Good win for the Patriots last night, one which I fully expected. It's the kind of game they win. Games with weird situations, weather games, that kind of thing. I think Belichick loves those games. They appeal to the old school football guy and historian in him and he probably has read some account of an Army-Navy game from 1934 or a Browns-Bears game from the time when Babe Ruth was still dominant and leather helmets were considered cutting-edge and looked into the winning strategy on a day when it was ten degrees and hailing or a snowstorm for the ages hung at the edge of Lake Michigan or something.
I'm much less bullish on Mac Jones than everyone else. By far. I wrote in these pages back in training camp--before that, actually--that he could be the starter, could come in and get this job, and that ought to be his mindset. Here's the problem: his arm strength. This isn't about last night. He's shown that he can be coached and do what they ask him as a game manager. But there comes a time--and then it becomes a fairly regular time--when to win in the league you have to throw the ball often, and rocket it in there, and down the field. You have to come back from seventeen down in the second half, and you're throwing on every play, just about. There is nothing I've seen that tells me he can do that. Maybe he can. I hope he can. He can do what he is doing. But that only gets you so far in a career. And as a franchise quarterback. Brady was never a game manager. People like to say he was, but that was never true. He could always sling it. The Snow Bowl game--or the second half of that game--was pure slinger. He threw on damn near every snap in that second half, in the weather.
So many people billed as experts and so many sports magazines and shows and networks put up stats comparing Brady to Jones through their first dozen games or whatever, and Jones has the better stats, slightly. Do people really not understand that this comparison is largely meaningless? I honestly wonder. Do they think it's apples to apples? Do they not understand how the NFL works? How time works? Are they being intentionally dishonest because they want to create a narrative for clicks and the like? Or are they that stupid? Because it was far, far harder to play quarterback in 2001 than it is now. Just like it was harder to play quarterback in 1985. And harder still in 1975. The way the game is played changes. The rules change. There is no easier high profile position in sports right now than quarterback. The game is designed for the quarterback to 1. Remain healthy and 2. Succeed. Fantasy football has something to do with that. But if you are completing seventy percent of your passes now, you weren't completing that in 2001. You probably were around sixty percent, if that. That was a much tougher, more brutal league. You could be physical with receivers in ways that you never could now. Brady was pretty much as good as he got in 2004, and look at those numbers vs. his numbers now. He's sharpened and evolved certain things, but the big difference is the league.
This is just so basic. Does anyone know this or take it into consideration? I think, as I've said again and again, that no one knows anything about anything. There are no experts. People just have something they want to be true, for whatever reason, and they say it. Or they don't care if it's true and they say it for whatever reason, and no one challenges them, because everyone else is doing the same thing. We are incapable of thinking beyond a knee-jerk reaction level. We are incapable of seeing ever-so-slight below a surface. We are incapable fo understanding what context is. We are incapable of factoring in any nuance or degrees.
Brady made a big change with his body from 2001 to 2002. I remember watching him that second season and seeing his core strength. How guys could be hanging around his middle and his thighs and he could still deliver the ball. It was obvious how much work he put in after winning that first Super Bowl. Jones is going to have to do that after this year.
Personally, I like weird football games like that. They're my favorite kind. Just like I like turning on some random bowl game I wasn't even aware was on and it's in Iowa or something and the snow is coming down. I like wind, snow, mud, rain for football. Character teams tend to win those games. Teams with character, I mean. Who are strong in the fundamentals and are physical and tough. I'm certain that in his heart, that is Belichick's favorite kind of team and game.
Anyway, count me as quite wrong. I thought the Patriots were done after their start, especially as they had dropped so many games at home. They were, what, 0-4 at home? And I'm reasonably confident that no one in the history of the league started 0-4 at home and made the playoffs, and there they were a couple months later, positioned as the #1 seed. Had they lost last night, they would have fallen to the position of the five-seed, so it was a big game, even if people think the Bills had more pressure on them.
Speaking of the Bills: imagine being a grown-up and saying, "I'm a member of the Bills Mafia!" I'm not claiming that Patriots fans are spending their winter nights cozying up with texts by Donne and Shelley, and Patriots fans are usually insufferable, but there is something about a name like that--with the criminal world aspect, too--that makes it hard to take humans seriously and not be embarrassed to share a race with many of them.