The trajectory of Tom Brady’s career would have taken a vastly different arc had it not been for the Tuck Rule game against the Oakland Raiders 15 years ago.
So says Hall of Fame wide receiver Tim Brown, a former Oakland Raider (go figure) who continues to champion the idea that had one particular play in the game been called a fumble, and not an incomplete pass, the Raiders would have won and Brady would not have been New England’s starter the following season.
“I tell people all the time, if Tom Brady would just start out every interview saying ‘I wanna thank the Oakland Raiders,’ I’d be happy and I’d let it go,” Brown said Wednesday on the NFL Network. “But until that day happens, I’m not gonna let it go. Because think about this — if he loses that game, he’s a kid who lost a home game to a West Coast team in the snow. So he’s not starting the next year. Because we were the Raiders, any other team, that game is over. Because it was the Raiders, it took them 12 minutes to come up with an answer.”
In that fateful (for the Raiders at least) 2001 AFC divisional playoff game, with time winding down in the 4th quarter and Oakland up 13-10, an apparent sack of Tom Brady by Charles Woodson caused a fumble that was recovered by Oakland.
Long story, short, the play was reviewed and overturned by officials, who called it an incomplete pass on the basis that Brady had halted his passing motion and was attempting to tuck the ball back into his body when it was jarred loose. The Patriots went on to kick a field goal, send the game into overtime and eventually win it in the extra frame.
It’s a complicated call, but Brown’s argument all these years later is still little more than sour grapes. A similar play earlier that same season went against New England. The exact same scenario saw Vinny Testaverde of the New York Jets fumble the ball as he was attempting to pull it back into his body and it was called an incomplete pass, despite a clear recovery by the Patriots.
As flimsy as the whole Tuck Rule may have been, it really was a rule. And Brown? He may be one of the best players to never win a Super Bowl, but he’s clearly also one of the saltiest about it.