Okay, Bill and Bob. He really now is your guy.
The Sports Illustrated jinx will be brought up from time to time. Tom Brady pulled a Nomar Garciaparra and posed shirtless on the cover of the fabled sports magazine. You all know what kind of a season Nomie had in 2001. Yikes.
Brady became the latest Disney Darling. So, Tom, you’ve just won the Super Bowl. What will you do next? This writer takes in Disneyland (Anaheim) every year. The NFL prefers Florida. Main Street, USA versus Epcot. For Yours Truly, Disneyland is like this beer based near Denver. Nothing like a true original.
Oh, and the girls. All you had to do was see all the signs at the victory rally. “I love you, Tom!” “Marry me, Tom!” The most worried female in the USA has to be Brady’s girlfriend, Laura. Every single girl in the region wants him. Mariah Carey wanted to meet him and got to dance with him on stage. The Fonz should have done so well with women in his day.
You know who this is beginning to sound like? Another quarterback who pulled off a big upset in a Super Bowl. Young, handsome, famous, popular with women. Right now, Brady and Joe Namath have won the same number of Super Bowls. But if Brady is to be like Namath, Patriot Nation is in for a long string of disappointments.
Namath never again reached the pinnacle of the NFL. If Jerry Glanville’s famous “This is the NFL, as in ‘Not For Long!’” remark was ever meant for a player, Namath was the one. A sudden decline in Jet talent, plus a string of severe knee injuries sent Namath’s career on a permanent downward slide. His sex life and marketability never really suffered, but Jet fans right now could care less how many girls Namath bedded down in the sixties and seventies.
All Patriot Nation wants Brady to do is to keep winning. That’s all his teammates want, also. Hang the commercials. To heck with the TV shows. Brady plays near Commonwealth Avenue, not Madison Avenue.
And the Patriots must now decide how much their Super Bowl quarterback is worth. With Drew Bledsoe now gone, and the shock of his departure now all but gone, Brady is the main man of Foxborough. Now that it is quite obvious that he is the main man, he needs to be paid like a main man.
And Bob Kraft and Bill Belichick had better be convinced that Brady is that main man. Well, in a way, they already are. Trading Bledsoe more or less cinched that point.
But how much is Brady worth? Or, how many years do the Patriots want to keep Brady off the streets, looking for work?
Comparing Brady to Namath has its merits. Similarities in youth, good looks, and Super accomplishments are definitely there. Brady will never have the star quality of Namath, largely because of Namath being based in New York (Broadway Joe versus Post Road Tom?). Patriot Nation hopes beyond hope that Brady has better knees, and a few more Vinces left in his career.
One thing that Brady has over Namath is his zeal to be a regular guy. He is in Foxborough, attending the offseason workouts as so established by Belichick. Brady was given Task A, B and C to work on, and Brady has been doing just that. There has been nothing yet to suggest that the Super Bowl win has gone to his head, or that he has decided to change as a person.
Brady was the youngest quarterback in history to win a Super Bowl. Namath was 25 when he won the third January classic. Namath had some seasoning under his belt, coming out of Alabama in 1965 to join the Jets. Namath was in his fourth season when he led the Jets into NFL folklore. In 1968, Namath completed 49% of his passes, and had two more interceptions than touchdowns. Brady completed 64% of his passes and had six more touchdowns than picks. The age and numbers favor Brady fairly decisively.
Namath and Brady have a similar makeup on the field. Namath was a man without a boss, and commanded respect in the huddle. He was one of those guys who would say, “Nobody talks in this huddle except me!” Brady may not be that stringent, but he commands a similar respect in the huddle. All the Patriot players were impressed with his ability to run the offense and to be totally composed and poised despite his young age and lack of experience.
Despite the pressure to become a true glamour boy, Brady has endeavoured to maintain a low profile. He isn’t willing to seek the limelight as Namath was. Namath dressed outlandishly, hosted a TV talk show with Dick Schaap, owned a controversial bar in which the NFL forced him to divest himself of, and modeled panty hose in commercials. All Brady has done so far is the SI cover and his contact with Carey.
So, the question now becomes: How long and how much?
One thing the Patriots won’t allow is for Brady to go through the entire 2002 campaign with no new deal. Brady would then become a restricted free agent, in which the Patriots would be at least able to match any deal. Trouble is, the last high profile RFA the Patriots had was Curtis Martin. Most of what the Jets did to pry Martin loose from New England is illegal now, but it is doubtful that the Patriots will allow Brady to get that far.
And if the Patriots follow past practices, Andy Wasynczuk will try and push through a long-term deal that is backloaded, with a humongous signing bonus. Brady will become rich quick, but the Patriots won’t become the next Dallas Cowboys.
The Patriots will literally have to offer Brady Bledsoe money. There isn’t any question that Brady would like to remain a Patriot, and there is nothing remotely resembling any of the animosity that Martin had for the Patriots prior to his departure for the Jets. The relationship between Brady and Belichick is solid. But Brady will deserve Bledsoe money, and should get it.
One final ingredient in determining what Brady gets will be projected future results. Namath never again made it back to the Big Show after his brief taste. In his one game, Brady put up average passing numbers but showed some of the most stunning poise ever seen on a professional football stage. In what literally was his rookie year, Brady led his team on a 53-yard scoring drive with no timeouts left and 1:21 remaining in Super Bowl XXXVI. He took the Patriots from their own 17 to the Rams’ 30, and put Adam Vinatieri in position to win the world championship with a 48-yard field goal.
One must then conclude that if Brady can do something like this as a 24-year-old in just his seventeenth NFL start, he must have more of the same left in his career if the team around him remains strong. Therefore, if Brady’s cap number doesn’t hinder the Patriots in maintaining the rest of the team, Brady should produce at high levels for the foreseeable future.
You might grow tired of the comparisons to Namath, and wish instead for comparisons to Joe Montana. Despite Montana’s lofty stature in NFL history, what Brady did in Super Bowl XXXVI was greatly similar to Montana’s game-winning rally in Super Bowl XXIII against Cincinnati. Brady showed as much cool as Montana (minus the hyperventilating), and got the job done with less time left on the clock and zero timeouts.
Those kind of results with that kind of poise warrants a hefty pay raise for Brady.
And an extended stay in San Mateo East, better known as Foxborough.
The Patriots should make it so that the only problem in Brady’s life is whether or not Laura can hold onto him. Take what Brady already has, then toss in a few million bucks, and Laura will have her hands full.
Hopefully, so will opposing defenders.
Posted Under: 2002 Patriots Offseason