Publish date:

Tom Brady Is Still Very Ticked Off About the NFL’s New ‘Stupid Rule’

In Wednesday’s Hot Clicks: the GOAT’s thoughts on jersey numbers, Pete Alonso’s historic home run pace and more.

Is this what will end Brady’s reign of dominance?

Tom Brady is a pretty even-keeled guy. It isn’t often that you hear him get too worked up about anything. But there’s one thing that has really been grinding his gears this season: the NFL’s new rules about jersey numbers.

The league’s owners approved a rule in April that allows running backs, receivers and tight ends to wear any number between 1 and 49, and any number between 80 and 89. Linebackers and defensive backs can now wear numbers between 1 and 49. (Linebackers can still wear numbers from 50 to 59 and 90 to 99, as they did previously. The permitted numbers for other positions remain unchanged.)

The new rule allows guys like Giants receiver Sterling Shepard to switch from the No. 87 he wore for his first five years in the NFL to the No. 3 he wore at Oklahoma (in honor of his father). Plenty of other players have taken advantage of the new number flexibility and started rocking single digits, as well. Seems pretty harmless, right? Well, the rule has one high-profile detractor: Brady.

He first spoke out against the rule just weeks after it was passed, saying on Instagram that it would lead to “a lot of bad football.” And on Tuesday, he spoke at length about the issue with Rick Stroud of the Tampa Bay Times.

Brady is annoyed that a couple of guys on the Cowboys, who he will be facing on Thursday night in the opening game of the season, just changed their numbers this week.

“The number rule is crazy,” Brady told Stroud. “Literally, guys changed their numbers today. I’m playing two guys who had different numbers in the preseason. So, yeah you’ve got to watch film and know who you’re studying but so do running backs. They’ve got to know who to block. So does the offensive line. So does the receivers who are adjusting their routes based on blitzes.

“So one guy has got a 6, one guy has 11, one guy has got a 9. And they change every play when you break your routes and get to your spot. It’s going to be a very challenging thing. It’s a good advantage for the defense, which that’s what it is.”

Brady is referring to safety Donovan Wilson (who switched from No. 37 to No. 6), rookie linebacker Micah Parsons (who has been wearing the No. 11 he wore at Penn State all preseason) and linebacker Jaylon Smith (who switched from No. 54 to 9). So it sounds like Brady has figured out who’s who even with the new numbers.

SI Recommends

Brady’s concern is a valid one. He’s worried about the new numbers making it difficult to identify which guys are playing which positions and the impact that will have on communicating blocking assignments. He likened it to letting offensive linemen wear the same numbers as receivers so the defense couldn’t tell who the eligible receivers are.

“There’s a reason why you do every single thing in football,” Brady said. “And you study hard so you can put yourself in a good position. Now you get to the game, and you’re going to be confused the whole time because you’re rotating what a D-lineman used to look like versus a linebacker or here is what a safety looks like. Very pointless.”

Speaking with reporters later on Tuesday, Brady declined to rehash his gripe about numbers but he did call it a “stupid rule.”

I seriously doubt that Brady, the self-proclaimed GOAT whose famed TB12 Method includes a regimen of brain exercises, is going to be “confused the whole time” because a couple of guys switched their jersey numbers. But hey, the new NFL rule more closely mirrors the number guidelines for college football. Maybe that’s why Brady wasn’t that great at Michigan. 

The best of SI

The MMQB staff makes its picks and predictions for the 2021 NFL season. ... Giants defensive coordinator Patrick Graham is a rising star in the coaching ranks. ... Several high-profile transfer players are already making a big impact for their new teams. ... Which Week 18 NFL game will get flexed into the Sunday Night Football spot?

Around the sports world

The Broncos’ QB-less game last year was the result of the team’s quarterbacks breaking COVID-19 precautions by placing their contact tracing devices in opposite corners of the room. ... 41-year-old Nelson Cruz became the oldest player in MLB history to hit 30 home runs in a season. ... Clinton Portis pleaded guilty to charges stemming from a multi-million-dollar health care fraud scheme.

Pete Alonso is an elite hitter

Two old buds

Calling your team the Defenders is just begging to be made fun of when you lose 38–10

“You’re Patrick Mahomes?”

Wade Miley for MVP?

That’s gotta sting

Down in front

The French national team is a joy to watch

Sheed’s career overlapped with LeBron’s for eight seasons

Not sports

A man in Vietnam was sentenced to five years in jail for breaking COVID-19 rules and infecting eight people. ... An Australian musk duck named Ripper learned how to swear. ... A blob of pizza dough discarded by a Domino’s employee in Louisiana ahead of Hurricane Ida has swollen to overtop the dumpster it was placed in. ... A drunk driver in Canada was rescued from a ditch by another drunk driver

A good song

Email dan.gartland@si.com with any feedback or follow me on Twitter for approximately one half-decent baseball joke per week. Bookmark this page to see previous editions of Hot Clicks and find the newest edition every day. By popular request I’ve made a Spotify playlist of the music featured here. Visit our Extra Mustard page throughout each day for more offbeat sports stories.