It’s possible no one is enjoying Tom Brady’s substandard season more than Max Kellerman.

Kellerman, of course, predicted several years ago that Brady’s production would fall off “a cliff” in short order, a projection that hasn’t aged well given the quarterback’s success in leading the New England Patriots to three consecutive Super Bowl berths.

Now, with New England’s offense sputtering despite the team’s 10-2 start to the 2019 campaign, Kellerman predictably has been critical of the 42-year-old signal-caller, which isn’t sitting well with Stephen A. Smith.

Smith fired back at Kellerman during Monday’s episode of “First Take” on ESPN, defending Brady one day after the Patriots suffered a 28-22 loss to the Houston Texans at NRG Stadium.

“I don’t think you know what the hell you’re talking about when it comes to Tom Brady. Either that or you are so fixated on holding onto your ‘cliff’ theory,” Smith said. “Ever since you made the prediction, he’s gone to three straight Super Bowls, won two and the one he lost he passed for 500 yards. I ain’t trying to hear that from you. What I’m saying to you is this, here’s my problem when I say you don’t know what the hell you’re talking about or you’re just holding onto the ‘cliff’ theory, because I think you’re engaging in cruelty. I think you’re engaging in cruelty.

“When you see these receivers and their inability to get open, to gain any kind of separation whatsoever. I have never seen Tom Brady hold onto the football more in my life praying that somebody is getting open. Is he what he used to be? No. He’s 42. We get that part. What I’m saying is this: Where is the sympathy and the empathy? And I don’t expect anybody in the football world to have it because New England has been so dominant for so long. But I’m just talking about as human beings, recognizing the fact that damn it, we ain’t what we used to be as the birth certificate collects a little bit more dust.”

Brady, in his 20th season, has a lot of mileage on him for an NFL QB. Obviously, he’s no longer in his prime, and it’s therefore difficult for him to overcome New England’s shortcomings in other areas.

While Brady has underperformed relative to his usual production, the Patriots also have dealt with inconsistent receivers, a ho-hum rushing attack and shoddy offensive line play, contributing to low point totals in recent weeks and plenty of hysteria across the football landscape. Smith, meanwhile, is trying to keep things in perspective, confident that Brady, a six-time Super Bowl champion, isn’t one of New England’s major concerns.

“This man is 42 years old.” Smith said. “They’re talking about passes are skipping. I’m watching him throw the ball in the dirt on purpose. I’m watching him throw the ball away on purpose. I’m watching him hold the football, moving in the pocket at 42 and going like this: ‘Damn, nobody’s open.’

“Now clearly, you’re right, he’s not what he used to be. Of course not. I get that. What I’m saying is when you look at these guys that he is playing with, they can’t get open, they can’t gain separation, his only reliable target is (Julian) Edelman, they’ve got a couple of rookies we’ve never heard of in our life he’s throwing the football to. To me, if you are New England, if you’re anybody watching New England, can’t you at least sit up there and go like this: ‘No, he’s not what he used to be at age 42. But damn, he could use some help.’ ”

So, who should the Patriots bring in to help Brady and the offense? Well, Smith has an idea that’s shared by many.

Thumbnail photo via Thomas B. Shea/USA TODAY Sports Images