A Reevaluation Of Fringe NFL Prospect Tom Brady

We should have seen the signs earlier. We should have heard the silent whispers. We didn’t listen. How could we have known that the gangly quarterback from Michigan was going to become the greatest quarterback of all time? 

His hair. 

Tom Brady has always been streets ahead. The bowl cut, thought to be out of style in 1999, has actually made a comeback. It’s trendy and fashionable. In fact, both my roommates have sported bowl cuts in the past year. It’s not just an easy way for your mom to cut your hair cheaply. 

Hair stylists, dressers, and even some post-modern barbers now charge you to get a bowl cut. 

Brady, a sixth-round pick, was telling us all along that he was special. You’d want to believe that the quarterback who might not have had any special athletic ability, in terms of combine measurables, but who could make a read progression and make subtle moves in the pocket to evade the rush would be a hot commodity.

Clearly it wasn’t in 1999 and, unfortunately, it’s not in 2018, either. 

Josh Allen is going to get picked in the first round in 2018 barring a whole bunch of teams coming to their senses between now and the draft. He has all of the combine measurables but none of the quarterback measurables that Brady had while playing at Michigan. 

Everyone believes they are going out trying to find the next Brady, while few seem to know who he was in college. 

I’m going to bury the lede here when I tell you that, after watching Brady at Michigan in his senior season, I would have easily given him a first-round grade. 

He possessed everything that he would need to go on to become the Tom Brady that we know today—almost two decades later: the ability to get through multiple reads and throw the ball accurately and a great sense of pocket awareness.

I went into this project of watching Brady in college expecting to see what everyone else saw in 1999. I wasn’t exactly sure what that was but I guess I expected some sort of absolutely horrific trait beaming off the screen whenever he dropped back.

Of course, anyone can see some of the things that the haters also saw. Arm strength, for example—as in, he doesn’t have a lot of it. But, he never needed it. Sure, a quarterback needs a certain level of strength, but after you pass a certain “arm strength” threshold, you’re fine. Still, he was able to make comeback throws like this one to the wide side of the field, even with that spaghetti arm.

What I like about this throw is that Brady, as he finishes the play-action fake and sets his feet, is already angling toward the sideline he intends to throw to. He’s efficient in his footwork.

One of the first things you notice when you pop on the film from the 1999 season is how accurate Brady was on short flat throws or running back slip screens. He rarely missed throwing his target in stride and it usually resulted in yards after the catch.

Not scared in the face of the blitz, he stays poised and reads the safety who jumps down on the shallow route, opening up the post route behind it. Great ball but it’s dropped. The Michigan receivers had a bad case of the drops in 1999. 

Again, against the blitz, he hits his receiver for a big gain and touchdown.

This next one is a good throw and read. Michigan is running a slot fade concept on the wide side of the field. It’s where Brady is looking first. When it’s the safety who plays on top of the fade route, the quarterback knows that the middle of the field will be stretched and his backside post can find space there. 

Here are some down the field throws that are placed with pinpoint accuracy (arm strength issues right?) only for them to be dropped again.

And another drop for good measure.

I saw Brady consistently make good reads on concepts like "smash." And, while, yes, this is a simple concept, I see Sam Darnold make mistakes on these sorts of reads on a regular basis.

It’s almost laughable that Brady wasn’t drafted in the first round. It’s more laughable that the NFL still doesn’t see value in Tom Brady types at the quarterback position. 

The league that took Chad Pennington, Giovanni Carmazzi, Chris Redman, Tee Martin, Marc Bulger, and Spergon Wynn before Brady two decades ago should have looked itself in the mirror and figured out how this happened. 

Instead, after guys like Jamarcus Russell, Paxton Lynch, and soon-to-be first-rounder Josh Allen, the NFL hasn’t learned that real quarterback play is all in the haircut.

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