Thursday, February 3, 2022

Tom Brady: A Tale of Two Goats

The internet and sports worlds have been ablaze about Tom Brady’s apparent dissing of his team of 20 years, the New England Patriots, by not singling out for praise and appreciation in his retirement Instagram notice the organization and its key executives, including owner Robert Kraft and coach Tom Belichick.

After all, Brady did win six Super Bowl titles and four championship game Most Valuable Player awards as a Patriot (he earned a fifth Super Bowl MVP award with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers). His liaison with Belichick was commonly hailed as a defining merger of the mind and will to win.

But is success on the field a true measure of the relationship between a coach and key player?

Having just watched Terry Bradshaw’s autobiographical documentary on his career (“Terry Bradshaw: Going Deep”), which included four Super Bowl victories with two MVP awards, I was surprised to hear the retired quarterback and longtime football analyst never liked his coach, Chuck Noll, considered one of the best in history. The antipathy was on full display in 2014 at Noll’s funeral. Bradshaw didn’t attend.

Under Coach Bill Parcells the New York Giants won two Super Bowls, the first in 1987 with Phil Simms as quarterback. Simms was again leading the team in 1990 when he broke his right foot in the next to last game of the season. He had to sit out the last game, the playoffs and the 1991 Super Bowl. Jeff Hostetler quarterbacked every game, winning them all.

Simms and Parcell had a volatile relationship. Even a casual Giants fan would have been hard pressed to miss Parcells berating Simms on the sideline when he was displeased with his performance.

Okay, a coach’s number one concern is winning. And since a QB’s actions often determine that success rate it might be expected if not tolerated for the two to have a mercurial relationship. Coaches cannot wait until a game is over to critique a quarterback’s performance. They need results on the spot before the clock runs out.

Still, one would think that when cleats are hung up and time has come to reflect on achievements not accomplished by other athletes, recognition of an organization and coach would have been the correct and decent thing for Brady to do.

Brady is the GOAT of football, the Greatest Of All Time. But in the sports world I grew up following, “goat” had a far different meaning. It connoted a player whose on field play cost his team a victory (fyi, back in my formative years there were no female sports teams covered by newspapers, thus the masculine “his” team).

Not thanking the Pats, Kraft and Belichick in his initial message reflected poorly on Brady, making him a “goat” for his off-field behavior.