Retired quarterback Tom Brady appeared on ESPN earlier this week and said that play in the NFL has regressed since his playing days. Brady blamed rule changes and other personnel decisions for what he called “mediocrity.”

“I think there’s a lot of mediocrity in today’s NFL. I don’t see the excellence that I saw in the past,” Brady told ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith during a broadcast Monday.

Brady, a seven-time Super Bowl winner with the New England Patriots and Tampa Bay Buccaneers, went on to explain that he believed that several issues were diminishing the quality of play. Because he only retired in 2022 after 23 seasons, it is unclear if Brady was referring to a previous era or if the league had already begun regressing while he was still on the field.

“I think the coaching isn’t as good as it was,” Brady said. “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.”

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Retired wide receiver Calvin Johnson responded to Brady’s comments, saying that he agreed and could not “stray far” from what the quarterback had said. Johnson, a 2021 Hall of Fame inductee, played for the Detroit Lions from 2007 to 2015.

“What I’m going to say is that it’s such a physical game, so it’s hard to say it’s softer,” Johnson said. “But it’s not as hardcore, I feel like, as when I was playing. … I mean, to his point, I would like to see the skill level, guys using their hands a little bit more.”

Brady’s comments, echoed by Johnson, are familiar and have been talking points around the league for some time. The NFL has attempted to institute rules to ensure better protection for players, though these rules have come under fire as well for making the game less competitive.

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