Through Martin Rogers
FOX Sports columnist
It would take a particularly odd take on America’s most beloved sport not to see what Tom Brady brought to football, tearing up the history books, defying logic and age at the same time, and redefining our perception of what it is hat blanket is for an incredible career.
Still, for many fans of teams that Brady has consistently beaten over the years, the human temptation to revel in his struggles with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers this season is inevitable.
Because of how long Brady has been around and the depth of his encyclopedia of success, there’s a large group of NFL fan bases who are bitter and hurt and, quite frankly, are eagerly awaiting the day, whenever it comes , where Brady swaps a helmet and studs for a notepad and microphone at a FOX broadcast studio.
There’s the Falcons and the Panthers and the Seahawks, all of whom have denied a Super Bowl triumph that they thought was theirs. And the Rams (in two cities separated by 18 years), the Eagles and the Chiefs, who also saw title dreams dashed at the final hurdle. Raiders fans will never stop talking about the tuck rule even after the move.
The Cowboys and Vikings and, ouch, the Falcons again, would love to know what it feels like to beat him, but they don’t because they didn’t. Never. The Bills and Dolphins and Jets have been punished year after year when Brady was in the AFC East with the Patriots.
For that reason, the collective sneering at Tampa Bay’s troubles after losses to Pittsburgh and Carolina is a little more pointed and breathless than it probably needs to be.
Tom Brady, Bucs suffer a brutal Week 7 loss to NFC South rivals Panthers
What’s going on in Tampa Bay?
There’s a well-worn phrase that says “people hurt… people hurt,” all of which means Brady is aware he shouldn’t expect sympathy for trying to reverse the Bucs’ campaign, starting with the home game on Thursday night with the Baltimore Ravens.
He most likely wouldn’t have it any other way, but while Brady’s knowledge has taught him that no cause is lost, he admitted his team’s current predicament is both serious and immediate.
“Nobody’s comfortable with where we are, nobody’s comfortable with how we played or what we do,” Brady told reporters. “I think we all just have to do our jobs better.”
The next three weeks will say a lot about where Brady and the Bucs stand in the context of the season and whether those currently lining up to record will experience a familiar pang of disappointment.
The next three games are all more difficult on paper than the last two, which ended in consecutive defeats. If the Bucs play like they have in the past two weeks, things won’t go well.
However, coach Todd Bowles insisted the approaching stretch is an ideal way to formulate a revival, starting against a Ravens team that some consider the third-best in the AFC but has suffered its own inconsistencies and problems.
After that comes the defending but struggling Super Bowl champion Los Angeles Rams, then Seattle, the NFC West leader.
Brady is nowhere near his best with eight touchdowns in seven games, and he doesn’t like it. If history is to be a reliable guide, it’s safe to assume he’ll do whatever it takes to fix it.
And this is where reaction and reality rarely coincide. The bigger the name, the greater the genius they are said to have achieved if things go well. And the greater the predictions of doom and collapse when a bad track seeps away for a week or more.
The truth is usually a little more moderate.
Nobody is suggesting that 3-4 is where a potential playoff team, let alone a Super Bowl hopeful, wants to be. But in the NFC this year isn’t nearly bad enough to knock anyone out, including the Bucs. In fact, no fewer than seven NFC teams hold that exact record.
Tampa Bay still leads the NFC South ahead of Atlanta, which they’ve already beaten. For now, they still appear to be the best bets to grab that division’s playoff berth, with time to fix things ahead of the postseason.
On his “Let’s Go” podcast Monday, Brady stressed that he’s not going anywhere, that the idea of him retiring mid-season is a complete non-starter.
“I’ve never quit anything in my life,” Brady said.
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Only once has Brady managed a team with a seven-game losing record, and that was early in his career. So this is, in a way, uncharted territory.
In another case, it’s a position he’s seen many times. Be doubted and questioned? Check. Amid hints of decline, with no shortage of critics hoping this is the beginning of the end? Check.
But as we’ve already seen, Brady usually portrays what some would see as a disaster a little differently.
As a challenge.
Martin Rogers is a columnist for FOX Sports and author of the FOX Sports Insider newsletter. Follow him on Twitter @MRogersFOX and subscribe to the daily newsletterright
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