Remember Brady, not Brown, after this one

by Gary Shelton on January 3, 2022

in general

Brady led his team to another comeback./TIM WIRT

Monday, 4 a.m.

Tom Brady is bigger than Antonio Brown.

Cyril Grace is less of a headache.

Joe Tryon-Shoyinka had a better day.

Still, headlines being what they are, more people will pay more attention to the way Brown lit fire to what was left of his NFL career Sunday afternoon than to Brady's excellence. After all, we love disasters.

Brown, perhaps the least stable performer in the league, finished his Bucs' career by stripping off his jersey, throwing his t-shirt to the crowd and leaving the field as if he were celebrating some kind of victory. In his world, perhaps he was.

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One television report suggested that Brown was sent off by Arians after twice refusing to go into the game. Brown has been injured, but he looked healthy as he side-straddle hopped his way to the dressing room.

You can debate whether the Bucs hurt their playoff chances by closing the door on Brown. But even so, there have to be limits to the size of nutbar a player has become. Arians really had no choice here.

It hardly tore the Bucs apart. Brady led the team from behind in the final minutes, driving 93 yards with no time outs and hitting Grayson with a 33-yard touchdown pass with 15 seconds left to win a game the Bucs seemed destined to lose for most of the afternoon.

As a team, the Bucs had taken their lumps defending Brown, who had quit on the Steelers and the Raiders (and was cut by the Patriots). He was a constant headline, from assault charges to a fake vaccination card, yet the team stood by him.

After Sunday, they could stand it no longer. No NFL coach would stand for a player quitting on his team in the middle of game. If coach Bruce Arians is at fault here,it is for excusing and apologizing for Brown in recent weeks. Such enablement seemed to fortify Brown to the point he thought himself to be untouchable.

"I'm not talking about him," Arians said. "He's no longer a Buc."

Today, that will get most of the conversation, even though Tampa Bay made serveral key plays down the stretch. For instance, there was Joe Tryon-Shoyinka's stop on fourth-and-two at the Bucs seven with 2:17 to play. The Jets could have at least clinched overtime by kicking a field goal, but tried for the knockout punch.

Then there was Brady, who led his 42nd fourth-quarter comeback -- and the 53rd game-winning drive -- to salvage the day. Brady was six of eight for all 93 of the yards on the game-winning drive.

"When I see him out there and we protect  like that, I have all the confidence in the world we’ll make some play to win the game," Arians said..

Grayson, an afterthought for most of the year who has come on strong lately, caught four passes on the winning drive, including the go-ahead touchdown.

"He's worked his ass off," Arians said.

Grayson's performance was in opposition to that of Brown, who bailed on his team when it needed him. Brady, who had always backed Brown, addressed the situation carefully.

"Yeah, that’s obviously a difficult situatiom," Brady said. "I think everybody should hopefully do what they can to help him in ways that he really needs it,” Brady said. “We all love him. We care about him deeply. We want to see him be at his best, and unfortunately it won’t be with our team, but we have a lot of friendships that will last.

"And again, I think the most important thing about football are the relationships with your friends and your teammates and they go beyond the field. I think everyone should be very compassionate and empathetic toward some very difficult things that are happening.”

The Bucs stared slowly on defense against the hapless Jets, and for the day, they gave up 150 yards rushing. Arians suggested the Bucs didn't match New York's energy.

The Bucs close out their regular season at home Sunday against Carolina. The game kicks off at 1 p.m.

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