Tom Brady grabbed numerous headlines this past offseason. He started it with a bang, retiring after the Bucs playoff loss to the Los Angeles Rams. Mr. Football said goodbye to the game he made a living off of loving. Then, he unretired, igniting a whirlwind of conjecture and speculation regarding rumors of why he retired, what his coming back meant, along with what was in store for the Buccaneers in 2022.
August, in the NFL, means training camp. 32 teams, 32 camps. For the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Tom Brady, it meant more drama, more headlines. The Bucs announced their quarterback would be taking some time away from the team for, “personal reasons.” That announcement preceded an eleven day hiatus where Brady was MIA. Throughout his absence, in the face of rigorous media hypothesizing, the team publicly remained calm about their quarterback’s time off, despite the atypical nature of the situation.
Tom Brady has since returned from his sabbatical and he has been sighted playing football for the Buccaneers. Against the Dallas Cowboys and New Orleans Saints, fans could see a number 12 Brady jersey under center for Tampa and on the outside everything appears to be back to normal. Tom Brady has led pivotal scoring drives in each of the Buccaneers’ first two contests to allow the team to eke out victories on the backs of hellacious defensive performances. The Buccaneers are 2-0 so all is good under the hot Florida sun, but is there any cause for concern regarding Tom Brady’s “personal reasons?”
Any base level of concern would simply stem from the unprecedented nature of the actions of one Tom Brady. It is relatively unheard of for any player to take time away from their team during training camp, let alone an athlete whose career and reputation have been based on hard work, dedication, and commitment to their craft. The deeper level of concern rests beneath the surface, in the dynamic of who Tom Brady is. What has made him great? Why is Brady the most decorated quarterback in NFL history? Tom Brady has no significant athletic tools capable of boosting him above his competition. He is not the gifted thrower some of his peers are, his wheels are more wagon wheels than they are racing tires, and with no natural athletic superpower, Brady’s entire career, persona, even the mission statement of his brand have been built around his drive. Tom Brady’s superpower is his mentality. How he approaches the game, prioritizing it at an unmatched level.
Brady’s work ethic, at its peak, might be best displayed by his now famed preparation for Super Bowl LV. On the precipice of what may go down as his greatest career achievement Brady decided he needed absolutely ZERO distractions. He spent 12 days in complete isolation for uninterrupted preparation. Just two years later, the same quarterback is clocking out of training camp for some mid-August time off.
The 45 year old’s chaotic offseason, led to a tumultuous preseason, and is now festering with an uncharacteristic start to his regular season. Singularly, all of this would be written off as just a blip on the radar. Stacked on top of each other these oddities scream in unison for the question to be asked-
Has Tom lost his superpower?
Tom Brady is one of the greatest football players to ever take an NFL field. Affectionately, he is nicknamed the G.O.A.T. Brady has enough accolades to cover a continent, which sets a high bar. So high that even while leading an undefeated team, Tom Brady has not looked like Tom Brady. Optimism can chalk it up to team injuries, knocking the rust off from limited training camp reps and missing preseason games, but what if it’s something more?
Tom Brady has been on the job for over 20 years. Is it possible he’s just drained? It was only, roughly, 6 months ago that he decided he had had enough of football. Then, after he changed his mind to come back and play with a talented roster, he has had to watch a lot of that talent get shelved, due to injuries.
Mental fatigue is something all employees struggle with in their job and stress affects performance. Physically, an employee can go to work. Show up, go through the motions, put in a day’s work and go home. What happens when the work can’t be done with an absent mind? What happens when the job demands a proclivity for mental dedication? What happens if Tom Brady loses his superpower?
A fatigued and mortal Tom Brady operating at less than his greatest, is still the best quarterback in the history of the Tampa Bay Bucs so be cautious in adding your name to the long list of individuals who have counted out the former sixth round pick. With just his pride and presence alone, he will be able to keep his team competitive, but with two touchdown passes, one interception and a sub 60 percent completion percentage this season, 5300 yards and 43 touchdowns seems like a long time ago.
Concern might be an overreaction at this point, because Brady is still Brady, but a third consecutive un-Brady-like outing may stir up some more frequent questions about the G.O.A.T. After all, what is a superhero without superpowers?