- Jackie MacMullan, ESPNBoston.com columnist
- 0 Shares
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- No one has to counsel Tom Brady that it's paramount for him to demonstrate uncommon -- perhaps even unprecedented -- patience.
He's well aware he needs to channel his inner Samuel Beckett.
Waiting for Godot? Nah, he's never coming.
Waiting for Gronk?
Now there's a game plan.
The big tight end is in pads on practice days and in dress pants on game day, but he will be back, perhaps as soon as 10 days from now. Danny Amendola will be back sometime too. And maybe -- just maybe -- by then Brady's rookie receivers will have grasped the critical importance of running precise routes and of putting in the time and effort necessary to develop a symmetry with their Hall of Fame quarterback, who didn't bother to conceal his disgust over broken plays and dropped balls against the New York Jets on Thursday night.
Brady smacked his helmet in disbelief as another one of his passes sailed through the hands of Aaron Dobson (three drops), then unleashed a primal scream of agitation as Kenbrell Thompkins failed to haul in a catchable ball. Brady stomped around most of the night barking at his offense, delivering laser stares and spewing frustration on the sideline after another stalled drive. It was an uncharacteristic display of emotion that reeked of agitation.
"I think I have to do a better job with my body language," a stone-faced Brady conceded after the game. "I definitely can improve that. I wouldn't say it's a real strong point of mine right now."
His reaction is understandable. He is 36 years old and he's running out of time to build on a Super Bowl résumé that at one time was so perfect, so pristine. He looks around the league and sees the weapons other elite quarterbacks have to highlight their talents, and it has to be irritating.
At this exact moment, the Patriots' offense -- his offense -- is in disarray. Dobson and Thompkins were targeted 17 times but came up with only five catches. They have yet to develop any meaningful chemistry with one of the greatest passers in the game's history.
After punching it in on the first drive of the game, the Patriots did not reacquaint themselves with the end zone the rest of the way.
The numbers were numbingly anemic: Brady was 19-of-39 (48.7 percent) for 185 yards, and Patriots ball carriers combined for 24 rushes and 54 total yards.
You know things are breaking bad when you register more punts (11) than first downs (9).
And yet, New England managed to eke out yet another division win, this time a 13-10 squeaker over the Jets, the team Brady despises most. So the Patriots are 2-0, even though it doesn't feel that way.
"It was three-and-out after three-and-out after three-and-out," guard Logan Mankins said. "It was pretty frustrating for a lot of us on offense. Thankfully the defense played great and bailed us out, because we couldn't do anything."
"Well, we have a long way to go," Brady said. "No one's coming to rescue and save the day, so we've got to fight through it and got to work harder."
It is counterproductive to revisit the Whither Welker debate, but it's hard for Patriots fans not to yearn for Brady's most reliable receiver. Brady's Costa Rica comrade has moved on to a Super Bowl contender with an affable, rejuvenated Hall of Fame quarterback, so weep not for Wes. He's better off.
But, when you subtract Welker, Gronkowski and the incarcerated Aaron Hernandez from Brady's arsenal, the holes (especially in terms of experience) are gaping.
None of this is a news flash. We all knew it would take time for Brady and his green corps of receivers to mesh their skills. They have to be patient. They have to make sure they walk that fine line between demanding excellence and not destroying the young players' confidence. They have to cajole the "kids" into accelerating their learning curve.
"The passing game is all about anticipation," Brady explained. "They have to anticipate what I'm going to do and I have to anticipate what they're going to do. We can do a better job of that.
"I think it's unrealistic for them to feel like they can do it like 10-year veterans. It's not what they are."
There are capable players who can help fill the void. Julian Edelman was supposed to play the role of Amendola last season and snag a bunch of Welker's reps, but he broke his foot in December and was done for the year.
Edelman is healthy now, and he caught 13 passes for 78 yards Thursday night. He appears to be the only receiver Brady trusts at the moment.
"He's a tough kid," lauded coach Bill Belichick. "I thought he made a couple of tough catches out there in the second half, had to take the ball away from his body in the rain and all that."
Amendola's brief cameo as a Patriot was encouraging, both in the adeptness he displayed with his command of the offense and his willingness to gut it out through an obviously limiting groin injury. Yet, almost immediately, the question of whether he can stay healthy is again a legitimate one.
If you get back the "Welker clone," as Rex Ryan referenced Amendola, to go along with Edelman and a healthy Gronk, then Brady's numbers -- and his mood -- will improve considerably.
Patience. Brady knows he needs it. The Patriots know they have to display it.
"But this is the NFL, and you can't be too patient for too long," Mankins said. "You can't wait forever."
Brady reminded everyone on Thursday night that his team started out 1-2 last season. The reports of their demise turned out to be greatly exaggerated.
It is too soon to write off this young Patriots offense. Both Dobson and Thompkins are skilled players who, when they put it together, could prove to be valuable, explosive weapons. They might just need some time.
And, yet, the hand-wringing has begun, for a team that is 2-0 and seems to have more questions than answers.