Tom Brady thinks the NFL is getting “a little softer”

Atlanta Falcons v Tampa Bay Buccaneers
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He may look young, but he thinks old.

44-year-old Tom Brady, in the latest installment of the Let’s Go! podcast, shouted at some clouds regarding his perception that football has gotten “softer.”

Asked by Jim Gray about the evolution of the position toward mobile quarterbacks, Brady morphed into an off-my-lawn rant about what the game has become.

I think there’s probably a lot of shortsightedness,” Brady said. “You know, when I hear that a lot, because I’ve heard over the years, you know, ‘Oh, the game is changing,’ and so forth. I think the game changes in different ways, absolutely. It evolves and changes and grows and hopefully it’s getting better. And at the same time I think that there has always been, you know, incredible athletes playing professional football at the quarterback position. Randall Cunningham was an incredible athlete. Kenny Stabler was an incredible quarterback. Roger Staubach was. Michael Vick, I mean, I don’t know if there’s anyone more athletic that’s ever played than Michael Vick. . . . I think it definitely adds an element to the game.

“But at the same time the name of the game is scoring points. So there’s definitely more volatility, I would say, in that style of play over a period of time. You’re definitely more injury prone because you’re out of the pocket. You don’t have the types of protection that you typically have in the pocket. And I would say the one thing that’s probably changed over the years in terms of why it’s probably gone a little more this way is, and I’ve alluded to this in the past, I think they’re calling more penalties on defensive players for hitting, you know, for violent contact. And I think when you’re out of the pocket, you know, we got called on a play yesterday where Ryan Jensen‘s going basically to protect our runner and they throw an unnecessary roughness on an offensive lineman that I don’t think would have been called, you know, five years ago. There’s a lot of plays and hits that are happening on quarterbacks now, that are flags for defensive players, that probably weren’t that way 10 or 15 years ago. So I’d say the game is a little softer than it used to be. I think the defensive players are more on the defensive when they go in to tackle. And I think that’s probably adding to this element of quarterbacks outside the pocket and taking more chances, you know, than they did in the past.”

This sounds a lot like Brady’s recent comments that plenty of these fouls result from the failure of offensive players to protect themselves, for example by having quarterbacks throwing a receiver into a big hit that will trigger a 15-yard penalty on the defense.

Regardless, the game has changed. It started in October 2009, when NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith found themselves getting grilled on Capitol Hill regarding the game’s chronic failure to take head injuries seriously. Combined with lawsuits from former players and a very real concern that parents won’t let their kids play the game at lower levels, the league had to make changes.

Brady’s comments underscore something I’ve been anticipating for years. Eventually, someone with the money to buy an NFL team will instead start a separate league that embraces football the way it used to be, with players signing whatever paperwork they need to sign to waive any claims they could make regarding the risks of playing ’80s or ’90s-style football. It would be far more brutal and jarring than today’s game. (Even then, it wouldn’t be nearly as violent as sports like MMA.)

With legalized betting creating an appetite for more sporting events, Brady’s viewpoint may serve only to nudge someone in the direction of starting an old-school football league. It’s a possibility about which the NFL definitely should be concerned.

17 responses to “Tom Brady thinks the NFL is getting “a little softer”

  1. The most highly skilled players, including Tom Brady, would never play in one of those wild and crazy leagues. The reason NFL players make so much money is because of the TV money. The biggest drawing card are the great QB’s. Everyone wants to turn on their TV to watch the great QB’s. If the great QB’s are out with an injury, the people won’t watch as much TV, and the salaries will go down. A few weeks ago Tom Brady told us he doesn’t always believe what he’s saying. Weren’t you listening?

  2. Kind of ironic coming from a guy that has had new rules in place because of him. And also coming from a player that has benefitted more then anyone else with the new “soft” game of hitting when and where.

  3. the games getting softer…. says the guy that bolted New England because his coach was a meanie…

  4. What what left unsaid is that without that “softening of the game” Brady’s carer would have ended years ago ago. With today’s speed and better trained players you just cannot go back to the way football was played in the 70’s.

  5. The defensive rules changed dramatically after Peyton Manning and Bill Polian complained to the league after their AFC Title loss to the Pats in 2004. Defenders could no longer contact players outside of 5 yards even if it was borderline. The recent changes have been to appeal to the Fantasy Football Market. Brady is just stating the obvious here.

  6. This is a mischaracterization of what Brady said. It wasn’t a rant, and the “softer” remark wasn’t a criticism. It was an observation that when defensive players are called more often for hits on QBs out of the pocket, that encourages mobile QB play. He’s obviously correct that when a QB knows that the defense is unlikely to hit him hard, then that QB feels freer to escape the pocket and run.

  7. Maybe, but this is coming from a guy who rarely gets touched. If he’s talking about his footballs, then yes.

  8. The concussion issue isn’t going away just because some people find it more amusing for players to smash heads. Even if the league wanted it to, the resulting lawsuits and threats of legislative interference would derail the attempt. None of the alternate football leagues have allowed the unfettered violence that characterized the early days of the NFL.

  9. Maybe, but this is coming from a guy who rarely gets touched. If he’s talking about his footballs, then yes.

    Rarely gets touched but is about to be the most sacked QB in history. Something does not make sense.

  10. Ask Terry Bradshaw, Bert Jones or Roger Staubach about playing in the 1970s.
    They’d laugh at you for complaining about how it being “soft”.
    I’m sure they wish that the league was concerned about player health back then.
    If you think it’s “soft”, then retire… That’ll show ’em!

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