Curran: Brady's waffling is a little wearying

Curran: Brady's waffling is a little wearying

Somebody needs to tug on Tom Brady’s sleeve and let him know that fun’s fun, but he’s drifting into Brett Favre territory now.

Forty-eight hours hadn’t passed since the Oprah Orchard Interview in which Brady said his retirement was coming “sooner rather than later” and there he was on Instagram Tuesday afternoon insinuating in Spanish that he’s back to playing until he’s 45

Given that he’s 40 right now and his contract expires at the end of the 2019 season, 45 seems like later not sooner.

That’s standard fare this offseason.

There was Couch Brady in the Super Bowl aftermath, wondering what he’s doing it for anyway.

We had Robert Kraft in May saying that “as recently as two days ago [Brady)] assured me he’d be willing to play six, seven more years.


Gotham Chopra, who produced TvT, said in March, “I think this idea that he’s going to play for four or five more seasons -- I mean, this is just me, the guy who has been around him for a while now -- I’d have a hard time envisioning that, to be candid. But we’ll see.”

Last month, Brady said he’s negotiated “two more seasons” with his wife, Gisele Bundchen.

During TvT, he said he was chasing “two more Super Bowls. That can be shorter than five or six years.” 

Brady’s agent, Don Yee, told ESPN’s Adam Schefter "Tom's intentions have not changed. He's consistently said he'll play beyond this contract and into his mid-40s, or until he feels he isn't playing at a championship level. I understand the constant speculation, but this is one point he's been firm about."

I’m not feeling the firm. Nor, it seems, are most people who have grown weary of the ping-ponging expiration dates Brady keeps floating.

I think you have to be either absent-minded or amazingly entitled to say with a straight face that Brady “owes” the Patriots, the fanbase or the media a hard answer on his retirement.

The guy has generated billions of dollars for the franchise. He’s provided 37 games -- more than three seasons -- of postseason football for the fans to revel in. He’s created almost two decades worth of content for us in the media to gravy train off of.

Until this past calendar year, Brady hasn’t outwardly put his family or personal “brand” anywhere near the top of the pedestal where football and the Patriots resided.

Now that he’s done so, some people (read: “morons”) don’t merely consider it jarring, they feel it rises to a betrayal of the bygone Brady, of Simple Tom and The Patriot Way, which was always a naïve concept anyway.


Fortunately, Brady has a ways to go to match Favre’s Hamlet routine.

The former Packers quarterback started noodling about retirement after the 2005 season. Same thing after 2006. After the 2007 season -- in March of 2008 -- he actually announced his retirement.

Annnnnd by July he’d changed his mind and wanted back in. The Packers, with Aaron Rodgers more than ready to succeed Favre, told Favre to screw. He did. Favre played three more seasons with the Jets and Vikings, then retired. The three-year post-Green Bay wandering hardly seemed worth it and the annual “is he in or is he out?” conversation was a tedious exercise.

By comparison, Brady has years of waffling to go. But he’s definitely come out of the blocks fast with crazy promises of longevity.

Last May, barely 13 months ago, Brady was telling ESPN’s Ian O’Connor that he didn’t see why he shouldn’t keep playing past 45 if he still felt good.

“I’ve always said my mid-40s,” Brady said. "And naturally that means around 45. If I get there and I still feel like I do today, I don't see why I wouldn't want to continue."

And 50? Why not?

"If you said 50, then you can say 60, too, then 70,” Brady said in the same interview. “I think 45 is a pretty good number for right now. I know the effort it takes to be 40. ... My love for the sport will never go away. I don't think at 45 it will go away. At some point, everybody moves on. Some people don't do it on their terms. I feel I want it to be on my terms.”


That interview was one of a handful Brady did with the aim being to promote the TB12 Method. There was ESPN, Sports Illustrated, the book, the app and the Tom vs. Time docuseries, which began filming last summer. Having won his fifth ring, the time was right to maximize visibility. If that approach ran contrary to Patriots customs, well . . . sorry. What’s the worst that can happen?

How about a poorly-concealed, season-long pissing contest in which Brady was assailed for having changed and the coaching staff was assailed for being restrictive and unreasonable?

Which spawned Contemplative Tom, sitting on his couch during the final installment of TvT pondering what he’s doing it all for. 

I’m not sure Brady really appreciates how big this story -- his ultimate retirement -- truly is. Not just here but to sport in general. He should; he grew up rooting for Joe Montana. He understands Jordan and Tiger and Kobe.

Just before the Super Bowl, he was asked about retiring and he replied, “Why does everyone want me to retire?”

Was he being disingenuous? Or does he not get that his and the Patriots stranglehold on the NFL isn’t like Jordan’s on the NBA. It’s closer to Godzilla’s on Japan, and that every other NFL team and fanbase is counting the seconds until he walks.

That’s why every throat-clearing, every pause, every social media “like” is scrutinized for clues as to which way he’s ultimately leaning.

Maybe he doesn’t care. “Take Nothing Personal” is one of The Four Agreements. But the mixed messages -- over a period of time -- probably don’t help the brand.


