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Tom Brady vs. the NFL
The Case For Football's Greatest Quarterback
By Sean Glennon, Pat Kirwan
Triumph Books LLCCopyright © 2016 Sean Glennon
All rights reserved.
By the Numbers
Statistics and records are current through the 2015–16 AFC Championship.
Regular-Season Win-Loss Record: 172–51 (.771)
Postseason Win-Loss Record: 22–9 (.710)
Overall Win-Loss Record: 194–60 (.764)
Passing Yards: 58,028
Completion Percentage: 63.6
Passer Rating: 96.4
Touchdown Percentage: 5.5
Interception Percentage: 1.9
Touchdown-to-Interception Ratio: 2.9/1
Yards Per Attempt: 7.4
Seasons Leading League
Passing Yards: 2
Completion Percentage: 1
Touchdown Percentage: 2
Interception Percentage: 3
Yards Per Attempt: 1
Passer Rating: 2
Passing Yards: 5,235 (2011)
Touchdowns: 50 (2007)
Interceptions: 4 (2010)
Completion Percentage: 68.9 (2007)
Touchdown Percentage: 8.7 (2007)
Interception Percentage: 0.8 (2010)
Yards Per Attempt: 8.6 (2011)
Touchdown-to-Interception Ratio: 9/1 (2010)
Passer Rating: 117.2 (2007)
Significant NFL Records
Most Consecutive Wins: 21 (2003–04)
Most Consecutive Home Games Won: 31 (2006–11)
Most Wins in a Season: 16 (2007)
Most Wins in a Season and Postseason: 18 (2007)
Most Wins with a Single Team: 172
Most Consecutive Passes Without an Interception: 358 (2010–11)
Most Consecutive 400-Plus-Yard Passing Games: 2 (2011; tied with 7 other players)
Best Touchdown-to-Interception Ratio in a Season: 9/1 (2010)
Most Super Bowls Played: 6 (tied with Mike Lodish)
Most Super Bowls Won by a Starting Quarterback: 4 (tied with Joe Montana and Terry Bradshaw)
Most Career Pass Attempts in the Super Bowl: 247
Most Career Completions in the Super Bowl: 164
Most Pass Attempts by a Winning QB in a Super Bowl: 50 (Super Bowl XLIX)
Most Pass Attempts Without an Interception in a Super Bowl: 48 (Super Bowl XLII)
Most Completions in a Super Bowl: 37 (Super Bowl XLIX)
Most Consecutive Completions in a Super Bowl: 16 (Super Bowl XLVI)
Most Passing Yards in the Super Bowl: 1,605
Most Touchdown Passes in the Super Bowl: 13
Most Career Postseason Wins: 22.
Most Career Postseason Games Played: 31
Most Consecutive Postseason Wins: 10 (2001–05)
Best Postseason Single-Game Completion Percentage: 92.9 (vs. Jacksonville, January 12, 2008)
Most Pass Attempts in the Postseason: 1,183
Most Completions in the Postseason: 738
Most Passing Yards in the Postseason: 7,957
Most Touchdown Passes in the Postseason: 56
Most Completions by a Winning Quarterback in a Postseason Game: 37 (Super Bowl XLIX)
Most Touchdown Passes in a Postseason Game: 6 (January 14, 2002, tied with Daryle Lamonica and Steve Young)
Most 300-Plus-Yard Passing Games in the Postseason: 10
Most Division Titles: 13
Most Conference Championships Played: 10
Most Postseason Game-Winning Drives: 9
Most Postseason Fourth-Quarter Comebacks: 6
Position and Record on All-Time Leader Lists
Wins: Third, 172
Combined Regular Season and Postseason Wins: Third, 194
Career Passing Touchdowns: Third, 428 (tied with Drew Brees)
Single Season Passing Touchdowns: Second, 50 (2007)
Career Completions: Fifth, 4,953
Career Pass Attempts: Fifth, 7,792
Career Completion Percentage: 13, 63.6
Career Passing Yards: Fifth, 58,028
Career Passer Rating: Sixth, 96.4
Single-Season Passer Rating: Fourth, 117.2 (2007)
Single-Season Passing Yards: Third, 5,235 (2011)
Single-Game Passing Yards: Eighth, 517 (vs. Miami Dolphins, September 12, 2011)
Career Interception Percentage: Second, 1.9
Career TD/INT Ratio: Third, 2.9/1
Single-Season Interception Percentage (full-season starters): First, 0.8 (2010)
Fourth-Quarter Comebacks: Second, 37
Game-Winning Drives: Third, 48
Better Than You Realized: College
It can be hard to find Tom Brady in the 1998 Michigan Wolverines team photo. He's there. Second row, not far from the center. Looking maybe a bit serious and certainly more than a bit thin. But more than anything, he looks just part of the crowd.
