Here’s a brief “Jeopardy” quiz to go with your Cheerios this morning.
Contestant: “Alex, I’ll take Tom Brady for $1,600.”
Alex Trebek: “Walking on eggshells.”
Contestant: “What has it been like being a New England Patriots receiver not named Julian Edelman or Rob Gronkowski the last decade.”
Trebek: “Correct. Wow. I’m shocked you got that. It was a trick question I thought up myself, you know, with Brady’s G.O.A.T. status. You’re up again …
Do you want a silver lining for the 2020 Patriots, particularly the half-dozen dudes who will be running down the field trying to catch footballs?
Tom Brady is gone.
Brady is gone? You village idiot, Burt!
Yes, Brady is gone. And the Patriots receivers, believe it or not, might benefit in a particular way.
Mind you, this is no reason to dance around like the Munchkins did in Munchkinland when the Wicked Witch of West got crunched by Dorothy’s tornado-blown home.
But Brady was tough on his receivers, to the point where he wouldn’t look at them on Sundays.
During the week he’d wax poetic about, say, Mohamed Sanu’s or Phillip Dorsett’s work ethic, saying that they were great guys, trying their hardest, wanting to get better, etc., etc.
On Sundays Brady might as well have been Darth Vader.
What’s worse than getting cursed out by a coach, star player or, heck, a spouse? Easy … the silent treatment.
And Brady will someday be inducted into the Silent Treatment Hall of Fame after the few dozen former good, or even star receivers he destroyed with his ability to disregard their existence.
That’s not a problem or excuse anymore. Patriots receivers can break the wrong way, by even a few yards on a potentially big play and they won’t disappear.
Is that necessarily a good thing, rewarding bad behavior? Probably not, but this might be a good time for Patriots receivers to make plays without fear of retribution.
Sanu, who was released last week, was in over his head here. He was brought in to be a savior after two failed experiments — Antonio Brown and Josh Gordon.
But Sanu didn’t have it in him. We came to realize he was a No. 3 or No. 4 receiver, with low expectations, which is exactly what he was in Atlanta behind a superstar and two stars at the wideout position.
Brady and Sanu never meshed. Other than screens or short stuff over the middle, Sanu was a non-factor his entire half-season here, injury or no injury, defining the term “walking on eggshells.”
Did Brady try to develop a relationship with Sanu? Doubtful. Once Brady figured Sanu was, like him, not here for the long haul he probably said “Who cares?”
What this means is coaching could play a bigger role at the position now with Brady gone.
Brady’s precision, which worked to near perfection for two decades, is giving way to athletes being athletes, taking some risks and maybe making a mistake or two.
Brady, to a fault, would focus on Julian Edelman and Rob Gronkowski, even in double or triple coverage. But he trusted both of these football savants and they rarely made the wrong decision.
The Patriots offense will be simplified. It has to be. The Patriots’ wildly expanding route trees will have to lose a lot of branches.
As for inferences that the Patriots offense will remain, basically, the same, I laugh. It has to change. It should change.
Cam Newton isn’t going to walk up to the line of scrimmage and know exactly and methodically what the best play is to win the best matchup like Brady did. But that’s OK. It’s a tiny club of QBs that could do that, guys like Peyton Manning, Drew Brees and probably Russell Wilson.
Patriots receivers, who are being called the worst group in Patriots history, have reason to be excited for 2020 and beyond.
The eggshells, at least Brady’s eggshells, are now in Tampa.
Now Belichick’s eggshells, which coverer a wider distance, are another thing altogether.
You can email Bill Burt at firstname.lastname@example.org.