Okay, the title is a little misleading, as it's hard to call one of the 2 or 3 best QBs to ever play the game a "problem". But Brady has changed, by necessity I would argue, and the offensive philosophy has morphed to meet that change...and that has created somewhat of a problem. Fans on this forum like to point out that the Pats won Super Bowls with guys like David Patton, David Givens and Troy Brown as our top receivers, and while that is an inarguable fact, it is highly unlikely that they could do the same today.
This past weekend, I found a couple of videocassettes of games I taped between the 2001-2004 seasons (finding the remote for the VCR was quite a task, lol), and I watched a good part of 4 or 5 games. And one thing jumped out at me over after over...Brady's toughness. It was eye-opening (or, more accurately, memory-inducing) to review just how many times the young Tom Brady would stand in the pocket until the very last instant before delivering the ball...followed by taking a monster hit. He was Favre-like in that regard (though better than Favre in everything else). And when Brady took those hits, he would jump off the turf smiling, and talking smack to Jason Taylor or Dwight Freeney. Brady loved the contact, and that lack of fear bought an extra second or more for his receivers to get open downfield.
Of course, you don't want your 30-something QB taking the same hits that your 25-year-old QB did. (Brady did not jump up smiling when Dumervil planted him into the turf the year before last.) The Pats' response to this has largely been changing the playbook, to where now most passes are out of Brady's hand in under 2.5 seconds, with many escaping in well under 2 seconds. While this forces opposing defenses to be highly alert, it also removes many routes from the receiver tree, making it easier for atheletic, well-coached Ds to focus on short routes to favorite targets. The bubble screen was an occasional call in 2004, not the staple that it is today. This new philosophy has become so ingrained that once the 3-second mark goes off in Brady's head, he begins to "turtle"...even when there is no imminent pressure around him.
This philosophy also makes it harder to draft wide receivers, and folks are quick to point out BB's poor record here. Many of us talk about our wish for a "tall receiver" or a "speed demon who can stretch the field." But what the Pats covet most, in the current philosophy, is a guy who can consistently read the defense, get open, in the RIGHT SPOT, in under 2 seconds. It's damned hard to draft such guys (or scout free agent WRs, for that matter) when nobody else plays this way.
While I don't knock the philosophy, I think it must be augmented by beefing up the offensive line to all-world levels. Joe Flacco is not a better QB than Tom Brady. But Joe Flacco looked light years better than Tom Brady in the playoffs this year because Joe Flacco has 4.5 seconds to throw the ball, allowing his guys to make the second or third move to get open. Even the 49ers great D couldn't get to him much; the nimble Kaepernick was out-sacked 3-2 by the Ravens' D. We need to stop just relying on Scar's skillset, and give him some exceptional talent to work with.
Vollmer (when healthy) is an elite lineman, and Solder could be getting there. Mankins, however, is overpaid while the other guys, while hard-working and well-coached, are JAGs. I'd like to see the Pats cut ties with Mankins, and allot Vollmer type money ($3.5-$6 million apiece) to every position on the line, and grab the beastiest players that money can buy.
I believe if they did that--so that Brady is given the confidence that he will have 3.5 seconds to get rid of the ball--they won't need to draft all-world receivers.
Even Ocho and Galloway would have had more productive seasons.