The saying goes “Die a hero or live long enough to see yourself become the villain” and that is very true in sports. Tom Brady is living proof of what happens when the underdog doesn’t fall off.
Why do we grow to hate the underdog?
Everybody should know the story of what happened by now so there is no need for me to repeat that. But rather than talk about how he became a starter, let’s fast forward to the playoffs. The Patriots were the #2 seed and faced off against Jon Gruden’s Raiders in the divisional round. The Patriots were down 13-3 with 8 minutes remaining in the 4th quarter before Brady scored a touchdown. Then the Tuck Rule happened which led to Adam Vinatieri doing that annoying bullshit where he shows up in the clutch and makes an important kick. The game went to overtime where Brady went 8/8 and drove the ball down the Raiders throat and Vinatieri made the game winning kick. The following they traveled to Pittsburgh (the #1 seed in the AFC) and defeated the Steelers 24-17.
Heading into the Super Bowl matchup against the St. Louis Rams, the Patriots were 14 point underdogs and for good reason. Kurt Warner was coming off an MVP season (his 2nd in 3 seasons) in which he threw for 4,830 yards 36 touchdowns and 22 interceptions. If that wasn’t impressive enough, Marshall Faulk won his 3rd straight Offensive Player of the Year Award. A stacked wide receiving corp led by Isaac Bruce and Tory Holt. The defense, coached by Lovie Smith, was a top 10 defense overall, including top 3 in fewest yards allowed.
Despite winning the Super Bowl, Brady’s postseason statistics weren’t all that great. He averaged 190 yards per game and threw 1 touchdown to 1 interception. But that 3-0 looked mighty good right?
In 2002 the Patriots missed the playoffs with a 9-7 record due to a tiebreaker with the New York Jets. Brady took a slight step forward within the offense but there is no doubt he was a game manager at this point. But there is nothing wrong that. Isn’t it funny that folks will complain how there about how there aren’t enough good quarterbacks in the league, but completely shit on game managing quarterbacks?
2002 would become a reoccurring theme in Brady’s career. The Patriots ranked 4th in passing attempts and 28th in rush attempts and yards.
2003 and 2004 showed the flexibility Brady has a quarterback to play within different offensive systems. Although the Patriots finished 14-2 in both seasons, the offenses were not the same. 2003 saw Brady throw the ball a ton, spreading the “wealth” with 6 different receivers catching at least 30 passes. Only one receiver, Deion Branch, caught over 50 passes (57) and had over 510 receiving yards (803). Despite the lack of offensive weapons, Brady led the team on 7 game winning drives.
In 2004, the Patriots went from 6th in passing attempts to 22nd because newly acquired running back Corey Dillon led a rushing attack that ranked 5th in rush attempts and 7th in rushing yards.
Brady started off his career 9-0 in the postseason and the numbers got better each year. For the most part, there is a good chance you’re probably on opposite ends of the spectrum when it comes to how much credit you give Brady for the first 3 Super Bowl’s. In actuality, the truth is Brady did what he had to do. 2001 was different from 2003 which was different from 2004. 2002 was obviously different as well. But you saw the clear growth in his play and leadership each year.
Tom Brady is a system quarterback. But I have a strong belief that any great system needs a talent that transcends it. Steve Nash was that talent in Mike D’Antoni’s system. Steph Curry is that in Steve Kerr’s system. Drew Brees in Payton’s system. Hell, the greatest quarterback of all time Joe Montana is a system quarterback.
The Greatest Show On Turf? System.
1995 Detroit Lions? System.
Why penalize Brady for being in a good situation? To be quite honest, I’m tired of quarterbacks being penalized for their surroundings. (I’m also tired of folks pretending Brady hasn’t had any weapons his entire career. But that’s another topic)
Often, I hear folks mention that Brady wouldn’t be shit without Belichick (I was one of those people at one point), but they aren’t winning these titles with Drew Bledsoe. I mean damn, y’all make it seem like any 6th round quarterback can just jump right in and play.
Well, that’s not surprising since there are people who think Russell Wilson has just been riding the wave with the Seahawks. After all, Ryan Tannehill could’ve won a Super Bowl with the ‘Hawks in 2013. Dummies.
But as it relates to Brady being a system quarterback, it’s really not a big deal.
Earlier this year in an interview with Jim Gray of Westwood One, Brady was asked about his place among football’s greats and he responded by saying “That is a helluva question and I wouldn’t put myself in there.” And if that wasn’t enough to make you give him the side eye, he also added this: “I guess for me because I have to work so hard at it and try so hard at it, that’s part of enjoying it for me. But I look at other players and say, ‘Gosh, I wish I could make it look as easy as they make it look.'”
15 years in the game and the 2nd best quarterback of all time (currently the 5th best in the league) still finds ways to motivate himself by believing he just isn’t good enough. That’s how you have to do it. You should strive to achieve all goals, but you should never run out of goals. Nobody is perfect at all. There is always something you can improve on.
I really do appreciate Tom Brady the football player. All the reasons I grew up hating him are the reasons I love his game now. It’s bigger than Super Bowl rings. Brady has remained a constant in an ever evolving offense. Belichick loves to stay two steps ahead of everybody and Brady is smart enough to lead these offenses. From power run, to an aerial attack, to the two tight end sets, to the no huddle attack, Brady has been able to flourish in any situation no matter what adversity has been thrown at him.
The Patriots last two AFC Championship Game losses against the Broncos accurately represent the fight that’s deep inside Tom Brady.
I don’t like everything Brady does. I don’t have to. I’m a fan of his game, not a fan of him. I hope his suspension is upheld. But despite all that, I have the utmost respect for Tom Brady, the quarterback.
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