FOXBORO, Mass. — The worst year of Tom Brady’s career, from a statistical standpoint, came during the New England Patriots’ 2013 season.
Brady’s passer rating index that season was just 101. In passer rating index, or Rate+, the average passer rating that year is calculated to 100 — higher is better, lower is worse. Brady was just one point above average that season. Brady’s second-worst season, by passer rating index, is currently happening. He has a Rate+ of just 106.
Brady saw his passer rating index rise every year from 2013 to 2016.
It dropped in 2017 down to 116, and now it’s dropped even more to 106. So, is Brady just naturally declining because of his age, or is it something more?
Brady’s 2013 and 2018 seasons have something in common — a lack of dependable weapons. Two of Brady’s top targets in 2013 were Kenbrell Thompkins and Aaron Dobson. This season, Brady was relying heavily upon Chris Hogan and Phillip Dorsett until Julian Edelman returned from a suspension and Josh Gordon caught up to speed. Rob Gronkowski dealt with injuries in both 2013 and this season.
But something else might have happened to boost Brady to a different level from 2014 to 2016. The Patriots drafted Jimmy Garoppolo in the second round of the 2014 NFL Draft, and Brady’s play spiked. Brady has been motivated by slights his entire Patriots career ever since he was selected 199th overall in 2000.
This was the first offseason Brady didn’t have Garoppolo to push him in the offseason, and he didn’t attend voluntary workouts, including organized team activities. It seems unlikely Brady would have skipped those sessions if Garoppolo, rather than Brian Hoyer and seventh-round pick Danny Etling, were running practices.
The Patriots passed on drafting their quarterback of the future this offseason. They selected running back Sony Michel and offensive tackle Isaiah Wynn in the first round and cornerback Duke Dawson in the second. They waited until the 219th overall pick to take Etling, who’s currently on the practice squad. Etling might have a future in the NFL, and Hoyer is a decent backup, but they’re not exactly on Brady or Garoppolo’s level.
So, what does Brady make of all of this?
“I haven’t thought about that particular subject,” Brady said Wednesday. “We always have quarterbacks. At one point I was young, and I had some older guys, and now I got to be an older guy, and there’s some young guys. I think there’s always just a healthy balance.”
Maybe it’s nothing. Brady’s stats could be declining for a number of different reasons. They could rise over the last six games of the season. But Brady did seem even better than usual while Garoppolo was breathing down his neck.