Tom Brady has never been one to back down from a challenge. From battling for a starting job at Michigan to falling to the sixth round of the 2000 NFL draft, Brady has never had anything handed to him. And for the last 20 years, he was the face of the New England Patriots and a symbol of excellence.
But after enduring Bill Belichick’s notoriously cutthroat program for two decades, Brady walked away. He’ll be playing for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers this fall. While many insist the six-time Super Bowl winner is far from finished, others aren’t so sure. Count Terry Bradshaw as one of those doubters. In fact, the former Pittsburgh Steelers star believes Brady made a major mistake in leaving the Patriots. And he hasn’t been shy about sharing his criticism of the greatest quarterback of all time.
Tom Brady joined Buccaneers after 20 years with Patriots
When Brady wrapped up his post-game press conference after the Patriots lost to the Titans in the AFC Wild Card round, nobody knew that it would be his final game in New England. All offseason, speculation ensued about whether Bill Belichick, Robert Kraft and Brady could come to a resolution. By the time the legal tampering period rolled around, the Patriots and Brady appeared no closer to hammering out a contract.
Though the Chargers, Titans and Raiders seemed to be the favorites to land the 14-time Pro Bowler, the Buccaneers landed the biggest free agent on the market. Tampa’s combination of no state income tax, a robust cast of receivers and Bruce Arians’ more laidback attitude played a role in Brady’s decision to join the Bucs. The atmosphere will definitely be different down south. At the same time, the Bucs don’t have nearly the infrastructure or reputation for winning that the Patriots offered.
Terry Bradshaw believes Brady’s ego is the reason he left the Patriots
Like Brady, Bradshaw won multiple Super Bowl titles during a Hall of Fame career. However, Bradshaw spent his entire 14-year career playing for the Pittsburgh Steelers. With him under center, Pittsburgh won four championships in a six-year span in the 1970s. After watching Brady leave the Patriots behind in favor of the Bucs, Bradshaw didn’t hold back his criticism in a piece by Ed Bouchette of The Athletic:
“Why in the world does he want to keep on playing at 43 other than to prove to New England he’s more important than Bill Belichick?” Bradshaw said. “That’s the way I would look at it. Why the hell do you want to go to Tampa? The only thing I can think of is ego gets involved and you decide, ‘I’ll show ’em who’s more important.’
The Brady-Belichick partnership obviously two huge egos. Both men played significant roles in New England’s two-decade dynasty. Brady’s late-game heroics and ability to elevate supporting players made him invaluable. At the same time, Belichick’s ability to turn castoffs into contributors allowed the Patriots to sustain success in a league designed to promote parity.
Bradshaw doesn’t expect smooth sailing in Tampa
Brady’s decision to forgo the stability of the Patriots for the up-and-coming Buccaneers certainly didn’t sit well with Bradshaw. Of course, looking at the difference between the two franchises, it’s easy to see why. Going from New England—where an 11-5 season is considered a disappointment—to Tampa is a night and day difference. The Bucs have just two winning seasons since 2010 and haven’t made the playoffs since 2007. That instability and lack of organizational success make Tampa a poor fit in Bradshaw’s mind:
He’s going to bring a lot to Tampa, and I can’t say; I don’t have a feel right now if it’s going to be good. Is it going to be great? I don’t know. Part of me says it ain’t going to work. When you’re 43 years old, I don’t care if you eat grass and sand and whatever it is he does, that’s a tough call, man. He’s no Ben Roethlisberger; he can’t stay in and take the hit. He’s a tall guy, but he’s not a strong guy. I don’t know. Do I want him to succeed? Absolutely. He’s 43. I mean, 43? Forty-three? I can’t imagine that — can you?”
Bradshaw’s criticism isn’t without warrant. Brady’s playing until he’s 45 (and possibly beyond) is unchartered territory. Tampa plays in a tough division that features Drew Brees and a loaded Saints team with Super Bowl aspirations. The Bucs also had one of the NFL’s worst defenses in 2019.
Nobody knows if Brady will hit it off with Mike Evans and Chris Godwin. And no one knows if Brady can adapt to a new system, a new head coach and a new home. But if he’s taught us anything in his 20-year career, it’s to never bet against him.