It wasn’t meant to go like this.
When Tom Brady came out of retirement in March, his 23rd NFL season was meant to be a final celebration and an opportunity for the G.O.A.T. – greatest of all time – to challenge for a eighth Super Bowl title.
However, the first seven weeks haven’t gone to plan for the 45-year-old.
Brady and his Tampa Bay Buccaneers slipped to 3-4 on the year with a catastrophic 21-3 loss to the lowly Carolina Panthers on Sunday.
Despite facing a team with an interim head coach, a backup quarterback under center and which traded its best player earlier in the week, Brady and the Bucs offense failed to score a touchdown as the presumed Super Bowl contenders slipped to a sub-.500 record.
Although the Bucs still sit atop the NFC South division, Brady has suffered humiliating defeats against both good and bad teams alike this season, as what is likely to be his final season goes from bad to worse.
After the loss, Brady said that “no one feels good about where we’re at, no one feels good about how we’ve played or what we’re doing,” once again reiterating the need for his team to execute details with more precision.
“We talked about execution the other day, and it still comes up. I think we all just need to do our job better,” he told the media.
“There’s no easy way about it. They’re trying to keep us from doing our job, we’re trying to do it, and they’re doing a better job than we are. Anytime you score three points, that pretty much sums it up.”
Brady has been pensive about his future in the NFL, suggesting in recent months that his second, and presumably final, retirement might not be far away.
For someone whose desire to win and drive has separated him from others, this hasn’t been the season he would have wanted to go out on.
Last week, the Bucs lost to the 1-4 Pittsburgh Steelers. This week, it was a defeat to the 1-5 Panthers.
Sunday’s game couldn’t have started much worse for Brady. A laser of a pass to Mike Evans which would have been a walk-in touchdown on the opening drive of the game was dropped. The Bucs’ first nine drives finished with six punts, one turnover on downs, one ending at halftime and a field goal.
Between struggling connections with his offensive weapons, a porous offensive line and a faltering running game, the problems are mounting in Tampa.
According to ESPN, this is the first time since 2002 that Brady has had a losing record after seven games of an NFL season.
Bucs head coach Todd Bowles admitted his team wasn’t performing at peak levels.
“We’re not playing well,” Bowles told the media. “We’re not playing well as individuals, we’re not playing well as a team, we’re not coaching it well. All the way around – we’re not scoring enough on offense and we’re not stopping them enough on defense.
“And as a result, we have to wear this on our sleeve. They’ve got to be grown men. We’re going to see what we’re made of, how many people can handle adversity, and this is about as dark as it’s going to be right now.
“Those guys who are going to step up are going to show up this week in practice. Our leaders are going to lead, our coaches are going to coach and we’re just going to dig and keep our head down … We’re going to see what we have going forward, see how many crumble in the dark and see how many people step up and start playing better and start coaching better.”
Between Brady’s struggles – finishing with 290 passing yards off 49 attempts and no touchdowns – the running game’s struggles and the usually-dominant defense’s paucity, it could be suggested this is the lowest moment of Brady’s time in Florida.
Write off the greatest NFL player of all time at your peril, but digging out of this hole and patching all these problems would be one of the seven-time Super Bowl winner’s greatest ever achievements.