Patriots

Brady says he hasn't replaced Montana as the GOAT: 'I don't agree with that'

Brady says he hasn't replaced Montana as the GOAT: 'I don't agree with that'

The goat references are everywhere. Twitter. Instagram. Julian Edelman's children's book, for crying out loud. 

People have been calling Tom Brady the G.O.A.T. for a while now, but never more frequently than since he won his fifth Super Bowl title in February. And even though he's agreed to appear on the cover of Madden NFL 18's "G.O.A.T. Edition," Brady said recently that he doesn't agree with the assessment that he's surpassed Joe Montana as the greatest quarterback of all time. 

Brady had a long conversation with ESPN's Ian O'Connor that touched on a variety of topics, including how he ranks compared to his childhood idol. 

"I don't agree with that," Brady said when ask if he'd concede that he has replaced Montana as the G.O.A.T., "and I'll tell you why. I know myself as a player. I'm really a product of what I've been around, who I was coached by, what I played against, in the era I played in. I really believe if a lot of people were in my shoes they could accomplish the same kinds of things. So I've been very fortunate . . . I don't ever want to be the weak link.

"I was the backup quarterback on an 0-8 team in my freshman year of high school," Brady continued. "I got to Michigan, I was seventh [string], and I had a hard time getting to be No. 2, and when I finally got to No. 1 there was someone else [Drew Henson] they wanted to be No. 1. I got to be a sixth-round pick behind a great player, Drew Bledsoe, and then I got an opportunity, and I'm still trying to take advantage of it. Part of who I am now is very much who I was, and that was cultivated growing up."

It's a diplomatic response. Brady could make a relatively concise argument as to why he's had a better career than Montana. He's won five Super Bowls to Montana's four. He's played in an era when free-agency has made it more difficult for top-flight teams to retain their stars. Montana never lost a Super Bowl, but his titles spanned one decade (1981-1989), while Brady's 16-year run as a starter have been bookended by Lombardi Trophies.

But instead of referencing those points, Brady essentially made the "system quarterback" argument for his detractors by pointing to who he's been around the coaches he's played for. 

Brady has a few more quotes of note in the piece, including who he thinks might be the best NFL player of all time if it's not him.

"I don't remember a lot of those guys like Jim Brown playing," Brady said. "I remember Lawrence Taylor, obviously; he terrorized the 49ers . . . I know that I haven't played against a lot of those guys, but I've also played against a lot of guys that when I think of Peyton Manning and Marvin Harrison and Dwight Freeney and Jason Taylor and Ray Lewis and Ed Reed and Darrelle Revis -- if those guys aren't the best, then whoever is better than them is only better by percentage points. It's not a big difference. So, like Deion Sanders, for example. I remember watching him play, how spectacular he was. But I can't imagine someone that much better than Revis. If there were, you couldn't complete a ball against Darrelle. So completing a ball against Deion is not much different than completing a ball against Darrelle."

On playing into his mid-40s and potentiall his late 40s: "I always said my mid-40s, and naturally that means around 45. If I get there and I still feel like I do today, I don't see why I wouldn't want to continue."

On if playing at 50 should be in play: "If you said 50, then you can say 60, too, then 70. I think 45 is a pretty good number for right now. I know the effort it takes to be 40. ... My love for the sport will never go away. I don't think at 45 it will go away. At some point, everybody moves on. Some people don't do it on their terms. I feel I want it to be on my terms. I've got to make appropriate choices on how to do that, how to put myself in the best position to reach my long-term goals."

On if Gisele might have some say on when his career comes to an end: "My wife says lots of things sometimes. She makes decisions for our family that I've got to deal with. Hopefully she never says, 'Look, this has to be it.' ... My wife and my kids, it's a big investment of their time and energy, too."

On if Gisele is OK with Brady playing into his mid-40s: "She wants me to do that, too. She also wants me to take good care of myself and still have my energy. My kids have grown up faster than I thought."

On if he's annoyed that Jimmy Garoppolo hasn't been traded: "When you're a member of a team sport, the best guy plays. So I always want to make sure I'm the best guy, and I give our team a great chance to win. But if you're ever not [the best guy], part of being a great teammate is letting the other guy do that, as well. Competition is what has always driven me. I've never been one that was hand selected, to be this particular player. ... In high school, college, professionally, I think the greater the competition, the more that it really allows me to dig deep and bring the best out of me."

On if he'd like to see Mauricio Ortega, the Super Bowl jersey thief, punished: "I really don't like anyone to ever get in trouble. To me, I'm just happy I was able to get it back. ... My reaction then wasn't heartbroken. I thought, at the end of the day, it was a jersey."

Patriots not taking the bait on potential bulletin-board material from Darnold...yet

Patriots not taking the bait on potential bulletin-board material from Darnold...yet

FOXBORO -- Devin McCourty knew where the question was going before it had even been asked.

"At his press conference yesterday," a reporter started, "Sam Darnold..."

McCourty laughed. He was already aware of what Darnold said Thursday. But he didn't want to be the one generating headlines ahead of Monday night's matchup with the Jets, reacting to something said at a podium by a second-year quarterback he'd soon be tasked with trying to stop.

"We'll see," McCourty said. "I don't have a comment on that right now. We'll see how it goes."

