Brady blows a gasket

Brady blows a gasket
September 13, 2013, 1:15 pm
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I’m going to write about Tom Brady’s tantrum, because let’s be honest, it was pretty entertaining. Forget for a second that it even involved Brady. Pretend it was some other NFL quarterback or one of your co-workers or some random guy on the street. It’s impossible to watch someone blow a gasket the way Brady did last night and not find yourself at least somewhat amused. Or intrigued? Is that a better a word?

Either way, now reconsider that it was Tom Brady, a guy who can’t gleefully ride down a waterslide in Mexico, or dance with his hair up in a ponytail at a Brazilian carnival or pose lovingly with a baby goat without the world losing its mind. And it’s no surprise that the image of him walking off the field last night, screaming so violently that it looked like someone was trying to open an umbrella in his throat, then sitting on the bench, slamming a water bottle and yelling “HE WAS (BLEEPING) WIDE OPEN!!!” was a major topic of conversation after the game and will remain that way for at least the next 10 days.

“I think I have to do a better job with my body language. I definitely can improve that,” Brady told reporters. “I wouldn’t say it’s a real strong point of mine right now. We’ll just try to keep doing better, that’s all we can do.”

OK.

No one blames Brady for his frustration. With all that’s happened over the last year, he should be frustrated. He deserves better. Even if he hadn’t given up all that money, and was still the highest paid quarterback in the game, he’s more than worthy of the best. At this stage of his career, they owe that to him.

But at the same time, no one benefits from the way Brady acted last night. He obviously knows that. He obviously cares about it. Smart money says that that kind of public display won’t happen again; at least not to that extent. After all, it doesn’t change anything.

One of the most interesting aspects of the whole tirade was that as soon as it was over, the camera panned to New England’s three rookie receivers — Kenbrell Thompkins, Josh Boyce and Aaron Dobson — who were sitting about five feet from the action . . . and they weren’t even paying attention. It actually looked like Thompkins was in the middle of telling a joke while Boyce and Dobson tried unsuccessfully to hide their laughter.

And even if they were listening, they probably wouldn’t get it. Part of that’s because Brady’s 36 and they’re not old enough to rent a car. There’s a perspective and level of urgency inside Brady that’s totally lost on a group of kids only months removed from college, still coming to grips with their new and completely ridiculous lives. I mean, you read about a guy like Thompkins, who was arrested seven times before he was 18, at one point or another enrolled at six different colleges and then went undrafted last April. You think he wakes up every morning thinking: “OK, gotta get that ring. Gotta be perfect today!” If I were him, I’d spend every day walking — or probably floating — around in a daze. I’d look up in the huddle, make eye contact with Brady and still wonder how the hell I got there. I think most people would do the same. And of course, that’s another issue — Tom Brady isn’t most people.

Brady’s a freak of nature. He possesses a drive and competitive spirit that most people simply don’t. He’s Michael Jordan. He’s Kobe Bryant. He’s Tiger Woods. And while that drive is responsible for so much of the success in Brady’s career, one downfall to being that kind of guy is that it’s usually impossible to understand why everyone isn’t that kind of guy. It’s hard to relate to anyone that’s content with imperfection. It doesn’t register. And after being so close to perfect for so long, and being surrounded by so many like-minded teammates, Brady obviously isn’t adjusting well to life in the new Patriots offense. He’s not happy with his non-Edelman receivers. He not only wants, but needs the rookies to get on his level, both mentally and physically, and whether or not he expresses it in front of the cameras anymore, until the rookies get there, that frustration will eat Brady up inside.

All that’s left is patience.

Brady’s been on top for so long, that I wonder if he remembers life on the other side. I wonder how often he looks back at his own rookie season (or first season as a starter). I wonder if he remembers that he wasn’t Jordan. He wasn’t Kobe. He wasn’t Tiger. He wasn’t some football prodigy. He was a no-name like the guys who lined up with him last night. While he obviously finished that year as the Super Bowl MVP, the truth that over his first few games in the league, Brady wasn’t that good.

In his first start after taking over from Drew Bledsoe, Brady was 13-23 for 168 yards and zero touchdowns against the Colts. In his second game, he was 12-24 for 86 yards and zero touchdowns in a loss to the Dolphins. He followed that up with two strong performances, before going to Denver and throwing four INTs in a loss to the Broncos.

At best, he was just OK. But over the course of those games, he showed enough potential that everyone was willing to step back and say, “OK, we could have something here. Let’s just give it a little time.”

And that faith was rewarded.

At this point in his career, Brady might not feel like he has enough time for faith. That instead of sitting back and hoping that his teammates figure it out, he needs to know that they will. He needs to see them do it right now. But that’s not the reality of this situation. He has to get over that. And if he does, I think he’ll see that there is reason to be optimistic.

I mean, for all the issues that Thompkins and Dobson have had, they’ve both shown legit potential. Dobson broke free on that early touchdown and made another big first down catch over the middle. And even though Thompkins diving touchdown was eventually overturned, he showed a ton in even making the play that close. There’s reason to believe that he’ll find himself in that position again, and that with increased reps, both he and Brady will make the proper adjustments to ensure that it results in six.

Sure, they’ve looked really lost at times and have dropped some easy balls.  But what can you do? Last night was the first game of Dobson’s career — with the entire world watching. Thompkins was forced to play his first two NFL games over five days stretch; his brain had to be going 5,000 miles an hour.

Life isn’t easy for rookie receivers. And while you can argue that it will be harder for them to overcome their issues with a taskmaster like Brady constantly breathing down their necks, I disagree. If you ask me, this is the best-case scenario for a rookie receiver. What, you think Thompkins or Dobson would be better off playing with someone like Blaine Gabbert or Brandon Weeden or any number of other quarterbacks in the league who have no clue what they’re doing? No way. Right now, these guys have a chance to learn from the best. To come up in a system where they’ll be pushed and challenged to levels they’ve never dreamed of. Where they’ll have a chance to compete in the playoffs. Maybe even play for a Super Bowl. Any rookie receiver would die to be where they are right now. If they have greatness in them, this situation that will bring that out.

Right now, it’s too early to tell either way. And it’s clear that the prospect of it not working out, and what that might mean for the last few years of his career, is consuming Brady more than fantasies of throwing a touchdown to Thompkins this February at MetLife Stadium.

But Brady could benefit from some optimism.

“No one’s coming to rescue and save the day so we just gotta fight through it,” he also said last night.

But that’s not true. He’s got one of the best tight ends in the league coming back in a few weeks. Shortly after that, he’ll see the return of his number one receiver. At that point, Dobson and Thompkins become his fourth and fifth options instead of his second and third. They’ll be more comfortable, suddenly get a lot less attention, and benefit from being just one of the guys, as opposed to THE guys. At least that’s the hope.

And even if hope doesn’t feel like enough right now, it’s still a lot more beneficial than throwing tantrums on the sidelines.

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