NBC Sports NFL analyst Rodney Harrison checked in with Middays with MFB on Tuesday to discuss the Patriots’ offensive issues. To hear the interview, go to the MFB audio on demand page.
Tom Brady appeared on edge after Sunday’s 30-7 victory over the Vikings. Although he did not reveal precisely what made him upset, there has been speculation that he’s frustrated with the offense.
“I don’t know what’s going on with Tom,” Harrison said. “From Tom’s perspective, he hasn’t played like Tom Brady the first couple of weeks of the season. He’s frustrated. Anytime you have a certain expectation of yourself you want to be able to reach it. I think Tom, I think he sees some opportunities that he left out on the field, and it’s one of those things where he’s never satisfied. That’s the thing that makes him great.
“So, I wouldn’t worry about Tom. Tom is very competitive. He’ll work hard, he’ll watch a lot of tape, he’ll get back to where we’re used to seeing Tom, and he’ll be fine.”
Added Harrison: “Just because he has a name — Peyton Manning, all these quarterbacks, they go through struggles. They go through times where their confidence level might not be where it was before. We’re human, we all go through certain situations. But I wouldn’t get too worried about Tom. You look at his history, you look at everything, his work ethic, everything he brings on a daily basis. Tom will work himself out of it.
“It’s two games, they’re 1-1, they know what they did wrong in Miami. That was a game they could have easily won. They come back, they improve in some areas against Minnesota, and that’s what Bill [Belichick] always talks about, he talks about one game at a time. And I don’t think you get too high, too low if you’re the Patriots. You understand the areas in which you need to get better — both as a team and as well as an individual.
“And I think that’s something that, I don’t worry about Brady. There’s other areas I might concern myself with. But when it comes to Tom Brady, I know his work ethic, I know his focus level, and I know he’ll be fine. He hasn’t looked the way we all expect him to look. But it’s two games. And it’s something that the rust eventually wears off, he’s going to gain more confidence in his players and maybe in himself, and he’ll be fine.”
The Patriots continue to struggle to bring in wide receivers who have been able to pick up the offense and form a connection with their quarterback. Brady seems more reliant on veterans like Julian Edelman and Rob Gronkowski and less trusting in the other players.
“I don’t think it’s a problem. I think it’s common sense,” Harrison said. “If you don’t have a certain chemistry, if you don’t have a comfort level with the wide receiver or a tight end, you’re not going to go to him. I think it’s their job to get open. It’s their job to make sure that they’re running the right routes at the precise yardage. And it’s their job to make Tom throw them the ball.
“Tom’s going to continue to go to Edelman, he’s going to continue to go to guys that he’s very comfortable with. It’s only the second week of the season. It takes time when you bring new guys in, chemistry time and them getting familiar with the offense. I wouldn’t necessarily worry about it. But those young guys should work extra hard to try to get familiar with Tom and his ways.”
Sunday’s win came against a Vikings team that was without suspended running back Adrian Peterson. Harrison said that can’t be overlooked.
“You have to look at that,” Harrison said. “Coach [Mike] Zimmer came out and said it had nothing to do with Adrian Peterson, and that was a bunch of crap. How could you say something like that? You lose your best player and he’s not on the field, it’s just like the Patriots losing Tom Brady and Bill Belichick saying it had nothing to do with Tom. That’s crazy. When you lose your best player, it affects the offense. Especially when you have a quarterback who’s a veteran that’s not very good. Let’s face it, [Matt] Cassel‘s not a very good quarterback. He’s OK, he’s done some good things in this league, he’s made himself a good living, but he’s nothing that guys are losing sleep over before the game.
“At the same time, you don’t have to worry about the run, so you can focus on the pass, you can line guys up and you can change defenses where you’re more prone to intercept or watch for the pass. It’s one of those things, when you lose an Adrian Peterson, that physical presence in the run game and his ability to draw that extra defender in the box, then it opens up so many opportunities for Matt Cassel down the field. And they didn’t have that.”
Harrison had no interest in discussing Peterson’s off-field issues or any other NFL disciplinary problems.
“I have no thoughts about any of those dudes and what they’ve done,” Harrison said. “I talked about that last week, I’m not dealing with it. If you want to talk football, we can talk football. But that’s not my concern. My concern is watching these teams, analyzing these teams and talking football. That’s where I’m at.”
After being pressed on the matter, Harrison briefly elaborated on his frustration and confusion with the issue.
“As the commissioner, as the National Football League, you do have a responsibility and an obligation to punish players. You do,” he said. “And they got it wrong against Ray Rice, I think everybody could agree with that. And then this Adrian Peterson situation comes out and it just devastates the entire country. I don’t know what the commissioner should do at this point in time. I don’t know all the evidence. I don’t know. I’m just — I don’t know. And that’s kind of where I’m at. I’m not going into that situation. I’m not going into that situation with Greg Hardy and I’m not going into the situation anymore with Ray Rice. If you want to talk football, I’ll talk football. If not, I’ll talk to you guys later.”