Tom Brady keeping 'realistic expectations' considering Patriots 'circumstances'

Tom Brady keeping 'realistic expectations' considering Patriots 'circumstances'

Tom Brady knows what people have come to expect from the Patriots — and in particular the Patriots offense. 

He was the best player in football in 2016, leading one of the league's best offenses, and only missed out on that season's MVP honors because of his Deflategate suspension. He was the best player in football in 2017 and followed up an MVP season with a 500-yard performance in the Super Bowl.

Really, since 2007, this has annually been among the best offenses in the league.

But now the offense is far from lighting up the scoreboard, and Brady is a long way from filling up the stat sheet as he did in the 2007, 2010, 2016 or 2017 seasons. 

The Patriots scored 22 points in Sunday's loss to the Texans. But they had just nine points late in the fourth quarter against one of the league's worst third-down defenses and the worst red-zone defense. 

That kind of night doesn't mesh with the Patriots' expectations, even if they've shown over the last month that they're struggling to retain possession and score when in the red zone. 

They've done enough to win games when their defense has been lights-out, as was the case in Philadelphia and against the Cowboys. But when the defense gives up its share — as it did in Houston and Baltimore — then the Patriots have issues keeping pace offensively. 

Old expectations don't apply anymore, Brady told WEEI's "Greg Hill Show" on Monday, especially considering how the offense is constructed at the moment.

"We're not 2-10," Brady said. "We're 10-2. I know there's very high expectations, as there are for us. I think the expectations for our team often are a very, very, very high level. And I understand that. 

"At the same time, I think there's realistic expectations with our circumstances, incorporating different elements and players and injuries, and we're just trying to do the best that we can do. We've got a whole season ahead of us. We've gotta try to learn from the things we did last night and try to go out there and try to get a really tough win against [Kansas City] and see if we can get back to winning."

Against the Chiefs, the Patriots will see one of the most dynamic offenses in football, led by one of the game's best quarterbacks. It's another offense that has the ability to put up big numbers, another offense that — if the Patriots defense has a hiccup — the Patriots offense would have trouble running with. 

When Brady was asked on WEEI about Kansas City quarterback Patrick Mahomes, he said last year's MVP is "pretty spectacular." But then he went on to explain why the Chiefs offense is so effective, and it's hard to not read his comments and consider the things that are ailing the Patriots offense at the moment: a lack of weaponry outside of Julian Edelman and James White; a lack of a Rob Gronkowski replacement; a lack of team speed.

"They have a very good team," Brady said. "They have a very good offense. They have very dynamic receivers, one of the best groups in the league. They got one of the best tight ends in the league. They have some great running backs. 

"Patrick distributes to all of them. It makes it very hard to defend when you have a lot of players you can get the ball to. It's a big challenge for our defense. Offensively we're going to have to play a great game. Gonna have to take advantage of our scoring opportunities and keep from turning the ball over and see if we can go out there and beat a very good team at home."

Playing at home should help the Patriots offense. But it's worth wondering, given their circumstances, how much better they can be.

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Patriots' Stephon Gilmore reflects on Defensive Player of the Year candidacy

Patriots' Stephon Gilmore reflects on Defensive Player of the Year candidacy

Stephon Gilmore has a strong chance to accomplish something only five cornerbacks have done before in NFL history: win a Defensive Player of the Year award.

The New England Patriots' lockdown CB is considered a favorite to become the first player at his position to take home the award since Charles Woodson did so in 2009. Gilmore would become the first Patriots player ever to win the award.

In Orlando, Fla. for the Pro Bowl, Gilmore took some time to reflect on his candidacy.

“It’s pretty cool. That’s a big award,” Gilmore told Jeff Howe of The Athletic. “The award speaks for itself, a lot of hard work, a lot of good teammates that put me in that position, a lot of preparation from myself. I couldn’t have done it without my teammates to even be in this position. I feel like I had a good year. Hopefully, I’ll win it.”

Gilmore tied for the NFL lead in interceptions with six and also topped the league in pass breakups (20). The 29-year-old was named Defensive Player of the Year by his NFL peers and also by the Pro Football Writers of America.

“Toward the end [of the season], people started saying it,” Gilmore said. “I didn’t really think about it because it’d be a big award to win. I think it’d be the first Patriot to win Defensive Player of the Year. I mean, that’s insane. Hopefully, I’ll win it.”

NFL Honors will be announced Feb. 1 on FOX starting at 8 p.m.

Curran: Carr the first QB to mark his territory

Picturing how Tom Brady would fit in another NFL offense

Picturing how Tom Brady would fit in another NFL offense

If Tom Brady leaves the New England Patriots, I think his new team's head coach, general manager and offensive coordinator would all understand they would have to make concessions.

They want him to feel comfortable. They want him to feel like he has ownership in the offensive scheme.

There would be some give-and-take. They know they'll only have so many more years with Brady, so why not try to maximize that potential? You don't do that by starting from scratch or making him learn a brand new system.

He’s had a lot of success in that system in New England, and there are a lot of positives for him being able to grow that offense the way he wants to see it.

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The closest example for Brady joining another team would be when Peyton Manning went to Denver. 

The Broncos allowed Peyton to put his touch on the offense and run a little bit more of what he was comfortable with. I believe any team bringing Brady in would also make those same concessions and say, “We want you to feel comfortable. We also want you to run an offense that you feel like you can have some success in.”

The offseason would be pivotal.

Brady would have to get in the building as soon as possible and have those conversations to understand what the offensive philosophy of that coordinator is, what kind of weapons they have and how to utilize those weapons.

For example: How do they run their checks on offense? Do they get out of certain plays or looks? Brady has been calling out protection schemes for the last 20 years; you always see him point to a linebacker and call out a certain protection. But some teams have the offensive line do that.

There’s a multitude of schematic factors that would go into Brady getting comfortable with a new team.

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But the biggest factor is terminology.

I had 12 offensive coordinators in 14 years, and everybody is a little different. When you are accustomed to the same word for a route concept for so many years, and then all of a sudden it’s a different word but the same route concept, it takes a second to process that in your brain.

When I had to learn a new offensive system, I would make flash cards, write down plays and watch film like I was cramming for a test. And that was before I even got onto the field.

Brady has never been a part of a different system. There has been nothing brand new that needs to be learned in the offseason; it's just building on what you did the year before.

That's going to be a factor for any team that brings Brady in: How much is their offensive terminology related to New England's? And how much leeway do they have to change what's already in place?

Because if you completely change what you did from the year before, it sets everybody back. The receivers, the offensive line, the running backs -- it’d be a learning curve for everybody.

If Brady leaves New England, I believe his best bet to be successful would be joining a team with similar offensive terminology.

He could be willing to go in there and start all over. He's a smart guy, so he could put it all on himself and say, “We’ll make some subtle adjustments, but I’ll learn your offensive scheme."

But that's asking a lot from a guy who’s been in the same system for 20 years.

Editor's note: Matt Cassel had a 14-year NFL career that included four seasons with the New England Patriots (2005-2008). He's joining the NBC Sports Boston team for this season. You can find him on game days as part of our Pregame Live and Postgame Live coverage, as well as every week on Tom E. Curran’s Patriots Talk podcast and