“Why in the world does he want to keep on playing at 43 [which Brady turns in August] other than to prove to New England he’s more important than Bill Belichick?” Bradshaw said in an interview published Monday by the Athletic. “That’s the way I would look at it. Why the hell do you want to go to Tampa? The only thing I can think of is ego gets involved and you decide, ‘I’ll show ’em who’s more important.’ ”
Over the past few seasons, reports have emerged of tensions between Brady and Belichick, even as the quarterback and coach teamed up for a Super Bowl title in the 2018 season that brought the team’s total with them to six in nine appearances.
To Bradshaw, who quarterbacked the Steelers to four Super Bowl titles during a 14-year career spent entirely with that organization, nothing could justify a move such as Brady signing with the Buccaneers.
“I would never have done that, and I was shocked he was leaving. Shocked,” Bradshaw told the Athletic. “I’ve never known a great quarterback — a great quarterback — at the end of his career, go to another team and do anything.
“Now, Brady’s different — nine Super Bowls, six victories. He’s a different cat,” continued the 71-year-old Bradshaw, who has been a longtime staple of Fox’s NFL pregame show. “But the offense they ran in New England was perfect for him.”
In announcing his departure, Brady expressed his gratitude to the Patriots in a social-media post, thanking Belichick, team owner Robert Kraft and the organization for having “allowed me to maximize my potential.” Brady added: “I couldn’t be the man I am today without the relationships you have allowed me to build with you. I have benefited from all you have given me.”
However, there has been plenty of reporting suggesting Brady felt disrespected by the organization, and in particular by Belichick, in the waning years.
Bleacher Report cited sources with the Patriots and the 49ers in a report saying that before New England traded quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo to San Francisco in October 2017, Belichick first offered Brady.
“Kraft shut that [expletive] down fast,” a source described as being close to Belichick told Bleacher Report. “So, instead, [49ers General Manager John] Lynch gets Garoppolo, but Brady, Belichick and Kraft haven’t been the same since Tom learned that Bill was ready to get rid of him. And that lit a fire under his [expletive].”
ESPN suggested that a tense contract negotiation between Brady and Belichick this month pushed the quarterback out.
“Brady wasn’t just looking to win Super Bowls, victory at all costs, the ethos of most of his career, fabulously successful and spectacularly unhealthy,” ESPN’s Seth Wickersham wrote. “He wanted what everyone wants from an employer: to feel valued and to love work.”
In addition to Bradshaw, the Steelers’ current starting quarterback, Ben Roethlisberger, was also taken aback by Brady’s parting with New England. “I thought for sure he would go back,” Roethlisberger said last week (via the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette).
“But sometimes, there might be deeper wounds than people might realize,” he added. “I don’t know if that’s the case or not.”
Roethlisberger expressed optimism about Brady’s situation in Tampa, saying: “Tom is going to love it there. Talk about going from opposite ends of the spectrum with coaches.”
The Buccaneers’ head coach, Bruce Arians, is a former Steelers offensive coordinator who is known for having a player-friendly approach — unlike Belichick. “B.A. is a great quarterbacks coach and a great players’ coach,” Roethlisberger said.
Bradshaw agreed that Brady, a three-time NFL MVP, will have “great players around him offensively in Tampa, and they have a good defense there.” But Bradshaw also said the Bucs “have to protect” Brady because at this point in his career, the quarterback “can’t move.”
“Is it going to be great? I don’t know. Part of me says it ain’t going to work,” Bradshaw said. “When you’re 43 years old, I don’t care if you eat grass and sand and whatever it is he does, that’s a tough call, man. He’s no Ben Roethlisberger; he can’t stay in and take the hit.
“I don’t know what the hell Tom’s doing,” Bradshaw declared at another point. “I think Tom, at 43, there has to be something going on for him to want to leave [the Patriots], right? Got to be. He’s got to feel they don’t want him, he’s got to feel unappreciated, got to feel, ‘I got to get out from underneath Belichick.’ He knows they’re saying, ‘Who was more important, the coach or the quarterback?’
“Has Robert Kraft come out and said, ‘We want him back, we need him back, he’s our guy?’ Is anyone fighting for him? I haven’t noticed any of that.”