Tom Brady Entered Our Lives 14 Glorious Years Ago This Week

With one hit, Boston sports changed forever.

Drew Bledoe

Fourteen years ago today, the course of Boston sports history changed forever. Of course, nobody knew it at the time.

On September 25, 2001, Patriots head coach Bill Belichick announced that a sixth-round draft pick and owner of the slowest 40-yard dash time ever for a quarterback would take over for franchise QB Drew Bledsoe on a temporary basis. Tom Brady made his season debut two days earlier against the New York Jets, when linebacker Mo Lewis knocked Bledsoe out of the game with a big hit late in the fourth quarter. Brady led the Patriots into Jets territory as time was expiring, but the comeback attempt was cut short when he misfired on his last four pass attempts.

New England lost 10-3. The Associated Press offered a less-than-glowing account of the effort: “The Patriots don’t have a great offense, and the Jets had a new defensive line Sunday. So let’s hold our praise for the Jets’ defense until they play (and stop) some better competition.”

Perhaps anachronistic now, this was a fair critique at the time; it was a sloppy showing from the Patriots, who committed four turnovers, including three inside the Jets’ 10-yard line. Fresh of a last-place finish, the Pats had lost their second consecutive game to open the 2001 season. A Super Bowl win couldn’t have seemed further away.

The possibility certainly didn’t seem to enter Belichick’s mind when he said he was making the QB change. “I don’t think we’re talking about John Elway here, but I don’t know how many of those there are,” Belichick said. He’s got a good NFL arm.”

Last season, Brady became the oldest quarterback since John Elway to hoist the Lombardi Trophy. It was Brady’s fourth career Super Bowl victory, tying his hero Joe Montana for the most all-time.

So in a way, Belichick was right. Brady didn’t become Elway. He’s better.

At 38, Brady is is off to a torrid start this season, playing arguably the best football of his career. He’s gone 107-of-155 with 1,213 yards and 13 touchdown passes since the NFL deemed his footballs under-inflated at halftime of January’s AFC Championship Game. As Michael Whitmer of the Boston Globe notes, Brady would break four major NFL single-season passing records if he keeps up this pace.

It’s not unprecedented for a quarterback to have this much success in his late 30s, but it sure is rare. Warren Moon passed for 4,264 yards when he was 38, and Brett Favre, 4,155 yards. Moon hung on for six more seasons, but Favre was out of the league three years later after leading the Jets to a 5-8 record in 13 starts.

This week, when the Jacksonville press asked Brady if he’ll play for another decade, he admitted that might be a reach. “But, hopefully, it’s a lot more than what people would typically predict,” he added.

If anybody can play into his mid-4os, it would be Brady. A Sports Illustrated feature last year detailed his fanatically strict diet, which changes with the seasons. In the winter, Brady eats “hot property” food like red meat before switching over to a mostly raw diet in the summer. For dessert, Brady treats himself to some avocado ice cream before hopping into bed at 8:30 p.m.

But just as nobody could predict Brady’s ascent into superstardom, it’s likely his fall will occur without much warning. Even if Brady continues to play well, there’s no guarantee he’s going to want to go through the rigors of an NFL season as he reaches middle age. The “F-U tour” has to end sooner or later.

For now, Brady will continue sticking it to the league that tried to destroy his legacy over slightly deflated footballs. And that’s just fine by us.