Could Tom Brady’s frustrations be linked to the TB12 brand?
Tom Brady’s frustration with the Patriots’ inefficient offense is a trendy topic in New England, and it might stem from more than just a competitive spirit.
The New England Patriots‘ 17-10 win over the Philadelphia Eagles was one of the saddest-looking wins for the team in recent memory. The defense remained stout, but the offense played the worst they had since their 2018 Week 3 loss against the Detroit Lions, a game played without Julian Edelman.
This led to that curt press conference we all saw in which Tom Brady appeared moody and frustrated… perhaps moreso than after any victory in his career. A typical Touchdown Tom press conference would have run something along the lines of, “We have a lot to work on, but the defense played fantastic and I’m glad to be 9-1.”
Coach Bill Belichick didn’t even seem particularly perturbed about how the game was played, saying, “It looked like everyone had fun out there today.” It didn’t look too fun to me, but a win’s a win.
Here’s the thing: Tom Brady doesn’t need another 14-2 season out of the team to be satisfied, or a ninth straight AFC Championship Game appearance. The fact is, the New England defense is winning many of these games for the offense. The team is continuing to win, but Tom Brady himself is starting to lose.
Before speculating more, I will concede that all of the following is just that: speculation. It’s one more voice to add on to the mountain of hot takes from football fans about Brady’s future. Whether or not he “has it in him” to play through age 45 has been discussed to a brutal death, but his motivations for doing so are more than just pride and the physical challenge: they’re his brand.
The TB12 Sports diet/workout/lifestyle, which has been fully unleashed upon America this season, is a brand that Tom Brady’s invested a lot of time, money and pride into. It’s not the kind of celebrity product that rapper Kanye West has made with his shoes; they’re inherently tied to his performance as much as his name.
The TB12 website describes the regime as, “A comprehensive approach for achieving superior performance and longevity through deep-force muscle pliability work, functional movements, and proper nutrition and hydration.” It’s a bit late in Brady’s career for his workout to market raw physical prowess, so instead it focuses on the longevity of sustained performance.
Focusing on pre-workout rituals, hydration, and overpriced nuts and protein bars is the TB12 method to long-term health and strength, according to Brady and his personal trainer Alex Guerrero. The best way for the QB to sell it is to demonstrate it on the field.
He’s been developing this brand for years, even before the question, “When will Brady retire?” flashed across headlines every week. Given the August opening of the TB12 store in the middle of Boston, as well as his incessant pushing of the products and workouts on social media, it seems like this year is his all-in push to make TB12 a smash success. (Selling $27.00 bags of cashews is very important to him.)
Had the brand been a household name during his 2017 MVP season, the point would have been made excellently: Brady’s still elite thanks to the TB12 lifestyle. However, here we are in 2019, and while the Patriots are still winning, Tom’s having a statistically bad year (for him), one that seemed to be encapsulated by a 26/47, 32.5 QB rating, zero touchdown showing against the Eagles.
Am I saying that Brady’s age is finally causing his decline? No, I would never… that’s Sportswriter Rule No. 1 when you cover the Patriots. However, I can say one thing: I think Brady’s worried it is.
He even tried to spread some of the blame across the team, saying, “It’s just frustration with the offense,” in a Monday interview with WEEI-FM. He may not have Rob Gronkowski, but Brady’s definitely worked with worse offensive squads; he took the WR lineup of Edelman, Aaron Dobson, and Kenbrell Thompkins in 2013 without public complaint.
If Brady plays poorly, his brand is less successful, and he’s less likely to even maintain a starting position through age 45. If he plays poorly enough to have to retire as early as this offseason (unlikely), that’s a giant punch right to the M.O. of the TB12 lifestyle.
Again, I don’t actually think Brady’s too ineffective to play a couple more years, but he doesn’t have MVP potential anymore. The biggest skill he still has going for him is the avoidance of throwing interceptions, which is vital to a team’s win even without much offensive burst. If Brady goes the way of 2015 Peyton Manning and starts chucking two picks a game, his career and brand might tank sooner than we think.
We’re only just past halfway into a great Patriots season, however, and given the return of OT Isaiah Wynn and the hopeful emergence of first-round pick WR N’Keal Harry, Brady has total potential to silence his critics and make it to another Super Bowl.
This is this year’s, “Is Brady done?” portion of the season. What separates this year from past years is that, thanks to the pressure of maintaining his TB12 brand, Brady seems more worried about it than we are.