Julian Edelman's ankle injury not considered serious

Julian Edelman's ankle injury not considered serious

Julian Edelman left the Patriots' Week 10 loss to the Titans early with an ankle injury after dealing with ankle problems the week leading up to the game. 

On Monday, Adam Schefter reported that the injury is not considered serious, and Edelman is not expected to miss much time if any time at all. 

This is a big break for the Patriots who could have lost one of their best offensive weapons for the forseeable future. Edelman missed the entirety of last season with an ACL injury, and was suspended for the first four games of this year due to a violation of the NFL's substance abuse policy. 

With Rob Gronkowski missing time as well to deal with injuries, the Patriots might need Edelman to stay on the field and provide Tom Brady with consistency in the receiving game. 

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Patriots fail to make the grade against Titans

Patriots fail to make the grade against Titans

After talking to Patriots players in the visitors locker room at Nissan Stadium in Nashville, there was a noticeable sense of confusion on their end. It was for them an odd feeling to come away from a game with nothing positive to grasp onto. 

Sure, there was the efficient touchdown drive that ended with James Develin in the end zone. There was a nice connection from Tom Brady to Josh Gordon over the middle of the field when the Titans thought a Tampa-2 defense would suffice. JC Jackson had a positive moment when he blew up a screen.

Otherwise? Yeah.

To call it "one of those days" for the Patriots wouldn't even be accurate. Unless you count rare blowout defeats under Bill Belichick in 2014 (a 27-point loss to the Chiefs in 2014), 2003 (a 31-0 shutout to the Bills) and 2000 (a 25-pointer to the Lions) as "one of those days." The Patriots have more Super Bowl wins during Belichick's tenure than they do 24-point road losses.

The unusually-low grades reflect the unusually poor performance the Patriots put on the field in Tennessee Sunday. Let's get to them . . . 

Brady made more good plays than you might remember. The throw down the middle to Gordon was very good. He had another over the middle to Gordon at the end of the first quarter that was on the money. On the missed field-goal drive, he made a good throw to a wide open Julian Edelman over the middle, and two drives later, just before the end of the half, he zipped another into a tight window to Edelman. His throw that bounced off Edelman's helmet over the middle . . . not bad! He extended one play to hit Phillip Dorsett after seeing early pressure, and his third-down throw to Gordon in the third quarter (when both Dwayne Allen and Trent Brown were injured) was spot-on. But Brady also had plays that fell on the other end of the spectrum. He threw well behind James White early and then his foot slipped out from under him on a third-down throw to White. There were plenty of plays when pressure got to him and he had to throw the football away, but he also made odd decisions from clean pockets -- his first throw of the game lost three and got White drilled; he forced throws to Edelman (final fourth-down play) and Gordon (back-shoulder throws with Adoree Jackson all over him) -- that were head-scratchers. Throw-for-throw he's had worse days, but his 51.2 completion percentage was his worst of the season, and his 70.6 rating was his second worst behind only Week 3.

The Patriots had nowhere to run in this one, but in those types of games it'd be nice of the running game could somehow create some yards on their own. Again, that's hard to do, but it's not hard to think back to a time when the Patriots had a back who could turn a three-yard loss into a two-yard gain -- especially when Dion Lewis was on the other side Sunday. White, Sony Michel and Cordarrelle Patterson combined for 37 yards on 16 carries for a 2.31 average. White was better in the passing game, but he still wasn't a factor. He caught five for 31 yards on eight targets. He also allowed a hurry as a pass-protector. 

Outside of White, Edelman has been the most dependable player in the Patriots offense of late. He had nine catches for 104 yards before aggravating an ankle injury he's dealt with for weeks. He had one Brady throw doink off his helmet, but he was for the most part reliable in the middle of the field for his quarterback. The diving third-and-10 pass he reeled in at the end of the first half was one of his best catches of the season. Chris Hogan was open on the final fourth-down play of the game and never saw the football; not his fault. Hogan did have a play at the end of the first half where it looked like, based on Brady's reaction, he didn't adjust his route properly. Phillip Dorsett chipped in with productive snaps despite only seeing 15 total. Josh Gordon had two passes go through his hands early, and he appeared to have very little awareness on a deep attempt from Brady that landed well short of the receiver, in part because the receiver was on the back end line when the ball touched down; not much you can do from there. Gordon could not consistently separate from Adoree Jackson, whom Gordon referred to as a good returner after the game. Awareness . . . not great.

Jacob Hollister saw his first action since Week 6 and played 22 snaps. He caught one pass for 17 yards but dropped the other thrown his way on third down. Allen was solid didn't appear to get any runs blown up, but he was a liability in pass protection, allowing three hurries and getting blown back into Brown at one point, injuring himself and his left tackle (who was also scrambling on the play). James Develin got into the end zone for the first time in five seasons, bumping this grade from the basement level, but he struggled along with the offensive line to clear any room for Michel in the running game. 

