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Breaking down Tom Brady’s ‘bad’ season

Tom Brady appeared perturbed after last Sunday’s 17-10 win in Philadelphia.
Tom Brady appeared perturbed after last Sunday’s 17-10 win in Philadelphia.MATT ROURKE/ASSOCIATED PRESS/Associated Press

Welcome to Tom Brady’s terrible, horrible, no good, very bad year.

This is not how the iconic quarterback envisioned his 20th season going. He’s on a short contract, short of weapons, and short on patience for an offense that’s just trying to stay out of the way instead of marching into the end zone. Instead of basking in the warm glow of a 9-1 start, Brady has been enveloped by a black hole of disappointment, culminating in last Sunday’s perturbed presser following an anemic 17-10 victory over the Philadelphia Eagles. The Patriots’ lone touchdown came not from Brady’s gilded arm but from Julian Edelman’s — another indignity in a season that hasn’t gone Brady’s way.


When you’re used to the football universe bending to your will and your six Super Bowl rings it can be challenging to accept the alternative. Brady is 10 games into the season with an offense that isn’t showing improvement. Rather, it seems to be regressing, failing to generate more than 20 points on its side of the ball in its last three games and generating fewer than 343 total yards in four straight games.

On pace for his fewest TD passes in a full season as a starter, Brady has been relegated to the role of caretaker QB on a team riding a dominant defense. It might not get any easier on Sunday against the Dallas Cowboys with wide receivers Mohamed Sanu (ankle) and Phillip Dorsett (concussion) missing practice time and uncertain for the game. The good news is left tackle Isaiah Wynn should return to restore security to Brady’s blindside.

Still, at an age, 42, when Brady needs more assistance to play at an elite level — whether he’ll admit it or not — he’s getting less. The frustration of the GOAT is visible and palpable. “I think the frustration that they see is that Tom knows what he has and what he doesn’t have,” said a source close to Brady.


Brady is also reeling from the revolving door at wide receiver. He envisioned a receiving corps with Demaryius Thomas, Josh Gordon, and Antonio Brown. That never actually materialized. Thomas was traded to the Jets to make room for Brown. But now all three wideouts have run out routes from Foxborough, leaving Brady with an emptier nest than anticipated. The team acquired Sanu, but he’s still trying to assimilate.

Having Brown for one game was like getting a bite of Kobe beef and then having it yanked away and replaced with ground chuck named Jakobi Meyers and N’Keal Harry. It’s tough for TBQB to swallow.

To recap Brady’s season of discontent:

Aug. 5 — Brady discussed the revamped contract he received, which added $8 million to his 2019 salary but not any additional years: “It is what it is. That’s a good line. Whoever said it, it’s very pertinent. Like I said, there’s a lot of guys who have one year left on their contract. I’ve got one year to go, and we’ll see what happens.”

Sept. 20 — The Patriots release Brown after 11 tumultuous days, multiple allegations of sexual misconduct, and threatening text messages to one of his accusers.

Sept. 29 — After a 16-10 win over the Buffalo Bills in which Brady threw the most passes in his career without reaching 200 yards or tossing a touchdown, going 18 for 39 for 150 yards and an interception, he is noticeably dejected. He opens his postgame presser with a sarcastic remark about “that riveting performance.”


Oct. 4 — Brady is asked about young players traditionally having a difficult time acclimating to the offense. He hardly offers a ringing endorsement. “Like I said, I’ve got to do the best that I can do,” said Brady. “So, yeah, those guys are trying. They’re young. I was young; I was trying once, too. I just didn’t have to play my first year, so it’s a little different.”

Oct. 8 — Brady is asked in the wake of tight end Benjamin Watson’s release — Watson would return to the team on Oct. 15 — about relying on tight ends Ryan Izzo and Matt LaCosse. “I’m the quarterback, so I don’t make those decisions,” he said. “Whoever is out there, that’s who I’ve got to play with.”

Oct. 19 -- Brady is hounded with questions about a cameo he had on the Netflix show “Living with Yourself” starring Paul Rudd. Some interpret Brady’s scene coming out of a strip-mall spa that’s central to the cloning premise of the show as trolling Patriots owner Robert Kraft. The Patriots patriarch was caught up in a sting operation at a seedy South Florida day spa and charged with two counts of misdemeanor solicitation of prostitution.

“That’s not what that was about,” Brady said. “I think that was taken out of context, just like you’re taking it out of context and trying to make a story for yourself which has a negative connotation to it, which I don’t appreciate.”


Nov. 17 — An irked Brady gives a truncated press conference in Philadelphia where he is visibly agitated by the state of the offense, which punted on eight of 13 possessions.

If Brady has been striking more sour notes than usual this season, it echoes the unit he leads. The Patriots rank 16th out of 32 teams in yards per game (359.9). They sit 17th in third-down conversions (38.8 percent). They’re 30th in rushing yards per attempt at 3.31 and 25th in red-zone touchdown percentage 48.8 percent, the latter two areas the team has struggled in all season.

It’s that lack of improvement, not a lack of statistics, that bugs Brady.

He has proven time and time again he’ll do whatever it takes to win, whether that’s handing it off or airing it out. He was happy to do the former last season when the offense found its identity as a run-to-pass attack.

But the inefficiency and constrictions of the offense are grating for the GOAT.

The Patriots struggle to throw the ball consistently outside the numbers, allowing defenses to make the middle of the field claustrophobic. Harry can help there, but the rookie has to secure Brady’s trust, and the football in practice, first.

Forced to resort to game manager mode, Brady has faced unappetizing choices. He can either hold the ball and risk sacks or throw it away, damage his passer rating, and live to fight another play. According to pro-football-reference.com, Brady leads the NFL in throwaways with 26. Brady also leads the NFL in intentional grounding penalties with four.


It’s natural to ask if part of the offense’s struggles have to do with slippage in Brady’s game. The NFL average passer rating is 91.5 for 2019. Brady is at 90.1. But he’s still throwing the ball with zip and placing it where he wants to, mostly. His play is a symptom of the offense’s infirmity, not the cause.

Brady’s 2019 mien is incongruous with his career. But he still loves the game and winning above all else.

However, it has been a trying year, and it’s trying his patience.

Christopher L. Gasper is a Globe columnist. He can be reached at cgasper@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @cgasper.