BY Art Thiel 06:00AM 03/18/2020

Thiel: Brady, Sherman share more than a meme

Richard Sherman hooked up Tom Brady in a memorable meme from 2012. Their careers also had a parallel track: They wore out their legendary coaches.

in 2012, Richard Sherman doctored up and tweeted out a photo of two guys who figured they were bigger than their franchises. / Associated Press via Sherman Twitter account

U mad, bro?

That was Richard Sherman’s semi-immortal post-game query to Tom Brady after the Seahawks beat the Patriots, 24-23, at the Clink in 2012, a game that created national notice that the team from South Alaska might have a little something going on.

Never mind that Sherman, who intercepted a Brady pass, thought of the question later, after he saw the post-game photo of the pair, then posted the paste-on quote to his Twitter account. Legends often transcend facts.

Nearly eight years later, the meme takes on a fresh glint as new light enters the prism. Although some circumstances are different, Brady left the Patriots in large measure for the same reasons Sherman left the Seahawks.

They wore out the boss. The boss wore them out.

They mad, bros. Time to blow town.

While a season-ending injury gave the Seahawks some cover to jettison Sherman after his contract year, it was plain before the 2017 season that he was sideways with coach Pete Carroll and and general manager John Schneider.

How pissed were the bosses with his high-profile insubordination? At the scouting combine, they openly admitted taking trade offers for Sherman. They never go public with something like that. Apparently, the threat to toss Sherman into some NFL ashcan was enough to bring their star provocateur to heel for half a season.

In New England, once Brady a year ago didn’t get a contract extension, he went into the 2019 season a dead man walking. The QB and his coach, Bill Belichick, always had nearly as much tension as success. Once the season played out with a first-round playoff exit and Brady looking his 42 years, the merciless Belichick was done, and Brady was done with him.

With Belichick, the historic achievements over their 20 years together meant little. It’s why the joke about Belichick’s numbing post-game rhetoric, “We’re on to Cincinnati,” reveals some truth. The laser focus that makes him so great as a coach also makes him an intolerable asshole.

So even though Brady’s Wednesday morning farewell on social media was a shocker to fans, it wasn’t really a surprise. All the reporting out of Boston said that owner Robert Kraft left the decision to Belichick, who responded to Brady with the vivaciousness of a dial tone.

Although none of the parties in Seattle or Boston likely will own up to the real conflicts among egos at the sports pinnacle, they are often the facts of sports life, as well as in the executive suites of many businesses. The combined pressures of spotlights, media, money and adoration are crushers.

The real surprise is that the ferociously competitive tandem lasted 20 years. Of all their feats together, survival is the most remarkable.

The immutable factor in the sports relationship is, of course, age.

Particularly with quarterbacks, acknowledgement of increasing vulnerability is anathema for the great ones. From Johnny Unitas to Joe Namath to Joe Montana to Brett Favre to Peyton Manning, the relationship with the team brought to glory inevitably crumbles, and the aging hero moves on to find another village to save from dragons.

Relationships get exhausted even more quickly among coaches and managers. Here in Seattle, the best manager in Mariners history, Lou Piniella, wore out his bosses. He was traded to Tampa because he wore out CEO Howard Lincoln, who wore out Piniella. So too for the best coach in Sonics history, George Karl, whose drama with president Wally Walker somehow hasn’t turned into a documentary on TMZ.

Speaking of Tampa, the unexpected twist in the Brady story is that he is going to a moribund franchise, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, that hasn’t been to the playoffs since 2007 and was 7-9 last year behind Jameis Winston’s 33 touchdown passes and 30 interceptions (he’s now a free agent). The brothers of the Seahawks in the NFL’s 1976  expansion, the Bucs have a lifetime .387 win percentage — worst among the four major North American sports leagues.

What Brady discovered was there’s not a big market for 43-year-old temps, even the GOAT.  Especially after it was learned that he wanted to stay on the East Coast to remain nearer his son, John, 12, who lives in New York with his mother, Bridget Moynahan, the candidate teams dwindled.

So he and the Bucs are expected to announce sometime Wednesday that Brady will join “quarterback whisperer” coach Bruce Arians, who has worked with Ben Roehlisberger, Andrew Luck, Carson Palmer and Winston. As affable as Belichick is taciturn, Arians couldn’t be a more different coach than the only one Brady has known in the NFL.

