How do NFL players become ranked among the greats at their position? Putting up big numbers season after season. But sometimes, those players just play poorly, and sometimes, that lasts throughout an entire season. It's not always about it being the end of a guy's career, either; players can recover after one bad season and turn it around the next fall.
The best example from my playing days happened when I signed with the New York Giants for what would be Eli Manning's first full season as the starting quarterback. In Eli's rookie season, he and Kurt Warner split the starts. To prepare for the season, we watched cut-ups of the game film, and Kurt's cut-ups were particularly awful, to the point that I was saying to myself, "That's Kurt Warner?"
He just looked lost out there, nothing like the guy who we saw dominate when he was running "The Greatest Show on Turf."
Fast forward two years later: I get cut by the Giants and end up as the backup for Kurt's new team, the Arizona Cardinals. What I saw there was the complete opposite of what I'd seen sitting watching film with Eli -- Warner was back to playing at a very high level, and he nearly won the Super Bowl.
Warner's career wasn't over when he had that one bad season with the Giants, it's just that circumstances had changed around him, and he had a down year. When those circumstances changed again and he found himself surrounded by players like Larry Fitzgerald and Anquan Boldin, he was back to his old tricks.
At this point of the season, we have enough data on these players to have a good idea of what they're going to do from here on out. So it's time to be honest with ourselves. Even if we used a high draft pick on a particular player, sometimes it's just best to move on and chalk it up to a bad season.
What I'm seeing
That brings us to Tom Brady. Based on what I've been seeing from watching the film, I think it's fair to say that this is a season that Tom would like to forget once it's over. I've seen him miss throws that he's made in years past, I've seem him get frustrated and I've also seen what appears to be his hand giving him trouble.