TAMPA — All these months later, the evidence seems clear:
Tom Brady improperly talked to the Dolphins, bought waterfront property in Miami and announced a faux retirement from the Bucs. He was prepared to weasel his way out of town at the first opportunity after using Tampa Bay in a selfish ploy to win a Super Bowl and further his reputation.
I’m sorry, did you think this was true love? I mean, the guy walked away from New England after two decades and six Super Bowl wins, and you thought he was going to put down roots in Carrollwood?
This was a hookup, not a marriage. A glorious, profitable, it’s-been-fun hookup for both Brady and millions of Bucs fans. If you feel jilted and abandoned by Brady this morning, just imagine how you would have felt if he went home with the 49ers instead of the Bucs in 2020.
So Tuesday’s news that the NFL determined the Dolphins had been illegally wooing/tampering with Brady for years was more confirmation than revelation.
And all of this hand-wringing and shock from the league about the impropriety of tampering? Nonsense. Of course there was tampering. He’s the most successful quarterback in league history.
Once it became clear that the TB12 brand was open for relocation, there were probably a dozen different teams discreetly asking Brady’s agent about his intentions. Heck, I would hope the Bucs were first in line. The Dolphins were just foolish enough to get caught, because their owner is a loose cannon and picked the wrong time to fire coach Brian Flores.
As Michael Corleone said, this is business not personal. Brady has no more allegiance to Tampa Bay than any other community with a wealthy NFL owner willing to pay him tens of millions.
And the Bucs, accordingly, treated it like a business back in February when Brady was apparently shopping for one-way U-Haul rentals to south Florida during his “retirement.”
The combination of Flores filing a lawsuit and Bruce Arians making it clear the Bucs were not going to be benevolent dupes pretty much destroyed any chance Brady had of leaving Tampa Bay a year early. When he said the Bucs would seek major compensation for losing their still-under-contract quarterback, Arians effectively shot down any possibility of a Witness Protection-stye comeback for Brady.
So what does all of this mean for Brady and the Bucs today?
Not much, honestly. Maybe it shatters the illusion that Brady happily had a change of heart about retiring and was eager to get back to his teammates in Tampa Bay, but I’m not sure how many people around One Buc Place believed that anyway.
You might argue that it speaks poorly of Brady’s lack of devotion to the team and the Tampa Bay community, but it’s hard to see how that will have an effect on the 2022 season.
Brady is not Antonio Brown. He is not going to pout. He is not going to act out. The man cares about his reputation and legacy as much as any athlete alive (except maybe his former landlord Derek Jeter), and he’s not going to jeopardize his streak of winning seasons or ruin what might be his final NFL season just because he’s unhappy he’s still in Tampa Bay.
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As far as Brady getting a free pass from the NFL for being on the wrong end of the tampering accusation?
This entire investigation seemed to be a public relations reaction to the Flores lawsuit. Dolphins owner Stephen Ross was always going to be the fall guy, because he was foolish enough to talk to team officials about tanking at the end of the 2019 season in order to get in a better draft position.
The NFL, understandably, is incredibly worried about the perception that teams might lose games purposefully — for whatever reason — and so it was awfully convenient that they determined the Dolphins did not tank even while acknowledging Ross talked about it.
Instead, they hammered Ross on the tampering allegations while pretending Brady and former New Orleans coach Sean Payton were innocent bystanders.
The bottom line is neither Brady nor the Bucs are likely to talk about this ever again. They’re like a married couple everyone knows eventually will divorce once the kids are safe and sound.
Speaking of which:
Anyone seen Rob Gronkowski lately?
John Romano can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow @romano_tbtimes.
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