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Tom Brady criticizes level of NFL play: ‘A lot of mediocrity’

Sep 10, 2023; Foxborough, Massachusetts, USA; New England Patriots former quarterback Tom Brady speaks during a halftime ceremony in his honor during the game between the Philadelphia Eagles and New England Patriots at Gillette Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brian Fluharty-USA TODAY Sports
Credit: Brian Fluharty-USA TODAY Sports

From coaching to development of young players to schemes, Tom Brady did not hold back on what he thinks of the quality of today’s NFL.

“I think there’s a lot of mediocrity in today’s NFL. I don’t see the excellence that I saw in the past,” Brady said on the “The Stephen A. Smith Show” Monday.

“I think the coaching isn’t as good as it was,” Brady said. “I don’t think the development of young players is as good as it was. I don’t think the schemes are as good as they were.”

Brady, 46, retired earlier this year after a 23-year career in which he won seven Super Bowls with the Patriots (2002, 2004, 2005, 2015, 2017, 2019) and Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2021). He also became the NFL’s all-time leader in passing yards and touchdown passes, among many other records.

Brady said one of the biggest reasons for the league’s decline is certain side effects of recent rule changes.

“The rules have allowed a lot of bad habits to get into the actual performance of the game,” Brady said.

He pointed to rule changes that were intended to protect players from injury, but he says have resulted in a “carefree” attitude on the field.

“Offensive players need to protect themselves. It’s not up to a defensive player to protect an offensive player. A defensive player needs to protect himself. … I think a lot of the way that the rules have come into play have allowed this — you can essentially play carefree and then if anyone hits you hard, there’s a penalty.”

Brady cited Ray Lewis, Rodney Harrison and Ronnie Lott as examples of past players who would be challenged to play under today’s rules.

“… Every hit they would have made would have been a penalty,” Brady said. “You hear coaches complaining about their own player being tackled and not necessarily — why don’t they talk to their player about how to protect himself? … We used to work on the fundamentals of those things all the time. Now they’re trying to be regulated all the time.”

Brady also blamed development at the college level — not the athletes themselves changing — for an NFL that’s seen a decline in scoring the past four seasons, with teams combining to score just 43.3 points per game this season, down from 45.9 in 2021.

“I actually think college players were better prepared when I came out than they are now,” he said. “Just because so many coaches are changing programs, and I would say there’s not even a lot of college programs anymore. There’s a lot of college teams, but not programs that are developing players.

“So as they get delivered to the NFL, they may be athletic, but they don’t have much of the skills developed to be a professional. When I played at Michigan, I essentially played at a college program that was very similar to a pro environment. When I see these different players come in, they’re not quite as prepared as they were, and I think the game has shown that over the last 12 to 13 years. I think things have slipped a little bit.”

–Field Level Media

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