How can we be mad if Tom Brady isn’t?

Andy Hart
March 24, 2020 - 1:48 pm
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Somewhat appropriately, as noon hit on Tuesday the state of Massachusetts began its coronavirus-driven loose “shutdown” just as Tom Brady simultaneously held his first conference call as a member of – gasp – the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

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A week after shocking the football world by actually deciding to take his talents somewhere other than New England, where he’d spent the first two decades of his storybook NFL career, TB12 talked about his decision.

And while many of the rough-around-the-edges New Englanders among us want to be mad at Brady for turning his back on the Patriots and all of Patriot Nation, damn if he doesn’t make hard to be upset.

Sure, our reaction might be to tell Tom to go Buc himself in Tampa, but then he starts saying all the right things – probably with that trademark, dimple-chinned smile even if this was a pandemic-forced conference call – and the animosity almost dissolves.

Almost.

Brady was asked plenty of questions during the 30-plus-minute conference call and with the dexterity honed over years of working under Bill Belichick’s media-averse rules, TB12 danced around actual answers like would an oncoming pass rusher in the pocket.

One thing he never did, though, was exhibit even an ounce of animosity toward Belichick or Patriots owner Robert Kraft, the two other men who made key decisions along the way that led to this day, to Brady being announced as a – gasp again, gag reflex triggered – a Tampa Bay Buccaneer.

“I leave there with just great admiration for the people and that organization. It’s a great…it’s a world-class, first-class organization in every way. I wanted to leave it that way, too. I know the Patriots have a great team. They always do. They have great players, great leadership, great coaches. I certainly wish them the best. But for me, I’ve got to transition and focus on the opportunity that I have to make the current situation I’m in as best as I possibly can. They hired me to do a job here and I’m going to go in there and do it like you’ve always seen me do for a long time. I’m going to give it everything I’ve got like I’ve done everything in my life for as long as I’ve been playing this sport,“ Brady said after recalling a “great conversation” he had with Kraft, Belichick and Jonathan Kraft when he told them last week that he would not be returning to New England.

High road taken as expected even in this, the most dramatic time in his professional career.

Later in the call, Brady also sidestepped a pretty simple, direct question regarding what it would have taken for him to return to the Patriots. Brady pulled a Mark McGwire and declared that he didn’t “want to talk about the past.”

Instead Brady is driven, motivated and focused on his task at hand. That’s a new team. A new offense. A new coach. Even a new climate and home.

Last time there were significant questions about Brady’s career and supposedly fading abilities, back when Belichick acknowledged the G.O.A.T.’s “age and contract situation” when selecting would-be heir Jimmy Garoppolo in the second round of the 2014 NFL Draft, TB12 and the Patriots were catapulted by the critiques.

Will the same thing happen in Tampa as Brady approaches his 43rd birthday, challenged to run Bruce Arian’s offense under Byron Leftwich’s guidance while throwing to newfound Pro Bowl talents like Mike Evans and Chris Godwin?

Brady isn’t making any promises, but he certainly is as focused on success as ever. He also admitted that the current state of the world due to the coronavirus pandemic will add to an already unexpected (though maybe predictable?) late-career crossroads.

“This is an exciting moment for me in my life,” Brad said. “It’s obviously very unique to me as it’s the first time it’s happened in 20 years. I’m kind of taking it day by day. The expectation for me is to come in and do what I feel is right for the organization, that’s to be a great team player. I’m going to try to do everything I can to get up to speed with all the things that I need to do, what my responsibilities are.

“Where I’ve been I’ve learned a great deal. As I move forward, I said the other day, no one cares what you’ve done in the past. They don’t care what you did last year, five years ago or 10 years ago. I think hopefully, the knowledge and experience I have playing quarterback will allow me to transition quickly.

“I’m not going to make a predictions to where I’ve been. I go in with, looking forward to the opportunity to learn from the new coaches and the new players that I’ll be playing with. And I’m going to go out and give everything I’ve got.”

Brady sold Tampa as a “great challenge” as well as a “great opportunity.” He focused on the future and avoided the recent past.

Brady is Buccaneer now. It is what it is. We may never find out exactly why that is or exactly how he honestly feels about the transition.

He handled himself with aplomb and class. Brady is after all “so grateful for two decades” in New England.

“There’s nobody who’s been a bigger fan of the New England Patriots than me,” Brady declared in seemingly believable fashion. “I have nothing but total respect, and love. I’m so grateful to Mr. Kraft and the organization and coach Belichick and all the coaches and obviously all my teammates.

“It’s going to be different, but that’s the way life can be sometimes. But what won’t be different is my approach to the game, my approach to what my roles and responsibilities are. I’m going to go out and do the best I can every day to put our team in position to win.”

Ah, screw it. Sure Brady said all the right things on Tuesday, probably tip-toeing past the truth while focusing on the future. Sure he deserves a fresh start. Sure he’s earned the right to decide where to play and for how long. If that’s Tampa, OK then.

Still.

Buc off, Tom!

There, don’t we all feel a little better now?

Just because Brady took the high road, doesn’t mean we all have to.

Related: Tom Brady responds to Robert Kraft saying it was QBs decision to leave Patriots