Tom Brady does not like change when it comes to performing his job.
The 44-year-old quarterback voiced his thoughts on the NFL’s number rule change earlier this offseason and isn’t backing off from his initial stance, doubling down in a recent interview with the Tampa Bay Times.
“The number rule is crazy,” Brady said. “Literally, guys changed their numbers today. I’m playing two guys who had different numbers in the preseason. So, yeah you’ve got to watch film and know who you’re studying but so do running backs. They’ve got to know who to block. So does the offensive line. So does the receivers who are adjusting their routes based on blitzes.
“So one guys has got a 6, one guy has 11, one guy has got a 9. And they change every play when you break your routes and get to your spot. It’s going to be a very challenging thing. It’s a good advantage for the defense, which that’s what it is.”
The NFL passed a rule proposed by the Kansas City Chiefs during the offseason which allows tight ends and receivers to wear any number from 1-49 and 80-89, while defensive backs will be able to wear 1-49 and linebackers can wear 1-59 and 90-99.
Fans of single digits rejoiced. Brady, consumer of copious amounts of film, seethed.
“It would be like saying, ‘What if I let the offensive linemen wear 82 and No. 9?’ Brady said. “They wouldn’t know who was eligible. Well that’s not fair. You’ll get your tail kicked. At least identify who the D-line, the linebackers and the safeties are. You’re going to have a lot of matchups where guys are blocking the wrong guys. I don’t know why that should be.”
Brady reiterated his distaste for the rule Tuesday saying, “It’s a stupid rule.”
Now, don’t all post your old man yells at cloud memes at once. There is a legitimate argument to be made in favor of Brady, who is tasked with identifying linebackers and defensive linemen before setting protection prior to receiving the snap with each play. Brady has played professional football for 21 seasons with linebackers wearing 40-59 and 90-99, and defensive backs wearing 20-49. Linemen were limited to wearing 50-79 and 90-99. Numbering made identifying defenders easier, and after more than two decades of experience, the change has rocked Brady’s world.
Add in number changes following the conclusion of the preseason, and you get a seven-time Super Bowl champion who is understandably upset.
Brady wins with his pre-snap intelligence and quick decision-making. It’s a process that relies on this identification and communication, which allows for him to drop to pass, read the defense and fire. Now he has to take additional notes and mental reps to reinforce his knowledge gained from his studies. The change adds a layer of unpredictability to Brady’s job, one he sees as unnecessary.
Longtime NFL tackle Mitchell Schwartz sees where Brady is coming from, but also thinks it’s not as big of a deal as Brady makes it out to be.
“This will definitely lead to a bit more work for the offense to know everyone’s number and identify who the rushers are, compared to coverage guys,” Schwartz tweeted. “On the flip side, a bunch of college kids just managed to do it (and do every year) with zero preseason film. It’ll be fine.”
Brady will have to adjust accordingly when his Buccaneers face the Dallas Cowboys, a team that includes two linebackers — Jaylon Smith (who switched to No. 9) and rookie Micah Parsons (wearing No. 11) — with new, nontraditional jersey numbers. Add cornerback Trevon Diggs to the group, too, as he’s changed from 27 to 7.
Every time Brady studies film from 2020, tape that includes Smith and Diggs, he’ll have to remind himself that 27 is now 7, and 54 is now 9. There’s only so much time to form and strengthen his neural pathways.
“There’s a reason why you do every single thing in football,” Brady said. “And you study hard so you can put yourself in a good position. Now you get to the game, and you’re going to be confused the whole time because you’re rotating what a D-lineman used to look like versus a linebacker or here is what a safety looks like. Very pointless.”
Is it football, or The Matrix? Brady will have to decipher the new numbers in real time Thursday night. Tampa Bay is hoping his mental processes produce touchdowns, not sushi recipes.
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