Tom Brady is believed by most to be the greatest of all time to play quarterback in the NFL. Tom Brady is not like most. He doesn’t see himself as the GOAT or even the best current QB in the league. In his mind he’s still fighting for a job every week. When he served his four game suspension, he may have been the only person on the planet who thought there was a hair of a chance that Jimmy G would supplant him as that starter of the Patriots. To us it’s obvious he’s the best, but to Tom Brady, he’s still just trying to get better.
When Tom Brady was at the University of Michigan he was not THE MAN. He was seventh on the depth chart without hope of ever starting. Usually when you’re that low on the depth chart at a big-time college program, you’re destined to be a scout team QB at best and if you’re lucky you’ll get to suit up on senior day as a nice gesture. He scrapped and worked hard to be in a position to compete for a starting job his junior year. Battling with freshman Drew Henson, he was constantly having to look over his shoulder as coach Carr had only made him starter for the first quarter in every game, while Henson came in for the second until Brady eventually took the job by way of sheer fortitude. If that weren’t enough, he did the same thing his senior year, still no one saw greatness in Tom Brady. That made him work harder. Where others might give up and accept how others viewed them, he fought to prove them wrong.
He entered the draft where a lot of scouts and general managers in the league thought of his ceiling as a backup. Skinny, slow and an average performance at the combine he was picked 199 in the sixth round by the Patriots. He was depth. He was a practice squad guy. He famously got a peek at the QB coach’s notes that said “he needs to do everything faster.” This is who Tom Brady is. To him, he’s the skinny kid that no one thought would be good enough to be a full-time starter at Michigan, let alone an NFL franchise. He’s always only as good as his last play.
For all of his individual achievements, team wins, Super Bowls, statistics, and praise from all of the fans, media, coaches, and fellow players, Tom Brady is a snap away from being benched. This is how he sees it anyway. Every time someone tells him how amazing he is, I suspect he thinks they don’t understand how he almost didn’t play in the NFL or even Div 1 college. For every league or Super Bowl MVP he gets, he’s motivated to get the next one, to prove all of those naysayers wrong. What naysayers? They’re out there I guess, but only Tom can hear them at this point.
His struggles to get playing time at Michigan and being drafted late in the sixth round still motivate him in 2016 to overcome any obstacle toward being the best. It’s more than a competitive drive or ego. It’s principle. It’s validation that hard work pays off. Maybe if coach Carr at Michigan made him the starter immediately after Brian Griese went to the NFL Tom Brady would just be another quarterback. As it so happens, everyone doubted him which made him stronger and more driven to succeed. Someday he may see his greatness for what it actually is, but that day will come well after he’s played his final minute. Until then, Tom Brady is listening to every talking head, beat writer, opposing fan, or sports-talk host who says he isn’t good whether they exist or not. For him, he’s still proving he’s not the scout team seventh on the depth chart sixth round pick. At age 39 he’s still trying his damnedest to prove to all of us and himself that he is worthy of starting football games. I hope it’s a long time before he finally sees what we already know. Tom Brady is the greatest of all time.