It's time for everyone to gather 'round, because old grandpappy Tom Brady has something to tell us about how the NFL was back in his day.
Brady went on Stephen A. Smith's YouTube show recently and bemoaned the quality of play in the NFL, which he was playing in less than 365 days ago.
"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."
Brady went on to mention several NFL greats who used to make huge hits, lamenting that those hits would be flagged today for being too violent. Brady thinks coaches should be teaching players to protect themselves instead of playing less violently.
"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.
Then Brady said something really interesting about being a quarterback during that violent time in the NFL, which he also discussed back in 2021.
"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."
Despite thinking the NFL today is soft, Brady admitted he used to intentionally adjust his plans so his receivers wouldn't get knocked out of the game after taking a devastating hit from a legend like Lewis. He doesn't quite see that today's "softer" NFL allows quarterbacks to make those throws to a defended receiver without fear of a game-ending (or season-ending) hit.
Brady might also have forgotten about one element of today's "mediocre" NFL that actually benefitted him: roughing the passer calls. In his last few years in the game, even incidental, non-violent contact with Brady would trigger a roughing the passer penalty. It made him untouchable, and likely helped him extend his career until he was 45. He might want to remember that the next time he's frustrated about the lack of big hits on guys who aren't quarterbacks.