Why Regression Is Likely For Tom Brady, And It Has Nothing To Do With Age

Remember when Tom Brady had, for his standards, a subpar season in 2013 and suddenly was “on the decline” at 36 years old? Prepare yourself ready for similar takes this season, accurate or not.

Brady has appeared in three Super Bowls, won two and was an offensive line collapse away from appearing in a fourth since that 2013 season. So, why was 36-year-old Brady statistically worse than he was in following seasons?

Weapons.

Danny Amendola and Rob Gronkowski were banged up that season, so it was the Julian Edelman, Aaron Dobson and Kenbrell Thompkins show for much of the year. Michael Hoomanawanui started 10 games that season. Matthew Mulligan started four. Matthew Mulligan!

It might not get quite that bad in 2018, but it’s fair to say Brady’s current receiving targets are not up to snuff with those of years past.

Danny Amendola and Brandin Cooks are gone, and Julian Edelman is suspended for the first four games of the season. Gronkowski, Chris Hogan, James White and Rex Burkhead are sure-thing receiving threats for the Patriots, but Sony Michel, Kenny Britt, Phillip Dorsett, Jordan Matthews, Jacob Hollister and Cordarrelle Patterson, among others like rookie Braxton Berrios, are unproven commodities in New England’s offense.

If all of those players live up to their full potential, then the Patriots could have one heck of an offense in 2018. But chances are some might not make the team and others will get hurt. (Burkhead and Gronkowski have been injury-prone in their careers.)

Brady probably won’t be as productive or efficient in 2018 as he was in 2016 or 2017. This isn’t making an excuse for Brady. It’s just realistic. There is likely to be some regression this season based on those first four games without Edelman alone.

And the sane-minded people — hot-take artists on TV and radio are lost causes — have to promise to not only prepare for this but also react logically.

Could a decline in production and efficiency be due to Brady’s age? Sure, he’s turning 41 in a matter of days. Could it be due to Brady skipping the voluntary offseason workout program? Less likely, but sure.

But a more likely cause for a decline in metrics is that Brady almost certainly will be working with his worst set of weapons since those players Patriots fans nicknamed “Dropson” and “Dropkins” were patrolling the edge of New England’s offense.

It would be possible, on paper, for a group including Gronkowski, Edelman, Hogan, Burkhead, White and another contributor to match the playing level of Brady’s 2016 or 2017 weapons. But Edelman’s suspension throws a wrench in the mix. Another player basically would have to play like Edelman in 2016 or Cooks in 2017 for Brady to not see any regression whatsoever. That’s unlikely. And there’s still the issue of replacing Amendola all season.

Brady had an 87.3 passer rating in 2013. It rose to 97.4 in 2014, 102.2 in 2015, 112.2 in 2016 and back down to 102.8 in 2017. Brady’s efficiency might not drop all the way down to 2013 levels, but if it continues to dip, then it probably doesn’t have anything to do with age, missed workouts or the lack of Jimmy Garoppolo pushing him. It’s weapons. Try to remember that.

Thumbnail photo via Brian Fluharty/USA TODAY Sports Images

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