TAMPA — Your quarterback may be under attack. How far will you go to protect him?
For Mike Evans, this was a physical question with only one answer.
Saints cornerback Marshon Lattimore had, presumably, exchanged unkind words with Tom Brady before trading shoves with running back Leonard Fournette. Seeing as how Lattimore was still within arm’s reach of Brady, Evans flew into the picture and knocked his longtime nemesis to the ground.
For Bucs fans, this is more of a philosophical question with complicated answers.
Let’s face it, for much of Sunday’s game in New Orleans Brady behaved like a child. He screamed, he threw an expensive tablet to the ground, he whined to the referee. In short, he acted like the prima-donna crybaby that his critics have long accused him of being.
So, a day later, do you defend Brady?
It’s an interesting thought because there are legitimate arguments on either side of the equation. On the one hand, you could applaud Brady’s passion and fiery nature. It’s a huge part of what has made him the most successful quarterback in NFL history.
On the other hand, you could wonder if this was a good look for an NFL icon. Shouldn’t a 45-year-old with seven Super Bowl rings have more self-control than this?
Evans was the one who was thrown out of Sunday’s game — and suspended another game by the NFL on Monday — and he is responsible for his own actions.
But it was Brady who incited the entire episode. He ran down the field to complain about the lack of a pass interference call on a key third-down play in the fourth quarter, then got into a playground snit with Lattimore when the defensive back started running his mouth.
Again, this could be seen as admirable. You want your quarterback to care. You want him to be aggressive. You want him to hold everyone around him to the highest standards.
But you do not want to encourage anarchy on your sideline. You do not want to create an atmosphere where every time something goes wrong you are pointing fingers at each other or at game officials.
“It’s always a fine line,” said head coach Todd Bowles, when asked about sticking up for teammates. “It’s a controlled aggression game and you try to protect your teammates, but you’ve got to do it the right way.”
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This argument is nothing new when it comes to Brady. It’s long been whispered, and sometimes shouted, that Brady gets the benefit of the doubt because referees and NFL officials are intimidated by his popularity.
Before a playoff game a few years ago, Broncos defensive lineman Antonio Smith said “crybaby” was an apropos description of Brady.
“Every time he gets sacked, he looks at the ref like, ‘You see him sack me? Was that supposed to happen? He did it a little hard. Please throw a 15-yard penalty on him. Get him fined,’” Smith said.
Former Baltimore linebacker Terrell Suggs would not even call Brady by name, instead referring to him as “the pretty boy from up north.”
A lot of people also assume the NFL had Brady in mind when they expanded roughing the passer penalties to the knees after a low hit in the 2008 opener knocked him out for the season. When defensive players refer to this as the Brady Rule, it’s usually not a compliment.
Now, comes the headlines about Brady losing his cool. There have even been a few stories that have suggested the Bucs quarterback has rarely looked happy since ending his short-lived retirement.
Honestly, that smacks of amateur psychiatry. It’s difficult to know what’s going on in Brady’s mind because he so rarely offers honest assessments of his world. If he’s not purposefully bland, then he is intentionally evasive, insincere or unavailable.
So what we know is this:
Two games into the season, Brady has been efficient but not necessarily impressive at quarterback. That could be due to a change in offensive philosophy under Bowles, it could be because the Bucs have had a rash of injuries on the offensive line and at receiver, or it could be advanced age finally showing up.
We also know this:
Two games into the season, cameras have caught Brady yelling at teammates, yelling at the heavens and jawing with at least one opposing player. That’s not necessarily unusual, but it does seem a little out of character so early in the season and with the Bucs off to a 2-0 start.
At this point in his career, Brady really does not need anyone to defend him. He’s got enough records, enough accolades, enough wins to last a lifetime.
He also, apparently, still has some fire in his soul.
John Romano can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow @romano_tbtimes.
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