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I Could Forgive Tom Brady for Leaving NE, but I Can't Forgive the Damage He's Doing to His Own Legacy

AJ Sisco. Shutterstock Images.

I've never once shied away from admitting that when Tom Brady announced he was leaving New England - at 8:30 a.m. on March 17th, 2020, in case you'd forgotten how his timing ruined Irish Christmas - was something I took very, very personal. In fact, I wrote a book (that is perfect for every name on your list this holiday season!) that starts in that moment of pandemic, economic collapse and societal upheaval and begins, "This is exactly how I pictured the world would look if Tom Brady ever left the Patriots." And nothing that has transpired since has dissuaded me from feeling that way. It was a breakup, he was the dumper, and Pats fans were the dumpees. 

And yet I could learn to forgive. Knowing that at some point, he'd come back. There'd be a massive press conference in Foxboro, broadcast around the globe. He'd reflect on his time here. Mr. Kraft would wax nostalgic about how Brady's like another son to him. Belichick would get emotional (relatively) about how great he was. A number would be retired and a statue would be built. And even his success in Tampa that I'm supremely jealous and resentful of would be just another part of the incredible story, 90% of which happened on our watch. After all, if you're old enough to have seen Wade Boggs on the back of an NYPD police horse in a Yankee uniform while the Red Sox were entering their eighth decade without a title, you know you can survive anything. Hell, Boston threw a parade for Ray Bourque when he won the Stanley Cup in Colorado. That still ranks as the all time embarrassing moment for this region, but ultimately you can respect a veteran chasing a ring at the end of a great career. Even if they've already won six. 

What is harder to respect is what is going on in Tampa right now. What Brady is doing to his own legacy, which didn't need any improvement; it was just fine the way it was. And yet he's damaging it worse than all the fake scandals, memes:

Giphy Images.

… and losses to the Manning brothers ever could. 

Let's begin with this:

Nobody old enough to outgrow their toddler-sized BRADY 12 jersey is naive enough to think he hasn't been one of the NFL's legendary shit talkers all this time. Despite how cordial and polite he comes across in interviews. Not since Moonlight Graham has anyone changed more when they stepped on and off a field. But his verbal abuse always seemed to come with a certain flair, if you will. With a sense of purpose, if you will. Like going after someone who guaranteed a win or Freddie Mitchell of the Eagles in the 2004 Super Bowl for pretending he didn't know who Rodney Harrison is. "Fuck you, bitch!" is just playground stuff. Amateur Hour. And standing in place, continuing to spout off while your teammates are stepping in to throw haymakers is something a wrestling heel does. Unworthy of a champion of his stature.

Also, the Tom Brady I knew and loved was praised throughout the land for his unmatched work ethic. First to the gym. Last off the practice field. Treating optional offseason workouts like his very life depended on finding the perfect arm angle in the middle of May. I don't even recognize this Tom Brady:

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Of course the argument goes, "Hey, he's 45 years old. What do you expect?" And I shall answer. I expect a guy to work on his football during the football season. Not to have a standing tee time in the middle of the week. I mean what is he, a state worker? Even with all he's done for the organization, how can a guy show up on Thursday, look around the huddle and say, "OK, guys. Let's go. We've got work to do," when they've been working? Do you think other veterans like Julio Jones or Lavonte David couldn't stand for a maintenance day once in a while too? Even at the age of 42, my Brady wouldn't have dreamed of asking for a shorter week like someone working Mother's Hours at the fabric store. Which begs the question, is he still getting paid for his Wednesdays, or does he have to give that money back. And does it count against the Bucs salary cap? 

Which brings us next to his performance so far. Yes, it's only two games in. And I conceded the 2-0ness of Tampa's record at the moment. But if you're actually watching the games, you simply cannot argue he's playing like a guy who should've unretired. So far, his numbers are the worst he's put up outside of any season where he played more than a quarter of football:

And if you go by passing yards, it's second lowest only to 2001, when he took over for Drew Bledsoe on a run-oriented team and it took a while for the coaches to trust him enough to take off his training wheels. 

You certainly can't argue that these numbers reflect he doesn't have talent around him. This is, pure and simple, as slow a start to a season as he's had in a couple of decades. And it's logical to assume it's a sign of decline. Which, if true, is understandable given his age, the lack of commitment that led to his retirement, and the effect the unretirement had on his personal life:

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He's no longer my quarterback. Mac Jones is doing an admirable job filling the GOAT-shaped hole in my heart. But tarnishing all that he's accomplished with an ill-considered decision to come back for a year he didn't need will hurt anyone who ever had a rooting interest in the man. I can forgive him leaving the way he did. Possibly even for talking to the Dolphins while he was under contract to the Pats in 2019. But if he continues to wreck his reputation with the rest of this stuff? That I cannot forgive.