It's odd, too, because in many ways 1998 was the only uncrowded year of Brady's college career. He was the Wolverines' starting quarterback that season — and no one else was in the mix. It was the first season since he arrived in Ann Arbor three years earlier that Brady was accorded an opportunity to stand out in that way ... and, though he delivered on the field, it would also be the last.
Brady wasn't a highly recruited player coming out of Junípero Serra High School in his hometown of San Mateo, California. He was a talented athlete, just not the kind of player — and not at the kind of school — that brings college scouts streaming into town making promises and asking for commitments.
Brady's father, Tom Sr., sent tapes of his son's high school highlights to a handful of schools, and a few of them responded with interest. UCLA was in the picture for a while but backed out after Cade McNown signed a letter of intent. Brady considered the University of Illinois but wasn't bowled over by a visit to Champaign. The University of California–Berkeley offered Brady a guarantee that he'd start as a sophomore (and a chance to stay close to home), but Brady chose Michigan, a school with a deep football tradition and a place where he'd have a chance to compete against some of the top college teams in the nation. First, though, he'd need to compete simply to get on the field.
Before Brady arrived at Michigan in the fall of 1995, the Wolverines coaching staff turned over. The coaches who had recruited Brady were gone, replaced by Lloyd Carr, a first-time head coach whom Brady had never met. It wasn't what Brady had signed on for.
When he arrived in Ann Arbor, Brady learned that there were seven quarterbacks ahead of him on the depth chart. Playing for Michigan was appealing; the prospect of getting lost in a crowd there wasn't.
But Brady stuck it out, worked hard, and impressed Carr in practice. He wasn't the most athletically gifted of Michigan's quarterbacks, but he was a highly accurate thrower, tough and competitive, and he consistently exhibited keen focus and a cool head under pressure.
By Brady's sophomore season (his third year at Michigan, including a redshirt season), those qualities had paid off. Brady rose to the level of second stringer behind Brian Griese. It was a nice move up the list, but it wasn't what Brady wanted.
Brady thought he should start. He considered himself the better quarterback, and many of his teammates agreed. But Carr saw the quarterbacks as running neck-and-neck. And Griese was a senior; Carr's philosophy was that in a tie, advantage went to the upperclassman. Griese was also the son of Miami Dolphins great–turned–college football analyst Bob Griese. And whether that played a part in Carr's decision-making or not didn't much matter. Griese started, and Brady sat.
Steamed, Brady considered transferring to Cal but finally resolved that he would stay in Michigan, prove himself to Carr, and ensure himself a place as Griese's successor. Already the hardest-working guy on the Michigan practice field, Brady became the player most serious about game prep. He began spending hours on film study, learning to recognize opponents' defensive alignments and putting himself in position to know in every situation where he'd find an open receiver.
In the meantime, the team's fortunes with Griese behind center made it hard to quibble with Carr's choice. The Wolverines went 12–0, beat Washington State in the Rose Bowl, and took a share of the national title. Then Griese departed for the Denver Broncos, and Brady finally got his team.
Or at least he got it for a season.
* * *
As a starter in his junior season, Brady led the team to a 10–3 record that included a 45–31 victory over Arkansas in the Florida Citrus Bowl. Michigan split the Big Ten championship with Wisconsin and Ohio State and finished the season as the 12-ranked team in the nation.
