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Tony Massarotti

Brady’s audible was indefensible

By Tony Massarotti
Globe Columnist / December 13, 2011
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Tom Brady is the greatest player in the history of the New England Patriots, a quarterback so accomplished we compare him to Joe Montana. But as Brady heads into the final years of his career, we cannot help but wonder if he has now inherited a little bit of Dan Marino, too.

The Patriots are still on course following a 34-27 victory over the Washington Redskins Sunday, and we can continue to debate where the team is headed this season with a defense of castoffs and misfits. New England is in a nip-and-tuck affair with Baltimore and Houston for the top two spots in the AFC playoff field, and the Patriots will claim one of the top two seeds if they win their three remaining games.

In the meantime, maybe it’s time to wonder if the Patriots are becoming as Brady-centric off the field as they are on it.

Sorry folks, but there is no defending Brady for the outburst directed at offensive coordinator Bill O’Brien on the sideline in the fourth quarter Sunday. Had Randy Moss pulled the same stunt, we would have spent much of yesterday burying him for such petulance.

Brady threw a horrendous interception in the end zone on a pass intended for Tiquan Underwood when he could have sealed a victory, then went to the sideline and threw a tantrum to go along with it.

Tom Brady vs. Tiquan Underwood. Now there’s a fair fight. One man has three Super Bowl rings and more than 39,000 career passing yards while the other has 10 career catches and not a single touchdown. Who’s Brady going to blame next, Stephen Gostkowski? Zoltan Mesko?

And here’s the real kicker: Everything about the throw was putrid. The decision. The execution. Brady carelessly tossed it up there as if he were feeding Manute Bol in the low post.

Then he blamed someone else.

So much for the Patriot Way.

With that in mind, let’s give O’Brien some credit. If you read colleague Greg Bedard yesterday, you know Brady went to the sideline and gave an earful to both Underwood and receivers coach Chad O’Shea immediately after his blunder. To his credit, O’Brien came to the defense of both, responding with such fury that Brady retaliated with a crystal clear “No [expletive].’’

Fine. In professional sports, arguments happen all the time. The games are emotional, the competition can get intense . . . yada, yada, yada. But Underwood wasn’t the only receiver chastised by Brady Sunday - Wes Welker and Deion Branch also heard about it after miscommunications - and one can’t help but wonder if Brady has grown more stubborn and spoiled with each passing year of his career.

Remember two years ago, when Brady drew the wrath of linebacker Ray Lewis after lobbying with officials for a roughing-the-passer call in a game against the Baltimore Ravens? Brady smugly applauded Sunday when Redskins linebacker London Fletcher was called for a personal foul, delivering a hit to Brady as he slid to the turf.

In all of those instances, the message is the same.

You can’t do that to me. I’m Tom Brady.

Maybe this is why Brady has appeared on a list of the most disliked players in the NFL.

Here’s part of the problem with the Patriots the last few years: For guys who continuously preach the concept of team, Brady and coach Bill Belichick have garnered a disproportionate amount of the attention and responsibility. Brady and Belichick are now perhaps the only chance the Patriots have at another Super Bowl, if for no other reason than the fact the Patriots have been stripped of talent on both the roster and coaching staff.

That said, good for O’Brien for taking on Brady.

As we learned in the NFL documentary on Belichick, “A Football Life,’’ the Patriots recently have seemed like a one-man show on the administrative level. The scene of Belichick doing all the talking in one meeting with his coaching staff spoke volumes, not a single member of the staff looking comfortable enough to offer an alternative viewpoint.

Meanwhile, by contrast, Belichick seemed quite receptive to the offerings of his quarterback when Brady suggested an addition to a play as they sat at Belichick’s desk discussing that week’s game plan.

Belichick took a role in defusing the tension between Brady and O’Brien that existed Sunday, but he should have been right there alongside O’Brien airing out his bratty quarterback.

To his credit, Brady took blame for his actions on the sideline, though that hardly makes them excusable. At this stage of his career, Brady should be getting more mature and responsible, not less. Instead, he seems to be getting more like Marino, one of the most accomplished passers in league history who never won a thing because he never understood the most simple rule of team sports.

It’s not about you.

It never was and it never is.

Tony Massarotti can be reached at tmassarotti@globe.com and can be read at www.boston.com/massarotti.

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