By Michael Hurley, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) — Tom Brady stressed one repetitive theme throughout his latest episode of “Man In The Arena,” and that was his belief that the world is not entitled to know his feelings and opinions on every single matter. Some things, in Brady’s eyes, can and should remain private.
He lived that philosophy by staying mum on one of the most significant and controversial coaching decisions in Super Bowl history — the benching of cornerback Malcolm Butler.
With this particular episode focusing on the 2017 season and the Super Bowl loss at its conclusion, one might reasonably expect Brady to weigh in on a coaching decision that led to the likes of Jordan Richards and Johnson Bademosi taking significant snaps while altering the roles of Patrick Chung and Eric Rowe.
Despite this coaching decision by Bill Belichick remaining the No. 1 memory from the Super Bowl loss (in which the Eagles scored 41 points and put up 538 yards of offense as Butler watched from the sideline), Brady didn’t mention Butler by name once in the 50-minute episode.
Brady did, however, speak of how challenging that game was in terms of constantly trying to keep up with Philly on the scoreboard.
“We never had ’em on the ropes because we could never get a lead,” Brady said. “We were playing catch-up all frickin’ day.”
"From the moment the game started, we were playing catch up ALL DAY." 😬
— ESPN (@espn) January 2, 2022
Despite that, Brady didn’t really use his documentary episode to blame the defense. Instead, he said he bears a lot of responsibility for the loss, because of his infamous drop on a trick play. Brady said he had a glove in his pouch to put on his right hand if the call for “Clemson” came in, as he was still just a couple of weeks removed from suffering a serious gash on that hand. But he didn’t have time to put the glove on, which he seemingly thinks might have helped in the moment.
“Out of all the moments for me to make a play to help us win, that was the one that in that game I really look back on,” Brady said.
From there, Brady said the Patriots had “some of the best execution we’ve ever had on offense” in the second half, and he said Rob Gronkowksi’s second touchdown was “one of the all-time great catches in the Super Bowl.”
And even though the Patriots’ defense gave up the fourth-quarter lead by allowing the Eagles to drive 75 yards on 14 plays over seven torturous minutes, the quarterback was happy with the chance he had to win the game in the final minutes.
“Now we’ve got a chance to go down and win with a touchdown drive,” Brady said of the opportunity. “I’ll take that 10 out of 10 times.”
Brady, of course, was strip-sacked shortly thereafter. And while trailing by eight in the final seconds, his Hail Mary pass into a slew of bodies fell to the turf, delivering him his third Super Bowl loss.
Brady described his postgame feelings in one word: “Numb.”
“I just remembered leaving that stadium, and my mind going, ‘Wow, that was … that was really tough.’ Tough season, tough game,” Brady reflected. “We gotta put that one to bed.”
Beyond that, though, there wasn’t too much focus on the actual Super Bowl itself. The episode spent about 10 of its 50 minutes on the loss to the Eagles, and Brady never mentioned the most controversial part of that historic game.
(The series can’t cover everything, obviously. The portion of this week’s episode that focused on the Patriots’ win in Pittsburgh didn’t mention the Jesse James drop at the goal line. But the Butler decision would seemingly be something worth mentioning in a retelling of Super Bowl LII, you know?)
Gronkowski Had A Bad Time
One major takeaway from this episode was just how unhappy and dispirited Rob Gronkowski was for the duration of the 2017 season. He used the word “eerie” three separate times to describe the mood of the team, he said he was happy and relieved to have been hit with a one-game suspension late in the year, and he indicated there was little joy in Foxboro that season.
“It was a tough season. It was a grind season, for sure. Let me tell you, it wasn’t really that fun of a year,” Gronkowski said. “It was just a little eerie, the atmosphere with the Patriots.”
Gronkowski suffered a concussion in the team’s AFC Championship Game win over the Jaguars, and he said the odd mood around the team never really faded.
“It was still a tough atmosphere, I feel like. But we kept winning, we kept winning,” he said. “That eerie atmosphere just continued going into the Super Bowl, too.”
Gronk says in the latest Man In The Arena that he was happy when he was suspended for a week after the Tre'Davious White hit in 2017.
