It’s a hell of a time to be a quarterback in the NFL, isn’t it?
Ask Tony Romo, the Dallas Cowboys’ star whose clavicle-crack-heard-round-the-world in Sunday’s victory over the Philadelphia Eagles could cost him two months or longer. What will the Cowboys season look like when Romo returns? Will there be a chance at a playoff berth? Will the team’s 2-0 start dissolve into yet another opportunity lost?
Ask poor Jay Cutler, the most ridiculed player in the NFL and, among Chicagoans, right up there in popularity with black ice, Republican mayoral candidates and Brett Favre. In a blowout loss to the Arizona Cardinals, Cutler injured a hamstring trying to make a tackle on – what else? – an interception return for a touchdown. It was the 10th pick-six thrown by Cutler as a Bear and the 15th of his endlessly disappointing career. ESPN’s Michael Wilbon, a Chicago native, was a tad unimpressed.
The Jay Cutler contract could be the worst athletic expenditure in the history of Chicago sports.
— Michael Wilbon (@RealMikeWilbon) September 20, 2015
Ask Drew Brees, whose New Orleans Saints are 0-2 and whose golden right arm isn’t so, you know, golden. Brees is looking old at 36, or at least the ol’ rocket launcher is. It could be shoulder pain that’s to blame for all those duds, or simply the barbarism of time. Either way, Brees couldn’t outduel Tampa Bay Buccaneers rookie Jameis Winston in Week 2.
But you know who you can’t ask? Tom. Friggin’. Brady.
All over the league, quarterbacks are faltering – but not the one with four Super Bowl rings. Not the one with 10 Pro Bowls, two MVPs, one supermodel wife and the most annoyingly perfect face ever. Isn’t Brady 38? It seems that doesn’t matter. Wasn’t Brady supposed to be suspended for the first four games of the season? Bah. Water under the bridge.
You’d better believe Brady still has his fastball, as the Buffalo Bills found out the hard way (as if there’d been any doubt) in a 40-32 defeat at home Sunday. In building a 37-13 lead, Brady and the Pats made a mockery of the notion that the Bills, led by new coach Rex Ryan, are ready to shake things up in the AFC East. By the end, Brady had thrown for 466 yards, the second-highest total of his career and the most ever allowed by a Bills team, and three touchdowns.
His 59 pass attempts – almost unthinkable considering the Pats led comfortably for much of the game – felt like a message to longtime rival Ryan (“We still own you”) and to all those who believe Brady to be a lying cheat (“Screw you”). Even the haters have to admit: No one plays, cares, competes and wins like No. 12. And Brady never has been above subtly rubbing it in.
“We had a lot of good plays,” he told reporters, “but I think we left a lot of good plays out there.”
Please. Brady is making plays like rarely before this season; his 754 yards passing is the second-highest two-game total of his career, and his seven TD passes ties his highest previous two-game total. Of course, the Pats offense looks as unstoppable as ever. Circus-freak tight end Rob Gronkowski already has four touchdowns. Of particular note is the superstar blossoming of wide receiver and Brady Lite sex symbol Julian Edelman, who somehow already has 22 receptions. Against the Bills, Edelman was targeted by Brady 19 times. Apparently, Brady is the only one who knows where to find Edelman. Hello, defenses? He’s the little dude with the scruffy face and the accountant’s name on his back.
Here’s what the AFC East might as well start dealing with right now: Matching its quarterback’s jersey number, New England is going to win the division for the 12th straight time with a healthy Brady. (In 2008, when Brady was lost for the season with an opening-week injury, the Patriots finished 11-5 but lost a tiebreaker to the Miami Dolphins.) How can Ryan and the Bills pretend to be contenders when they know full well Brady is 24-3 as a starter against Buffalo? Take a moment to drink that in: 24-3. In all, Brady has won a hair under 80 percent of his starts against the Bills, the Dolphins and Ryan’s former team, the New York Jets. That’s insane.
“I’ve been on the wrong end of it a few times,” allowed Ryan on Sunday, stating the obvious.
But back to those faltering quarterbacks. Sam Bradford has joined their ranks (again). Weren’t Bradford and Chip Kelly’s Philadelphia Eagles supposed to rewrite the offensive record books together? FOX analyst Troy Aikman summed up their effort against the Cowboys – um, 21 first-half yards – as “as bad an offensive performance that I can recall ever seeing in this league.” Good luck with that, Sam!
Meanwhile, the HBO stars in Houston already have replaced one starting quarterback, Brian Hoyer, and saw the other, Ryan Mallett, chuck 58 passes in the Texans’ Week 2 loss to the Carolina Panthers and somehow complete fewer than half of them. Talk about hard knocks.
The Texans are 0-2. So are the Eagles. So are the Bears, who on Sunday surrendered more points (48) and amassed more penalty yards (170) than in any previous home game in team history. Cutler’s replacement, Jimmy Clausen, entered the huddle and found his teammates in kind of a bad way.
“I felt the air was deflated a little bit,” he said.
Which brings us back to Brady. (You see what we did there?) Here’s what he had to say:
“I’m not a person who defends myself very often. I kind of let my actions speak for me.”
Only Brady didn’t say that post-“Deflategate.” He said it in an interview with Details magazine in 2009. Preparing to come back from a serious knee injury, Brady was answering the charge that his celebrity marriage to Gisele Bundchen had changed him and that he wouldn’t be the same quarterback because of it.
If only, right? Brady’s actions are speaking loudly, and a lot of rival fans surely can’t stand it. Like this guy’s ever going to change.