Credit Mike Vrabel. Credit defensive coordinator Dean Pees. Credit the former Patriots on the Tennessee roster, who may have been able to provide some inside information on how the Patriots line would adjust at the line of scrimmage. As a team, the Titans had every answer for the Patriots protection schemes, leading to three sacks, four hits and 10 more quarterback hurries. Brown didn't look like himself -- he left the game first due to illness and later with a back injury, which I've been told isn't serious -- and allowed a sack and a hurry. In his absence, LaAdrian Waddle might've had an even rougher go of things. He had a helped a run fail for a loss of five, and he allowed a pair of hurries himself. The interior, Joe Thuney in particular, was solid, and the ground tended to provide Brady with plenty of time on play-action throws. But there was no room to run, leading to third-and-long plays that put the Patriots in perilous positions, and that falls largely on the group up front. Marcus Cannon's false start penalty on fourth-and-one late in the game was a killer. 

Stephen Gostkowski drilled a 52-yard field goal early, Patterson had a 31-yard return, James Develin was in on a pair of hits and forced a fumble, and Ryan Allen dropped two of his six punts inside the 20. That was about it if you were searching for bright spots here. Gostkowski missed his second 52-yard attempt. Matthew Slater got fooled into not downing an Allen punt before it bounded into the end zone for a touchback. The 58-yard kick return allowed to open the game was a harbinger of what was to come. Both Jonathan Jones and Chris Hogan appeared to get too far inside, allowing Darius Jennings to bounce outside and give the Titans great field position. Had it not been for Devin McCourty's chase-down tackle, Jennings would still be running. Hogan was later flagged for an ineligible downfield penalty. 

Part of the game plan for Tennessee was to make sure Marcus Mariota was kept in the pocket. The Patriots knew that he'd be the most athletic quarterback on their schedule this season, and they couldn't let him hit them for big plays with his legs the way Mitchell Trubisky did weeks earlier. They succeeded as far as that went -- Mariota had just two runs for 21 yards -- but they didn't get home often enough to disrupt him from the pocket. His touchdown pass to Corey Davis was from a clean pocket, as was a 27-yarder to Davis in the third quarter and a 26-yarder to Cameron Batson. The interior pressure was also not what it needed to be to crush the pocket. Mariota was able to step up and hit the Patriots for chunk plays by extending plays up the middle. His first pass, a 24-yarder to Davis, came after he climbed the pocket to buy time. His big third-down conversion to Davis late in the second quarter was thanks to a twist the Patriots ran up front that allowed Mariota an easy throwing lane to step up into. Against the run, this front wasn't much better, but the edges were particularly soft. Deatrich Wise couldn't hold the point on Mariota's 20-yard option run, and Keionta Davis was attacked in the run game by Tennessee. Even when the Patriots knew the Titans would run to kill clock at the end they couldn't stop the run, and Matt LaFleur's offense racked up 150 yards on 36 carries in all (4.2 yards per attempt).

The Patriots had occasional success at the linebacker level. Kyle Van Noy finished with 13 total tackles without a miss and a quarterback hurry. Dont'a Hightower played 60 snaps, stuffed three runs, including one for a loss, and hurries Mariota twice. Elandon Roberts had a sack and three stuffs of his own. But Roberts missed a tackle, and he seemed to shoot the wrong gap on Derrick Henry's first touchdown run of the game, instead running into the back of Devin McCourty and allowing Henry to run into open space in the next gap over. Part of the defense's overall run-game woes Sunday have to fall on this group's shoulders. In coverage, they allowed three total targets to go for three catches and 47 yards. 

Failing grades are handed out sparingly here, but they are issued if a group can be pointed to as where things fell apart in a loss. Though it all works together -- coverage and rush, rush and coverage -- this was as bad as they've been this season. Even against the Jaguars, there seemed to be more positive to lean on than there was against the Titans. It started with the matchup between Stephon Gilmore and Corey Davis. This was a critical part of the game plan against an offense with one true down-the-field threat in the passing game, and the Patriots whiffed. Gilmore allowed six grabs on eight targets in coverage of Davis to go for 98 yards and a touchdown. Credit Davis, who was the No. 5 overall pick last year for a reason, for running good routes and stemming Gilmore to the point that there was little Gilmore could do once the ball was in the air. But critical connections from Mariota to Davis -- like a 20-yarder on third-and-14 at the end of the first half that eventually helped lead to a touchdown -- helped cause the Patriots to unravel. Gilmore also picked up two pass interference penalties in the game, one of which was declined. Patrick Chung had a difficult day as well, losing Jonnu Smith at the line of scrimmage and being outrun by the tight end on the first touchdown of the game. Chung also missed a pair of tackles, including one on Smith in the first quarter that turned a seven-yard gain into a 29-yard gain. Jason McCourty was very good once again in coverage, allowing one catch on five targets for only 10 yards, and Jackson's quick tackle on a third-down screen was textbook. But hard to give this group a passing grade after allowing a 125.0 rating to one of the NFL's mediocre passing offenses.


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