The sports section of Monday's Boston Globe featured an article by longtime staff writer Tony Massarotti entitled ‘Brady shouldn't point fingers.' Tony's claim was that Tom Brady's sideline meltdown with offensive coordinator Bill O'Brien was yet another in a long list of signs that Brady has become increasingly petulant and accusatory over the years, and that he deserved to be put in his place.
With all due respect to him as a fabulous writer, Mr. Massarotti is wrong. His wrongness is rooted in contrived denouncement of the "Patriot Way". It's a clever attack on idol worship, with no actual basis for his disdain other that pithy arguments based on singular observations. Maybe there are reasons to dislike Tom Brady as an athlete, a quarterback, a leader, a teammate or a friend. Unfortunately, Tony could not unearth any of them in his article. Here is a breakdown of his arguments, and why none of them hold up.
1. "Had Randy Moss pulled the same stunt, we would be spending much of today burying him for such petulance. Brady threw a horrendous interception on a pass intended for Tiquan Underwood when he could have sealed a victory, then went to the sideline and threw a tantrum to go along with it."
Yes, we would have spent much of the day burying him for it. Why? Because Randy Moss was not responsible for the ball on every offensive snap. He did not have the responsibility of calling plays, operating in the hurry up or making successful audibles at the line of scrimmage. Randy Moss had to know the call, run his route, and catch the ball. Why else? Because Randy Moss countless times approached the podium and placed blame on others. He placed blame on coaches, quarterbacks, players, media members, the NFL, Roger Goodell and society itself. Perhaps not so often in New England, but that's because he was rightly afraid they'd boot him out of town if he did; and when he did, they did.
I'm going to keep going.
Randy possessed more pure talent at the wide receiver position than anyone else in the history of the league, and he blatantly quit on his team in Oakland, and then did the same here in New England. He was a diva who did not win, who did not lead and who did not work hard enough. That is why we would have buried him.
That's the example used to illustrate this point? Tom Brady, since he has stopped winning Super Bowls, has been the NFL MVP twice, NFL Comeback player of the Year, voted to the Pro-Bowl three times and has helped his team get to the postseason in every full season he has played since 2004. You could Google and YouTube for days trying to find a Tom Brady press conference in which he did not accept personal blame when he had a bad game, or when he ever threw a specific teammate or group of players under the bus to media. It doesn't happen. He has never, ever quit on his team and he has never not worked hard enough.
When that whiny, underperforming and notoriously gossipy employee calls in sick for the tenth time in six months, you give them hell. When your employee of the year for ten straight years calls out sick, you let it go - even if it was on a Monday and you were understaffed already.
2. "Underwood wasn't the only receiver chastised by Brady yesterday -- Wes Welker and Deion Branch also heard about it after miscommunications -- and one can't help wonder if Brady has grown more stubborn and spoiled with each passing year of his career."
None of us have ever played sports at a level even one one-hundredth as competitive and featuring such talent as the NFL. Yet what I do know from my own life experience is that a good team environment requires a solid balance of praise and criticism. I also know that Deion Branch was the Super Bowl MVP for Brady and that Welker is his number one receiver, and that he has never diminished their talent or not given them their due. I know that he respects them and their abilities more than anyone. He tells us. He tells them.
After a heated exchange on the field in their September game against the Chargers, Brady stood with Branch in his postgame press conference and told the media "there's nobody I enjoy playing with more than this guy, and it's always been that way...he's everything you look for in a receiver."
In early October Brady had this to say about Wes Welker to Dennis & Callahan on WEEI:
"Nothing surprises me with Wes, he's the heart and soul of this team. He's been that way since the day he got here. He works his tail off. He's a great player, great teammate. He's become a real dynamic player over the years. He's made some huge plays for us, he's clutch, tough, mentally tough, physically tough. He's awesome... He shows up every single day being the best he can be. He sets a great example for every player, every veteran player, every young player, every coach, what he's willing to do to commit himself to be the best he can be for this team. He never takes a day off, never takes a practice off, he never takes a play off, run or pass. It's like that way in practice. What you see in a game is what he does in practice for us every day and he never complains. He's a helluva player. I love being out there with him."
