In Tom Wolfe's 1998 novel "A Man in Full," real estate mogul Charles "Cap'm Charlie" Croker says, “One of the few freedoms that we have as human beings that cannot be taken away from us is the freedom to assent to what is true and to deny what is false. Nothing you can give me is worth surrendering that freedom for. At this moment I'm a man with complete tranquillity." Can there be any doubt that Tom Brady is enjoying this freedom and complete tranquility more than any human being (and in his case I use that term loosely) alive?
I won't even pretend that I'm looking at Brady's Tampa Bay career strictly through the prism of my Patriots fan glasses. Still, to this day. Even 14 weeks into the season and almost nine months to the day that he said goodbye to New England. I'm not over the breakup. I probably will never be over the breakup. But he most certainly is.
It's hard to believe now, but there was a time early in the season when it looked like he was the one full of regret. Back when the Pats and Bucs were both 2-1 but Brady looked so frustrated by his own mistakes losing in prime time to New Orleans and his teammates' widespread, institutional dumbassery keeping lesser opponents in games. Meanwhile the Patriots had had two convincing wins with an impressive run/pass balance and almost 400 passing yards in their one loss at Seattle. That seems like a lifetime ago. Or a virtual reality that's in our collective memory even though we didn't actually live it. A glitch in the Matrix. And now we've woken up from the dream naked and covered in goo. While Brady's living the life he wanted all along.
If Brady's old team had someone beaten the Rams Thursday, they'd have something like a 30% chance of making the playoffs. After than non-competitive, stinking Yule Log they dropped that no amount of Poo-Pourri could mask, they're down to 6%. His current team?
So ... tranquility. Not the sort of tranquility that comes from knowing your season will be over in three weeks, like in New England. The tranquility that comes from knowing you made the right call. That while the old boss you finally got sick of will be preparing for free agency and the draft in a dark, frigid, locked down, quarantined, bleak dystopia out of a Chekov novel, you'll be getting ready for a postseason game on an 80 degree day in a place that has restaurants and happy hours and actual fans in the stands. And instead of helplessly scanning the field trying to spot your rookie tight ends who can't be located with a GPS tracker, you're throwing this pass:
And when Rob Gronkowski isn't making that grab, he's drawing a DPI in the end zone to set up a chip shot field goal with no time out left in the half. Gronk. Drawing DPIs. Something that was close to impossible for his last five or so seasons in New England. Once he started making All Pro teams, Gronk was considered a medieval wife, who could be beaten with any rod you had lying around the hovel, just as long as it was skinnier than your thumb. And where he was drawing more flags for minor pushoffs than he was for taking abuse from fat thumbed defensive backs. Even though it was Gronk's only catch of the game, this is exactly how these two besties drew it up when they decided to rekindle the bromance.
The damned thing of it is that Brady looked objectively off early on against the Vikings. Tampa's first two drives ended in punts with one 1st down and not even 3:30 in time of possession. He led Gronk too much on a corner route that maybe 2011 Gronk could've gotten to but not 2020 Gronk. He badly sailed one over Chris Godwin who was wide open in the middle hole of the coverage. And there were other misses throughout. But when you complete 15 passes for almost 200 yards and two scores without turning it over and your passer rating is 120, it would take the bastard love child of Max Kellerman and Nick Wright to find the fault in that.
Besides, while Brady has been more prone to inaccuracy than in years past, he's still capable of firing a .50 cal round and hitting center mass with it. Find a better throw by anybody this season than this one:
That's 48 yards in the air. Delivered right on the hands. Of Scotty Miller, who seemed to have fallen out of Brady's precious and coveted favor over the last couple of months. This is what the new 43 looks like. And I'd be lying if I said I'm not jealous. Not to mention how I wouldn't be fooling anyone.
Frankly I'd feel better about Tompa Brady if he was throwing more to Gronk, Godwin, Miller and Mike Evans. Seeing him target Antonio Brown five times, with five completions for 49 yards, I feel like the wife of a guy who's going out drinking with his asshole friend who I know is going to start trouble. Think Gretchen Mol seeing Mike McDermott hang out with The Worm now that he's out of jail. There are several ways this can go. And history shows all of them are bad.
I'm still not completely sold on this Tampa team. They kept the Vikings in the game way longer than they should have. Only one of the worst kicking games you'll ever see, a Minnesota 1st & goal that ended up being 4th & goal from the 29 (leading to another miss) and a complete and utter breakdown by the Vikings offensive line in the 4th quarter turned this game into a joke. In spite of Bruce Arians' swagger and braggadocio. His swaggadocio:
So somewhere between Arians arrogance (Arigance? I'll work on it) and the locker room carcinogen that is Antonio Brown, something is going to be the Bucs' undoing. I just don't see it being Tom Brady. A true Man in Full.