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Ask PFW: Brady's future

Given [QB Tom] Brady's most recent statement of "playing 10 more years," what's your best guess of how much longer he can play at an elite level? Also, how long do you think [head coach Bill] Belichick and [owner Robert] Kraft will allow him to play and what will they do with [backup QB Jimmy] Garoppolo?  Thanks, Mel Buford

Well, Mel, Brady's been pulling out this "10 more years" card for several years now, and even the way he's playing today, that seems unrealistic. A 48-year-old Brady still playing in the NFL? It's hard to imagine any person being able to play professional sports – particularly this violent one – at that relatively advanced age. Yes, at the moment, Brady is playing some tremendous football. He and Aaron Rodgers are probably the best QBs in the game right now. Brady is certainly playing better than he has since 2007, in fact, which is remarkably because most athletes' skills rarely increase as they get older.

I have said for a while now, and maintain it, that Brady will play out his current contract, which runs through 2017, at which point he'll be 40 years old. That would seem like the most likely time for the organization to transition to Garoppolo, who will have had several valuable years as Brady's understudy – similar to what Rodgers went through in Green Bay behind Brett Favre.

Maybe Brady will continue to defy the odds and the Gods and play at an elite level well into his 40s. He's already building consensus as the best quarterback of all time, and if he pulls of that miracle, he will have left no doubt about it.   Erik Scalavino

What do you think of Tom Brady being the next Head Coach/GM of the Patriots (in10 years) when he retires as an active player? He understands the game and is as much of a workaholic when it comes to prep as "The Hoodie," Bill Belichick.

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As much as Brady loves playing football, I can't envision him coaching it. The hours alone are a deterrent, especially for someone like him whom I suspect has greater ambitions once his playing days are done. I'm not sure the John Elway-type role suits him, either. He has hinted that he might want to do more with the holistic body treatment business he's currently using for himself and purveying in his TB12 Sports Therapy Center here at Patriot Place. Right now, that seems like his most likely post-NFL option. Of course, politics is also a possibility, based on some of the appearances and statements he's made in that vein. Only Brady and his family know for sure what he'll do. We'll just have to wait and see and, in the meantime, enjoy watching him play. Erik Scalavino

With Brady averaging 50 pass attempts per game, can the arm of a 38-year-old QB sustain such load?

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It's a legitimate question, Jeremy, and it seems like the answer is yes. At least in the short term. Brady is throwing the ball better than he has in years, as I mentioned earlier. Whatever he's doing to maintain his fitness and conditioning is working wonders for him. I would imagine, however, that the running game will make an appearance again this season to help balance the offensive workload. Erik Scalavino

How come [TE Scott] Chandler is not more involved in the offense?  It seems that when he is in, he is able to make plays. Is he not a great blocker?

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Blocking is not why Chandler was signed this offseason. Not entirely, that is. His skills are more as a pass catcher, and on a team that features the greatest tight end in football history, two clutch receivers in Julian Edelman and Danny Amendola, and a quick tailback like Dion Lewis, there aren't a lot of leftovers for Chandler. And now Brandon LaFell is back (he'll overcome those early drops, I'm sure). Chandler made a couple of nice catches against the Jets, but also had his share of mistakes in the few chances he got previously (drops, penalties). He's being used sparingly right now, which is fine, because the Patriots don't need him to make plays. If they did, that would mean one of their top options is not able to, and you don't want to see that happen. Erik Scalavino

With all of the atrocious head coaches, offensive coordinators, defensive coordinators, and special teams coaches plaguing the NFL this season, what are the chances that both Josh [McDaniels] and Matt [Patricia] get head coaching offers next season?

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Regardless of how bad you may think the rest of the league is in the coaching ranks, New England's offensive and defensive coordinators may be in demand simply because they are on one of the best teams and staffs in the league. If the Patriots gets another 1 or 2 playoff seed, which is entirely possible, McDaniels and Patricia could very well have their names bandied about when Black Monday rolls around (the day after the end of the regular season, when most NFL teams who want to change coaches fire their old ones). So, yes, I would expect there to be talk about both men come January, but whether they choose to pursue any opportunities is another story. McDaniels has been through this process before. Patricia hasn't, but it's not clear if either man wants to be a head coach in this league. They could be like Dante Scarnecchia, the long-time assistant here in New England, who could easily have been a head coach somewhere but elected not to because he didn't want the responsibility. He liked his role as an assistant and made a career of it. I'm not sure how the current coordinators feel about it, although my instincts tell me McDaniels would like to give it another go somewhere. Erik Scalavino

There is something I've always wondered, but have never gotten an answer to. If a receiver is short, then we all assume he is a slot guy. Why is that? Are tall receivers not capable of playing the slot? Are short receivers protected from big hits if they play in the slot? Thanks!

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Not all receivers who line up in the slot are short, but I understand your point. Generally speaking, the taller receivers are better suited for the outside because they create mismatch problems for cornerbacks, who are generally much shorter players, particularly on deep throws. Bigger receivers are less likely to be put on the inside because there's a lot more traffic in the middle of the field and smaller receivers are often quicker and more elusive in those confined spaces. Shorter receivers are obviously not immune to absorbing big hits, though, as we've seen here with Wes Welker and Julian Edelman. Erik Scalavino

Hi guys, great win over a good [Jets] team.  However, our suspect secondary's lack of talent was made evident for all to see.  With the injury to [Tarell] Brown, we saw that both [Logan] Ryan and [Malcolm] Butler are no match for elite receivers. As we learned in 2007 and 2011, you can't win the big one without defense! With the final trading deadline approaching (03 Nov?), do you see Coach Bill pulling a rabbit out of his hat for some secondary help? Thanks Larry from BroncoLand.

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I like the way you're thinking, Larry. I have a feeling the Patriots will swing another deal before the deadline, and I'd like it to be for a solid cornerback. There just isn't much out there that would fill New England's need. Alterraun Verner from Tampa Bay is a name people have been bringing up a lot lately, and I would be okay with a trade for him, but I wouldn't expect an Aqib Talib-like return on your investment this time around. Erik Scalavino

My question is about Malcolm Butler; where are the spectacular picks that he made when in practices last year? Is he just overmatched or will he turn it around and regain the playmaker moniker?

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To Butler's credit, he has been in position to make a lot of plays this season, matching up against the opponents' top receivers. Problem is, he hasn't made enough plays when he's been in position. I'm not sure if it's something he can "correct" or if that's just the kind of player he is. I haven't given up hope on him yet, but I would like to see him start making more plays soon. Erik Scalavino

I'm curious as to how Jerod Mayo is doing. He doesn't seem to be getting alot of snaps compared with the other linebackers. Is he healthy? Or is it just a case of age catching up with him? Also, what do you think of [Aaron] Dobson at this point in his career?

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I suggest you grab yourself a copy of this week's Patriots Football Weekly (reviewing the win over the Jets, previewing the Dolphins match), in which I have a full-page commentary on the subject of Mayo's current situation. Essentially, it seems age is catching up with him and his injuries the past two seasons haven't helped his cause. As for Dobson, he's just too inconsistent to be a reliable option for this offense. Were it not for Keshawn Martin's hamstring injury, Dobson would likely have been inactive against the Jets, a game, ironically, in which Dobson made a couple of nice catches. He doesn't do that often enough, though, and that's been his biggest liability since he arrived in Foxborough. I don't expect that to change, either, so I don't hold out much hope for Dobson's long-term future as a Patriot.  Erik Scalavino

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