I have to confess, as glad as I was to hear Tom Brady do an in-depth interview with somebody other than Jim Gray or Michael Strahan, it's hard not to focus on how good his appearance on Howard Stern would've been if it came, say, 10 years ago. Back before Stern did a complete 180 from the groundbreaking, sacred cow slaughtering, perpetual entertainment machine he was to Howie Hamptons, hating his old self and everything his audience loved, and doing 15 minute segments on how much he joy he gets out of watching Ellen Degeneres dance.
That Stern would've been blunt and inappropriate and gotten Brady uncomfortable by telling him stories about Howard's mother's pubic hair and had the GOAT telling sex stories about 2002 Tara Reid, revealing real insider Patriots secrets and giving us a comprehensive list of every opponent he ever hated. But this is the best we can do in this reality. And this newer, politer, woker Stern still managed to get Brady to open up in ways he never did for 20 seasons in New England.
Anyway, here are some of the highlights from this morning's interview:
--On whether he ever took the Electric Lettuce: "I definitely had some fun in high school with partying and drinking and smoking weed on occasion." Why he stopped: "I felt like I was letting my dad down."
--On whether he resents Bill Belichick getting so much of the credit for the team's success: "I think it's a pretty shitty argument ... I can't do his job and he can't do mine. Can I be successful without him, the same level of success? I don't believe I would have been. But I feel the same vice versa. To have him allowed me to be the best I can be, so I'm grateful for that. I very much believe that he feels the same way about me, because we've expressed that to each other."
--On his relationship with Belichick: "I think he has a lot of loyalty. He and I have had a lot of conversations that nobody has ever been privy to, nor should they be, that so many wrong assumptions were made about our relationship or about how he felt about me. I know genuinely how he feels about me. Now I'm not going to respond to every rumor or assumption that's made, other than what his responsibility as coach is to get the best player for the team -- not only in the short term but in the long term as well. ... I got to the point where I was an older athlete and he's starting to plan for the future, which is what his responsibility is. I don't fault him for that. That's what he should be doing. Not that I would ever coach, but if I was ever in a position of authority, I would understand that too."
--On how his Circle of Trust with receivers and how Belichick saw it: “I would say, ‘I don’t have any trust that this guy can help us win the game,'” Brady said. “I’ve definitely expressed my opinion to say ‘If you put him out there, I’m not going to throw him the ball.’ The whole team is trusting me to do what’s right by the team, so you can’t put someone out there who I don’t believe in. Because if I don’t believe in him, it’s worthless for the team. I think fortunately for me, Coach Belichick always saw it the same way as me, which is why I think we had such a great connection. He saw football very much the same way that I saw it. All the coaches that I worked with on a daily basis, they want the same thing.”
--On Gisele and his skipping OTAs: “There was a couple years ago, she didn’t feel I was doing my part for the family. She felt like I would play football all season and she would take care of the house, and then all the sudden when the season would end, that I’d be like, ‘Great, let me get into all my other business activities. Let me get into my football training.’ And she’s sitting there going, ‘Well, when are you going to do things for the house? When are you going to take the kids to school and do that?' ... “She wasn’t satisfied with our marriage. So I needed to make a change in that.”
--On being surrounded by 50 other guys hanging brain in the locker room every day: "You get used to it. Every guy's penis looks the exact same. A man's a man." And on having open showers: "Like why are we doing this?”
--On engineering the greatest single game comeback in the history of sports: "We were down 28-3 and look at this situation and say 'fuck it.' Or we can look at it and say 'If we come back, it will be the greatest moment of my life.'"
--On whether he resents not being a Patriot for life: "No, absolutely not! No, because this is a part for me, in my life, to experience something very different. There are ways for me to grow and evolve in a different way that I haven't had the opportunity to do -- that aren't right or wrong, but just right for me. ... I never cared about legacy. I could give a shit about that. I never once, when I was in high school, said, 'Man, I can't wait for what my football legacy looks like.' That's just not me. That's just not my personality."
--On why he left: "It was just time. I don't know what to say other than that. I accomplished everything I could in two decades with an incredible organization, an incredible group of people, and that will never change. No one can ever take that away from me, no one can ever take those experiences or Super Bowl championships away from us."
--On when he knew it was time to go: "I would say I probably knew before the start of last season that it was my last year. I knew that our time was coming to an end."
There's a lot to unpack here, as you'd assume with a two hour interview. Patriots scholars and Bradyologists will be pouring over the results and analyzing the findings for years if not decades to come. But the immediate takeaways are that this business of there being a ... [wait for it] ... rift between Brady and Belichick is exactly what I've been saying it was all along: Pure, Grade A horseshit. They're different sorts of cats entirely, but they got along all this time because they share a singular vision, laser focused on winning. And they brought out the best in each other. He's not leaving Tampa because of some personality conflict with his coach. Belichick is looking for ways to compete for Super Bowls for the next 20 years. Brady's looking for an easier life where he can balance work and family and keep his wife happy. As he said it himself, "It was time." And he knew it all last season, while the rest of us were reading his body language and hoping against hope he wasn't mentally checked out already.
That and the fact he smoked and drank in high school and doesn't much care for seeing other men's penises, and I think we learned more about Brady in two hours than we did in two decades here. One final takeaway: For all that Howard Stern has done to domesticate Howard Stern, he's still the best interviewer in the business.