He is 37 years old. He has the worst completion percentage (51.8) in the NFL. He completed only 2 of 18 passes of more than 15 yards last week. A crucial third-down pass in the second half landed nowhere near the intended receiver. He was sacked four times, hit six more times, and coughed up the football twice. His completed passes averaged 4.4 yards, his lowest regular-season total in eight years. In the fourth quarter, he was 6 of 20 for 31 yards. He’s lost back-to-back games to the Broncos and Dolphins. For the first time in his 15-year NFL career, he is the quarterback of a team that is in sole possession of last place in its division.
Tom Brady. What a loser.
Is this what the end looks like? Is this Willie Mays stumbling around center field for the New York Mets in the final days in 1973? Is this how Johnny Unitas played with the San Diego Chargers in 1973? Is this (gulp) Larry Bird — playing in excruciating back pain — going scoreless in his final competitive basketball game in the 1992 Olympics in Barcelona?
Of course not. Tom himself said, “When I suck, I’ll retire.’’ He may have lost a step, but it was never about footspeed with Brady. He is still near the top of his game. He has quarterbacked his team to five consecutive AFC East titles, 10 in the last 11 seasons. He’s taken the Patriots to the AFC Championship Game in each of the last three seasons. He’s more handsome than ever and he’s moving into his Chestnut Hill mansion with his internationally famous-and-wealthy supermodel wife.
Any quarterback you’d rather have on Sunday in Minnesota?
All the excuses are in line for Brady. The Patriots arrogantly traded his toughest and most trusted offensive lineman, Logan Mankins, two weeks before the start of the season. New England’s O-line was disorganized and porous in the season opener at Miami. Brady is trying to reestablish a rhythm with his favorite target, Rob Gronkowski, who missed the second half of last season. In addition to Julian Edelman, Brady again has a raft of low-grade receivers trying to learn the complex option routes. Brady also hurt his calf before the Miami game and missed the final day of practice.
Staying true to form, he rejects the handy alibis.
“I don’t think there are any excuses for the way the outcome of the game was,’’ he said. “But hopefully we’re better this week.’’
We all expect Brady to turn things around Sunday afternoon against the Vikings at the University of Minnesota’s TCF Bank Stadium.
“We’re a long ways from the team we’re going to be,’’ Brady said. “We hate losing. It’s a terrible feeling around here. It’s a quality of life issue I think we all face when we lose, and hopefully it motivates us to go out there and have a great week of practice and be prepared for this game, go out there and try to beat a very good team.’’
It’s an unusual position for Brady and the Patriots. Before last weekend, New England hadn’t lost a season opener since a 31-0 skunking in Buffalo in 2003. That Patriots team recovered to go 14-2 and beat the Panthers in the Super Bowl in Houston. It stands as the best team of the Bill Belichick/Brady era. Yes, even better than the 2007 edition that went 18-0 before losing the Super Bowl.
Brady has never been quarterback of a team in sole possession of last place. He was riding the pine at the end of 2000 when Belichick’s first team finished 5-11 in the cellar of the AFC East.
The Patriots started 0-2 the following year. You remember. Still quarterbacked by Drew Bledsoe, the Patriots were beaten at Cincinnati in their first game, then got an unscheduled week off after the 9/11 attacks. New England resumed its scheduled at home against the Jets and the Patriots were on their way to a 10-3 loss and an 0-2 start when Jets linebacker Mo Lewis almost killed Bledsoe with a sideline hit. This forced Belichick to summon young Tommy Brady, and the kid moved the chains pretty well for the rest of the day against New York’s prevent defense.
Young Brady was the starter after that and the rest, of course, is history.
Now it’s old Brady’s turn to restore the NFL to its rightful order and make sure the Patriots don’t go 0-2. Brady needs to make sure the Patriots don’t remain alone in last place in the AFC East for another week.
I’m not worried.
Are you?Dan Shaughnessy is a Globe columnist. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @Dan_Shaughnessy