New England Patriots fans can be a sensitive bunch when it comes to Tom Brady. It’s certainly admirable to see New Englanders support their favorite quarterback, but in turn, every critique of Brady is blown out of proportion. It’s almost impossible to make a less-than complimentary observation about TB12.
Former Patriots assistant to the coach staff — and Oakland Raiders and Cleveland Browns general manager — Michael Lombardi did just that while discussing Jimmy Garoppolo, New England’s starter until Brady returns from a four-game suspension, on The Ringer’s “Bill Simmons Podcast”.
“I’ve been fortunate enough, I’ve watched practice for two years and took a lot of reps, I thought Jimmy Garoppolo is a really good player,” Lombardi told Simmons, as generously transcribed by PatsPulpit.com’s Rich Hill. “He does things really well and in the right scheme, in the right system, he can be really effective. He throws the ball vertically down the field better than (Brady) does. And he can make throws all over the field. He can move around.
“And the players like him. You can see the team rallied around him. But that wasn’t surprising because when Jimmy has lunch every single day, he’s eating there with all the offensive linemen. He’s a true quarterback in terms of his leadership skills are there. He’s not aloof and he’s not not around the team. He’s involved and he’s really taken to watching and observing and understanding the program and working on his skill set, even though he knew he was back-up to Tom.”
Some would say we’re poking the bear by pointing out and highlighting Lombardi saying Garoppolo is a better deep passer than Brady, but it’s an entirely fair observation. Garoppolo attempted just four deep passes in his first NFL start, and hit on two of them. But as Lombardi said, he’s watched Garoppolo and Brady compete in practice for two years.
If there’s a weakness to be found in Brady’s game (other than his speed), it’s his deep ball. We’ve written about Brady’s deep ball before at length. He completed 41 percent of his deep passes in 2015 — up from 38.1 percent in 2014, 38.6 in 2013 and 32.8 percent in 2012. He completed 47.5 percent of deep throws in 2011, 50 percent in 2010 and 44.6 percent in 2009. It was 45.6 percent between 2001 and 2008, before he tore his ACL.
Brady ranks 36th among 45 NFL quarterbacks with at least 100 deep attempts from 2012 to now with a 37.4 completion percentage. Go back to 2009, the year Brady returned from his torn ACL, until now, and Brady ranks 26th of 60 NFL quarterbacks using the same criteria with a 41.4 completion percentage.
Brady ranked 15th among the 32 quarterbacks with the most deep passes last season. He was 22nd using the same criteria in 2014 and 19th in 2013.
None of this is to say Brady is anything less than among the greatest quarterbacks in NFL history. But it’s also completely fair to point out an aspect of Garoppolo’s game that’s better than Brady’s. And Lombardi, based on two years of practices, believes Garoppolo is better than Brady in the vertical passing game.
Thumbnail photo via Mark J. Rebilas/USA TODAY Sports Images