The 2023 NFL season has been a little lackluster in some ways.
There are no dominant or unstoppable teams. There are no major records on the brink of falling. Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes is the league's best player, but his offense has struggled more this season than at any point in his career.
Scoring is down, too, which not only makes the sport less entertaining overall, it also makes things like fantasy football less fun.
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"I think there's a lot of mediocrity in today's NFL. I don't see the excellence that I saw in the past," former Patriots quarterback Tom Brady said Monday on The Stephen A. Smith Show.
"I think the coaching isn't as good as it was. I don't think the development of young players is as good as it was. I don't think the schemes are as good as they were. The rules have allowed a lot of bad habits to get into the actual performance of the game. So I just think the product in my opinion is less than what it's been."
Brady views certain rule changes as one reason for the mediocrity of today's game.
"Guys are competitive. Guys played hard. I look at a lot of players like Ray Lewis and Rodney Harrison and Ronnie Lott and guys that impacted the game in a certain way, and every hit they would have made would have been a penalty," Brady said. "You hear coaches complaining about their own player being tackled and not necessarily -- why don't they talk to their player about how to protect himself? How to get rid of the ball. How to run out of bounds. How to lower your pad level. We used to work on the fundamentals of those things all the time. Now they're trying to be regulated all the time.
"Offensive players need to protect themselves. It's not up to a defensive player to protect an offensive player. A defensive player needs to protect himself. You shouldn't ask the offensive player to protect him. I think a lot of the way that the rules have come into play have allowed this -- you can essentially play carefree and then if anyone hits you hard, there's a penalty. And it's very different than how I played. I didn't throw the ball to certain areas because I was afraid players would get knocked out. That's the reality."
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Another issue Brady identified is the lack of development at the college level.
"I actually think college players were better prepared when I came out than they are now," he said. "Just because so many coaches are changing programs, and I would say there's not even a lot of college programs anymore. There's a lot of college teams, but not programs that are developing players.
"So as they get delivered to the NFL, they may be athletic, but they don't have much of the skills developed to be a professional. When I played at Michigan, I essentially played at a college program that was very similar to a pro environment. When I see these different players come in, they're not quite as prepared as they were, and I think the game has shown that over the last 12 to 13 years. I think things have slipped a little bit."
A counterargument to the mediocrity point would be that there's more parity in today's game, and that this is a positive.
The Eagles don't look unbeatable as the NFC's top team. All of the division leaders in the AFC -- Chiefs, Jaguars, Ravens and Dolphins -- have serious flaws. This opens the door for a bunch of different teams to potentially get hot late in the season and win the Super Bowl. Just one of the last 10 Super Bowl matchups didn't include Brady, Mahomes or Peyton Manning. Getting some new blood in the game could make it interesting.
But people love superstars and they love dominant teams. They also love scoring. And as frustrating as it is to not have these things in pro football right now, it's hard to imagine the sport suffering a significant drop in interest or viewership as a result.