On the way, Brady set a number of school passing records. In a loss to Ohio State on November 21, 1998, Brady established new Michigan single-game records for pass attempts (56), completions (31), and passing yards (375). His 56 attempts remain the record. In a 48–17 win at Hawaii a week later, Brady completed 90 percent of his passes.
That season, Brady set records for attempts (350) and completions (214). His 2,636 total passing yards were the second-most in Michigan history.
Even with all that success, however, in his senior season Brady found himself in competition for the starting job with sophomore Drew Henson. A Michigan native and a gifted athlete, Henson was a fan favorite from the moment he committed to the Wolverines.
Carr was in a difficult position. Brady had earned the right to start. And Brady was the upperclassman. But Henson was the future, the quarterback most likely to lead Michigan to real football glory in the years ahead. Henson was thought to be the player with the better potential as a pro. He was also a kid who had signed a contract to play baseball in the New York Yankees system. Henson didn't need the Wolverines; the Wolverines needed Henson. And not to start Henson would have been to risk losing him.
Perhaps foolishly, Carr tried to have it both ways. He devised a system in which each week Brady would play the first quarter, Henson would play the second quarter, and Carr would go with the hot hand in the second half.
It worked for a little while. The Wolverines won their first five games. But the platoon system fell down during an early October visit to Michigan State. Neither quarterback put up any points in the first half. And with Henson in after halftime, the Wolverines fell behind 17–0. Carr made the decision to switch to Brady late in the third quarter, and Brady did what he could, throwing for 241 yards and leading a 31-point rally. And though it wasn't quite enough (Michigan lost 34–31), the effort nudged Carr in the direction of making Brady his full-time starter again. A 307-yard effort against Illinois two weeks later cinched it.
* * *
Brady led the Wolverines to four-straight wins to close the season. In their second-to-last game, against the Penn State Nittany Lions in University Park, Brady led a spectacular comeback from a 27–17 deficit in the closing minutes of the game. He closed the gap with 3:30 remaining with a seven-yard dash up the middle of the field to the Penn State end zone. Then, when a great punt return gave Michigan the ball at the Penn State 35-yard line, Brady capitalized, hitting receiver Marcus Knight with two perfectly placed passes, one that advanced the Wolverines to the Nittany Lions 20 and another for the go-ahead touchdown from 11 yards out.
Brady wasn't done with the spectacular comebacks, though. He rallied the Wolverines again at Ohio State in their final game of the season. And facing fifth-ranked Alabama in the Orange Bowl, Brady twice brought Michigan back from 14-point deficits. Early in the third quarter, with Michigan trailing 14–7, Brady stepped up under pressure from a corner blitz and delivered a 57-yard touchdown pass to receiver David Terrell. And after the Crimson Tide scored back-to-back touchdowns to go ahead 28–14, Brady did it again, finding Terrell for a 20-yard pass to bring the Wolverines within seven and leading a drive that ended with running back Anthony Thomas' three-yard touchdown for the tie. A 25-yard overtime touchdown from Brady to tight end Shawn Thompson sealed the Michigan victory.
Brady finished the game with 34 completions on 46 attempts for 369 yards and three touchdowns in regulation, plus the OT score. The completion total broke Brady's own school record from 1998.
It wasn't the first time Brady had started a season facing significant roadblocks and ended it with a triumph, and it wouldn't be the last. More than anything, though, it was a satisfying end to Brady's college career.
Though he had been forced to fight time and again for the right to start, Brady had made his mark on Michigan football, delivering two bowl victories in two seasons.
Brady had turned out to be a far better quarterback than Carr had given him credit for being. But in fairness to the coach, 31 NFL teams were about to make the same mistake.
