Tom Brady and the Las Vegas Raiders will eternally be connected because of a pivotal piece of history: The Tuck Rule Game. This moment led to Brady establishing himself as one of the greatest players to ever play the game while it set the wheels in motion for what turned into one of the most futile times in history of the Silver and Black.
Brady and the New England Patriots established themselves as an unstoppable force in the NFL for two decades, but they did so with a constant target on their back. This used to be the role of the Raiders teams of old, and now, as Brady and the Patriots part, the Raiders have a chance to reclaim their title as the NFL’s villains.
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Raider Nation and Brady became enemies in the infamous Tuck Rule game all the way back in 2001. The game is arguably a moment that changed the Raiders landscape forever, with its effects still being felt to this day.
Brady was just a second-year quarterback playing behind longtime franchise cornerstone Drew Bledsoe. Brady wasn’t even supposed to start after Bledsoe signed a ten-year, $100 million contract in 2001. However, the 1993 first overall pick would only see the field twice after linebacker Mo Lewis effectively ended his season.
Some might argue if Brady had lost that game, Bledsoe would have claimed back the starting job the following season. Instead, the sixth round pick led his team to the first of six Super Bowl wins and Bledsoe was traded to the Bills.
That wasn’t the only trade at the time. Al Davis decided to send his young head coach over to the Buccaneers. The Raiders still made it to the Super Bowl under Bill Callahan’s direction – against none other than Gruden himself. However, quarterback Rich Gannon himself has said that the team didn’t even change up the verbiage of the playbook, meaning Gruden knew their every move.
Since that 2002 Super Bowl season, the Raiders have had one winning season. Meanwhile, Brady and the Patriots have arguably established the most dominant dynasty in sports history. But one can’t help but wonder what could have been different had the Raiders won that game. Gruden is now back with the team, but he may well have never left if he had come out of 2001 with a Super Bowl win.
A Paradoxical Relationship
Since that day, Brady and the Patriots have become villains to the Raiders and basically to the entire league. Many joke about the Patriots being the evil empire, coming up with names like “Darth Hoodie” for New England’s head coach. They are the team everyone loves to hate, as basically everybody in football tries to bring them down by any means necessary. This has led to the team being involved in scandals such as Spygate, and Deflate, the latter of which involved Brady himself.
Yet, this goes completely contradictory to what the Raiders represent. They are the villains. They are the ones people are supposed to hate. It goes back to Al Davis’ catchphrase – Just Win Baby. The Raiders are supposed to be the renegades of the league. In the past, they had players with nicknames like Snake, The Assassin, and Dr. Death. Gruden seemed like the perfect head coach for the team, with his “Chucky” sneer and larger-than-life demeanor.
Perhaps that fateful day, Brady and his team stole that persona from the Raiders. Now, the team has a chance to get it back.
Flirting with the Enemy
All good things must come to an end. Brady’s 20 seasons with the Patriots is a milestone that will be tough for any player to match. Even before the year ended, there was talk that the Raiders could try to pursue Brady. On the surface, it didn’t make a lot of sense. Brady is one of the most hated league figures by Raider Nation. To join forces with the player who basically changed the fortune of the organization seemed ludicrous.
Until it didn’t. Perhaps it was the Raiders’ attempt at getting back some of their old persona – their old mystique. With Gruden back to the team, it almost made sense to bring in the man who got him traded in the first place. In the end, there was nothing to it, with the Raiders never officially even making an offer. But they also never shut it down. They let the rumor circulate and gain steam as the rest of the NFL wondered what Chucky had in mind for the team’s first year in their new home. All was going according to plan.
A New Beginning
No doubt it will be weird to see Brady play in another uniform for the first time in his career. And as many wonder if he still has it, others will look to the Patriots and Bill Belichick to see what plans they have post-Brady.
It’s also a chance for the Silver and Black to establish a new identity for themselves – or perhaps, reestablish one they lost almost two decades ago. Now in Sin City, the team will play in an obsidian stadium that some fans are already giving nicknames like “The Death Star” to.
In reality, the NFL needs a villain, and there just might be an opening for one with the candle for Brady and his Patriots dynasty flickering out. Fans can only hope Gruden and company seize their opportunity.
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