Sunday, August 25, 2013

What's With All the Tom Brady Hate?

Tom Brady is a hated man.  He's loved in New England, but hated everywhere else.  I get that he's to be despised in places like Baltimore, Pittsburgh, and New York, among 27 other cities.  What I don't get is why there's so much hatred over here in Michigan.  

I listened to the Valenti and Foster show the day after the Patriots lost the Super Bowl in 2012 to the Giants for the second time, and I remember hearing an irate caller blast Brady for being overrated and was sick and tired about hearing "how good he is."  I've heard the same thing over the course of the last few years on local and national sports talk radio, including Friday afternoon on the Karsch and Anderson show, on the day after the Patriots lost to the Lions at Ford Field.

The hatred for Tom Terrific can be summed up in two ways:

The only reason he's good is because he's coached by Bill Belichick.  He's a product of one of the greatest coaches and one of the greatest systems ever.  He's been surrounded with talent like Randy Moss, Wes Welker, Rob Gronkowski, and Correy Dillon.  On top of that, Matt Cassel took over for Brady when he was lost for the season in 2008 and led the team to an 11-5 record, despite missing the playoffs.  Since leaving the Patriots, Cassel has never replicated his performance in four years with the Kansas City Chiefs.

Or, the Patriots were exposed as a result of Spygate, where the Patriots were caught videotaping the New York Jets' play calling and used it to their advantage to cheat.  The saying goes that ever since Spygate, Brady has never won a Super Bowl.  These are two ridiculous arguments that can easily be debunked by simple logic.

First, Belichick wasn't that great a coach prior to his arrival to New England.  He failed miserably in Cleveland and he quit coaching the New York Jets a day or two after accepting the job. 

Second, Cassel did perform well in relief of Brady in 2008.  But in 2007, the Patriots went undefeated and made it to the Super Bowl.  They made another appearance in the Super Bowl four years later under Brady's leadership.  Plus, Cassel was a relative unknown.  He was in his second year in New England, so he already had a grasp of Belichick's system.  There was little game tape for other teams to study him and find his weaknesses.  It was only when he went to an inferior team like the Chiefs, where he was more easily exposed.

Third, yes, Brady did have Randy Moss.  From 2007 until 2010.  Not his entire career.  The other players I mention were good, but they were developed in the Patriots' system.  Wes Welker was a nobody.  When the Patriots won three Super Bowls, players like Bethel Johnson, David Givens, and Troy Smith were average to slightly above average receivers.  Later on, he had Wes Welker and Julian Edelman.  Neither of those guys were anything before playing with Brady.  Tom Brady makes them better, as do the elite quarterbacks.

As far as Spygate goes, remember, they did still play another fifteen games to go undefeated.  And like I said, they went to the Super Bowl, twice.  To expect them to go there and win it every year is ridiculous, as not even Peyton Manning has those kinds of expectations.

Tom Brady shouldn't be so vilified around here, unless you're a Michigan State fan or a Buckeye transplant.  He played here in Michigan.  Brady wasn't a 4- or 5-star recruit.  Brady came to Michigan when Brian Griese and Scott Dreisbach were going back and forth for the starting quarterback position.  In 1998, Brady finally beat out Dreisbach after Griese had left.  The same year, another highly touted recruit, Drew Henson arrived in Ann Arbor and shared playing time with Brady.

Brady eventually had a successful career at Michigan, despite constantly looking over his shoulder with Henson expected to be leading this team to Big Ten Championships, Rose Bowl Championships, and National Championships.  Henson's story fit the Michigan narrative perfectly.  Coming out of Brighton, MI, Henson was a blue chip player whose potential was virtually unlimited.  A two-sport athlete, Henson was destined to play either in the NFL or the MLB.

Henson was the future, even if Brady was the present.  Henson eventually led the Wolverines to a share of the Big Ten title in 2000.  He was expected to lead Michigan to a National Championship and be selected Number 1 overall in the 2002 NFL Draft before baseball came a callin' with George Steinbrenner's New York Yankees.

Henson's career in baseball was brief.  He couldn't hit a curve ball on the big stage.  His career MLB totals were going 1-for-9.  When baseball wasn't going anywhere, he opted for the NFL.  He was drafted in the 6th Round of the 2002 NFL Draft by the Houston Texans.  Then his rights were traded to the Dallas Cowboys for a 4th Round pick the next year.  Henson never took off in the NFL as he languished in Dallas, Minnesota, and one year on the 0-16 Detroit Lions.

Brady on the other hand came from San Mateo, California.  While not highly touted like Henson two years later, Brady was a find.  His story in many ways, is more compelling because he had to work so much harder to earn his place at Michigan.  Despite leading the Wolverines to victory at the Orange Bowl over Arkansas on January 1, 2000, he wasn't expected to go very far in the NFL.

Brady managed to be skipped over 198 times before the Patriots drafted him in at 199 in the 6th Round of the 2000 NFL Draft.  He looked like an average athlete with nothing tangible to separate him from every other quarterback.  He spent his rookie year playing behind franchise quarterback Drew Bledsoe, who had been the guy for eight years and led the Pats to a Super Bowl in 1996.

The rest became history.  Brady went on to win his first Super Bowl in his second year, a feat later accomplished by Ben Roethlisberger in Pittsburgh.  He won two more and appeared in a total of five Super Bowls. He's also been selected to eight Pro Bowls, two First Team All Pro, three Second Team All Pro, and won two MVP awards and two Super Bowl MVPs.  The guy's resume makes him a sure lock, a first ballot Hall of Famer.

If anything, Brady's story should be a great teaching lesson about the shortfalls of promise and the reward of dedication and determination.  He never came to Michigan as the next big thing.  He wasn't even a savior in New England as they already had their franchise quarterback in Bledsoe.  But the forces of history soon allowed Brady a favorable route. He put in the time and effort to realize his own potential.

Henson is not a bad guy.  He was flashy, and had a high ceiling.  I think he had a greater love for baseball, and because it didn't work out, he tried the NFL.  The NFL didn't work because he had been out of the game for too long.  He took a gamble many of us only dream about.  If I were a two-sport athlete, I too would've taken the $11 million contract the Yankees were offering.  The risk of career ending injury in football is much, much greater than in baseball and had he been seriously injured in 2001, he may have been left with no career in either sport.

Brady and Henson will be forever linked.  Both had success at Michigan.  Brady went on to have even more success at the next level.  More success than any other quarterback with the possible exceptions of Joe Montana and Terry Bradshaw.  I like Brady because he's a Michigan quarterback, even if he doesn't play for the Lions.  Michiganders should be proud to call him one of our own, even if he only played in Ann Arbor for four years.



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