A whole lot of the buildup to this week’s Sunday Night Football game between Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Brady’s former team, the New England Patriots, has seemingly revolved around building up tension between Brady and his former coach, Patriots’ coach Bill Belichick. That’s somewhat understandable; the idea of the “revenge game” is constant in sports media, and it is remarkable that Brady’s tenure in New England ended when and how it did, and that he’s gone on to such success (including a Super Bowl win) with the Buccaneers.
But something that’s getting in the way of the “GRUDGE MATCH GRUDGE MATCH GRUDGE MATCH” billing is the way Brady and Belichick (seen above together in 2016) keep saying positive things about each other. The latest example of that is a preview clip from “Man In The Arena“, the upcoming Gotham Chopra-directed 10-part series from Religion of Sports (a company focused on changing sports media narrative content around their “Why Sports Matter” philosophy, and one where Brady is a founder and investor), ESPN, and 199 Productions. That series is coming to ESPN+ this November. Here’s that preview clip:
There, Brady says “I look back at that time, and it was really a growth-state part of my career. It was the development of myself as a player, but also as a person off the field. I was soaking up all the information. Even today, I look at some of these young players, and it’s like ‘What do you think of this guy?’ in his third year, fourth year. And in my mind, I’m thinking ‘Okay, he’s talented, but who’s going to teach him how to evolve and grow, who’s going to assist him in his learning of what football is all about, what his knowledge is?'”
He continues “I had Coach Belichick there to teach me. Every Tuesday, we would meet and go through the entire defensive starting lineup and their strengths and weaknesses, what we could attack, what he was watching, how I could see the things that he saw so I could gain confidence in anticipating.'”
That then proceeds to Brady’s former teammate Rodney Harrison talking about Belichick giving Brady structure. And the clip overall is a strong insight into how much respect Brady still has for Belichick (and that flows both ways, judging by Belichick’s recent comments). It’s maybe not the “Get your popcorn ready” style of hype, but it’s interesting how Brady still sees value in his time under Belichick. Series director Chopra, a Patriots’ fan, also had this quote in a release:
“I was a Patriots fan before I was a Tom Brady fan. I was a Tom Brady fan before I was a Tom Brady collaborator. I was a Tom Brady collaborator before I was a Tom Brady friend. Man in the Arena is me and the team at ROS bringing all those roles together. It’s a celebration of greatness because that’s what Tom’s career has always been about in the Arena. It’s also a recognition that greatness isn’t an individual pursuit.”
Yes, there’s absolutely a lot of hype for Brady’s return to Foxborough. ESPN alone has at least three Brady-Belichick features planned Sunday, and they’re not even televising this game. And this will earn countless discussion on other NFL shows, and in other mediums covering the league. But it’s worth keeping in mind amidst that that much of the trash talk isn’t necessarily coming from the principals involved, and that there still seems to be some recognition from both of them about what each of them did for each other. And this clip is a good reminder of that.
[NFL on ESPN on YouTube; top 2016 photo from Robert Deutsch/USA Today Sports]