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Friday, 23 September 2011

10 years of Tom Terrific

Game footage of Lewis (#57) hitting Bledsoe (#11)
10 years ago today Mo Lewis, Linebacker for the New York Jets, put a thunderous hit on New England Quarterback Drew Bledsoe as he was going out of bounds. Tom Brady described it as the hardest hit he’d ever heard. Bledsoe had to come out of the game. Enter #12.

Now, after 127 wins in 164 careers starts (Inc. playoffs), a 5.6 Touchdown percentage and a staggeringly low 2.2 interception percentage from Tom Brady, I’m here to say, simply, thank you Mo Lewis.

Without that hit on Bledsoe who knows when, or even if, Brady would have gotten his chance with the Patriots. Let me be clear, it’s never nice to see a guy go down with a serious injury, and this is no different. In march 2001 Bledsoe had signed a new 10 year, $103million (the highest, and longest in the NFL) and was just 29 years old. He was considered one of the best QB’s in the game, even though his stats aren’t the crazy-high numbers we’re used to seeing these days. Bledsoe was the present and future in New England. He had already taken the Patriots to one Super Bowl and was THE guy in New England. Until Mo Lewis put him in the hospital.

Bledsoe (right) was traded to Buffalo after the 2001 season
Tom Brady stepped onto the field not the 6th round, 4th string guy he’d been his rookie year, but yet to really show himself worthy of starting. But given his chance, Brady refused to relinquish the starting role. Winning 5 of the 8 games he started before Bledsoe was fully fit, and then being named the full time starter by Bill Belichick.  

Having been dubbed “The Comeback Kid” for his late heroics with Michigan, Brady continued on that vein during his first season as a starter, crucially in the play-offs against the Raiders and in the Super Bowl vs. the Rams, both times driving down the field against the clock to put Adam Vinatieri in position to kick the game winning field goal.

Since then Brady has lead the Patriots to 3 more Super Bowls, winning 2 of them. He’s broken several records for the position and won 2 league MVP awards, including being the first player unanimously voted MVP in 2010.

He’s suffered through droughts of talent at wide receiver (New England went without a 1000yd receiver from Troy Brown in 2001 until Randy Moss arrived in 2007) and recently on defense while keeping the Patriots ticking along on offense. Only once, in 2002, has Brady started every game for New England and they did not make the play-offs. He’s seen turnover in the coaching roles too. With Charlie Weis and Josh McDaniels having been offensive co-ordinators that have moved on, to Bill O’Brien now. And yet Brady has been consistently excellent.
Brady making adjustments Pre-snap last week Vs. San Diego
As this season rolls on, at the age of 34, Tom Brady doesn’t look like slowing down any time soon. He’s currently on pace to crush Dan Marino’s record for passing yards in a season (although I doubt that will happen) and break his own record for touchdowns in a season (again, unlikely).

There is a competitive fire in Tom Brady that is rarely seen. He might not have the physical gifts of other NFL players (watch his 40 time at the 2000 combine, hilariously slow), but being selected in the 6th round left Brady with a massive chip on his shoulder that he still uses as fuel to punish his opponents.

And to think that, without Mo Lewis and the New York Jets, this all might not have happened. Thanks Mo, and thanks New York, for the 3 rings and 10 years of excellence. May there be many more.

          -      Toby Durant (@TDonSport) 
          -      The Pulling Linemen

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