After the critical acclaim that ESPN’s “The Last Dance” received in 2020, the sports programming powerhouse will hope for similar success when “Man in the Arena: Tom Brady” debuts on ESPN+.
A docuseries airing exclusively on ESPN+, “Man in the Arena” will take the football world by storm on a weekly basis for a span of two months, beginning with the series premiere on Tuesday, November 16.
According to ESPN, “each episode focuses on a single Super Bowl appearance, beginning with Super Bowl XXXVI, the season Brady took over as quarterback for the New England Patriots after star quarterback Drew Bledsoe suffered an injury.”
“The episodes depict not just the pivotal moments, but everything that leads to them, illustrating the series of small steps that seem insignificant at the time, but when reflected upon, show the distance traveled,” ESPN’s PR team wrote.
Brady himself will take center stage throughout the series, getting the same opportunity ESPN gave Michael Jordan to reflect on his historic successes, and some of the losses that impacted the course of his career along the way.
“Man in the Arena is more than a series of career highlights compiled together,” Brady said. “This series shows what an incredible journey it has been for me these past 22 years and the incredible people that have impacted me on this amazing ride. It is an inside look into how this journey has helped shape me into the man I am today.”
With so many topics to discuss and so many interviews with Brady’s family members and former Patriots teammates, “Man in the Arena” will certainly add loads of fuel to the fire surrounding Brady’s departure from New England.
But, which storylines will be the most important for viewers to follow as the series progresses?
Here are five that will undoubtedly stand out:
5. Tom Brady’s most recent Super Bowl loss against the Eagles in Super Bowl LII
So much of this series will be focused on Brady’s Super Bowl wins, and rightfully so. When you’ve won seven of your 10 Super Bowl appearances, the majority of the spotlight should be focused on your successes.
But, some of the most interesting content will undoubtedly come when Brady discusses his Super Bowl losses, especially the more recent ones.
Brady put up some historic numbers in Super Bowl LII against the Philadelphia Eagles, throwing for 505 yards and three touchdowns in the 41-33 loss.
No one can really blame Brady for that loss, outside of those who focus in on his drop on what would’ve been a big-yardage trick play. But, Brady hasn’t talked much about that loss in the past, at least in a candid fashion.
TB12 has owned up to the fact that he doesn’t always say what he’s really thinking when talking to reporters, but has opened up over the last few years since leaving the Patriots.
Now, with the chance to discuss each of his Super Bowl appearances in depth, it wouldn’t be surprising to see some juicy nuggets come out of the episode focused on the Patriots’ 2017 season and their controversial loss in Super Bowl LII.
How did Brady feel about the defense’s performance, or Bill Belichick’s decision to bench star cornerback Malcolm Butler? Did the loss have anything to do with his decision to leave New England after the team’s Super Bowl win a year later?
It won’t come out until later in the show’s tenure, but football fans should clear their calendars for that episode on Super Bowl LII.
4. Tom Brady’s rollercoaster of a 2014 season en route to Super Bowl XLIX
A rough start to the season. “We’re on to Cincinnati.” A bounce-back game on Sunday Night Football, and a subsequent run to the playoffs.
An all-time Divisional Round battle with the Baltimore Ravens. A blowout win in the AFC Championship game against the Indianapolis Colts.
An instant classic in Super Bowl XLIX against the Seattle Seahawks, capped off by the infamous Malcolm Butler interception at the goal line to seal it for the Patriots.
So much has been said about that 2014 season for the Patriots, both by the players and the team’s coaching staff. There was an “America’s Game” documentary about the season, and the Patriots came out with a “Do Your Job” documentary to highlight the franchise’s coaches, as well.
But, Brady wasn’t involved in either of those endeavors, and hasn’t really had the opportunity to go in-depth on that Super Bowl specifically in recent years.
Who knows how much they will discuss in a documentary that Brady himself set in motion? But, it will be impossible to avoid the controversies that popped up throughout that postseason when an entire episode is dedicated to that Super Bowl run.
3. Tom Brady’s first Super Bowl loss against the Giants
Brady has joked about his Super Bowl losses against Eli Manning and the Giants in the past, and loves to mention how his resume would look if the Manning family didn’t have any sons in the 1970s and 1980s.
But, as much as Brady jokes about it all, his first Super Bowl loss against the Giants is undoubtedly one of the biggest downers of his career.
It’s tough not to cringe when thinking about an undefeated season that gets thwarted in the final quarter of a dominant 19-game stretch, and the history that could’ve been achieved if Eli Manning didn’t escape a sack before connecting with David Tyree for the infamous “Helmet Catch.”
So, focusing on that loss for an entire episode of a docuseries will definitely be tough for Brady, especially the more outspoken version of TB12.
Hearing Brady’s honest thoughts about his record-breaking season up until that Super Bowl and the historic loss that ended it all on a sour note will be riveting TV.
Add in the announcement that Gisele Bundchen, Brady’s wife, was interviewed for the series, and the fact that she was caught on video saying “My husband can not [expletive] throw the ball and catch the ball at the same time,” and there will be lots to talk about here.
2. Tom Brady’s run to Super Bowl LV with the Buccaneers
Of course, it’ll be intriguing to hear Brady’s take on his most recent Super Bowl run with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
After nine Super Bowl appearances with the Patriots, TB12 shocked the world when he announced that he would be leaving New England and taking his talents to Tampa Bay in pursuit of a seventh ring.
Fast forward a few months, and Brady found himself playing in his 10th Super Bowl and hoisting the Lombardi Trophy for the seventh time.
Brady didn’t appear in the Bucs’ “America’s Game” episode about their Super Bowl run, and will finally get the chance to reflect on his latest triumph.
The docuseries’ creation was announced before Brady’s Super Bowl LV victory against the Kansas City Chiefs, so it may not go into much detail about the win. But, all signs point to the series running 10 episodes, which would include the quarterback’s latest appearance, as well.
Between the difficulty that comes with learning a new system in your 21st season in the league, let alone in the midst of a global pandemic, and the apparent knee injury that Brady was battling for the majority of the year, this one will be one of the more revealing episodes of the bunch.
1. Tom Brady’s relationship with Bill Belichick
Without question, the biggest talking point about “Man in the Arena” will be Tom Brady’s historic relationship with Patriots head coach Bill Belichick.
Between the 2000 NFL Draft and Super Bowl LIII, Brady and Belichick’s paths aligned perfectly. They won six Super Bowls together, made it to nine total, advanced to countless AFC Championship games, and took home AFC East titles in all but three seasons together.
But, like any couple, there was bound to be turmoil between the dynamic duo over the course of the two decades they spent together, and it was discussed heavily throughout Brady’s time in New England.
A plethora of articles and books were written about the alleged drama, but Brady and Belichick have pretty much denied everything since the former left New England in 2020.
Now, Brady will get the chance to discuss his tenure with Belichick in-depth, and set the record straight in a very public way throughout the docuseries’ duration.
Belichick isn’t listed as an interview subject in ESPN’s press release for the series, so it seems like there will only be one side of the story.
But, it may allow Brady to be more open about the positives (and negatives) that happened throughout his time playing for one of the sport’s greatest coaches of all time.