Brady Has The Chance To Prove Himself

Ian Logue
January 9, 2002 at 1:09 pm ET

FOXBORO, MA — It’s time for Tom Brady to show the world he’s the real deal, or head coach Bill Belichick is going to face a tough dilemma during the offseason.

With quarterback Drew Bledsoe thought by the majority of the sports world to be headed out of New England, Belichick had better be sure he knows what he has in Brady before sending Bledsoe off to another team. Brady may be headed to Hawaii after this season, but there have been many “one-hit wonders” who are no longer starters in the NFL and it remains to be seen whether or not Brady will end up on that list. Hopefully for his sake that doesn’t happen.

We’re not going to get into what Brady does or doesn’t do better then Bledsoe. That is a topic that has been beaten into submission almost to the point where even talk show hosts no longer wish to discuss it any longer. It’s very simple, Bledsoe is an excellent quarterback that knows how to win and the proof is there. He’s had only three losing seasons during his eight-year tenure as the starting Patriots quarterback (he’s been here nine seasons, but we can’t count this one in that formula obviously) , and he’s taken the team to the playoffs four times and appeared in a Superbowl. One of those four playoff bids he spent on the sidelines with the finger that he broke in order to get them there.

This isn’t being mentioned to say that Brady isn’t a good quarterback. This is being mentioned because there are far too many people out there who can’t support Brady without knocking the guy who over the years has allowed their fans to have a respectable and competitive team and has provided them too many great moments that simply wouldn’t have happened had he not been here. It’s also being mentioned because there remains those out there that say he’s on the downside of his career and point to the 5-11 season of last year and his 0-2 start this season.

I guess they also should have sent him packing in 1996 after they finished 95′ at 5-11 and then opened the 1996 season 0-2.

There is no doubt that New England was lucky to have Brady as their back-up when Bledsoe went down. It’s rare that teams in the NFL are fortunate enough to have a quality back-up on their roster that knows how to win. People seem to have fallen into a strange state that they simply expect the back-up quarterback to lose, and when he is able to do his job and win, suddenly there erupts a quarterback controversy.

Belichick did the right thing by sticking with the “hot hand” and staying with Brady when Bledsoe was finally medically cleared to play. The team was on a roll at that point and there wasn’t any point in messing with it.

And here they are, 11-5 and in possession of the number #2 seed which will give them the luxury of a week off and the opportunity to sleep in their own beds while they wait for their first opponent to come to Foxboro.

Not bad for a second year quarterback who is used to playing in front of 100,000 people. Brady’s success has earned him Pro Bowl honors and clinched his team a bid back to the postseason. He has done more than anyone could have expected him to do, but the playoffs may show Belichick whether or not it’s time to make the long-term commitment to Brady and trade Bledsoe away. He may want to notice that while Brady’s first 9 games were fantastic (16 TD’s 7 Int’s) the final five (2 Td’s 5 Int’s) haven’t been too impressive.

Belichick is an intelligent football coach and hopefully he knows better. Should Brady get them another trip back to New Orleans then the choice becomes very simple. Should Brady win it all, it’s a slam-dunk.

The only problem will be if they get knocked out early and if their offense is shut down. Then the decision becomes very difficult, and with only one season to base such a decision on, it’s a gamble that he better be prepared to stand behind. Otherwise he may pay for it over the long-term.

But for those who want to take sides, there’s no side to take. Both are good quarterbacks, and both have shown that they belong in the NFL. The team is lucky to have two quality players that can start and win in this league, and that’s something that few teams can say they have.

Brady has gotten them this far, and if all goes well the trip will end in New Orleans. The next game he’ll play in will be played in front of a national audience and will give him the opportunity to show the world exactly what kind of quarterback he is, as well as prove he can win when it counts.

That will truly be what separates him from the one-year wonders. This is his chance to silence those who doubt him, and to prove to the man that put him in this position that he can get it done. Otherwise he may end up putting Belichick in the predicament of having to take a risk that could haunt both he and his current team forever, and that won’t help either one of them.

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