Covering the NFL for almost 20 years allows you to make relationships with a bunch of people. So I thought I'd tap into some of those people for a series of topics we've been kicking around.
- Why is Jimmy Garoppolo still with the Pats?
- Who is the most underrated Patriot?
- Which player (besides Brady) can Pats least afford to lose?
The panel consists of one former Pats player still in the game, two scouts of AFC teams, one front-office member in the AFC, and one NFC scout. They all requested anonymity for obvious reasons (as the player said, "Hey, I might want to end up back there!"). I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I had talking to these guys.
Today's topic: Tom Brady
Scout 1: “When he says he has all the answers to the test, he’s not lying. Some of those Rex Ryan defenses back in Rex’s Jets days were able to confuse him. Ditto for [when Ryan was defensive coordinator in] Baltimore. Now? I can’t really remember a time when you popped in the tape and said, ‘Shit, they fooled him for a series, or a half or a game.’ It’s like he refuses to let you beat him, wherever it is that you’d try to find that edge.”
Scout 2: “Who could have predicted this? You wondered about his long-term viability several years ago when they drafted [Jimmy] Garoppolo. It looked like the end was near. Maybe it lit a fire. Sometimes even Tom Brady needs that push. Now what can you say? He’s gotten here and you can’t deny . . . the [overall] results. Brady was the best QB a decade ago and he’s the best QB now. That’s not how it’s suppose to go when that QB is 40." (Brady turns 40 Thursday, Aug. 3.)
Scout 3: “I remember the debate, Manning versus Brady. From a sheer talent standpoint, I think it was Manning, right up until the arm strength decreased, but I would have never taken Peyton over Brady in any of those years. Brady has a way about him -- we’ve had former Pats come through here and they back my opinion -- that Manning didn’t have. Slows it down when Manning would seemingly let it speed up, especially in those big moments. I’m surprised we haven’t heard a Joe Montana-like story about him, the one from the Super Bowl, when Montana pointed out John Candy in the end zone. I just think while hyper-focused, he knows how to put his teammates at ease. We would love to find that in a QB. So would every other team.”
Former Patriot player: “I loved competing against him, and I loved pissing him off. It didn’t happen often, but he’s so [bleeping] intense that every 1-on-1, or 7-on-7, or team period, he wants to beat you. Thing about it was, you get him once, he might come back at you the very next time. I didn’t keep score, but I’d guess that he won way more of those matchups then I’d like to admit.
“You know those training-camp practices, when it’s hot and humid and the crowds start to get smaller? Those days are the worst. You’re sore and tired and everything hurts. Bill [Belichick] wants to make it hurt. They all do. It sucks. But Tom’s one of those guys that won’t let the practice get away from us. He’s yelling at himself. He’s screaming encouragement at Gronk or [Julian Edelman]. He starts chirping at us. Man, does he love to shit talk us. Pisses you off. And before you know it, your energy has gone up because he’s talking. Now practice is better. Then it’s over. That’s not an accident.”
Front office executive: “Tom personifies everything you want in that position: Leadership, intelligence, toughness, his teammates clearly love him and, let’s not forget, talent. He has loads and loads of talent. Who gets better at 38? 39? You can’t do that without skill. Plus, that speaks to his work ethic, as well. If someone with his resume is still battling his ass off every day, how can I not push myself the same way? He’s the perfect player and while we’ll all be happy when he finally retires, I admire him.”
A bunch of unnamed assistant coaches told Mike Freeman of Bleacher Report they thought the drop off was coming this year. What do you think?
“I think those coaches have very little to base that on. I’m not sure I’d want those [coaches] on my staff. Tell me they aren’t on my staff.”
Football Outsiders said there was a decrease in arm strength as last season wore on.
“You think Bill and [Josh McDaniels] aren’t paying attention to what his arm looks like, how it responds? I think in some of those conditions, he still managed to cut it through the wind and the elements. He doesn’t have the arm of, say, a Blake Bortles or Aaron Rodgers, but it’s obviously more than good enough to win with. He’s done that better than anyone in league history.”