In 1513, Italian diplomat, historian and political theorist Niccolo Machiavelli penned “The Prince.”
Machiavelli produced what would turn out to be a blue print for aspiring Renaissance kings. At the core of this doctrine was Machiavelli’s emphasis on the need for realism, as opposed to idealism.
It’s time for Patriot Nation to heed “The Prince’s” call for realism. We all know it, sense it, and don’t want to admit it. Tom Brady is the Prince no more and our dynasty is over.
Machiavelli asks: Is it better to be feared or loved? We all know its better to be feared.
Tom Brady used to be feared. When Brady burst onto the scene, guiding the Patriots to the 2001, 2003 and 2004 Super Bowls, he was the unknown, everyone’s little brother who’d been taken for granted.
The little kid in the neighborhood who had to play goalie if he wanted to play; the unwanted Michigan quarterback who, despite leading the Wolverines to bowl victories, was pushed aside by the phenom Drew Henson, and then finally as the sixth round draft pick who nobody wanted.
In winning three Super Bowls in four years, Brady played the role of the younger brother to perfection. All the while he was beating you, opponents kept saying, “We lost to that guy?” He was the young prince aspiring to greatness who despite winning multiple Super Bowls still had his doubters as to who was best, he or Peyton Manning.
In the dynasty years, Brady was content to let messengers Teddy Bruschi, Mike Vrabel, Willie McGinest, Ty Law, build the dynasty. He was the assassin, handing off to Corey Dillon or Antowain Smith. He was happy to beat you 13–10, completing only 17 of 25 passes. But his passes were lethal, poison darts shot to kill.
He was feared throughout the NFL. His fourth quarter comebacks were things of legend. He was undefeated in the playoffs and teams were deathly afraid of the ball being in his hands at the end of the game, knowing it was a death sentence to be administered slowly and lethally.
But that all seemed to change in the Patriots’ 2007 drive to perfection. The New York Giants found a chink in his armor and the once unflappable Brady became mortal with pressure up the middle which would ultimately be his undoing in his first Super Bowl loss.
Then the Chiefs’ Bernard Pollard ended Brady’s 2008 season with a knee injury. Since then, Brady has become tentative at times in the pocket, seeing ghosts that aren’t there, complaining to refs about late hits and people at his feet.
He’s become a different man, a different quarterback, no longer The Prince. Now the hunted king, upon whose head the crown rests, warily.
He sees ghosts in the pocket. When’s the last time he pulled the ball down and ran for a first down?
Last season then-offensive coordinator Bill O’Brien got in Brady’s face on the sidelines. It wasn’t because Brady messed up, but rather because when Brady messed up he put the blame on little used Tiquan Underwood. O’Brien called him on that.
After the AFC Championship game, a game the old Patriots would have won in similar fashion, rather than be excited about going to the Super Bowl, Brady got on the stand and said “I stunk.”
His thoughts were not of team, results and championships, but of “I,” performance and image.
Then in the Super Bowl he made critical mistakes at times the lethal assassin doesn’t and ultimately was equally as responsible as Welker was for dropping that pass.
When is the last time you watched a Patriot game and felt like Brady and the offense was going to either put their foot on their opponent’s throat?
Those days are long gone, and his opponents don’t fear him anymore. Oh, sure, in the week leading up to the game and then in the postgame, players and coaches will say the right thing.
Yet the truer measuring stick of how Brady’s viewed came from Seahawks defensive back Richard Sherman who got in Brady’s face after a mouthy Brady and the Patriots imploded. Sherman yelled at Brady “You’re just a man ... we’re a team.”
Brady did nothing. No response. He walked away with his head down.
The King has become mortal. Loved still? Yes. But feared? Absolutely not. Not any more.
EDITOR’S NOTE: Pete Delani is a former Masconomet Regional baseball coach and former general manager of North Shore Navigators. His High and Tight column will appear periodically in The Eagle-Tribune.