Tom Brady has been notoriously hard on rookie wide receivers. As has been the case with many great players who have played with young, talented teammates, the tough love and short leash can either make or break the newcomer.
According to multiple reports, Brady’s approach and reported ‘freeze’ or ‘phase out’ of the New England Patriots‘ 2019 first-round pick N’Keal Harry might have curtailed the talented WR’s growth as a rookie. That’s a big reason some predict Harry may benefit from Brady’s departure to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and Jarrett Stidham’s likely ascent to the starting QB role.
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WEEI’s Ryan Hannable broke down a sequence of major events during Harry’s rookie season involving Brady that may have shaped what most consider a disappointing first campaign for the first-round pick.
Brady is not the typical NFL quarterback, as he’s the most demanding in the entire league. He expects perfection, but it’s also not fair to a rookie to expect it right away. Also, Brady wears his emotions on his sleeve, so if a wide receiver runs the wrong route or is not in the exact spot he expects him to be, he’s going to hear about it. This happened to Harry on multiple occasions over the summer, and then in his third game back — a Sunday night game against the Texans — in the first quarter Harry’s slant route was not run the perfect way that it should have been and it turned into an interception. Harry wasn’t targeted the rest of the game and until the final week of the season when he saw seven targets, the rookie saw just eight targets in the next four games. Brady had phased Harry out.
Hannable isn’t alone in his belief that Brady was, and would likely continue to hinder Harry’s growth. Former Patriots tight end Christian Fauria opined while on WEEI Radio:
“This offense is not going to be able to move forward with Brady as the quarterback, not because he sucks. Those throwaways were important. It’s because he wasn’t willing to adapt. There’s the difference. He wasn’t willing to let N’Keal Harry grow.”
It’s important to note, Brady denied ever freezing Harry or any wide receiver out, but whether it was conscious or subconscious, the numbers don’t lie. Harry, a player the Patriots desperately needed to develop into a threat, simply wasn’t targeted a great deal for the rest of the season.
Harry did suffer a hamstring injury that limited him to just seven games, but in those contests, he was thrown to just 24 times. That’s just over three targets per game, and it’s hard to imagine Harry thinking Brady had much confidence in him with so few looks.
All that said, the Brady excuse will be gone in 2020. Harry will have an opportunity to establish chemistry with a new QB who almost certainly won’t be nearly as demanding as Brady.
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