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.
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.
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