I haven’t talked about the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in a while because, honestly, the world is at war, and who really cares about NFL football? But this story is about Tom Brady, who almost everyone agrees is the best football player of all time. His marriage, his retirement, and why the Bucs aren’t as good on the field as they are on paper is an interesting study on the impact of good leadership on any culture, whether it be business, entertainment, or politics. What Tom Brady is going through is a good baseline for just how important leadership is to any culture. He has traditionally been the best on a football field not because he is the strongest, fastest, tallest, or most creative, but because he has a way of making the people around him better, which is why he’s been in so many Super Bowls and Championship games and won many of them. And when that leadership isn’t working, it’s obvious why. So with the Bucs at 3 and 3 at the point of this article is not over for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. They are playing in the weak NFC South division, so they are still in first place even though the Bucs should have won close games against Kansas City, Green Bay, and Pittsburg. But they lost those games because they were simply outplayed, and it’s quite clear that the team is distracted by Tom Brady, his retirement status, his marriage trouble, and his general age. It has to be tough to be 45 years old and playing with a bunch of kids who are 25 years old, old enough to be his own kids. And the head coaches are all the same age or even younger.
What’s different about this year with Tom Brady is that the NFL obviously doesn’t want him around. The media doesn’t either. They have moved on to the Patrick Mahomes types, the Josh Allens, the much younger and mobile quarterbacks who are part of the new story of the NFL. The Bucs have done the woke thing and put people of color in charge of their coaching staff, even though they obviously have problems making decisions. They aren’t the best people for the job; they were put there because of color, although Todd Bowls, the head coach, made great news when he recently dismissed the measurement of color, which gained national attention. Bowls is a great defensive coordinator when he can dominate the other team. But his playcalling is terrible in close games when the other team isn’t intimidated, and that has certainly carried over into this year, where he remains the defensive play caller, and he just can’t stop the other team. Everyone has gotten so used to being lazy on the field and on the sideline because they just expect Tom Brady to get the ball at the end of the game and win it for them that some of these games are just getting out of reach. Tom Brady usually has an opportunity to still win the game for them, but people are happy to let him do most of the work. And that problem comes from leadership. The coaches are lazy; the players reflect the coaches. One thing about leadership that is always obvious, people adapt to the personality of the leader, so when a good leader is present, it’s evident to the world because the culture takes on their personality; when there isn’t good leadership, it’s just as evident for all those reasons.
And every day, the news is that Tom Brady is getting divorced from his wife, Gisele Bundchen, a person many consider the most beautiful woman in the world. During the Super Bowl year of Tom Brady’s first year in Tampa, she was a tremendous asset. The other players looked at Brady and his wife, their children, Tom’s love of his parents, and his good-guy image as the best in the world, and they played off it. They listened to Tom Brady because they wanted to be like Tom Brady and have what Tom Brady had: good successful life in every way people measure success, money, beauty, ethically, and categorically. But this year, Tom Brady looks like a person like everyone else. Even at press conferences, Brady goes way out of his way to appear just like the other guys, that he’s nothing special and that he continues to play because he wants to be around his teammates. This is to other players who often have to think about whether to tackle at full speed a 300-pound player with their 250-pound bodies at 20 MPH with a head-on collision that will undoubtedly hurt the next day, a weak proposal. While they know, they have a few million dollars in their bank accounts. Why are they going to hit the other player so hard again? Especially since everything is always about Tom Brady? Unless you have a special coach who can motivate such players, a lackluster effort is almost baked into the problem.
But specifically for other guys, they look at people they follow, and if the leader can’t hold together a marriage, then why should they listen to them about anything? A guy going through a divorce is a loser, no matter how fair that assessment might be. If you can’t hold a family together, why should anybody listen to you about anything? If a woman who knows you in your most vulnerable state, behind the media curtain, isn’t so in love with you that she’ll do anything to stay with you, then there is something wrong, and a locker room will quickly figure that out. And that holds true for everything, not just sports. If a leader can’t lead a family, they certainly can’t lead an organization, a school, or a society. All men know that once a wife leaves a man and is off to Chuckee Cheese with a new one, and a man loses his kids to a stepfather, it’s over. A family is broken beyond repair, the children will grow up with likely problems as a result, and the leadership potential of that man is gone. There is a lot of effort in the world to try to hide personal behavior behind processes, but that is just not how human beings are wired. Tom Brady is the best of all time because he did everything well. His private life was successful, which then carried over into on-field behavior. But this is the problem when you stick around too long, people start thinking of him as just another guy, who has problems just like everyone else, and at that point, the magic is gone forever. This is why I thought it would be good for Brady to stay retired, ride off into the sunset, and let history remember him as the best. But to lose that leadership ability, which he clearly has, especially now that his wife is clearly not with him, the cost is far worse than just lost games. Tom Brady has lost his leadership brand. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers may still win their division. Tom Brady may even win another Super Bowl. But in doing so, he has lost what is most important, his leadership brand. And once a man loses it, it’s nearly impossible to get back. And to the way I think, that isn’t worth another chance at a Super Bowl.