Skip to contents
NFL

Tom Brady Is Going Quietly

Tom Brady

Tom Brady … and already I can hear your eyelids leaden and start to fall. His steady march toward retirement and a broadcasting career that few people outside television executives find compelling continues at a disturbing MPH—mehs per hour. Now, in the wake of Tampa’s desultory loss to Baltimore Thursday night, his teammates on the increasingly uninteresting Buccaneers are feeling sorry for him in postgame quotes. The Bucs are 3-5, and as we were incessantly reminded Brady has never been two games below .500 after eight games in his 50,000-year career. So for the army of folks who define football as Brady and Brady as football, every game is a referendum on him, his age, his legacy, and his decision to risk his family for, well, this.

And by “risk his family,” we are indeed referring to the TMZ report that he and Gisele will file for divorce today, with his need to scratch this one last itch as a main component of the marriage’s dissolution. Their marital strife has been a largely unkept secret this entire year, or at least since he reneged on his retirement after a month and change, and no matter the truth of things he comes off looking the more self-absorbed and less honorable half of the marriage as a result. Fortunately for all of society, our opinions don’t matter, and if they did, we’d do society a great solid by shutting up about it.

Still, if football is the catalyst, a season in which his teammates, who are just as 3-5 as he is, are largely feeling sorry for him rather than merely themselves, is quite assuredly not what he had in mind.

“Nobody’s pointing the finger at Tom Brady,” wide receiver Mike Evans said. “He’s the best to ever do it. I mean, he hates losing. That’s all he knows is winning, and being 3-5 is not good enough, so we’ve gotta turn it around, and soon.”

“I hope he plays as long as he can,” tackle Tristan Wirfs said. “I’d love to play with him forever. I love Tom. I wish everything was going as perfect as possible for him, if it is the last year for him, or whatever. We’re just trying to ball, and it’s frustrating when stuff’s not working and you don’t have the answer in front of you.”

“It’s definitely tough,” linebacker Lavonte David said. “Just the things he’d won over his career. The type of guy he is, the type of man he is, the type of football player, the type of leader he is—definitely hard. He’s feeling all the same emotions we feel. We definitely gotta try to turn this thing around because we’ve got the guys to do it. But it’s gotta come from somewhere.”

It all sounds too pro forma, like the Bucs owe Brady better results instead of Brady inspiring them to better results. In a year of old guys fighting against the jaws of athletic age and all but Justin Verlander losing, Brady’s slow fade is the one that seems to inspire the least amount of schadenfreude. Aaron Rodgers is in power-smug overdrive, Cristiano Ronaldo is awash in petulance at Manchester United as the World Cup approaches, and Matt Ryan lost his job to a guy named after every plumbing supply store operator in the Upper Midwest. But Brady, who chose this over marital and familial peace, is going quietest of all.

That is, if he is actually going at all. Maybe the Bucs rally as their players say they must, and Brady is credited for inspiring them to one last deep run to glory. Nothing is a faster indication of nitwits on the come than evaluating football teams based on the last thing they saw. Other than the Lions and Texans, that is. They are always the same.

But Brady’s performance last night had ordinary numbers (325 yards on 26-of-44 with one TD) to go with the ordinary result, and Amazon Prime’s record of producing games that snarkify even true believers like Al Michaels and Kirk Herbstreit remains intact.

More to the point, Brady’s impending just-another-guyhood blows a lot of scheduling plans to smithereens as the dreaded hand of flex looms. The Bucs seem to know that they are sub-mediocre in a mediocre conference, and since everyone frames them as they are seen through Brady’s eyes, they feel an extra burden of having to exonerate him for a season they all should be owning equally. They’ve lost five of their last six, 22 points is the most they’ve scored in any game but one, and Brady leads the NFL in passing yards but is 20th in passer rating and has thrown as many touchdowns as the much-accursed J.R. Garoppolo. That’s not exactly the walk-off piece Albert Pujols provided.

Not that Brady won’t be lauded beyond all blood sugar levels when the end does come. Nobody makes, primps, and immortalizes heroes like the NFL, and Brady will bring levels of over-the-top that challenge the ionosphere’s ability to cope. His playing rep will do just fine.

But for now, the best thing you can say for Brady is that he’s not as regularly irksome as Rodgers, and that’s entirely an issue of style. Maybe he’d be better entertainment if he blamed his teammates, or coaches, or the media ignoramii.

Or maybe he’d just be one more guy who stayed at the fair too long. In his case, given what he’s gambled, too long by a lot.