Those are glowing comments, made with the utmost earnestness. He means them, and they are much more reflective of his relationship with those players the 98% of the time that he is not in full-battle mode. Brady expects the best from these guys because he truly believes in their talent, and his frustration that boils over on the field is merely a side effect of his extreme competitiveness. Does he sometimes displace blame in the heat of the moment? Yes.
He is a great athlete who seems to hold the fate of his team in his hands just about every game these days. What matters more is that when everyone cools down from that ultra high-stress, high-performance situation, he never fails to give the credit to those who deserve it, to speak highly of his teammates or to take his blame when they fail.
3. "Remember two years ago, when Brady drew the wrath of linebacker Ray Lewis after lobbying with officials for a roughing the passer call in a game against the Baltimore Ravens? Yesterday, Brady smugly applauded when Redskins linebacker London Fletcher was called for a personal foul, delivering a hit to Brady as the quarterback slid to the turf. In all of those instances, the message is the same. You can't do that to me. I'm Tom Brady."
Yes, I do remember when Brady drew the wrath of Ray Lewis after lobbying for a roughing the passer call. I also realize that a laughing baby could draw the wrath of Ray Lewis. Ray Lewis exists to have his wrath drawn. That's not to say that Brady wasn't a total child about the situation, because he was. Lobbying to the officials that hard for a call is almost always annoying and bad form. The reason we all remember that instance so distinctly is because Brady is rarely that obnoxious in his communication with the refs.
Yet smug or haughty approval over a call in your favor is just a fact of the game sometimes. He doesn't do it every time, but clearly he is overly fired up in some situations. Oh well. Maybe it doesn't fall under the criteria for the good sportsmanship award, but the greatest winners of our time are never remembered for their good sportsmanship. Getting caught up in the childish moments is a waste of time. Brady's relative modesty in the wake of his achievements is actually pretty commendable for an athlete of his pedigree.
It's true that he is no longer the pillar of cool, calm and collected. He's had a lot more time to be jaded by bad teammates, inept coaches, injuries, rumors etc. He has had two children and gotten married. People change. But it seems a little excessive to equate his outbursts on the field with some automatic damnation of everyone but himself. We hear him take blame enough to know that's not the case.
4. "At this stage of his career, Brady should be getting more mature and responsible, not less. Instead, he seems to be getting more like Marino, one of the most accomplished passers in league history who never won a thing because he never understood the most simple rule of team sports. It's not about you. It never was and it never is."
This is perhaps the most flabbergasting point of all. Dan Marino never won a thing. That's exactly right. Tom Brady has won more than a thing. He has won three things. He has already done what Marino never did, three times over. He hasn't done it in seven years, we all know this. Is that really because he has been getting riled up toward his teammates on the field? No. Is it because he truly believes that it is all about him? Absolutely not.
Brett Favre truly believed it was all about him. Every time he stepped to the podium and made excuses for his interceptions and hailed his own toughness, he made it all about him. That was a guy who evolved into someone who had no perception that he had created a caricature of his former self. Brady has become more vocal. His teammates may notice that as time has worn on, he has become more irritable on the field, or his outbursts have become more frequent. Still, they have never had to wonder whether their leader and quarterback would have their backs at the end of that game, that day or that season.
Tom Brady is no Dan Marino. Brady hugged Bill O'Brien at the end of that game, stepped to the podium and took responsibility for behaving inappropriately. The young and impressionable Tiquan Underwood learned a far greater lesson by watching his quarterback do that than he ever would have if Brady had shrugged off the interception and given him the "we'll get ‘em next time, champ" pat on the butt.
Brady has never been that guy. I hope he never is.