Bill Belichick Should Pull Tom Brady at the End of Blowouts

Belichick's habit of playing Brady until the bitter end could derail the Patriots' season.

All it would take to derail the Patriots’ season is one ill-timed hit to Tom Brady. With 8:22 remaining in the Patriots’ demolition of the Jaguars Sunday, Brady was sacked by defensive linemen Chris Smith and Roy Miller. He fell to the turf early to avoid most of the contact, and was back throwing two plays later. The Patriots scored a touchdown at the end of the drive, stretching their lead to 34 points.

So far, 2015 is looking an awful lot like 2007, right down to the debate over whether Bill Belichick is unnecessarily putting his Hall of Fame quarterback at risk by leaving him in blowouts for too long. Two weeks ago, the Patriots were still chucking the ball all over the field in the fourth quarter against the Bills despite holding a 16-point lead. Sunday, Brady played every snap up until the final minute of the Patriots’ 51-17 win over Jacksonville.

The risk of keeping Brady in there is minimal. He’s dropped back to pass 7,301 times in his illustrious career, and has only been removed twice due to injury: the 2002 AFC Championship Game and the season-opener against the Chiefs in 2008. It’s more likely you’ll be struck by lightning in your lifetime than see Brady get carted off the field again.

But though the downside of playing Brady until the bitter end is negligible, the upside is non-existant. That’s why Belichick needs to yank him as soon as these games begin to get out of hand.

This isn’t a demand for the Patriots to pack it in whenever they have a multi-possession lead in the fourth quarter. A football game is 60 minutes long, and it should be played until the final whistle blows. But there’s no law that says the starting quarterback has to be on the field for every waking moment.

Belichick didn’t leave all of his regulars in the game Sunday. He pulled Rob Gronkowski, Julian Edelman, and Dion Lewis almost as soon as the fourth quarter began. But for whatever reason, he didn’t exercise that same bit of caution towards protecting Brady.

There have been two major quarterback injuries across the NFL over the last two weeks. In St. Louis Sunday, Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger took a shot to his knee when blitzing Rams safety Mark Barron stumbled on his way into the backfield. Barron said after the game he tripped, which is why he hit Roethlisberger low. Nonetheless, the Steelers will be without their franchise QB for at least six weeks while he recovers from a sprained MCL.

The Cowboys are currently playing without Tony Romo, who broke his collarbone after taking a vicious hit from Eagles linebacker Jordan Hicks last week. Romo will likely be out of action for two months.

Belichick can’t put Brady in bubble wrap, but he can play the odds. Brady probably won’t get hurt if he’s under center at the end of these loft-sided affairs; he definitely won’t get hurt if he’s standing on the sidelines.

It would be a shame if this season’s “F-U Tour” ended prematurely because Brady took a hit he didn’t have to.