When someone stole Tom Brady's lunch money, he always made them pay it back with interest.
But now, that mentality feels like it's been replaced with a "whatever will be, will be" approach to the game. When he loses, there's a melancholy, "c'est la vie" reaction on his face.
Sometimes they steal your lunch money, sometimes they don't. That feels like the new mantra.
But, it's worse than that.
Even when Brady wins, he gets bogged down in fulfilling the rigors of the Patriot Way. He's always on his best behavior, always too quiet, always non-revealing, always a bit solemn, always a blank slate.
These elements add up to create the image of a guy who is vulnerable and beatable. His enemies use these perceptions to gain a psychological advantage over him, ridding them of fear and boosting their confidence.
But why should these perceptions exist at all? Brady made his reputation as a bloodthirsty winner who controlled his own destiny with an iron fist. Sure, he's older and wiser now, but I refuse to believe that his mean steak has been totally stamped out by the wisdom that age brings.
Brady is the only guy in history who can be mentioned in the same breath as Joe Montana. This man doesn't inspire confidence in his enemies; he inspires fear. This is the true reputation which should define Brady.
But this reputation has been taken from him.
He'll only win it back with force, not with diplomacy.
Right now, it feels like victories can be wrestled away from Brady. He needs to change that perception.
He already dipped his body in the fountain of youth. Now, he needs to dip his mean streak in it.