Tom Brady appeared on The Stephen A. Smith Show and the GOAT didn’t hold back when it came to slamming the current NFL product.
Brady’s specific issue? Well, pretty much everything.
“I think there’s a lot of mediocrity in today’s NFL. I don’t see the excellence that I saw in the past. 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. I don’t think the schemes are as good as they were. 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.”
Before we either wholly agree with what Brady is saying, or dismiss it outright there’s a few things we should note here:
- Firstly, this happens every generation. The old guard in any sport (and life, for that matter) has a tendency to say that modern life isn’t as good as “the old days.”
- Brady is in a position to be able to make claims like this though, because he’s not far removed from football.
- There are some things he says that don’t really make sense.
Firstly, is there mediocrity in today’s NFL? Sure — but there’s been mediocrity in every era of football. One could argue that while the highs of the league’s best teams aren’t as dominant as the past, as a whole there is much more parity around the NFL.
Let’s go back 15 years to the 2008 season, essentially in the first third of Brady’s career. We had 16 teams finish at .500 or below, including an 0-16 Detroit Lions team to be the worst in the league. On the other side of the coin we had 10 teams finish with more than 10 wins on the year.
Fast-forward to 2022 and we had 17 teams finish below .500, but only nine teams with more than 10 wins, and that’s with an additional game added onto the season. As a whole teams are much more evenly matched week-to-week.
When it comes to the development of young players I’m not really sure where Brady is coming from. We’ve never had this many quarterbacks dominate so early in their careers, wide receivers come straight from college and break records, or running backs that are so polished out of college that it’s basically wrecked the market at the position.
One could say that this means defensive players coming out are worse, but that doesn’t really ring true. Pass rushing numbers are through the roof, and if anything the only position group we’ve seen actually regress in the NFL are on the offensive line.
Scheme is a curious one. There isn’t the required jump anymore for college players to transition to the NFL. More colleges are implementing NFL concepts, and vice versa. This has blended together in a lot of ways to create a general approach to football strategy as a whole, rather than specific “college only” concepts that require complete re-training upon getting to the NFL.
Rules is where I tend to agree with Brady, but he also helped cause a lot of that. The over-protection of quarterbacks is a direct result of Brady’s influence on the NFL as a player. Where things are getting too ridiculous is pass interference, which too often are bailing out QBs on underthrown balls because the receiver slows down as makes contact as a result. I would like to see that changed, because it is damaging the game.
Either way, this is going to prompt a lot of discussion. Is Brady right? Is the NFL more mediocre now than when he was playing, or is this more a case of the league all being better at the same time so poor performances stand out more?