The New England Patriots and their fans had quite a scare last week when quarterback Tom Brady left practice with what appeared to be a knee injury.
While the injury turned out to be nothing serious, the reaction to the possibility of losing Brady shed a light on just how important he is to the team this year. Not that he hasn’t been important to them every year, but this season it would be an even bigger blow to the team if Brady missed significant time.
Just a few years ago we saw him crumple to the ground in the first game of the season. That seemed like the end of the team’s year at the time, but it turned out that backup Matt Cassel was up to the task of leading the team. Despite not starting a game at quarterback since he was in high school, Cassel took the Patriots to an 11-5 record and fell just short of making the playoffs.
That season was a fun one to be a Patriots fan. If Brady went down this year, however, things would be much different. This year there is one unproven quarterback and one who may not even really be a quarterback, and neither has looked good in preseason action.
Ryan Mallett has a strong arm, nobody doubts that, but he hasn’t shown anything in his preseason action the last few years to make you confident that he can win games in the NFL. He makes throws, like the touchdown to tight end Zach Sudfeld, that make you think he could be an NFL starter, but his accuracy issues are a concern.
Tim Tebow has shown that he can win, but you have to tailor your entire offense to him. Bill Belichick and the coaching staff would be up for the task, but would the rest of the offensive players be able to switch gears mid-season so easily?
In the end, Tebow gives you the best chance to win. Sure, you’re asking a lot of his fellow offensive players, but he’s proven that if you switch to the Tebow offense he can get you wins. There’s no evidence at this point that Mallett can do the same.
What we’re learning is just how important Brady truly is to the team. He’s more than just the franchise quarterback. This year, with all the new faces on offense, he’s more of a coach on the field than just a player.
New England fans, this year more than others, had better hope that Brady can stay healthy. Otherwise, things could go bad quickly in Foxboro.