Tom Brady hasn’t been out of the NFL for very long, but he’s been out long enough to look back and not like what he sees.
In an interview with ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith, Brady lamented the “mediocrity” he says has taken control of the league. He also pointed the finger at substandard coaching and the NFL’s rule structure.
“I think there’s a lot of mediocrity in today’s NFL. I don’t see the excellence that I saw in the past,” Brady said. “I think the coaching isn’t as good as it was. I don’t think the development of young players is as good as it was. 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.”
— Stephen A Smith (@stephenasmith) November 21, 2023
Brady continued, “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 … 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 didn’t throw the ball to certain areas because I was afraid players were going to get knocked out. That’s the reality. I didn’t throw it to the middle when I played Ray Lewis because he’d knock them out of the game, and I couldn’t afford to lose a good player.”
The current state of insanity regarding the NFL’s penalty structure roughness and roughing the passer is well documented. Brady is 1000% correct that the league has made referees responsible for protecting players instead of putting that responsibility where it belongs: on the players.
However, Brady makes another salient point regarding the current state of coaching in recent years.
Beginning about ten years ago, there was a shift in focus in the head coaching hiring process where owners began looking for extremely young, analytics-obsessed coaches known for offensive or defensive play-design wizardry.
What’s wrong with that?
It’s not entirely without merit, as many of those coaches have been very successful. However, when a significant number of your players are either older than you or within three years of your age, it’s difficult for a young coach to enforce the kind of discipline and order that coaches traditionally have. Not to mention that as play-design wizards, these young coaches are less likely to be concerned about teaching players how to protect themselves or player development and more inclined to focus on offensive or defensive schemes.
Now, is that what Brady is talking about here? The influx of young coaches changing the game for the worse? I have no idea. But Brady played for old-school coaches at both of his NFL stops, and he played the first half of his career before the young coaching trend began.
So, it’s entirely possible that is what he’s talking about.
In any event, I was lukewarm on Brady as an analyst before seeing this clip. But I’m starting to think he may do just fine.