By: Russ Goldman
I had the pleasure of watching the documentary on ESPN Tuesday night called the Brady 6. This hour long show revolves around Tom Brady, and the six quarterbacks that were drafted before him in 2000. It was a fascinating look at Brady and I would highly recommend watching it. But, it also helped me remember his journey and how hard it was to get to the top. Here is the rise of Tom Brady through my eyes.
I remember first watching Tom Brady in 1998. I’m a big Syracuse fan, and Syracuse was playing Michigan, and Brady was the quarterback. Syracuse shockingly won that game, and Brady was replaced by then freshman phenom Drew Henson. There was nothing special that I saw in Brady in this game.
The next season, Syracuse and Michigan once again met, and this time it was at the Carrier Dome. I made the trip to Syracuse for this game. Brady started the game, but it was Henson who came in for Brady and led Michigan to the victory.
A friend of mine who went to Michigan kept telling me that Brady was the superior quarterback at Michigan, and to forget the hype surrounding Henson. He told me to keep watching the games, and you will see the difference. Well, my friend was right.
I continued to check out Michigan’s games, and I noticed a quarterback that was very calm and in control of his offense. I watched his last game at Michigan when he played in the Orange Bowl against Alabama. He was the dominant player in that game. His success in his senior season should have led to a higher pick in the draft.
Nobody had any idea just how good Tom Brady would be when the Patriots drafted him at #199 back in 2000. (FILE:Icon/SMI)
Honestly, when he was drafted by the Patriots, it was an afterthought in my mind. I thought of him as no different than a quarterback like Scott Zolak or Tommy Hodson that the Patriots had drafted over the years. They were good college quarterbacks but nothing incredibly special.
His first season with the team I only saw him during the pre-season, and in mop up duty on Thanksgiving against the Lions which the Patriots lost. At this point there was nothing I saw that told me he would be a future Hall of Famer.
That all changed the next pre-season. I started reading in the papers that the coaching staff were incredibly impressed with Brady’s development, and that he could be a player to watch. I still had my doubts, but it was very noticeable from the first pre-season game that he made a huge leap. In fact, that pre-season he was hands down the best quarterback. Drew Bledsoe had a horrible pre-season.
It was obvious to me that Brady had grasped Charlie Weis’s system much better than Bledsoe. Brady was making all the right decisions while Bledsoe looked uncomfortable in the offense. I actually thought Brady should have started when the season began.
It is not accurate to say that Brady wouldn’t have gotten his shot if it wasn’t for the hit on Bledsoe by Mo Lewis. I thought it was just a matter of time. Based on the documentary “The Brady 6″, the major obstacle for Brady according to Bill Belichick starting the season as the number 1 quarterback was his lack of experience. Here is a quote below from Belichick courtesy of the documentary “The Brady 6″ which aired on ESPN.
“By the end of training camp, Tom beat out Damon, and really had a better pre-season than Drew did,” said Belichick. “What held us back from making that decision was just Tom’s experience.”
I remember vividly Brady’s first start as a Patriots quarterback. I was at that game at Foxboro Stadium against the Colts. I was excited before the game to see the difference between Brady and Bledsoe and how they handled the offense.
For anyone that was at that game, it was very obvious that Brady was extremely comfortable running the Patriots offense. It was his decision-making and his command of the offensive unit that stuck out like a sore thumb. He was able to lead the Patriots to an upset victory of the heavily favored Colts. I knew at that point that Brady was the right quarterback moving forward for the Patriots.
Everything that Bledsoe could not do with the Patriots, Brady really excelled at. Bledsoe had the rocket arm, but honestly often made poor decisions, and at times was not comfortable in the pocket which led to mistakes. Brady was far superior to Bledsoe in the pocket, and at an early stage of his development it seemed he read defenses better than Drew. The torch was passed in that first start. I never wanted to see Bledsoe as the Patriots starting quarterback again. I got my wish because Bledsoe never started a game again for the Patriots.
Let me be clear that Bledsoe was an important player in Patriots history. I thought he was a good quarterback that lacked some intangibles to be great. I never felt that he could win you a Super Bowl.
After the Patriots won their first Super Bowl title in the 2001 season, the big question was all about Brady. Was his first season as a starter just a fluke?
Brady continued to develop the next season, but the Patriots struggled to a 9-7 record, and did not make the playoffs. It would be the next season where Brady became a complete quarterback.
There were high expectations in 2003 for the Patriots. They struggled in the beginning of the season and saw themselves at 2-2. I would attend the next game which would be at Gillette Stadium against the Titans. This was a great game, and it was back and forth affair. In the end Brady and the Patriots did enough to win the game. But, what I noticed in that game was Brady’s ability to lead the Patriots to a victory against a quality opponent when the team absolutely needed the game.
It was that resolve and determination that would show up each week that season. How about that Miami game on the road when Brady threw a touchdown pass to Troy Brown in overtime? Well, I will tell you the one game that told me that Brady had taken another step in his development.
It was Monday Night Football at Invesco Field In Denver Colorado. I was lucky enough to have seats on the 50 yard line, 10 rows back from the Patriots bench. The Patriots had struggled over the years to beat Denver. This was an incredible game to watch. It did not look like the Patriots would find a way to win. However, on their final drive, Brady drove the team down the field. He threw a game winning touchdown pass to David Givens. There is nothing better than being a visiting fan watching the home team’s fans go home in disgust. I will always remember this game.
But, the most important thing I got out of that game in Denver was that Tom Brady in my mind became simply a “winner”. He was able to lead his team in a very difficult situation to a victory. That season he did this time and time again. Eventually he would show that winning mentality with 2 more Super Bowl trophies.
The rest as they say is history. I have watched Tom Brady with my own eyes become one of the greatest players to ever play the game.
In my eyes there are qualities that make Brady different, and probably the main reasons why he wasn’t drafted until the sixth round. Scouts can’t measure determination, football intelligence, and the belief that you will find a way to win. Only the rare players have the ability to lead with your head and your heart, rather than your body.