Ostensibly warming up to his start as a broadcaster next season, Tom Brady made an appearance on ESPN‘s The Stephen A. Smith Show and, shockingly, actually gave somewhat of a take. An expert on speaking without saying anything, Brady issued some blunt criticism of the league and complained that the game is not the same as it was when he began suiting up more than two decades ago. The 46-year-old’s complaints covered more ground than he ever scrambled for in his Hall-of-Fame career, but they were centered on what he deemed to be a “lot of mediocrity in today’s NFL.”
Brady, a seven-time Super Bowl winner who never missed a game with anything other than a torn ACL or a suspension, had beef with a few areas in today’s NFL (which he was playing in last season).
No. 1: Coaching
“I think the coaching isn’t as good as it was,” he said. “I don’t think the development of young players is as good as it was. I don’t think the schemes are as good as they were. The rules have allowed a lot of bad habits to get into the actual performance of the game. So I just think the product in my opinion is less than what it’s been.”
No. 2: Rule Changes
“I look at a lot of players like Ray Lewis and Rodney Harrison and Ronnie Lott and guys that impacted the game in a certain way — and every hit they would have made would have been a penalty,” he said. “You hear coaches complaining about their own player being tackled and not necessarily — why don’t they talk to their player about how to protect himself?…We used to work on the fundamentals of those things all the time. Now they’re trying to be regulated all the time. Offensive players need to protect themselves. It’s not up to a defensive player to protect an offensive player. A defensive player needs to protect himself…I think a lot of the way that the rules have come into play have allowed this — you can essentially play carefree and then if anyone hits you hard, there’s a penalty.”
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No. 3: Lack of Fundamentals
“I actually think college players were better prepared when I came out than they are now,” he said. “Just because so many coaches are changing programs, and I would say there’s not even a lot of college programs anymore. There’s a lot of college teams, but not programs that are developing players. So as they get delivered to the NFL, they may be athletic, but they don’t have much of the skills developed to be a professional. When I played at Michigan, I essentially played at a college program that was very similar to a pro environment. When I see these different players come in, they’re not quite as prepared as they were, and I think the game has shown that over the last 12 to 13 years. I think things have slipped a little bit.”
With quarterback play across the NFL on the decline (the league is on pace for its lowest-scoring season on average since 2009 when teams combined for 42.9 points per game) and injuries on the rise despite players seeming to be more athletic and skilled than they’ve ever been before, Brady appears to have some valid points. However, he’s not exactly the person who should be making them, considering he had one of the best coaches in NFL history and, probably more importantly, benefitted from a number of rule changes made during his career that made it nearly impossible to hit the quarterback without risking a penalty. Brady may be complaining about the lack of physicality in the NFL now, but he never did when he was the one getting hit.
Brady, for once and hopefully as a sign of things to come, has points. But he shouldn’t be the one making them.