School for Mechanics
Part of what got colleges to pay attention to Tom Brady coming out of high school was the fact that he had worked with throwing coach Tom Martinez. The head coach at the College of San Mateo, Martinez was famed for his ability to improve young quarterbacks' skills. Martinez led his students not only to develop better throwing mechanics, but to understand why proper form led to better play. He was a perfect teacher for Brady, whose abilities were always as much about knowing as they were about doing. And he remained an influence on Brady's game from the time Brady first turned to him for help at age 15 until Martinez's untimely death in February 2012. Even as an NFL superstar, Brady turned to Martinez for help any time he felt his throwing motion was off. Since Martinez's death, Brady has worked with Tom House, a former Major League Baseball pitcher turned pitching coach, to keep his throwing mechanics sharp.CHAPTER 3
Tom Brady didn't win Super Bowl XXXVI.
Sure, Brady was named the game's MVP — and for good reason — but he didn't carry the team that day.
Brady wasn't responsible for shutting down the St. Louis Rams' otherworldly offense. That accomplishment belongs to the Patriots' smart, aggressive defense. And that, no question, was the Patriots' single-greatest achievement in their first Super Bowl win. Had the Rams scored the 31 points they'd put up on average during the regular season — never mind the 37 they averaged in the NFC playoffs — the 2001 Pats would have gone down in the books, alongside the 1985 and 1996 Super Bowl teams, as another plucky squad that fought its hardest but got steamrolled all the same.
Neither, as everybody knows, did Brady put up the points that decided the game. That honor belongs to Adam Vinatieri, who also has the distinction of having posted the winning points in Super Bowl XXXVIII.
Certainly, Brady had a good game, particularly for a kid no one had heard of five months earlier, a second-year backup who'd been thrust into the role of starter in late September after a devastating injury to his team's franchise QB. He threw 27 passes in the game, completing 16 of them (59.3 percent) for 145 yards and a touchdown. He didn't throw a single interception and finished with a passer rating of 86.2.
Those numbers were roughly in line with what Brady accomplished in his 14 regular-season games as a starter. Through the season, Brady threw an average of 29 passes per game, completing 19 of them for 200 yards and a touchdown. He achieved a passer rating of 86.5. Good stuff for a first season as a starter.
But Brady's Super Bowl XXXVI stats wouldn't stack up to what he would achieve in subsequent Super Bowls (wins and losses alike). And they were considerably more similar to what Trent Dilfer, the so-called "game manager," had achieved in Super Bowl XXXV than to Kurt Warner's stats from Super Bowl XXXIV.
They weren't superstar stats, because Brady wasn't a superstar player. He was a 24-year-old kid making his 17 NFL start and doing it on the biggest stage imaginable. And when you consider that (putting out of your head, if you can, all that has come since), you can't help but be astonished by what Brady achieved in the final minute and 21 seconds of the game.
* * *
You can't start there, though.
Because while the story of the great Tom Brady probably begins with the final possession of Super Bowl XXXVI, the story of Tom Brady, starting quarterback for the New England Patriots, opens a good bit earlier than that.
In fact, it starts well before September 23, 2001, the day Brady was yanked up to the top of New England's quarterback depth chart.
The tale of Brady's ascent begins on April 16, 2000, Day 2 of the NFL Draft. It was then that the Patriots selected Brady with the 199 overall pick. The pick was one of three compensatory selections the Pats were awarded as a result of a 1999 off-season in which they lost linebacker Todd Collins, punter Tom Tupa, defensive tackle Mark Wheeler, center Dave Wohlabaugh, and quarterback Scott Zolak to free agency.
Brady was the seventh quarterback taken in what was regarded as a historically thin draft at the position. The top QB prospect that year was Marshall's Chad Pennington, who went 18 overall to the New York Jets. He was the only quarterback taken in the first two rounds.
Hofstra's Giovanni Carmazzi went to the San Francisco 49ers early in the third, followed by Louisville's Chris Redman, who was selected by the Baltimore Ravens. Late in the fifth round, the Pittsburgh Steelers took Tennessee QB Tee Martin. Marc Bulger from West Virginia went to the New Orleans Saints at the start of the sixth round, and the Cleveland Browns grabbed Spergon Wynn from Southwest Texas State in the middle of the sixth.
Excerpted from Tom Brady vs. the NFL by Sean Glennon, Pat Kirwan. Copyright © 2016 Sean Glennon. Excerpted by permission of Triumph Books LLC.
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