Tom Brady’s return to Gillette Stadium Sunday evening should be awesome! Great for absolutely everyone.
Well, maybe not everyone.
Sure it will be fun for TB12 and the 20-plus members of his family who’ll be on hand. Fantastic for fans.
Robert Kraft can rejoice and reminisce. Bill Belichick will probably even smile.
The God of the gridiron glory days in Foxborough is back baby!
But will it be fun for Mac Jones? Is it a good thing for he and the 2023 Patriots who will actually be on the field trying to jumpstart a critical season against arguably the most talented team in the NFL in the defending NFC Champion Eagles?
For Jones, Bill O’Brien and a retooled if not rebuilt or rejuvenated New England offense, Brady represents the measuring stick of what they are all trying to accomplish.
The GOAT is the personification of the direction the new-look Patriots offense wants to go, putting the dismal dysfunction of the Matt Patricia error in the rearview mirror with the once-again defensive coach on hand in Eagles’ garb.
Jones and Co. are trying to find their collective way and their way will never be anywhere near the Brady way or the Patriot Way from back in the day.
And that’s OK, but this Sunday it might not feel that way. If Jones and his contemporary playmakers struggle, having Brady in the building will only serve to rub salt in the offensive wounds. It will magnify miscues and shortcomings for Jones and his brethren.
As we learned last fall during the days of the “Zappe!” chants the Foxborough “Faithful” are actually quite Fickle. If they are willing to chant for a rookie mid-round backup at the drop of a Flying Elvis hat, what exactly will the 60,000-plus in attendance do if Jones struggles with Brady on hand?
Even in his first actual game week of retirement and with all due respect to Philly star Jalen Hurts, the 46-year-old Brady might still be the best quarterback in the building on opening day. Sure, he’s only there to be honored. Maybe stand atop the newly rebuilt Lighthouse like some conquering God.
But he will forever represent the great ol’ days in New England, the way that a quarterback is supposed to play and lead his team to victory regardless of the opponent or the circumstances. The lost love, the one who got away. The still-real option in the minds of many.
And while Kraft is apparently “excited” about his team that’s being picked by many to finish in last place in the AFC East in 2023, he’ll be rolling out the red carpet for a “special” and “unique” honor for Brady.
Which he deserves. Earned, certainly.
But why did it have to be Week 1? Why did it have to be during this matchup with the loaded Eagles? Why couldn’t it have been later in the season when Jones and Co. had found their footing and established themselves for whatever they may be?
Jones and the entire Patriots organization has said the right things all week. Thrown verbal bouquets toward Brady’s legend. As prepared professionals, we would expect nothing less.
But Sunday will be different story and much different environment.
As fun as it will be for Brady, Kraft, fans and the football-watching world to have the greatest NFL player of all time back in New England, it’s far from ideal for Jones and the Patriots.
Not only does the present QB have to deal with an uncertain offensive line matched up against the best pass rush in the league, but he has to deal with Brady looking down on him, maybe literally and figuratively.
Good luck, Mac. You’re probably going to need it.
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