It’s true what they say about life “ Cherish every moment, because you may never see it or get that opportunity again.” Well, when it comes to the greats of our lifetime they manage to get lightning to strike twice.
Jordan and Kobe always seemed to be trusted to make the last shot, Jimmie Johnson behind the wheel of a NASCAR race car was also bet on to win it no matter the situation. And even with big brands like Apple and Amazon; we have a unnatural belief that they will deliver every time.
That’s the type of faith And belief Brady was able to foster. From the Fans to his teammates, and even from the opponents across the field. He had the unnatural ability to make you believe that he will get it done.
But it wasn’t always like that. No, this belief comes from years of blood, sweat, and tears. Years of offseason training, years of dedicating your life to proving those who looked over you wrong. And years of delivering on self made internal promises to himself that the chip on his shoulder from being the 6th round draft pick out of Michigan who didn’t fully start his senior year of college will always remain.
But let’s take you back, back to when a skinny kid out of San Mateo, California began his long and seemingly everlasting march to greatness.
The Early Years
It’s 1981, the San Francisco 49ers with Joe Montana and Jerry Rice are playing in the infamous NFC Championship game against the Dallas Cowboys. The game where “The Catch” was made by Dwight Clark at Candlestick Park. A 4 year old Tom Brady was in the stand watching his idol Joe Montana throw a pass that would take the 49ers to the Super Bowl. A moment in time for sure, but a precursor to what we would see from the kid in the stands 20 years later.
Fast forward to high school where the chip on Brady’s shoulder started to form. I’m high school, Brady played football, basketball, and baseball. The latter of which would be his best sport at the time. Most of the people around Brady at the time thought it would be baseball that would take him to his future. In 95’, Brady was drafted in the 18th round of the MLB Draft to the Montreal Expos.
Football at the time was a battle for Brady early on. When he was on the junior varsity football team at Junípero Serra High, Brady was the back up quarterback for an 0-8 team that didn’t score a touchdown all season. It wouldn’t be until Brady was a Junior in high school where he would secure the starting spot on the varsity team. Brady would finish his career as an All-American with over 3,000 yards passing and 31 touchdowns.
Unlike today’s recruiting cycle, in Brady’s era there was a lot more leg work needed in order to get notice. Brady would put together some film of his play and send it to schools he was interested in. While Cal was the family favorite to land Brady, it would be Loyd Carr and the Maize & Blue of the Michigan Wolverines that would land the California prospect.
Michigan wasn’t all sunshine and rainbows like California. Brady wasn’t the go to guy like he had worked hard to become for his high school. There was the starter quarterback Brian Griese, back-up Scott Dreisbach, and Jason Carr. Brady would have to work his way back to the top. Just like in high school, Brady would have to wait until his junior year to get his opportunity. He would start every game that year, but by the time the year was over he would have to battle sophomore quarterback Drew Henson to start his senior year.
Brady and Henson would battle it out to start the 99′ season. It took until week 6 for Brady to separate himself as the clear cut starter. There were a few games that would be precursors to what would define Brady’s entire career. During his battle with Henson, week 5 of his senior year the Wolverines would trail most of the game under Henson. Brady would lead a 18 point comeback to only come up short. A few weeks later, Brady would lead the Wolverines to a huge comeback against Penn State. But most would consider his triumph over Alabama in the Orange Bowl that year as his finest performance. Brady would then take his talents to the NFL. Hoping the work he had done that year would give him enough credibility to be an early round draft pick.
2000 NFL Draft
If the term overlooked had a photo in a dictionary, Tom Brady’s face would be right next to it. Let’s be honest, Brady at the NFL combine did not look the part. He also didn’t win the starting job for Michigan until week 6 of his senior year. You can see why scouts, GMs, and coaches had their reservations about Brady.
Once again Brady was overlooked. It wouldn’t be until the 6th round and 199 picks into the draft when Brady would be taken off the board. Unknown to the New England Patriots that the 199th pick would become the greatest quarterback to ever play the game.
To start, the odds for a 6th round pick to make an NFL roster is between 30-35% chance of making it. Brady came in as the 4th quarterback on the depth chart; some teams don’t even keep three. Again, Brady would have to make the climb to the top, but only this time he would have to beat out a future hall of fame QB Drew Bledsoe. Drew had just signed a major contract extension in the offseason Brady was drafted in. There was no indication that Brady would become who he became.
