Today, we reach the top of my 10 most important Patriots heading into the season. As Francis Albert Sinatra belted out (and many wannabes have since), “Top of the list, king of the hill, A-number-1 . . . ” There was no doubt. Not even in my twisted brain. It’s the quarterback . . . who can take solace after his last 24 hours, that he’s still the man up in here (said in my best Denzel Washington “Training Day” voice).
NO. 1: TOM BRADY
Why? Oh, I don’t know, let me think. Six trips to the Super Bowl. Four Lombardi Trophies. A perennial top-3 signal caller dating back to, ah hell, a long time ago. And still able to author fourth-quarter performances like he did in the most recent Super Bowl, a showing that even Jimmy Garoppolo’s personal QB coach said is one we likely won’t see for a long, long time.
Previous Performance: He looked old and unsteady and indecisive during the first four weeks of last season, during which the Pats scuffled to a 2-2 mark. But the team finally solved its interior line issues, Rob Gronkowski became Gronk again and Brady hoisted that big chip back on his shoulder and played with an edge. It wasn’t always perfect. Heck, even in that season-changing win over the Bengals in Week 5, Brady made a couple of coulda-killed-'em throws, but eventually, that consistency we’ve come to know, expect and love from that player shined though. Oh, and don’t forget about the increased mobility. Maybe Brady isn’t the same assassin in the pocket every single week, but that much analyzed, much dissected, much talked about fancy footwork really showed that the man never stops working at his craft, even as he heads for his 38th birthday.
Questions surrounding the player: Father time. Brady wants to play into his 40s and his people think it’s possible. The new rules protecting the QB may make it easier, as well. But 38 is 38. Then there’s Deflategate. It’s dragging on. The suspension has been upheld at the league level and you just wonder how that may weigh on Brady’s mind. He’s as mentally tough as they come, but this is different. Far different. And will bear watching, whenever Brady settles under center.
Overall Outlook: Until he can’t do it, I’m going to continue to think he can do it. He’s surrounded by a fleet of good to elite skill players. If that line holds up, the numbers -- and the wins -- will be there.