This isn’t a Super Bowl review as such, nor a response to anything in particular. I’ve just been thinking about the relative careers of Tom Brady and Peyton Manning and the greatness they’ve exhibited and it led me to something else.
Brady and Manning, over the course of their respective careers, have been virtual clones statistically. Manning has higher totals in everything, but on a rate basis they are essentially equal across every meaningful offensive category. They are, by any measure, great quarterbacks. They are, arguably, the two best ever, and many people contend that one of them is the best ever. That argument, it seems to me, always comes down to three things; who you like best, how much you value playoff/Super Bowl success and which one did the more remarkable thing more recently.
I can’t choose between them. If there was a Super Bowl for my soul, I’d be happy with either and absolutely terrified if Satan had the other guy.
Here’s the thing though, Peyton Manning was drafted with the first overall pick, Tom Brady was drafted with the one hundred and ninety-ninth. Multitudes thought Peyton Manning was going to be a great NFL quarterback. Few thought Tom Brady was going to be an NFL quarterback.
I don’t believe Bill Belichick and the Patriots sat in their draft room thinking Tom Brady was going to be an all time great quarterback. If they did, I doubt they would have left him on the board until the sixth round. But I believe they saw something, a spark, an attitude, an aptitude that they liked, something they could work with and so they picked him. And then they worked with him.
Bill Belichick studies football, he studies football players, he finds players with obscure talent and finds ways to develop and illuminate it. He found Brady and he helped develop him. Brady is a great quarterback, it isn’t fair to say otherwise, as some people implicitly do when they ask if he’s just a product of Belichick’s coaching. Tom Brady is great in his own right, because of his own talent and attitude and hard work, but Belichick uncovered that talent and developed it when many others wouldn’t have and didn’t.
Belichick is a great coach in the same way Peyton Manning is a great quarterback. They were both destined for greatness. They had luck along the way, no doubt. I don’t believe you can be great without it. Belichick was the son of a scout, Peyton was the son of a quarterback, that gives you a head start to begin with. But from the moment they set foot in the NFL, only the most severe of calamities were going to stop them from achieving greatness.
Brady still needed a break, he needed a coach who saw his potential and could kinesthize it. He also needed an opportunity, which he got when Drew Bledsoe got injured. He didn’t necessarily need Belichick, there may have been other coaches who would have seen his greatness and coached him to it, but he got Bill Belichick. I don’t think he could have done better.
Had Cleveland, with the 183rd pick of that 2000 draft, taken Tom Brady instead of Spergon Wynn, I think Belichick would have still found his Brady. Somewhere, sometime. Maybe it would have been Bledsoe, maybe a guy like Ben Roethlisberger, maybe someone else now lost to anonymity. I find it interesting that of all 7th round Quarterbacks taken in the last 20 drafts, the best is quite possibly Matt Cassel, another quarterback drafted by Belichick and who, incidentally, had his best year under the guidance of Belichick. It doesn’t matter who it was, Belichick was going to find a quarterback. Would it have been a first ballot Hall of Famer like Tom Brady? Maybe not. But he would have found someone his teams could win with.
Tom Brady is a great, hard working, talented, football player.
Bill Belichick coaches hard working, talented football players to be the greatest they can be.
They found each other. That’s not luck. That’s serendipity.