Tom Brady repeatedly has said he doesn’t see a future for himself in politics. It’s a sad commentary on our democracy that an NFL quarterback considers American politics far too bruising and brutal a field. But his aversion to political life doesn’t mean Brady is above campaigning on the football field, where decision-makers find his message persuasive.
As the posturing and politicking has picked up ahead of Sunday’s AFC Championship game in Denver between the Patriots and the Denver Broncos, the Broncos have pointed out the obvious — that superstar players such as Brady try to influence calls and occasionally do.
Their delivery has been hyperbolic and painfully transparent, painting Brady as a crybaby and a whiner. But that’s all the better to make sure they get the benefit of a few borderline hits on TB12 thanks to their verbal roughing the passer.
One of the most overrated tropes in sports is trash talk supplying added motivation in a game where the stakes already are Mount Everest high and obvious. With Deflategate litigation still pending and given Brady’s obsession with winning, if he needs any added motivation to advance to a seventh Super Bowl and to try to win a fifth Super Bowl, then there is a problem.
Plus, what Broncos defensive ends Antonio Smith and Malik Jackson said about Brady being the biggest complainer after getting sacked feels less like genuine denouncement and more like making sure they hit their talking points so they can hit the quarterback.
The Broncos led the NFL in sacks this season with 52. They sacked TB12 three times and registered nine quarterback hits in their 30-24 overtime win over the Patriots on Nov. 29.
Denver collected six roughing the passer penalties this season — including one on Brady — only Houston and Miami had more with eight.
The Denver disses aren’t even original. The Baltimore Ravens have been spouting this stuff since 2009, when Brady got grazed by Terrell Suggs around the knee, motioned for a flag and it came right out, like he had just ordered it via room service.
That’s why Brady didn’t seem upset Wednesday when the Broncos “trash talk” was raised to him.
“I’m not sure what the other quarterbacks do. If the refs want to throw the flag, I love when they throw flags on the defenders, absolutely,” said Brady. “It advances our team, so that’s just part of football.”
If Brady can coax a call, he will do it. So will every other player in the league, from the defenders who are getting blocked and flail to feign holding to the wide receivers who plead for pass interference.
As Patriots wide receiver Brandon LaFell said, Brady “is not a whiner, he is a winner.”
Most winners are both, to be honest.
Show me a good loser, and I’ll show you a loser, as the cliche goes.
Lakers legend Kareem Abdul-Jabbar was a legendary whiner. LeBron James has inherited Kareem’s sour-faced kvetching mantle. David Ortiz has elevated grousing about calls into performance art.
Brady is not a crybaby. He is a feverish competitor who can’t hide his emotions, has little tolerance for failure on the football field and is not above trying to use his superstar status to benefit his team. There is nothing wrong with that.
Unless, he’s not your quarterback.
Like so many perceptions in sports, the difference between winner and a whiner comes down to preferred laundry and championship jewelry.
When Jackson said Brady throws “temper tantrums,” he’s not exactly wrong.
“I mean when we played him he definitely threw some temper tantrums,” Jackson told Pro Football Talk. “It’s one of those things that you know. He definitely [says], ‘What’s going on? Why?’ Definitely one of those whiners that whines, but it’s a competitive game.
“I know I wouldn’t be whining like that, but some people do. So, he’s definitely a whiner, but he’s actually a big-time player, competitor, too.”
Former Dolphins quarterback Dan Marino was legendary for upbraiding and showing up teammates during games. Patriots fans liked to mock the Miami legend for his outbursts.
But when Brady unleashed an expletive-filled tirade directed at former Patriots receiver Joey Galloway during a game in 2009 straight out of the Marino handbook, he was being a fiery leader.
We spent the whole 2013 season parsing and analyzing Brady’s frustrated and annoyed body language, as he dealt with three rookie wide receivers.
The guy is human. Mimicking an Easter Island moai is really more of Bill Belichick’s deal.
The Broncos’ basic gripe with Brady speaks to human nature
Smith started all this fine whine debate with his comments to a Colorado Springs Gazette reporter who characterized Brady as a “crybaby.” Smith said that characterization was accurate.
“I’ve never seen any quarterback look to the referee right after he gets sacked more than Brady,” Smith told the paper. “Every time he gets sacked he looks at the ref like, ‘You see him sack me? Was that supposed to happen? He did it a little hard. Please throw a 15-yard penalty on him. Get him fined.’”
What quarterback likes to get hit? A masochistic one.
Who would want a 270-pound defensive lineman crashing down on you like a collapsing building?
If you enjoy that, you have deeper issues than trying to coerce calls from officials.
Smith acknowledged that Brady doesn’t back down after contact.
“With Brady, he’s a great competitor. You know it’s coming. He’s going to cry about getting hit, but he’s going to take the hit and keep going.”
While the trash talk emanating from the Mile High City has offended the sensibilities of sensitive Patriots fans, it’s not really trash-talk.
It’s paint-by-numbers gamesmanship and a thinly-veiled attempt to rent space inside the brains of referee Ed Hochuli and his fellow officials.
In reality, it’s the Broncos whining about Brady whining.
Just whine, baby.