Tom Brady and Josh McDaniels are two peas in one struggling Patriots’ offensive pod.
Both have bullet-proof resumes in terms of success over multiple decades leading the offense in New England.
Brady has proven time and time again over his 20 years in Foxborough that he’s capable of orchestrating a successful attack. From the dink-and-dunk beginnings to the rewriting of record books with Randy Moss and Wes Welker all the way through the Gronk era, Brady has always gotten the job done for a unit that annually helped pace a team contending for a Super Bowl.
Over most of that same span, the very same things can be said about McDaniels. Save for a short stint as the Broncos’ head coach and a year with the Rams, McDaniels has been a mainstay overseeing the offensive output for Bill Belichick’s team. He always found a way to pull together personnel, scheme and game plans to get the most out of his unit.
That brings us to the here and now.
Make no mistake, the Patriots offense has plenty of issues to address this holiday season. The unit is not playing well enough and looks to be pretty far from being championship caliber with less than a month to play in the regular season. It is what it is.
As is so often the case when there is a failure to reach expectation and achieve goals there are widespread questions in regards to blame. It’s the reality of the overanalyzed bottom-line business of the NFL.
Failure needs blame. And blame needs a name.
Some, mostly national pundits who’ve been preparing to pounce on the 42-year-old Brady for years now, are pointing at the G.O.A.T. for his inability to lift the passing attack the ways he has in the past. His birth certificate and the numbers, including Brady’s 29th-ranked completion percentage and 21st-ranked passer rating, fuel those prone to point to TB12 as the guy most responsible for New England’s struggles. After all, the quarterback always gets more credit than he deserves in successful times so he might as well get an equal share of the blame when things aren’t going well.
Others, including local media and within the borders of Patriot Nation, have reacted to the offense’s issues by questioning the coaching and playcalling from McDaniels.
It’s exaggerated criticism at best and misplaced at worst.
McDaniels is the same coach he’s always been. The guy who oversaw the pass-first, pass-often attack in 2007. The man who adjusted late and on the fly to direct the run-early, run-to-win assault led by Sony Michel and the offensive line last winter.
He’s always done what’s been in the best interest of the football team, as his boss would say.
Which of late has included, unlike Brady, taking public responsibility for the struggles on offense, whether he actually should or not.
“I've got to do a better job at trying to find the right answers each week and put our guys in the right position,” McDaniels said of red zone shortcomings.
“I start with me. I can do a better job,” he concluded when asked if the Patriots’ offense has enough things it does well at this relatively late point in the season.
He said those things because that’s what good leaders do and that’s indeed what McDaniels is.
In actuality, McDaniels has been a key spark for the offense and its limited output in recent weeks. He’s picked his spots well with a no-huddle, up-temp approach within games, at tactic that’s not sustainable but effective in spurts. He’s drawn up some trick plays – including the double-pass touchdown for the lone score in the one-score win in Philly.
McDaniels has done his job, just the way he’s always done it.
It’s even more unlikely that McDaniels has suddenly forgotten how to do his job than it is that that the aging Brady has lost his proverbial fastball.
There are a lot of reasons for the Patriots offensive struggles this season.
Offensive line injuries and subpar play. No impact from the tight end position. Limited running game. Young receivers not up to the task. And many, many more.
Sure, Brady and McDaniels can be seen as a minor part of the problem that is still searching for a solution.
But if you are going to give Brady the benefit of the doubt – as most fans and media types deservedly do -- then you have to afford the same courtesy to McDaniels.
They are two peas in the same Patriots’ pod.
They have led New England to the heights of offensive success together over the years.
Now, they fight to lead the attack out of the doldrums of a rare slump.
Brady and McDaniels remain inextricably tied together as they have been through many successes and few failures for decades.