Sunday, August 1, 2004
A Montana state of mind
By Hector Longo
FOXBORO -- To his credit, Tom Brady fields the inane query like he handles a slow-arriving safety blitz.Smoothly and effortlessly. With deadly effectiveness.
"So Tom, how have you changed in three years. ... You know, other than the two championships and the two Super Bowl MVPs."
Over and over and over again.
Brady is Brady and always will be Brady. That's what makes the 26-year-old (27 on Tuesday) so darn special, an icon in Boston pro sports before the age of 30.
The fact is Tom Brady hasn't changed. The perception of Brady's game and his talents on the football field have changed dramatically albeit slowly.
Even with his sparkling 40-12 record as a starter, Brady believers were converted slowly. The 6-0 playoff mark, the two Super Bowl wins, the final two scoring drives in each, the MVPs ... Brady pecked off all challengers to the throne.
No longer is he considered one of the best. When he moved the Pats down into Vinatieri range last February and delivered Lombardi Trophy No. 2 against Carolina, Brady left the comparative company of Peyton Manning, Donovan McNabb and Steve McNair.
The Michigan product now must be judged by the likes of Joe Montana and John Elway among the greats of all-time.
"Making decisions and delivering the football to the right target, Tom Brady is the best in the game," said ESPN's Ron Jaworski during the Super Bowl run of 2003.
Jaworski, whose tactical breakdowns on EASports NFL Matchup are renowned for breaking down the game, was almost clairvoyant concerning Brady's emergence.
Remember, it took Elway until age 38 to win his second Super Bowl. And those two came more on the legs of Terrell Davis than Elway's explosive right arm.
Elway spent the better part of his career chasing the elusive Lombardi Trophy. Brady broke through in his first year as a starter.
True, Elway is a Hall-of-Famer, and Brady has barely begun the trek toward greatness. Elway went 148-82-1 as a starter, a .643 percentage. Brady's .739 mark crunches that figure as well as topping all active QBs in the league right now.
Brady hasn't even reached his peak as a pro and has New England poised as the next dynasty, an East Coast version of Montana's San Francisco 49ers during the late 1980s.
Placing the two in the same class might spook some, but the matchups might be closer than you'd imagine.
Currently tied with the likes of Bart Starr and Terry Bradshaw with two Super Bowl MVPs, Brady should have more than ample opportunity to chase Montana and his three.
Which brings Brady to the second giant hurdle in his pro career. He's already shown the NFL the goods talent-wise, but even talent wasn't enough to carry Montana.
His drive set the Notre Dame product, himself overlooked as a third-round draft pick, apart.
The stories are legendary about Montana and Jerry Rice working daily in the offseason to hone Bill Walsh's precision West Coast passing game, catching and throwing hundreds of balls each day.
Apparently, Brady read that book. Remember the progress that young Pats receiver David Givens made in the offseason between 2002 and 2003. Somebody had to throw him all those footballs with nobody watching back in April and May. That somebody was Brady.
"I think that's why he is where he is," said Pats veteran receiver David Patten. "You see him, you know he's not about the Super Bowl MVPs. He works as hard as anyone on this team, if not harder. You see how he carries himself in the locker room and on the field, and you just can't question him."
Brady, in what's proving to be a Patriots trait during this Bill Belichick regime, accepted a five-year, $30-plus million extension recently and probably could have had more. He took less for the team, like Tedy Bruschi and others.
Apparently, the San Mateo, Calif., native has learned how much better winning feels than losing.
"The quality of the people we have here, that allows you to want to work hard," said Brady, the ultimate teammate. "If you come out here to work for yourself, it's not very rewarding. You to want to work hard for the people on this team. That's very motivating. And they bring in a bunch of guys who are fun to play with. Troy Brown, I can't think of a better teammate. And Deion (Branch) and David Givens. It's just a great group of receivers. For me going out playing with them, I just have a great time."
Brady is not one-dimensional. With the looks of a Hollywood leading man, he's had his well-publicized romances, including his current one with Bridget Moynahan and a past tryst with Tara Reid.
Brady basically blew off the Pro Bowl to play golf at Pebble Beach in the Pro-Am, but when it counts, he's not Brady the "Brat-packer."
He's Tom the quarterback.
How much better is Brady than that brisk late September afternoon in 2001 when untested, he was thrust into the firing line thanks to a vicious Mo Lewis hit on Drew Bledsoe?
Remember, the Pats ripped off 14 wins in 17 weeks after that with the then-second-year man running the offense.
He had no 1,000-yard back like Terrell Davis. And the cast of receivers -- Brown, Patten and a barely-used Terry Glenn -- was mediocre at best.
All he did then was win and he's continued to win big ever since.
"I remember telling you guys when I first got here just how good he was," said Patten. "We were working the third-team (offense) together. If you didn't know it was Bledsoe's team at the time, you would have thought he was the starting quarterback. That's the kind of take-charge guy he was. You would have thought he was starting QB because that was the kind of respect he commanded."
Brady won't get into specifics, because he's just always around when it comes to the offseason workouts. He's not focusing on a special part of the game -- like agility, getting stronger or throwing the long ball more effectively.
"I'd like to cut down on a lot of fumbles, improve my accuracy, escaping sacks," said Brady, who was untouched in the postseason after being sacked 32 times in the regular season. "I threw 12 interceptions. I'd like to improve on that. I made plenty of mistakes, and I'll do whatever I have to, just to get better."
The San Francisco coaching legend Walsh told NFL Films once that "the third one really set (Montana) apart," speaking of their third Super Bowl together.
Days before his 27th birthday and barely into his fifth training camp, Brady is poised to change all that and re-write history.
Don't expect any of it to change him.
"Thinking back four years ago, I never thought I'd be here five years later. I'm still as excited as I was that first camp," said Brady.
Patten has nothing but praise for his quarterback.
He said, "He looks great ... another year added under his belt ... leader ... confident ... positive ... motivator."
[quote][b]Montana engineers touchdown drives to win big games,ie.,"The catch".Elway had ,"The drive". Brady,"moved the Pats down into Vinatieri range".
Yup, HOF QB folks.
Yup your right those last minute SB drives were crap since they only lead to game winning FGs. because he had no time outs deep in his own end in the biggest game on the planet, means nothing cause he only lead them to a game winning FG, and not a TD.
[quote][i]Originally posted by PETER PAT[/i]@Aug 16 2004, 09:19 AM
Yup your right those last minute SB drives were crap since they only lead to game winning FGs. because he had no time outs deep in his own end in the biggest game on the planet, means nothing cause he only lead them to a game winning FG, and not a TD. [/b][/quote]
yea. that about sums it up........
you guys won so many games last year because of fg's...they count, and you won, but your mvp for the season & both Super Bowls should have been Vinateiri.
actually your mvp for the Rams bowl should have Lovey Smith...giving you everything outside when you didn't have any TO's was tantamount to giving you the game...