On March 1, I wrote about how New England Patriots president Jonathan Kraft spoke about Wes Welker while participating in the “Building a Dynasty” panel session at the MIT Sloan Sports Analytics Conference at the Hynes Convention Center. Kraft touched on another subject as well.
Tom Brady. More specifically, Patriots head coach Bill Belichick wanting to draft Brady earlier than in the sixth round of the 2000 draft, when the Patriots eventually selected the future Hall of Famer with the 199th pick.
QB Drew Bledsoe had recently signed a large contract and owner Robert Kraft and Kraft did not want to select a QB. The Krafts had their sights set on building a contender around Bledsoe. Belichick saw the value in Brady when most others did not. Keep in mind the 2000 draft was Belichick’s first and the Patriots had a lot of needs to fill. Jonathan talked about how Brady was rated pretty highly on the Patriots’ board and in the fifth round, Brady was still available. Jonathan also talked about how Belichick said there was too much value for Brady to still be sitting there and that Brady was a winner. Jonathan elaborated that Belichick became even more focused on selecting Brady in the sixth round when Brady was still available.
This is part of what makes Belichick great. Belichick does not care what people think and he doesn’t play it safe. Belichick will do whatever he thinks will help the Patriots win, even if what he wants to do is viewed as contrary. Belichick didn’t only look at Brady’s 40 time (5.2 or 5.3) or care that Brady did not appear to be that athletic. Instead, he saw the talent and intangibles Brady did have and fought to draft him.
The Patriots and their fans are lucky that Belichick saw something in Brady that almost no on else saw and that he fought to draft Brady. On Sept. 23, 2001, in a game against the New York Jets, Bledsoe was flushed out of the pocket and as he was running out of bounds he was hit hard by Jets LB Mo Lewis. Really hard. Somehow, Bledsoe, while suffering from internal bleeding, played some after the hit. Brady, in his second year and unknown at the time, entered the game for the final series. The Jets won that game, as Brady failed to lead the Patriots to victory from behind.
Brady was named the starter after it was reported Bledsoe would be out six to eight weeks. Once Bledsoe was cleared to return, Belichick made the controversial decision to stay with Brady. Brady led the Patriots to the franchise’s first Super Bowl win in Super Bowl XXXVI, defeating the St. Louis Rams. Brady has led the Patriots to five Super Bowl appearances, winning three.
Recognizing Brady’s talent and not being afraid to make a controversial decision is part of what makes Belichick great.