New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady has accomplished everything in the NFL. He's a three-time league MVP, a six-time Super Bowl champion and a four-time Super Bowl MVP.
It's not easy being a great player like Brady and having a coach tell you that in a particular practice or game that you performed poorly, or that you let the team down. Brady, as one of the most coachable athletes of our lifetime, understands that no one, even players with a tremendous résumé like him, are above criticism.
Martellus Bennett, who played one-and-a-half seasons with the Patriots and won Super Bowl LI with Brady, shared an awesome story Wednesday on FOX Sports 1 show "First Things First" that highlighted the 41-year-old quarterback's coachability.
“One day we were at practice and the defense is crushing us," Bennett said. "We can’t complete any passes. Sometimes they do the install and it’s just the right install. So we come into the meeting and Bill (Belichick) always had bad plays of the day and he’s just calling out Tom, ‘We have quarterbacks that can’t make throws.’ I’m like ‘This is Tom Brady. He can make all the throws.’
"I’ve never seen coaches really call out the quarterbacks in group meetings. I sit right behind Tom because I’m the quarterback whisperer. I like to whisper in their ear when I see things. So, after we break that meeting, I go to finish my workout or whatever and Tom is in there doing dropbacks. He’s just throwing dropbacks. He’s pissed off. The next day we go 33 for 33 or something like that at practice, and from then I was just like, ‘Oh, we’re gonna be great.’ I’ve never seen anyone that didn’t shut down. He was like, ‘Alright, I’m gonna show you tomorrow.’ He just picked them apart. Take this, take that.”
Not every player takes this kind of criticism well, especially when it's in a group setting, as the veteran tight end explained.
"You'll see a lot of guys retreat," Bennett said. "Oh, why are you pointing me out? Why are you doing this or doing that? I'm this guy or that."
Belichick clearly isn't afraid to get on anyone's case. He calls like he sees it, and Bennett clearly enjoyed that type of environment where no player is put on a pedestal based on talent or career achievements.
"He'll call out anybody," Bennett said of Belichick. "I try not to laugh sometimes because, like, the way he does it is funny to me. I find Bill to be hilarious. But he calls everybody out. That's the first team I've been on where I felt everyone was equal."
This style of coaching is not unique to Belichick, but it's not entirely common in sports today. One player/coach duo who had a similar dynamic to Belichick and Brady was San Antonio Spurs coach Gregg Popovich and soon-to-be-Hall-of-Famer Tim Duncan. Duncan is one of the most coachable players in NBA history, and Popovich did not exclude him from critique despite his championship pedigree.
Brady's and Duncan's willingness to accept coaching, learn from it and use it as motivation is among the many reasons why both players kept winning at a championship level in the latter stages of their careers. And in Brady's case, he still could win a few more Super Bowl titles given the way he's battling Father Time.
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