Going into the 2001 season, the expectations was that Bledsoe would return to form. he would lead the Patriots to at least the playoffs, but on September 23, 2001 week 2 of the NFL season, the day that will live on in history, Tom Brady would come in for Drew Bledsoe after a devastating hit. Brady would never see back up duty again.
The Jets would win that September meeting, but they would rue the day they handed Brady the league. Brady would finish his career against the Jets 29-7 all-time. The Patriots would begin the 2001 season 1-4,, bout finish 11-5 on the regular season. From that point on, Brady would lead the Patriots through the playoffs. One of the most controversial wins in Brady’s career would happen in the first game of his playoff career. With a 1:50 seconds left in the game, down by 3. Tom Brady’s college teammate Charles Woodson would come on a corner blitz and force a would be fumble on Brady. After a review of the play, the refs called it an incomplete pass instead. Brady would lead the Patriots into field goal range where kicker Adam Vinatieri would hit 1 of 2 big kicks that playoff year.
The Patriots go on to win the Super Bowl in overtime. The Tuck Rule was put into question from that day forward.
Super bowl 36 vs St. Louis Rams
The Greatest show on turf is what the Rams were known for. Kurt Warner lead an explosive offense. The Rams were the team that was suppose to be there, and the Patriots were the lucky to be there. The Rams came in as 14 point favorites. A tall task for the second year quarterback who wasn’t suppose to play much this year.
At 17 all going into the last 1:50 seconds of the game. Tom Brady was called to lead the Patriots to a miracle.
Super bowl 38 & 39
Brady would lead the Patriots to a dynasty with wins over the Carolina Panthers in super bowl 38 and Philadelphia Eagles in 39. Brady, in just 6 short years as a pro, had won 3 Super Bowls and was destined for Canton, OH. No one would or even could have guessed that Brady had 4 more rings and 7 more super bowl appearances to go before he called it a career.
Brady vs Payton Manning
The greatest NFL quarterback rivalry began the first time Tom Brady got his first start. Brady would win that match-up 44-13 over Manning and the Colts. That game was mainly the Patriots defense causing Manning problems. They would force 3 interceptions in that first match-up. 10-4 all-time against Manning, but 3-2 in the AFC Conference Championship game. For awhile, if you were going to get to a super bowl coming out of the AFC, you would have to go through either Brady or Manning to get you one.
The Final 4
Brady had started his career better than any player could have dreamed. He had won 3 super bowls in his first 6 years in the NFL. As great as the dynasty run to start his career was, it would be how he finished that would be the most impressive. Brady would go on to cement himself as the greatest of all time in his final 7.
It had been 10 years since Brady had raised up the Vince Lombardi trophy. Some began to winder how great could he be if he hasn’t returned to the top. Brady had played in 2 Super Bowls before the match-up against the vaunted Seahawks and the legion of boom.
In both super bowl match-ups against the Giants, Brady would come up short. In one of those games the Patriots came in 18-0; looking to complete the greatest season in modern football history.
In Super Bowl 49, Tom Brady and the Patriots would began to stake their claim as the greatest franchise in NFL history. The Seahawks came in as the defending super bowl champions. It was a back and forth game that relied heavily on the defensive plays made on both sides in key moments. Brady would throw 2 interceptions.
Although he had thrown 2 interceptions, Brady had also thrown 4 touchdowns and 328 yards in the games. A 4th quarter comeback and a huge play by the division 2 undrafted free agent out of University of West Alabama Malcolm Butler would be enough to win Brady his 4th Super Bowl.
A game decided by the a defensive miracle in Brady’s 4th championship ring, this super bowl match-up would go down as the greatest comeback in NFL super bowl history. Brady and the Patriots would go down 28-3 mid way into the 3rd quarter. The Goat would lead an incredible comeback in the 4th quarter to stun the Atlanta Falcons. Tom would capture the 5th super bowl in overtime.
Rams vs Patriots part 2
Unknown to us, but this would be Brady’s last ride with the Patriots in the super bowl. The Patriots were a shell of who they were in previous Super Bowls. The team was aging and wasn’t as agile as before. Brady wouldn’t do as much h damage through the air as he did in previous Super Bowls. The Patriots held the ball and ran well to keep the Rams offense off the field. With a few breaks, the Patriots walked out with their 6th super bowl win. It’s remarkable to think that a guy drafted in the 6th round and the 4th quarterback on the depth chart would win the most Super Bowls out of any player in NFL history.
