on his laptop then sending McDaniels a voice message about a play he wants to tweak.
McDaniels then calls back while Brady is driving. He agrees that, yes, he can tailor a play Brady referenced from preseason to include Gronk going vertical (downfield) at the end of a route.
“This is always a collaboration,” said Brady. “This is me watching all the film and having my idea. And then Josh will do the same thing. I have really strong feelings about what I like and what I wanna do and he has really strong feelings about what he likes and what he wants to do. That’s always that axe that we have to grind.”
Brady and McDaniels have spent 10 years together. The first period was from 2004 through 2008 when McDaniels was first quarterbacks coach then QBs coach/offensive coordinator. McDaniels rejoined the team in 2012 and the two have been together since.
McDaniels and the Saints’ Pete Carmichael are the only two offensive coordinators in the NFL who’ve been in their positions for more than three seasons.
Set aside all of Brady’s brilliance, the team-building knack of Nick Caserio and the ingenious in-game management of Bill Belichick – the fact that Brady and McDaniels have been sharing an offensive brain for all this time has been one of the Patriots’ greatest advantages.
That continuity has meant the two don’t start all over again every May, they just pick up where they left off. They know the strengths and weaknesses of certain players. They know the things they’ve tried in the past that looked good on paper and like crap on the field. They can read each other’s emotions and are at a point where they can lose their minds on each other, resolve it and then move on.
“He wants to kill me sometimes and, believe me, I want to kill him sometimes but we have a great deal of respect and trust and love for one another because we know once we come together on game day that we’re both giving it everything we’ve got and we’re doing the best we can,” Brady said.
Sunday will be the last time McDaniels and Brady work together as quarterback and coordinator.
Even if McDaniels is capably replaced by Chad O’Shea, the Patriots’ wide receivers coach since 2009, the backlog of experience McDaniels and Brady have together is irreplaceable.
The collaboration – the axe-grinding process – he and McDaniels go through requires a high amount of pushback from both men. Brady’s got his way of doing things. He’s demanding as hell – Belichick said the greatest challenge in coaching him is bringing him something new that he doesn’t know – and he’s high-intensity as we’ve seen on the sidelines.
O’Shea (presuming he gets the position) is going to be in a difficult spot. He’s coaching the greatest quarterback yet he’s going to have to tell Brady things Brady won’t like to hear. And – if Time ever does catch Tom – it will likely be on O’Shea’s watch so he’s going to have that dynamic to deal with.
Belichick could conceivably wander over and help coach the offense – he still meets weekly with Brady to go over game plan items – but he’ll likely have his hands full with the defense since Matt Patricia is going to Detroit. And it’s now been rumored the Patriots could lose special teams coach Joe Judge in the offseason, which will stretch Belichick even further.
Belichick is going to be stretched thin. So, too, will O’Shea (presumably), since the Patriots will almost certainly be drafting a quarterback. What McDaniels did in getting both Jimmy Garoppolo and Jacoby Brissett to the point where both are starting caliber (and Garoppolo is better than that) is an underrated accomplishment. It will now fall to O’Shea to both coach Brady and groom his successor.
Time is a worthy opponent for Tom. But Change may be even more daunting.