In a recent episode of his “Let’s Go” podcast, Tom Brady, the seven-time Super Bowl champion, expressed his discontent with the evolving state of the NFL, suggesting that the league is becoming too soft. Brady pointed out the increasing number of penalties for physical plays that would not have been flagged in past eras.
“Football is a physical sport. There’s a physical element to all of this,” Brady remarked. “You throw a 15-yard flag for something that, you know, 20 years ago maybe wouldn’t have had a flag. That affects the game in a big way.”
The specific play in question is the hip-drop tackle, which the NFL is considering eliminating, further complicating the life of defenders.
Brady also raised the idea that there is a growing sentiment among those who prefer a less physical form of the sport, likening it to flag football, which is set to feature in the Olympics in 2028. He pondered whether football might transition toward a more flag-football-like style over time.
Remarkably, Brady’s former teammate, Rob Gronkowski, had an interesting perspective on the matter. Gronk noted the irony in Brady’s complaints about the current NFL rulebook, considering how often Brady benefited from it.
“I mean, it was already flag football for you, brother,” Gronkowski stated in an interview on the “Up and Adams” show. “Some of those calls for you last year, they barely touched you, especially the call with the Atlanta Falcons. They were getting a 15-yard roughing the passer penalty.”
Gronk’s recollection even included a specific play from the previous season when Brady was awarded a penalty flag that appeared questionable. In a crucial moment in the game, Brady was sacked for a loss by Grady Jarrett, but the Buccaneers received a first down after Jarrett was penalized for roughing the passer. This penalty allowed Tampa Bay to run out the clock and secure a 21-15 victory.
Gronkowski offered a playful critique, suggesting that Brady’s retirement was influencing his complaints: “All the rules go in your favor, Tom. You’re not playing anymore. That’s why you’re saying that.”
While Gronkowski may not consider Brady the ideal messenger for concerns about the softening of the NFL, he did concur with his former teammate, sharing the sentiment that the league is becoming too soft.
“It’s getting too soft,” Gronk admitted, specifically expressing his disagreement with the potential outlawing of the hip-drop tackle. “I just think it’s making the game more soft. You barely see it, and if a guy is in that position and that’s the only way you can take someone down, then you got to do it. … The NFL is just getting too soft now.”
Given Gronk’s extensive experience as a 6-foot-6 tight end, he endured his fair share of physicality from defensive players during his career. Consequently, his support for the defensive side of the argument regarding a potential ban on a specific tackling technique adds an interesting perspective to the ongoing debate about the NFL’s rule changes and player safety.