The Patriot Way
Equally important, Tom Brady’s rise to the top is what helped him and Bill Belichick create the “Patriot Way.” Again, I said Belichick and Brady helped create the “Patriot Way.” This phrase is known around the NFL as the as being the DNA of the New England Patriots. Hard, tough, no excuses, win at all cost, and last but not least, do your job.
Furthermore, most veterans who joined the Patriots inside of Tom Brady’s 22 year run used it as a chance to win a Super Bowl. They knew that the Patriot Way had a higher chance of them getting to the ultimate prize in football. But who is more responsible for the Patriot Way?
Belichick or Brady
For the most part, the Brady-Belichick era felt more like the saying used by Will Smith and Martin Lawrence in the Bad Boys Trilogy; “We ride together, we die together, Bad Boys for life.” The two legends won big together, loss big together, and dodge controversy together. From Spy-gate to Deflate-gate, they fought through it all. Their stories are intertwined and you can’t create one without the other.
Although, Belichick did not take the field and go under center, it was his defenses that held some of the greatest offenses at bey. On most occasions, the Patriots defense were in the top-5 year in and year out. On the other hand, Brady was able to do a lot with so much less on offense. The Patriots kept a great offensive line, but were typically weak at the skilled positions. Belichick wasn’t the greatest at drafting ready made players. Most of Tom Brady’s receiving core consisted of late round or undrafted free agents and cast offs from other teams. For example, Julian Edelman; one of Brady’s favorite targets was a college quarterback converted into a slot receiver. It took years to develop the Edelman.
Belichick vs Brady
Again, the Patriot Way was created and followed through by Belichick and Brady. The controversy between the two came when Brady was done with the Patriot Way. Brady has always been able to take the shot Belichick had thrown at him during practice or meetings, but after so many year Brady was done with that. For the most part, as long as the Patriots were doing what it take to win Brady was ok. After the loss to the Eagles in Super Bowl LII, Brady knew he was on the last ride with the Patriots once his contract was up. At 43-years old, Brady needed more than what he had. With the culture of the Patriots getting old, Brady pushed forward to go after a team that would allow him to continue his dominance over the league.
Although short lived, Brady was able to bring the same kind of star power and respect to Tampa. Like most new beginnings the transition to the Bucs wasn’t easy. As expected, Brady rewired the culture in Tampa. Players were excited to play with the GREATEST OF ALL TIME, but it was the coaches that needed to buy in. Brady and Bruce Arians had two different styles in philosophy that needed to be merged together if the Bucs were ever to win a Super Bowl. By the time week 14 rolled around, the Bucs would start their run at a title. Brady and the Bucs would win eight straight to capture the Super Bowl. The Bucs would go through the Saints and Drew Brees, the Packers and Aaron Rodgers, and the Chiefs and Patrick Mahomes.
Some consider that run through all-time great quarterbacks one of Brady’s finest moments. In just one season, Brady brought some of the Patriots Way to Tampa. The work ethic and the undoubted belief that every game they go into they can win regardless of the odds. 2021 would see Brady and the Bucs come up short against the eventual Super Bowl champions Los Angeles Rams in the divisional round. And on February 1, 2022, Tom “The Goat” Brady would announce his retirement.
After 22-years of dominance over the NFL, you would think that it was a very long career; but in a way it feels like it was cut short. We will always wonder if The Goat had anymore left in the tank. Anymore magic that he could deliver in another clutch moment. But what was left for him to accomplish? Maybe rush for 1,000 yards like quarterbacks Mike Vick and Lamar Jackson, or maybe lead the Super Bowl-less Detroit Lions to the promise land. We’re left with the maybes and the what ifs, but that’s a testament to Brady’s greatness. Brady made you and everyone else in the NFL believe that anything can happen because he could make it happen.
A 6th round pick, out of the University of Michigan, where he had to share time as the starter his senior year. The guy who was 4th on the depth chart coming into the league. The guy who backed up quarterback Drew Bledsoe and only got his shot because Bledsoe would suffer a life threatening injury during the week 2 game in 2001. The guy with 7 Super Bowl wins out of 10 appearances.
Tom Brady, the GOAT, we thank you and will miss seeing you create magic on Sunday.