Darnold, fresh off his team's first win last weekend and AFC Offensive Player of the Week honors, didn't say anything that would be considered by an impartial observer as incredibly inflammatory. 

But these are the Patriots. They've long had a reputation of taking slights, real or perceived, and using them to their advantage. A little extra motivation never hurt. And it wouldn't be surprising if what Darnold said this week serves as fuel for his opponents.

"Their defense is good, they have been all year,” Darnold said of the Patriots. "But just like any team, they’re not unbeatable. So we’ve just got to go out there, find the weakness in the defense and keep working it. So that’s what we’re going to do on Monday night."

The word "weakness" seems to have been the one that struck a chord with certain Patriots when they were asked about it Friday.

"I wonder what that is," Kyle Van Noy said, shrugging his shoulders.

Van Noy was at the center of things the last time we found out that the Patriots latched onto an opponent's words in the week leading up to the game.

After Bills tackle Dion Dawkins suggested in Week 4 that the Patriots hadn't done anything in 2019 until playing in Buffalo, Van Noy said after his team’s win, "Just wanted to make sure Dawkins knew who we were."

The Patriots, of course, have the league's attention. They rank first in the NFL in scoring defense (8.0 points per game) and first in defensive passer rating (42.6). They are, in the eyes of many, the easy choice as the best defense in football right now. 

Still, Darnold likes his offense's chances. If they can get tight end Chris Herndon back, Darnold said the Jets can be "unstoppable." (Herndon is dealing with a hamstring injury and isn't expected to play Monday.)

"Right now, we're just missing Chris," Darnold said. “Once all the guys are back together, I think we're unstoppable as an offense -- or we can be.  

"It's just up to us and how we execute. It's really up to us how many points we score, I think. I think we're capable of so many points. With our offensive line, too, the way they played last game, with the way we've been running the ball and the way they've been protecting, sky's the limit for us."

Darnold's comments -- comments from a confident young quarterback who undoubtedly is trying to instill confidence in his team ahead of their biggest game of the season -- could be ones he comes to regret. 

Not that the Patriots wanted to suggest as much ahead of the game.

"I don't know," Stephon Gilmore said for his reaction to Darnold's "weakness" comment. "You can ask him that, I don't know."

"I hadn't heard him," JC Jackson said. "I'm not on the internet. I don't pay attention to what other guys say.  We just show up. We let our play do the talking. We're just gonna play ball. We ain't got time for the talking. We're just going to show up and do what we do."

Jonathan Jones said his reaction to Darnold saying what he said is, "to go back to the film to find what he finds and find it before he does, I guess." 

"There's always some plays," Jones continued, "that they're going to be looking at and say, 'Hey, we had them here.' They might not have completed it or targeted the guy, but we'll definitely try to find those plays and anticipate those."

"It's not really [a slight]. There's always going to be plays out there. I don't care how good you are. Whether it be the front disrupting him and the quarterback didn't have time to get through his read and make the throw. but there's always plays that we can get better from. Hopefully, we can find those corrections before he does."

The Patriots are near the top of the league in just about every defensive category, though perhaps the Jets will try to run the football as New England ranks closer to the middle of the pack in yards per carry allowed (4.2). 

But calling that phase of their defense a "weakness" would be a stretch, as interior defenders Lawrence Guy and Danny Shelton have been among two of Bill Belichick's best players on that side of the ball this season. Their front seven is loaded with athletic and experienced linebackers capable of stopping the run as well.

Darnold probably felt as though what he said Thursday wasn't a big deal at the time. But he might not be familiar with the time-honored Patriots tradition of taking an opponent’s words and using them as a spark.

They'll take any morsel of motivation they get and gnaw on it until the clock strikes zeros. Using the word "weakness" when talking about a defense on a historic pace probably qualifies as more than a morsel. As would suggesting the Jets offense can't be stopped.

The Patriots didn’t let on that they were zeroed-in on Darnold’s comments Friday. But it would come as little surprise — depending on how Monday night goes, of course — if they later acknowledge those words breathed a little extra oxygen into the fire that’s burned under their defense through the season’s first month and a half.

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Architect of Colts' infamous fake punt vs. Patriots was at it again

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AP Images

Architect of Colts' infamous fake punt vs. Patriots was at it again

Perhaps Denver Broncos special teams coach Tom McMahon knew the anniversary of the NFL's worst fake punt was upon us.

Why else would McMahon, formerly the Indianapolis Colts special teams coach, call for probably the second-worst fake punt on Thursday night in Denver's loss to the Kansas City Chiefs? 

Did he really think this (see below) would work?

Metaphorically, at least, haven't we all been Broncos punter Colby Wadman at one time or another?

Ben Volin of the Boston Globe pointed out that McMahon was also the mastermind behind the Colts' fake punt with a formation-never-before-seen in football that came four years ago today in a Patriots' 34-27 victory in Indianapolis.

That one left backup wide receiver Griff Whalen snapping the ball to safety Colt Anderson, all by their lonesome, with the rest of the formation yards away and not on the line of scrimmage, which led to a subsequent illegal formation penalty flag, but only after Whalen and Anderson got blasted by five Pats defenders.

Next time, McMahon draws up a fake punt, (if there is indeed a next time), his head coach might want to just go for it. It couldn't be any worse. 

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