"I lost a game check, it was about 300,000 dollars. I didn't care one bit. I was just glad I had a week off from football because I needed it." pic.twitter.com/KGcutr4sjW
— Michael Hurley (@michaelFhurley) January 4, 2022
Gronkowski obviously ended up having a tumultuous offseason, notably skipping team workouts while showing up to Gillette Stadium to promote a motocross event. It reached a point where Bill Belichick was ready to trade Gronkowski to Detroit, a deal which Gronkowski himself nixed by threatening to retire.
In the episode, Gronkowski shed some light on his state of mind at the time.
“There was a lot of guys, including myself, that just weren’t really having a good time,” he said. “We would just show up to show up, go out to practice. I mean we did what we needed to do, we were winning games still. It definitely was taking a toll on me.”
After the Super Bowl loss, Gronkowski said he felt relief.
“I literally gave it all I had, even though I was beat down. We almost had a chance. The bounce almost went our way. But it wasn’t meant to be,” he said. “Just walking into the shower, talking to a couple of players, like, ‘Yo man, great season, but I’m glad it’s over.’ It was long, it was eerie through the whole year. The energy, the atmosphere was just always off. It felt good to walk off the field and know that I didn’t have a game the next week.”
Tom Brady Wants Privacy
It’s an interesting dynamic, using a 10-part documentary series to tell the world that you don’t want to share all of your thoughts, feelings and opinions. But that’s how Brady spent a large portion of this episode.
Considering this is now his second self-produced documentary on the 2017 season and his conflicts with Belichick and the Patriots organization, it’s kind of a bogus claim.
“Everybody feels like they’re entitled to everyone’s thoughts and opinions all the time,” Brady said. “Mind your own f—ing business, you know what I mean?”
This was a time when Brady’s trainer, Alex Guerrero, was under fire both from the media and from Belichick, with Guerrero losing access to many parts of the facility. With Brady forced to go through his pregame rubdowns in stadium suites and maintenance sheds, there were clearly some issues that came about that season. Add in the team’s trip to Donald Trump’s White House (a trip which Brady skipped), the national controversy over sideline protests during the national anthem, and the midseason trade of Jimmy Garoppolo, and there was a lot of meat on the bone for fans and media to pick on throughout the year.
Of course, if everyone minded their own bleeping business, then nobody would be watching his documentary. So it’s a bit of a catch-22 there for Tom.
But, again: Nevertheless!
“I think we’re in such an era of life where everyone thinks that they should get to know everything. And the reality is I don’t believe you should,” Brady said. “I think there’s things about relationships that are just private. When two people have conversations that are in a private room, they should remain private.”
The Beginning Of The End
Brady said the emotional aspect of the 2017 season was “very challenging” and “fatiguing.”
“More and more I think the joy was being taken away, because it wasn’t about my football performance anymore. It was about so many other things,” Brady said. “I think people always use the word ‘humanize.’ Like, ‘Oh, you’re such a human.’ I’m like, ‘No f—ing s–t I’m a human.'”
Brady dismissed the rumors of a bad relationship with Garoppolo as just being “drama” and “soap opera stuff,” and he said he was dealing with “constant negativity” that was “just getting louder.”
By the end, it was clear that having to defend Guerrero to the media and to his own team weighed heavily on Brady — something he’s now explored in “Man In The Arena” and “Tom Vs. Time.” Still, Brady sort of described the matter as one negative from his time with the Patriots, which led to a strained relationship.
“Any time you’re in a 20 years relationship with different people, one year, one experience doesn’t shape my relationship,” Brady said. “And then some relationships got strained. That’s just, that’s what they were.”
And the episode concluded on a bit of an ominous note, with Brady admitting that after the 2017 season, he felt as though he was nearing the end of his time with the Patriots.
“I learned a lot about people that year, learned a lot about relationships, and who was in your corner and who wasn’t,” Brady said. “Based on how things were going, I maybe in a way held out hope that I would begin to have a different type of feeling toward going to work every day, that maybe I could find more joy. But I did know that if things were going to continue the way they were heading, that I couldn’t do it anymore.”
We know now, obviously, that Brady (and Gronkowski) returned in 2018 and ended up winning one last Super Bowl. That one will be explored in next week’s episode. For now, we’re left with confirmation that the 2017 season — when Brady won the league MVP at age 40, when he overcame a gruesome injury on his throwing hand to beat the league’s No. 1 defense in the AFC title game, when he set a Super Bowl record with 505 passing yards — was indeed the beginning of the end for Tom Brady in New England.