One retired Patriots star thinks Tom Brady Sr.’s incendiary comments this week were simply the words of a loving and misguided father.
Rob Ninkovich, a former Patriots linebacker turned ESPN analyst, explained what he thinks Brady Sr.’s comments to the Boston Herald on Monday, about revered head coach Bill Belichick being on “a hot seat right now,” actually meant.
“Your parents are your biggest fans,” Ninkovich said Thursday on WEEI’s “The Greg Hill Show“. “Your parents no matter what are always going to stick up for you. They are always going to have your back, as they should, right?
“So, I am sure Tom gave Tom Sr. a call like, ‘Hey, pop, come on now. Like, we’re getting to the Super Bowl, I don’t need to have any questions thrown my way in media availability because of the things you’re saying. Let’s just cool down a little bit here.’ But, I love Mr. Brady. He’s a terrific guy. I have been around him a lot. He’s got his son’s back.”
Ninkovich, 36, was selected by New Orleans in the fifth round of the 2006 NFL Draft and made his way to New England in 2009 after brief stints with the Saints and Dolphins. He spent his entire Patriots career alongside Brady, with whom he won two Super Bowl rings. He retired in 2017 and joined ESPN as an NFL analyst in 2019.
Brady, 43, is advancing to his tenth Super Bowl appearance in 21 seasons, having won an unprecedented six Super Bowl rings with the Patriots. His departure for Tampa Bay this offseason prompted many to question whether he would enjoy the same success without Belichick, who had been his only coach in 20 NFL seasons, and conversely, if the Belichick system would succeed without its star signal-caller.
“As far as the hot seat thing, I don’t think he means anything about his job security or anything like that,” Ninkovich said. “It’s just like, Tom goes to the Super Bowl and the Pats look like they have to turn this whole thing around, so all eyes are going to be on the Patriots and how they move forward this offseason. That’s pretty much how I took it.”
The Buccaneers stumbled midseason, but finished strong and posted an 11-5 record, clinching the first NFC wild-card spot. They defeated the Washington Football Team in the wild-card round, the Saints in the divisional round and the Packers in the NFC Championship game and are on a seven-game win streak heading into Super Bowl 2021.
The Brady-less Patriots experienced a different result without a clear heir at quarterback. Jarrett Stidham, a 2019 fourth-round pick from Auburn, had served as a backup for one season and didn’t seem to have Belichick’s trust. Bereft of better options and cap space, the Patriots signed Cam Newton — who was released earlier in the offseason by the Panthers — to a one-year deal. The Patriots struggled and missed the playoffs for the first time since 2008 after finishing 7-9, third place in the division behind the Bills (13-3) and Dolphins (10-6).
Newton, 31, will part ways with the Patriots and become a free agent this offseason.
Brady will face Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs at the Buccaneers’ home stadium in Tampa in Super Bowl 2021 on Sunday, Feb. 7.