FOXBORO -- Last season, in a quiet moment in the Patriots locker room, about three years removed from the last time they'd played the Packers, Tom Brady couldn't help but marvel at Aaron Rodgers.
I'd stopped Brady to chat about some of the quarterbacks he likes to watch to help him hone his game. His diligent approach to film study had already been well-documented, but his "Tom vs. Time" series would be released on Facebook about a month later and shine an even brighter light on the maniacal work that goes on behind the scenes: Brady at his desk in front of a computer, probably drinking a shake, breaking down the nuances of what he sees on the "All-22."
There were a number of quarterbacks Brady mentioned during our conversation. Russell Wilson's mobility came up. Drew Brees' consistency. How Ben Roethlisberger executes the Steelers scheme. Peyton Manning. Brett Favre.
But when it came to mechanics, there was a clear front-runner.
"Aaron Rodgers," Brady said, "probably has the best mechanics in the NFL -- probably in the history of the NFL."
That's high praise coming from a player who has spent as much time as he has refining the way in which the football comes out of his hand.
Brady worked for years with the late Tom Martinez on his throwing motion. More recently he's made adjustments with the help of former Major League pitcher Tom House. Together they harp on things like stride length, front-side rotation and torque.
Brady is intimately familiar with what he views as sound football throwing mechanics, and yet for him, Rodgers is the prototype -- someone whose mechanics from his hips, up through his shoulder, elbow, wrist and fingers have combined with his athleticism to make him one of the most devastating on-the-move throwers the NFL has seen.
That, in turn, has helped lead Rodgers to experience success that few others have. He's the highest-rated quarterback of all time (103.6), ahead of Russell Wilson (99.6), Brady (97.6) and Brees (97.3).
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"No one's been more efficient than him in terms of quarterback rating, which -- I know what that means: yards per attempts, touchdowns per attempt, interceptions per attempt," Brady said. "But I think it's still pretty impressive to have that type of efficiency."
Brady piled on the plaudits when he checked in with WEEI's Kirk and Callahan program earlier this week.
"What he’s done as a quarterback, I think it is inspiring, even for me," he said. "I watch his game and it makes me want to get out there and practice and improve because I think he’s so phenomenal with the way he manages himself in the pocket and his ability to throw the football is unlike anyone probably in the history of the league. It’s pretty awesome to watch.
Rodgers was equally effusive in his praise of Brady in a conference call Wednesday. Turns out, just as Brady has tried to pick things up from Rodgers over the years, Rodgers has done the same in studying Brady.
"As a young player, I watched a ton of his film," Rodgers said. "I had a great guy to watch every single day in Brett Favre, but Tommy’s been at the top of his game for a long, long time. So, I watched most of the snaps from the ‘07 season and I’ve always been a big fan of his."
That 2007 film was particularly beneficial to Rodgers because of what Brady showed in terms of his mobility inside the pocket. There's no question which of the two players is the better athlete -- even with Rodgers dealing with a knee injury this season -- but watching Brady then was a master class in deftly extending plays.
"Just watching him in 2007, especially," Rodgers explained, "his smooth nature in the pocket, and he’s able to make subtle movements, and he has his entire career to create space through a throwing lane or a throwing platform. That’s one thing – not looking at the rush and being able to find that soft spot in the pocket is something he’s just been incredible at. It’s an innate sense but something you can really work on as well.
"That’s one thing I definitely took from him, and just like Favre, Tom’s always been great with his eyes – being able to manipulate defenders and move them out of zones that he wants to throw into and move safeties to be able to get to spots down the seams. Him and Brett are the best two I’ve seen on film."
After years of analyzing one another's play, learning from one another, trying to adapt pieces of their games from one another, Brady and Rodgers will try to beat one another Sunday night.
The film? Should be must-see stuff.
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