If you like movies such as “Memento,” “Joker” and “Fight Club,” then you probably will love the eventual biopic about Tom Brady. Because, like the leads in those films, the greatest quarterback in NFL history has proven to be an unreliable narrator.
For reasons occasionally understandable, few things Brady says can be taken at face value. Sometimes that’s because he appears overly scripted, and other times it’s because he’s lying to your face. You could argue the most transparent Brady has been during the latter half of his career is when he described himself as the “most miserable 8-0 quarterback in the NFL” during his final season with the New England Patriots.
So, it’s no wonder that people aren’t picking up what Brady is putting down after his retirement switcheroo with Bruce Arians.
Before and after Brady formally announced his eventually brief retirement last month, multiple credible reports indicated disillusionment with Arians and life as a Tampa Bay Buccaneer led to his departure. And, when Brady unretired 40 days later, many predicted the move would cost Arians his job. Arians and Brady said all the right things in the two weeks that followed. Then, Wednesday night, Arians retired as head coach in Tampa with intentions of moving into a front-office role. Brady immediately fired off a lengthy statement praising his former coach, and Arians claimed the quarterback’s decision to return actually convinced him that retiring was the right move. Something about wanting to set up new head coach Todd Bowles for success. He reiterated those claims during a press conference Thursday and insisted he and Brady have a great relationship. Brady also wants people to believe he learned of Arians’ plans to retire on the same day he decided to end his own retirement.
You don’t need a tinfoil hat to believe something else is at play. And if you do buy into the conspiracy theory about Brady allegedly pulling a power play and forcing Arians out, then it probably wouldn’t take much for you to believe something similar could’ve happened in Foxboro, Mass.
The rumors of Brady and Arians not liking each other are nothing compared to what’s been reported — credibly or otherwise — about the power struggle in New England.
During the 2017 season, ESPN investigative journalist Seth Wickersham got the ball rolling with a lengthy report detailing friction between Brady, Bill Belichick and Patriots owner Robert Kraft. Similar things were reported over the next two years, despite New England winning another Super Bowl in 2018. The situation reached a head before the 2019 campaign, with Brady receiving a phony contract restructure that opened the door for his once-unfathomable exit. Brady pouted his way through a forgettable season and bolted for Tampa Bay during the spring.
In the two years since, he’s said more stuff about wanting to be appreciated and respected, while his father, Tom Brady Sr., has gone so far as to say that Belichick should be on the proverbial hot seat. If there’s one thing that’s become abundantly clear, it’s that Brady did not enjoy playing for Belichick toward the end of his Patriots career and that he held (probably still holds) a grudge over how things ended at One Patriot Place.
But the real juice can be found in Wickersham’s new book, “It’s Better to Be Feared: The New England Patriots Dynasty and the Pursuit of Greatness.”
Brady reportedly told people in 2017 that he no longer wanted to play for Belichick. He even mulled forcing a trade to a Los Angeles franchise, should the NFL eventually put one there (it put two). His dismay had as much to do with Belichick’s personality as it did his lack of a long-term contract extension after the Super Bowl LI win against the Atlanta Falcons.
We could go on and on with this stuff, and you don’t need this history lesson to be any longer. The point is that, long before his rumored mutiny against Arians, Brady reportedly was up to similar activity in New England, with Belichick in his crosshairs.
Publicly (except in retirement posts), Brady has continued to praise Belichick, and perhaps things were smoothed over during their private postgame meeting in October. But none of that erases where things were during the late 2010s.
What might’ve happened had Brady done what he allegedly did in Tampa and forced Kraft to make a coaching change? We’ll never know, but with Brady still playing at a high level while involved in one suspicious event after another, it’s fair to speculate about anything, including a world in which Belichick was pushed out of New England and Brady remained quarterback of the Patriots.
That’s the reality he’s created: Everything is on the table. At least it’s entertaining.