Brady figures to be thrilled. The hope is that he has more in the tank than Franco Harris, Jerry Rice and Patrick Ewing had in their last stops in Seattle.

As great coaches from Red Auerbach to Al Davis to Phil Jackson to Joe Maddon have said about themselves regarding making demands on the same star for a long time, the voice wears thin. To which Carroll and Belichick would say, amen.


  • woofer

    Arians has some skill with coaxing performance out of vintage quarterbacks, plus getting Brady provides cover for giving up on Winston. The Bucs have receivers. Old bodies stay looser in balmy weather. It’s a longshot but might work.

    • art thiel

      Brady didn’t have much choice. But if anyone can do a Peyton, it’s him.

  • WestCoastBias79

    The Bucs actually makes sense, Arians adjusts gamelans and works with his QB’s, they have probably the best WR tandem in football, and a good O-Line. However, playing in a division that actually has good teams in it will be an adjustment for Brady. Having to play Matt Ryan, Drew Brees and Teddy Bridgewater twice a year is going to be much different than Sam Darnold, Josh Allen and whoever Miami is rolling out next year.

    • 1coolguy

      Isn’t it amazing how that division has SUCKED for so long? Every year Belichick and Kraft must pop the champagne and praise god for their good fortune.

      • art thiel

        Did you see the video of the Buffalo mayor warning Bills fans not to party in big crowds? They’ve been waiting for two decades for this day, then COVID-19 . . .

    • art thiel

      Bucs could be improved and finish 8-8 because of the division.

  • 1coolguy

    Great column Art – many aspects that brought back many memories.
    George Karl – Wally Walker – I fault Ackerly for keeping Walker over Karl, clearly the coach who had great success – I’ll never figure out how Walker stayed on, with both Ackerly and then Schultz – was he married to the right person? Maybe he had the “film negatives” as leverage? Never could figure out his tenure. What’s your take on Walker over Karl, Art?

    As to Moynahan, one reason I watch Blue Bloods as she is very easy on the eyes (too bad PC types), and I didn’t know she and Brady had a child.

    Arians has been referred to as the QB Whisperer and as you showed, the list he has coached all did very well under his tutelage. Some had their best years with him.

    The interesting story on the Bucs/Brady talk is last year is they went 7-9, even with Winston throwing 30 INT’s!!! They lost 7 (seven) games by 7 or less. So given 30 INT’s and still coming within 7 points in 7 games, how many of those games would Brady have won? 4 would have made them an 11-5 team and in the playoffs.
    If nothing else, signing Brady will do wonders for the Bucs ticket sales and I’ll put money on their getting more TV games.

    • Husky73

      I always thought George Karl could round up five guys from a rec center, coach them for two weeks, and be competitive in whatever league there was. His ego was enormous and his smirk even larger. But, the man could coach…..until his team and others just couldn’t take him any more.

      • art thiel

        True. He was one of the most remarkable characters I’ve come across in sports.

      • LarryLurex70

        I liked him here, too. But, like Ackerley said: where are the rings?

    • art thiel

      Thanks. Regarding Walker, he was Ackerley’s guy, and Karl was hard to work with, often self-destructive. Ackerley and Walker were corporate guys who color within the lines, and Karl was a scribbler. Plus Tar Heel vs, Wahoo. Really. It mattered to George.

      Good point about the Bucs, whom I’m sure made the same points with Brady.

      Also: The Super Bowl is in Tampa. TB takes TB to the SB. The marketing gods have spoken.

  • Husky73

    Bill B is in a category by himself, but Arians is in the next tier as a nasty guy. Brady isn’t exactly trading up.

    • art thiel

      I think Brady will find Arians much more pliable.

  • jafabian

    I’m intrigued at how long Bill stays with the Patriots. He was against Garropolo being traded and currently has Cody Kessler and 2019 4th round draftee Jarrett Stidham at QB. Philip Rivers is off the market. I’m sure the Patriots want to prove they aren’t the New England Bradys but they’re due for a down season. The entire AFC, especially the AFC East, are salivating because they now have a better than ever before shot at moving up in the playoffs. I’m wondering how long before the Patriots will need a new head coach.

    • art thiel

      Belichick is inscrutable. But I think the fire burns to prove it wasn’t Brady that was the main man behind six Lombardis. Maybe he’ll want to try with another Brady backup, Brissett.

      • LarryLurex70

        It’ll be interesting to see what happens with Brissett now in Indianapolis with Rivers on just a 1-year deal.