It’s one of the most talked-about draft picks in the history of the NFL, and many column inches have been devoted to whether it was serendipity or some sort of superior insight that led the Patriots to take a punt on a thoroughly unremarkable quarterback from Michigan, Tom Brady. The story of the 199th draft pick seems ripe for an ESPN 30 for 30 documentary. Indeed, if you haven’t seen it, Year of the Quarterback: The Brady 6, makes for some intriguing viewing as it charts the career trajectories of the six quarterbacks chosen ahead of Brady, as well as analyzing as to why one of the greatest players ever seen in NFL found himself as the 199th choice.
Of course, Brady is not alone in being one of the late round NFL Draft success stories. But his unparalleled success thereafter makes the story of the draft all the more compelling. Brady still has a story to tell down in Tampa Bay, and perhaps it will yield the kind of success to make the Patriots rue his absence. While it’s too soon to write the career obituary of Tom Brady, we would nevertheless like to back on some the career highlights of undoubtedly the most astute draft pick of all time:
- The First Super Bowl Victory, 2002
New England’s good fortune in picking Brady in the 2000 NFL Draft is not the only ‘what if’ moment in Brady’s career. Quarterback Drew Bledsoe, the face of the Patriots’ franchise and a man who had just signed a 10-year contract extension, suffered an injury when playing against the Jets in the second game of the season. Enter Brady, and an exorable march to Super Bowl XXXVI ensued for the “Greatest Show on Turf”. Brady’s performance in 20-17 victory over the Rams had all the hallmarks of the strongest traits of his later years; namely, quick-thinking, nous, and a belief that there is always enough time to win a game.
- The Brady Sixth, 2019
Not Brady’s best performance in a Super Bowl, but clinching his sixth title in the Mercedes-Benz Stadium, Atlanta was perhaps sweeter than any other. In a nice squaring of the circle, the victory came against Brady’s first Super Bowl opponents, the Rams. There was to be no clever play with 90 seconds left on the clock this time, however, just the realization that Bill Belichick and his lieutenant would find some way to defeat you. The lowest-scoring Super Bowl in history and a game littered with dull moments counted for nothing; Brady was now out on his own as the winningest player of all time.
- Demolishing Tennessee, 2009
A difficult question to muse upon in sports, even outside of football, is to consider when a player is at their absolute peak? For Brady, it’s a difficult one, and some might argue he didn’t reach the pinnacle until his 40s. However, we were all able to sit back and watch greatness action back in 2009. On a snow-covered field in December, Brady launched missiles that were gleefully caught by colleagues like Wes Welker as the Patriots ran out 59-0 winners. Brady threw for six touchdown passes, finally putting to bed any notion that he wouldn’t be the same after a serious knee injury in 2008. It was Brady back to his best, and we would see more of the same over the subsequent decade.
- 28-3 Down, But Not Out, 2017
Whether or not it’s the greatest Super Bowl of all time is a debate for another day, but Super Bowl LI certainly delivered one of the most thrilling endings in sports history. You know the story: The Patriots were trailing by as much as 25 points in the third quarter, forced overtime and broke the hearts of Atlanta fans. At least 30 records were broken or equaled in a bizarre, but pulsating, game. MVP Brady was in the thick of the comeback, of course, demonstrating the unique ability possessed by only the greatest athletes in history – an ability to win when all seems lost.