The last couple of years were a bit of a headache if you dared to be even one drop critical of Tom Brady.
I say this because I was in this camp and was extremely surprised by how little tolerance there was for such talk.
Brady, I was reminded by colleagues and readers alike, was the GOAT, which I understood, but felt was kind of irrelevant. After all, if we couldn't acknowledge that Brady's play was worse, we were saying that recent Brady — someone who was not even the best quarterback in the league — was the same as vintage Brady, which would be to say that Brady was not the greatest QB of all time.
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I thought crying "But the weaponz!" ignored a large part of the story, which was that Brady didn't seem to care to make it work with the guys he had. I said all last season if he was in the right offense he could still be an MVP, but that it wasn't going to be in New England because he had turned into a bit of a pill after a lengthy stay.
Along the way, I grew so frustrated with this apparent "you're never allowed to criticize Brady" rule that I guess I became a little anti-Brady.
And looking at it now? I've gotta say it's not such a bad place to be. Thirty teams, including the Patriots, agreed he's not the same player he's always been, even if he's still a Top 10 quarterback. And to defend him at every turn with all the practice/COVID stuff? Sounds awful.
First of all, free agency was hilarious. All that "just you wait and see the list of teams that'll kick their quarterback to the curb for him!" that we heard? Yep, two teams wanted him.
Two. Out of 32.
The stuff about the Patriots being willing to pay $30 million a year to keep him? Didn't happen.
The team he ended up choosing was the one we theorized could be a dark horse if they threw way more money at him than anyone else. They didn't have to throw crazy money at him, though. In fact, they signed him for less than the numbers we saw thrown around. Why? Perhaps because only two teams wanted Brady. Beggars can't be choosers.
Now, after the NFLPA recommended players not work out together for safety's sake, ol' Tommy Two Teams is in Florida doing all the workouts with Bucs teammates he possibly can. Know how we know he's doing that? Because he's posting about it on social media, including last week's post, which had the "only thing we have to fear is fear itself" quote.
In other words, "you fraidy cats might be doing as you're told on this one, but I don't have to because I'm the GOAT," or worse, "because I'm taking the right TB12 products to prevent this thing."
Not only is he thumbing his nose at his own Players Association and anyone who's taken precautions to minimize the spread of COVID-19, he's thumbing his nose at you, the unwavering Brady/Pats fans who said extra sessions didn't matter.
Because Brady disagrees with you. He finds them so important, in fact, that he's ignoring a pandemic in a state with spiking rates in order to do them. And no, these aren't OTAs, which is what Brady was skipping in New England, but considering the groups he's gotten together — quarterbacks, receivers, backs, offensive linemen? — he's essentially organizing his own OTAs.
And if you're still defending Brady putting in less time with the Pats and want to say "well duh, he has new teammates," you're ignoring that he had new teammates for the sessions he skipped last year. Perhaps the difference is that those new teammates were rookies and Brady typically doesn't like those.
There was plenty to criticize about how the Patriots handled Brady. They didn't show a ton of faith in him. But you can still say that while also acknowledging that it seemed like Brady wasn't giving the Patriots his all.
This offseason has confirmed that while also showing some sort of combination of selfishness and recklessness from Brady, which is to say this: Brady is human and the standard to which people held him made them look awfully silly. It's OK to back off that.
Tom Brady is the most accomplished quarterback of all time. That locals would defend him at every turn is understandable, as Patriots fans will forever be indebted to him. The last couple of years haven't been perfect, though, and noting it doesn't make you a "troll" or a "hater."
It just means you've read it right.