The Patriots picked up one win this week that they didn’t deserve; let’s hope that’s where it ends.
Okay, it probably doesn’t deserve the same level of outrage that Michael Vick being nominated for an Ed Block Courage award does, nor will it receive it. Nonetheless, when the Associated Press named Tom Brady their Comeback Player of the Year on Wednesday, they seriously missed the boat.
If you wonder why Ravens’ fans seem more concerned with whether or not the league, and particularly the officials, will simply grant them a fair shake when they travel to Foxboro to see the Patriots this weekend than they are about defensive backs, or line pressure, or schemes or coaching or anything else; here’s part of the reason.
There’s little doubt that the Patriots have built an empire over the last decade or so, and in so doing, may deserve a bit of respect, if not outright favoritism. And interestingly enough, the relative anonymity provided to most in the Patriots’ workmanlike system, probably leads to an inordinate amount of praise, and at times criticism of the team’s only unquestioned superstar, Tom Brady.
Many have speculated, and with good cause, that a special set of rules may exist for Tom Brady and a handful of other NFL superstars, who have in some way, shape or form become bigger than their teams. Given the Ravens own experiences with Brady and the Patriots both earlier this season, and in an otherwise meaningless 2007 game in which the Patriots were making a run at perfection, they may be right about that.
The Ravens have had no issues at all picking up penalties on their own, there’s no doubt about that. Maybe that’s what has fans so concerned. The team has enough trouble following the conventional, written rules of football, throw in a few unwritten “Brady Rules”, and it would seem that the Ravens fate would be all but sealed.
One thing’s for sure, if we could get Roger Godell, the smart businessman that he is, to be 100% truthful, then ideally, we’d be looking at a Colts and Patriots showdown to decide the AFC. The league would definitely stand to make a lot more money; the longer Tom Brady and the Pats remain in the playoffs.
Let’s face it, the casual NFL fan knows about their own team, and maybe their fantasy players, but beyond that, their NFL vocabulary doesn’t extend far beyond Manning and Brady, nor may their interest.
What’s really sad though, is that we expect more from our sportswriters. We expect that because someone receives a credential to write for the NFL, or ESPN, or even WNST for that matter, they’ll know what they’re talking about. Unfortunately, it’s evident that there are few writers in America who actually sit down and watch all or even most of the games. They watch the local teams, and whoever’s on primetime, and seem to trust the rest of the media to assess the rest of the field. If nothing else, Brady’s win shows that few are even very good at that.
Tom Brady has rebounded nicely from the knee surgery that kept him out for all of last year, but that’s it. This is the NFL, people blow out ACL’s, MCL’s, even PCL’s and LCL’s, and bounce back from it all the time, and most of them play much more grueling positions than quarterback.
Brady came back to arguably, a comparable offense to the one that he threw for 4800+ yards and a record 50 TDs in 2007. The Patriots, as a whole are vastly different from the 2007 bunch, but offensively, they haven’t really lost much, personnel wise. He came back to throw for almost 4400 yards, but 22 less touchdowns. That’s a nice first step, but hardly a comeback. I doubt that even Brady himself would declare him back just yet.
Brady managed to win 10 games this season, and a division title, with a team that missed the playoffs with a mere 11 wins in his absence, behind a quarterback who hadn’t played since high school. For his part, Cassel managed about 700 less yards last season than Brady had this season, while learning his trade on the job, and threw just 21 TDs to Brady’s 28, and 11 INTs to Brady’s 13. For good measure, by most accounts, outside the relative safety of the New England offense, Cassel has been terrible so far in Kansas City. Did the AP writers miss all of that? Did they forget that the Patriots have some pretty good players on offense?
Meanwhile, Cedric Benson, out of football a year ago, managed 1200+ yards in just 12 ½ games for a perennially bad Bengals team that has struggled to run the ball since the early days of Rudi Johnson, and delivered them to the playoffs. Maybe Benson’s injury and tough finish hurt him, or his low touchdown total (6), but mostly I think Benson was hindered by the fact that his name wasn’t Tom Brady.
Vince Young bounced back from a season watching his team seemingly move on without him after reports of his asking out of a week 1 game, and rumors about him being suicidal. He held on to rescue an 0-6 team, and not only restore them to respectability, but with some help from a mediocre AFC, almost got them into the playoffs. Young also provided us with the most memorable drive of the season, going 99 yards to steal a win in the waning seconds from a game Cardinals team, and he did it all on the strength of his arm, not a single handoff, and only one 6-yard scramble on the drive. He finished with a less than 200 yard passing, and a pedestrian 10 TDs and 7 INTs, so don’t expect the AP writers to notice, but there’s no doubt, Vince Young is back, for now at least.
And no fantasy owner could forget the season the Cadillac Williams managed to put together. Largely written off, even in the running back happy fantasy community, Williams shook off 2 injury plagued campaigns to put up just over 800 yards on the ground for a bad Bucs offense that had seemingly turned over the keys to Derrick Ward at running back. His 4 TDs didn’t register him on the radar of the AP apparently, but Cadillac is back, and staking his claim to the Bucs competitive backfield for the foreseeable future.
And of course there’s Brett Favre, the professional come backer. This has arguably been his best comeback so far, although I’m not exactly what he keeps coming back from, other than skipping off season workouts and some of training camp. Actually, Favre might have been the only winner I would have had a tougher time buying than Brady. Still, he managed to get 4 votes. I might have even bought Vick for this one over Brady or Favre.
Like it or not, Brady, and the Pats seem to get an unfair share of the limelight, and maybe the favor. The favor of the AP writers, at the end of the day, is more or less insignificant. If it speaks to a larger issue or phenomenon though, the Ravens could have their hands full this weekend. The award is a joke; the result proved that, the “Brady Rules”, we’ll see.