For 19 years Tom Brady went on WEEI once a week during football seasons. He owned Monday, and sometime Tuesday, mornings.
For the first 12, producer Steve Ciaccio was the one who answered the phone when Brady would call. For the past seven years, it has been Chris Curtis. If anybody knows the peaks and valleys of what was usually the week's most anticipated interview from August through January it is these two. A lot of attentive listening to a lot of good questions asked by interviewers who knew how to ask a lot of good questions.
But talking to both yesterday afternoon after digesting the quarterback's 2-hour, 10-minute back-and-forth with Howard Stern, neither Ciaccio or Curtis could recall hearing that Tom Brady.
It wasn't a coincidence.
"He was out from underneath (Bill) Belichick," noted Curtis. "You hear Tom Brady as Tom Brady the corporation, not Tom Brady the quarterback of the Patriots. That’s what he did today."
This interview was the dividing line. Before Belichick and After Belichick. There is no more room for interpretation. For that we can thank what ultimately was Brady's trampoline into his new existence, the Stern interview.
Sure, some might chalk the whole thing as just a longer Brady interview on a platform he is allowed to talk about swollen genitals with the occasional curse word mixed in. He talked longer, so of course there were going to be fewer answers out of a can. Those who believe that haven't been following along.
This, after all, is the same blueprint he utilized when making the first big shift away from just an occasional Uggs billboard. That came in October 2015.
It was three days after the story in Boston Magazine came out, exposing Brady's guru of well-being Alex Guerrero for some past transgressions. The well-prepared trio of John Dennis, Gerry Callahan and Kirk Minihane dove into the subject during the QB's weekly appearance. Typically the spots would last around 15 minutes. Long story, short, this one went over 40. You remember: "You’ll probably go out and drink Coca-Cola and think, ‘Oh yeah, that’s no problem.’ Why? Because they pay lots of money for advertisements to think that you should drink Coca-Cola for a living? No, I totally disagree with that. And when people do that, I think that’s quackery. And the fact that they can sell that to kids? I mean, that’s poison for kids. But they keep doing it."
That was Tom Brady introducing the new Tom Brady.
"The best interview was Guerrero," Curtis recalled. "Tom at that point viewed it as a game. He was sure of his convictions on the topic and really wanted to use the platform to get the word about what he was doing. It was almost a 40-minute infomercial on his body guru. It was an unprecedented conversation. I think he viewed that as planting the seed of building the TB12 brand."
Wednesday he was unveiling another new version of Brady.
Stern gets high marks for getting previously unsurfaced items from Brady, taking advantage of a willingness to talk for multiple hours along with the time-honored tradition of saving the after-hours items for the interview's home stretch (when any priority to censor had been worn to a nub). The radio giant also had the advantage of being one of the few interviewers Brady might be a bit starry-eyed about. As Curtis pointed out, this was a guy the future Hall of Famer actually viewed as a peer. "I'm the greatest and so are you."
"You have a way ... You make everything special," Brady told Stern at one point.
But make no mistake about it, Stern was a means to an end for Brady.
The former Patriot needed to be officially identified as the current Buccaneer, and this interview was the key to unlock that personality straight jacket some believed represented just as much Brady as it did Belichick. It turns out somebody has been emancipated. After all these years Tommy gets to do an interview with Howard Stern, in April, nonetheless.
He can be asked about booze and weed and marriage counseling and sex and Gronk in the shower and all kinds of stuff without anybody from the Patriots scolding Baba Booey after the interview for such a line of questioning. Remember back in 2011 when the Patriots' PR staff had to reel in Brady's suggestion that fans should get "lubed up" before the game, suggesting he was talking about staying hydrated? Buccaneer Brady needs no such spin.
It started with the farewell Instagram post. Was followed with the take-the-high-road conference call. Then came the Players' Tribune post (sponsored by Under Armour) in which just two of the 2,835 words were "Bill Belichick" and now this.
Maybe people around these parts don't care about such things. We have our version of Tom Brady bottled up for the rest of time. So be it.
Just understand that as of Wednesday's interview, the uniform isn't the only thing that is changing.