TAMPA — He’s fabulous! He’s gallant! He’s an honest-to-goodness legend!
Also, Tom Brady is stupefyingly dull when he wants to be.
If you listened to his 30-minute conference call with local and national media on Tuesday, you probably already know this. Speaking publicly for the first time since he signed with the Buccaneers, Brady sidestepped questions (as if they were a pass rush), changed topics (like he was calling an audible), and never once strayed from his preferred script (sort of like it was a game plan).
In short, he was the quarterback of your dreams.
Think about it. No mania. No head smacking. No seasons with 33 touchdowns and 30 interceptions. Brady is the Valium to our neuroses.
That same sort of discipline and precision in Tuesday’s media briefing is what helped make Brady the winningest quarterback in NFL history. He’s in charge and he’s not going to be flustered by any of your silly questions about his feelings or thought processes. At one point he said leaving New England was “very emotional." He said this with the same quiver in his voice you might reserve for ordering pistachio instead of vanilla.
So if you were looking for introspection, that probably wasn’t the right forum. If you were looking for insight, that wasn’t on the menu either.
For instance, Patriots owner Robert Kraft has been hinting that the organization would have come up with a deal if Brady had truly wanted to stay, but that the quarterback was looking for a fresh start. Brady was asked if he agreed with that assessment.
“I’m not responsible for how other people will say certain things," Brady said. “I think Mr. Kraft has been a great influence in my life and I’m so grateful for two decades (there). It’s been an amazing thing for my family and I’m sure when I’m done playing, I’ll have a chance to reevaluate my entire career."
Okay, we’re going to interpret that as a hard no.
Later, when asked in a two-part question whether he had spoken to Bucs receiver Chris Godwin about acquiring his No. 12 jersey, Brady answered the other half of the question, then acted as if that whole TB12 business enterprise had slipped his mind.
The point is not that Brady was trying to be difficult. The point is he’s not going to create headlines with unnecessary controversies. If he was unhappy with the contract offer or the current receiving corps in New England, he’s going to keep that to himself for now. If he thinks the Bucs have a better chance to reach the Super Bowl than the Patriots, he’s going to sit on that, too.
“They hired me to do a job here and I’m going to go in there and do it like you’ve always seen me do, like the fans have always seen me do, like opposing coaches, my teammates have seen me do," Brady said. “I’m going to give it everything I’ve got like I’ve done every day of my life for as long as I’ve been playing this sport."
Hall of Fame quarterback Terry Bradshaw recently suggested to longtime Steelers writer Ed Bouchette that Brady came to Tampa Bay because he was motivated by ego and wanted to prove he was more important than Bill Belichick.
Even before Bradshaw’s speculation, there had been talk in New England of Brady feeling unappreciated by Belichick and wanting to find a more easy-going coach like Bruce Arians and a more wide-open attack like Tampa Bay’s.
Now to hear him tell it, Brady didn’t even decide to leave New England until the evening of March 16. Yet by March 17, reports already had him deciding on the Bucs, as if his life has been filled with such whimsical choices.
So, no, I don’t think this was a last-minute decision. And I wouldn’t be shocked if there was some I’ll-show-you involved in his thinking.
And for Tampa Bay’s purposes, that is all good.
The Bucs aren’t just getting a legend taking a final lap. They’re getting one of football’s fiercest competitors who still feels he has something to prove.
And if he doesn’t want to talk about it, that’s cool.
You’d rather watch him play, anyway.
John Romano can be reached at email@example.com. Follow @romano_tbtimes.