The Cold, Hard Football Facts have a curious habit of relating everything that happens today (in our sad, middle-aged lives of regret) to the cheesy music of our childhood of promise in the 1970s. So it is, before diving into the situation at hand, we devote this song to Patriots fans everywhere following the loss of their gun-slinging, record-setting, magazine cover-boy of a QBing woobie.
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Now that the entertainment portion of this program is over, it's time to tackle the biggest story in the NFL following Sunday's Week 1 action: Tom Brady's knee injury. Several reports Sunday night, all as of yet unsubstantiated, say he may miss the entire season. (UPDATE: It's official as of Monday afternoon. Brady will undergo surgery and miss the rest of the season.)
Of course, when other gridiron analysts zig, we usually zag and leave them in our dust. But following mighty New England's narrow win over the low-life Chiefs Sunday, there's only one question that needs to be addressed here or anywhere in the seedy underworld of online gridiron analysis.
Can the Patriots succeed without Tom Brady?
Through the simple beauty of the English language (which some Americans still speak fluently), the short answer to this question is conveniently summed up with just two symbols: N-O.
This answer is meant as no disrespect to Patriots back-up Matt Cassel, who played quite well, even valiantly, in relief. Considering that Cassel saw significant action Sunday in a meaningful game for the first time since – gasp! – high school, he was actually quite impressive.
Seriously: we haven't got any action since high school, either (for the record, we sang cheesy 70s ballads to woo that lucky little overweight vixen). So to come off the bench and recapture our game as quickly as Cassel did would be something of a miracle.
In true Brady-esque fashion, Cassel made the single most important play of the game: facing 3rd and 11, with the ball on his own half-inch line, he stepped deep into his own end zone and softly dropped a 51-yard strike into the hands of Randy Moss, as if he were placing a baby in a crib. It sparked a pivotal 98-yard drive in the second quarter that ended with a 10-yard TD toss, also to Moss, high in the back of the end zone. (Not to dive too much into our personal lives, but being high in the back of the end zone also reminds us vaguely of our high school days.)
But let's not forget:
The Chiefs suck. They may have the worst coach in football
and they may be the worst team in football. Yet the Chiefs were just 5 yards from forging a tie against the Patriots – of the record 20-game regular-season win streak Patriots – on the last play of the game.
TWO – Brady might be the single most important player in the history of the game.
Yes, that's right, folks. We don't mince words. Nor do we hand out pigskin platitudes. And we certainly don't make brazen statements without a full understanding of the entire history of pro football.
Yet the truth is that no player in history, ever, name whoever you want, has ever inspired the singular changes in fortunes for a coach or an organization that Brady has.
In just seven short years at quarterback, Brady has:
- Won 100 of 127 pro football games, for a record .787 winning percentage.
- Appeared in four Super Bowls in those seven seasons.
- Won three Super Bowls in those seven seasons.
- Led the only two last-second, game-winning scoring drives in Super Bowl history.
- Won two Super Bowl MVP awards.
- Won a regular-season MVP award.
- Set an NFL record with 50 TD passes.
- Led the two longest regular-season win streaks in NFL history (18 and 19 games, the latter now up to 20 after Sunday's win over the Chiefs).
- Led the longest playoff win streak in NFL history (10 games).
- Led the longest overall win streak in NFL history (21 games).
This list of accomplishments is entirely unprecedented in the entire history of the game. And he did it all with a coach who was 42-58 in his first 100 NFL games and with an organization that had never accomplished anything in its first 41 seasons of professional football.
Put most simply, no quarterback in the history of football had done more in the game more quickly than Brady – a bona fide, first-ballot Hall of Famer after just seven years as a starting quarterback.
You just don't replace that player overnight. You just don't replace a quarterback who is probably the most historically significant player in the history of the game.
Maybe Cassel proves to be the Steve Young to Brady's Joe Montana. Or maybe Brady returns next Sunday, and all of the question marks that swirl around the Patriots, and the NFL itself, today are moot. After all, at this point, the state of his knee is purely speculation.
But this is not speculation:
If Brady's absence is an extended one (and we now know it will be), New England will suffer dearly. Just look at Sunday's bitter battle with the Chiefs: the team with the worst offense in football last year, led by the worst coach in the game
, playing with a back-up quarterback (Damon Huard) itself, was 5 yards from tying up the mighty Patriots on the last play of the game.