Tom Brady Bill Belichick

I’m gonna do this one at a time. Brady first.

I have spent much time swearing off football and the NFL. (As my friend Todd Bailey will point out with glee) It is too greedy, too corporate, too dishonest and most of all too dangerous. After years of playing football and a lifetime of watching it, I have sworn off everything except Tom Brady and the Patriots.

Why the hypocrisy?

Because the human story of Brady is so fascinating. How does an athletically average quarterback, given a changing cast of sometimes mediocre receivers (Reche Caldwell, Doug Gabriel, Chad Jackson), bend the NFL to his will and play in his 9th Super Bowl in 18 years? How does he become the best EVER to play quarterback – EVER?

To understand Brady, you have to do the reading/watching. And you have to search for the nuggets because he doesn’t give you much. His press conferences are only slightly better than Belichick’s. But if you read and watch closely, you can learn what makes him better. This is an especially rewarding time for Brady watchers because as he nears the end of his career, he is giving more clues through endorsement decisions, interviews and what he allows to be written about him.

Start with the Facebook series he did. Tom vs. Time.

The first line is “What are you willing to give up?” That line animates Brady’s career. He works really really hard at football.

Second, watch the part where Brady studies film at home. (Hard work – do the reading)

Third, on the night before games, Brady stays with the team at the hotel, even if the game is at home. (Sacrifice for the good of the team)

Fourth – and this is the quality that sets him apart – his brain. Brady is the smartest player in the history of football. When you play quarterback, you have to process a huge amount of information in a very short period of time. Brady does this faster and smarter than anyone.

When he comes to line of scrimmage – he identifies the defense and communicates with his linemen. Then he tells the receivers and runnings backs what play they will run. He often checks OUT of that play to something else because of what he has seen. Then he runs the play and makes a professional football pass in under three seconds. The Chiefs did not sack Brady once in last night’s game.

A great example – the fourth quarter pass to tight end Rob Gronkowski down the sideline.

When Brady came to the line of scrimmage, he saw that Gronkowski was covered by a single defensive back and a small one at that. Brady immediately knew that the 6:6 Gronk had a great chance to catch a pass over the smaller defensive back.

Why, you ask, would the Chiefs leave Gronkowski single covered? Because receiver Julian Edelman had just caught several key third down passes and the Chiefs had to do something to stop him.  You cannot double-cover everyone. So Brady went to Gronkowski successfully.

Now – lots of NFL quarterbacks can see that defensive vulnerability and execute the pass under immense pressure. But none can do it as well as Brady.

Brady is the GOAT (greatest of all-time) because he combines a dedication to craft, a sacrifice for the good of the whole and a mental processing speed in ways other players do not. That’s it.

Next up? Belichick.