By Joe Rini
The New York Jets are really wreaking havoc with my football fandom. Their season has gone so unmitigatingly bad, the games so unwatchable, I’m finding myself rooting for Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (I was even glad when Bill Belichick’s Patriots beat the Dolphins on opening day but that’s another story).
Given that the Jets spared us from another lackluster Sunday by giving us a lackluster Thursday night a week ago, I flipped on the Buccaneers – Chargers game this past Sunday and the Bucs were already down 21-7 in the second quarter and the 43-year old Brady had already thrown a pick-6 and was in the midst of about six incompletions in a row. Wow, I thought, it looks like he’s finally “done” after all the Super Bowl wins and two decades of tormenting the Jets. I actually felt badly for him. He looked like Joe Namath.
But not the Joe Namath I loved in Super Bowl III or even the still formidable Joe Namath of 1972 and 1974. He looked like the Joe Namath of the 1977 Rams. The past his prime Joe Namath who left a bad Jets team for a good Rams team too late in his career.
Like Brady, Namath lost on opening day with the Rams and then won then won two straight. I can still remember watching his fourth game of the season because it was a Monday Night Football game against the Bears. After the Rams scored early, I can still hear Frank Gifford saying, “Joe Namath has come to play tonight,” but as the game progressed, Namath regressed. I probably went to bed at halftime but I know I woke up to discover Namath had thrown four interceptions, no touchdowns, and was replaced by Pat Haden in a 24-23 loss. Namath finished the year with the Rams but never played another game.
The symmetry was there to compare a struggling Brady, whose nickname will never be Tom Terrific, to the man who is forever Broadway Joe. But then something happened. The Bucs recovered a fumble before the half and Brady threw a TD to make the score 24-14. Brady wound up throwing three more TDs in the second half to finish with five TDs on the day and Tampa won 38-31. So much for comparing the Tom Brady of 2020 to the Joe Namath of 1977.
So instead a “done” Tom Brady, there’s still a pretty good Tom Brady in Tampa Bay and I’m actually rooting for him to do well even after he’s crushed the Jets for 20 years. Heck, I might even root for him in the Super Bowl…but only if he plays against the Patriots.