By Michael Hurley, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) — Tom Brady’s documentary series was supposed to be a nine-part project, with one episode dedicated to each of the Patriots’ seasons that ended in a Super Bowl appearance during his time in New England. Of course, Brady went out and won a Super Bowl in year one in Tampa, thus necessitating a 10th episode being added.
Leave it to Tom Brady to ruin some well-made plans by winning another Super Bowl.
Yet for all intents and purposes, the ninth installment of “Man In The Arena” — which debuted on ESPN+ on Tuesday — served as the final chapter of this series. While much of the 51-minute special is dedicated to detailing the entirety of the 2018 season, Brady is at his most reflective point in the entire series in this particular episode, using the final few minutes to serve as a heartfelt farewell and message of appreciation to Bill Belichick, Robert Kraft, and the New England Patriots.
Any Patriots fans who have had a hard time adjusting to the new normal will certainly want to catch the final few minutes of this one.
With Belichick, Brady explained that his relationship with the coach was always business and was never really personal.
“Coach Belichick and I had for so many years a really great relationship — but it was always player-coach. He was there to coach football, I was there to play football,” Brady said.
Still, in that relationship, there was a mutual appreciation.
“He had always said there’s nobody I’d rather have play quarterback for our team than you, and I felt that same way about him as a coach,” Brady said.
Obviously, that relationship ended after the 2019 season, when Brady departed for sunnier skies in Florida. Despite the obvious issues from the 2017 season that bled into the 2018 offseason, Brady said he sees those problems as mere blips in a 20-year stretch working under Belichick.
“I had a great relationship with Coach Belichick. I think he wanted a quarterback to show up every day and put the team first, and I wanted a coach that showed up every day and put the team first. And we found an amazing working relationship together. And I think he was the best coach I could ever ask for,” Brady said. “We had our challenges at different moments, but they were just moments. They don’t define what the relationship was. And in the end we accomplished things that no one had ever accomplished in NFL history.”
"He was the best coach I could ever ask for." 🙌
— ESPN (@espn) January 9, 2022
Though it was brief, Brady also reflected on the way that Robert Kraft shaped his life.
“I had 20 of the most incredible years of my life with one team, one owner, Mr. Kraft, who I love so much, who allowed me to grow into the man I am,” Brady said.
And that appreciation moved all the way through the building.
“The organization was incredible, from the people that I met in the training room to the equipment room to the video room — to everything that makes up a championship organization,” Brady said.
(Here is where a less honorable writer would make a DeflateGate joke. Not this one, though.)
From there, Brady added some depth to the words of appreciation.
“I think for me, it all comes back to people. I’ve only been able to accomplish what I have professionally and personally because of the people that have come into my life,” he said. “And so many people came into my life at these moments that were the most important moments at that time for what I needed. Obviously there’s that line — when a student’s ready, the teacher appears. But that’s really been my life. And I think I’ve been open and curious, but raising a family and having a career in football, it all comes down to people and relationships. So that’s what I value the most.”
Brady furthered that point, offering up an interesting summation of his entire career by saying that nobody will care at all about his football accomplishments in the future. For a man who’s had an unparalleled obsession with winning, that’s certainly an interesting revelation.
“That’s the best part — it’s the people,” he said. “It’s not a Super Bowl ring. It’s ‘Man, we did this together.’ And I think that’s what I share with everybody. That’s what I share with my family when we win. Who am I looking for right away when the game’s over? My family. And my teammates, so I can hug them. It’s not going, ‘Man I can’t wait to get up onto the stage so I can glorify myself.’ And it’s like these moments of life, I believe no one cares at the end of the day. Fifty years from now, no one’s gonna give a flying f—. Just do something joyful with your life. And I found people that I can really be joyful with.”
While the bulk of this reflection was obviously positive, Brady didn’t ignore the negatives, either. The title of the episode, actually, was “Maybe,” based on the parable of the Chinese farmer. Brady said that the short story has helped him gain proper perspective on everything that has happened to him personally and professionally.
“Anything that’s bad usually turns out pretty good in the end, because you learn the most,” Brady said. “I’m always trying to find the learning in the losing, and finding the good in the bad. And it’s served me really well.”
In terms of the bad, Brady took care of most of that in the eighth episode. That one spotlighted Alex Guerrero, who was banned from the Patriots’ training room in 2017, which was an overall stressful year for Brady. It also focused on Rob Gronkowski, who was on the verge of quitting the sport during the time in question. In this one, there wasn’t much in the way of grievances, though Brady let former Patriot Damien Woody and ESPN host Wendi Nix do that part for him.
In a clip from an ESPN studio show, Woody described playing for the Patriots as being in a “dark tunnel.” You don’t realize you’ve been in one until you emerge and see confetti falling on you. He said the process is a grind but is ultimately worth it.
Nix then asked Woody some direct questions: “Is it possible, too, Damien, that it’s not for everybody forever? That perhaps it can work for a while and then as you become a veteran player, as you become more successful, then it grows tired?”
The documentary didn’t include Woody’s answer, but it did include a montage of Brady looking a little worn-out.
The inclusion of this clip from executive producer Tom Brady seems to cover the basis for why quarterback Tom Brady ultimately knew it was time for him to leave.
Still, the documentary episode doesn’t focus on the 2019 season or the bitter end. It focuses on the one last run to glory — which was a very compelling championship tale — with some additional commentary from Julian Edelman.
But more than anything, this episode was supposed to be the final installment of the series, so it serves as a goodbye and a thank you to the place that welcomed Brady to the league as a largely unknown sixth-round pick and employed him through the most prosperous and dominant 20-year stretch in NFL history.
“I wouldn’t change anything,” Brady concluded. “I wouldn’t change the good, I wouldn’t change the bad. I take with me the memories and I take the relationships. And there was no better place I could ever be than in New England playing for the Patriots.”