Sunday, April 24, 2011

Tom Brady: Success in 2011 NFL Draft Means Looking At The Past

April 28th, mark it down on your calender. With the NFL Lockout negotiations spinning out of control faster than Charlie Sheen on Tiger Blood, its nice to know that a sacred tradition won't be removed because of a little bickering between NFL siblings. Todd McShay and Mel Kiper Jr, draft staples just as the Bunny is to Easter, have been making their picks on mock draft boards for weeks now.

My seventh and eighth grade History teach Mr. Razor (he looped with us for 2 years, God knows why) always used to say the reason why we learn about history is so we don't repeat the mistakes of the past. The 32 NFL teams, hundreds of scouts, and organizations General Managers need to take Mr. Razors advice.

There have been the Ryan Leaf's of a mistake, to the recent Jamarcus "purple drank" Russell's banishment from the league. Now, not only can coaches not handle him, but his life coach recently quit and is seeking therapy.

History spoke to us eleven years ago almost to the day when Tom Brady, 3-time Superbowl wining quarterback and two-time NFL MVP was picked 199th in the 2000 draft, a compensatory pick in the sixth round, and the seventh quarterback taken.

I know what your thinking: What! How! Why! Confused? Yes!

The piece ESPN recently aired called "The Brady 6" (be careful when you-tubing unless you want a Brady Bunch montage to play for an hour), chronicled Brady's fall to the 199th pick in the draft.  I'm not sure if Y2K was freaking everyone out or if scouts were too busy cooking crystal meth in their basements than studying game film, but Brady falling to the sixth round had just as much oversight as recent air-traffic controllers.

He's too slow. He lacks arm strength. Questionable leadership qualities. These were some of criticisms scouts and draft board analysts made about Tom Brady leading up to the draft. These denunciations would have been plausible if the following didn't happen when he played college football at the University of Michigan (not the Rich-Rod era, but in an era of dominance paralleled to the Ohio State University):

During his first full year as starter, he set Michigan records for most pass attempts and completions in a season. Brady was All-Big Ten (honorable mention) both seasons and team captain his senior year. The Wolverines won 20 of 25 games when he started and shared the Big Ten Conference title in 1998. Brady capped that season with a win over Arkansas in the Citrus Bowl. In the 1999 season, Brady led Michigan to an overtime win in the Orange Bowl over Alabama, throwing for 369 yards and four touchdowns.

Having all of those accomplishments under his belt, what was the hesitation and fear of selecting him in an earlier round? All I could find was his combine numbers. He ran the 40-yard dash in 5.23 seconds, "slow" by NFL quarterback standards. What scouts should have been evaluating was the immeasurable -- his heart, soul, and character. 

Jerry Rice, regarded as the greatest wide-receiver of all time, ran a 4.71 40 time, much slower than most players at that position. He attended a small college in Mississippi and went on to a hall-of-fame career with the San Francisco 49er's. Jerry was never the fastest, strongest, or tallest out there on the field, but he worked the hardest to be a perfectionist at his craft. He played with a similar chip Brady does, always trying to prove the naysayers wrong year after year and he did. 

NFL teams have four days to get away from their blueprint, cookie-cutter mold of the quarterback with only the physical tools and to dig deeper to find the mental and emotional makeup of the player within.

It's the players who know that their lucky and blessed to play a game that pays them millions who are the safest picks. For this year's draft, pick the players who have the talent, but also the humility of a grocery store bagger.

Find a person who never had it easy, who had to fight adversity because every Sunday that's exactly what they will be going up against. Draft a player who will practice the most and the one who studies tape relentlessly. Everyone in the NFL is athletic, it's the ones who work hardest that truly have a chance to become legends. A player who wears a chip plays better when they are stacked up against him.

The Brady 6 might have changed the perception of what qualities are the most important when evaluating a potential athlete to draft, especially at the quarterback position. But, most likely there will be another story of a player who fell down the draft board because of his lack of size and speed or red hair. And in 2021, we might look back on this year and wonder why teams didn't learn from the past.

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