Finally, after a long pause that leaned into the oddity of Tom Brady’s brief retirement, we’re going to see the finale in the quarterback’s “Man in the Arena” documentary. Is it going to dig under the fingernails of the past few months or gloss it all over with a manicure?
Given the pause that has gone into this 10th and final episode, it’s hard to believe it will be anything but the latter.
Brady has been nothing but calculated these past few years when it has come to his brand, career and narrative. From his end with the New England Patriots — which seemed to begin inside the Facebook series “Tom vs. Time” — to seemingly every step taken inside and outside the Tampa Bay Buccaneers organization. But the past month has seen the heavily crafted plot whipsaw significantly, with overlapping reports from ProFootballTalk, The Boston Globe, the South Florida Sun-Sentinel and a handful of others. You should know these reports by now. The ones that have outlined a plan with a lot of moving parts, which would have allegedly come together with Brady in a Miami Dolphins uniform in 2022, then landing a stake in ownership down the road.
Some have criticized it all as dot-connecting mythology, despite lacking an alternative timeline that makes Brady’s five-plus weeks of retirement make any sense. The fact is, it all looks more like a spider web than a smattering of dots. And most of it didn’t even get deeply into the granular details that offer the fabric of a complicated plan — like the two supposed Miami targets, Brady and Sean Payton, sharing agent Don Yee, or the serendipity of Brady and wife Gisele Bündchen completing their move to a $17 million Miami estate that’s a half hour from the Dolphins' practice facility and 20 minutes from Hard Rock Stadium.
Remarkable coincidences all around, none of which are likely to get anywhere near the final episode of Brady’s “Man in the Arena”.
So what exactly is supposed to get answered in this grand finale?
Certainly it’s something that could roll out some detailed descriptions and footage of what the hell happened between February and March, when Brady didn’t want to commit himself to football anymore and then suddenly did again. Because there’s dirt under those fingernails and plenty of time to get into all of it. Only, it likely won’t. Instead, what’s more likely to happen is an effort to move Brady out of the zone of anything dicey.
Exit plans? Never. Dicey relationship with a head coach? No way. Never mind if it feels familiar to the end in New England and has the very recognizable fingerprints of a narrative-controlling Tom Brady who is becoming more recognizable by the year.
If anything, the grand finale and bow that ties it all up will dovetail with the fuzzy bow Brady has already tried to put on his semi-retirement. One day he wasn’t feeling the tug of football. A few weeks later he was. Simple as that. Anything else that happened — that weird, dragged-out coaching search in Miami, Brady seeming wishy-washy about his football future almost from the second he retired, Arians stepping aside as head coach in Tampa Bay — that’s the stuff for the editing floor … if you believe it would have ever been considered for a final cut in the first place.
So here’s what the final episode is promising, in a release from ESPN, who is partnering with Brady on the project and has been remarkably quiet on the whole Brady/Dolphins front:
“In episode 10, Brady leaves New England to start a new chapter with the Buccaneers. Joined by former teammate Rob Gronkowski in Tampa Bay, Brady captures his 7th Super Bowl title. As he reflects on life outside of football, Brady shares his hopes of living up to the example set by his hero, his father. The episode features exclusive interviews with Brady, as well as his father Tom Brady Sr. and teammate Rob Gronkowski. The docuseries is co-produced by ESPN, Religion of Sports, 199 Productions, and NFL Films.”
It sounds like a dad-centered episode wrapped in something contemplative and ultimately open-ended. That apparently necessitated a long pause in the season’s rollout to produce. For reasons that likely also won’t have a litany of explanation.
Perhaps it will be more. We’ll see. But when it comes to many of these “documentaries” that are really more of a “miniseries of me, by me, for me” with the centerpiece being the driving partner, something is going to get flushed. Betting money should land on it being most of what really went down in Brady’s offseason about-face.