We all know the illustrious story of Tom Brady and the career he has compiled with the New England Patriots. Sixth round pick, 199th overall turns out to be 5x Champion, 4x SB MVP, 3x NFL MVP, winningest quarterback of all time…blah blah etc. etc. the list goes on and on… We’ve also heard it a million times, forwards and backwards, that if he didn’t have Bill Belichick or that Belichick never had Brady that neither would be quite as successful and be renown as the GOATs of their respective professions. But what if that were really true and Brady had never been drafted by the Patriots and instead he went to another NFL team? Would Brady have had the same success elsewhere? Would he survive without Belichick, and the “Patriot Way”?
ESPN recently dropped excerpts from a new book soon to come out about Bill Belichick’s career titled “Belichick: The Making of the Greatest Football Coach of All Time” written by ESPN reporter Ian O’Connor. The excerpts had anonymous sources claiming that Brady has “had enough” and “feels trapped” in regards to his longtime coach and that he would “divorce” from Belichick if he could. Now this wouldn’t be the first time we have seen a hit piece written about Tom Brady or Bill Belichick by a ESPN writer, and one that may possibly be filled with inaccuracies or just straight up lies. It’s almost required writing in their newsroom at this point. But what if there is some factuality to this story and Brady truly thinks he could have had the same success elsewhere. Let’s hypothetically explore what could have happened if Brady had went to one of these six other teams that drafted a quarterback before the GOAT in the 2000 NFL Draft, and what his career might have been if he didn’t end up in New England coached by the “Hooded One”.
Disclaimer: Yes, I know the scrawny ass, 22 year old Brady would never have been drafted as high as some of the QB’s picked in this draft unless their GM’s at the time were driving the Delorean from Back to the Future, but let’s play along.
New York Jets
It’s already bad enough for Jets fans to think about how they let Bill Belichick escape their grasp and move to their division rival Patriots, who have subsequently put them over one knee and spanked their behinds for the past 18 seasons. But don’t forget they took Chad Pennington 18th overall and could have taken Brady there or with any other of their almost unprecedented four 1st round picks they had that year. But let’s say Brady was taken with that 18th pick, by Al Groh, longtime assistant to Bill Parcells and also Bill Belichick during his tenure in Cleveland. Maybe Groh sees the same qualities in Brady that made Belichick believe in him. He makes him the 2nd string quarterback behind Vinny Testaverde and he sits the bench his first year like he did in the New England. Groh leaves after one year, Herm Edwards is the new Jets Coach and thinks after a 1-2 start that old ass Vinny has got to go and it’s Brady time. The Jet’s have a decent team that year and Brady shows some of the same magic he did in New England his first year and carries them to the playoffs. They don’t win the Super Bowl but the fans are convinced Brady is the guy and the Jets stick with him. He has 4-5 years of 9-7, 8-8 seasons, puts up decent stats but has to deal with the turmoil and dysfunction that has defined the Jet’s franchise for years along with the pressure of the New York media. Herm Edwards proves he can’t handle said media and loses his mind with rants about how “You play to win the game!!” and is eventually replaced. Things continue on for a few more seasons before Rex Ryan shows up in 2009. Rex, albeit it always controversial and a little strange, (especially the feet thing) can coach some fucking defense and gives Brady a team that can actually help him get to the Super Bowl. It doesn’t happen in 2009, but in 2010 and 2011 Brady hits his stride and the New York Jets win the Super Bowl in back to back seasons. Calm down Jets fans this is a hypothetical scenario. Brady is the king of New York, he becomes the Derek Jeter of football and dates every Victoria Secret model in the catalog and begins to build his TB12 brand. Except this time it’s built around being a fashion icon/celebrity. They go on to be serious contenders in the AFC for the next couple years and then drop off a cliff in 2015. Brady and Rex grow to hate each other and the whole thing falls apart. Brady has some mediocre numbers on some dysfunctional Jet’s teams before being traded to the Cleveland Browns to end his career. We all know that doesn’t go well and he retires after the 2017 season as a 40 Year old washed-up QB that once showed greatness. His numbers end up being good enough for a Hall of Fame bid along with the 2 Super bowl titles, but everyone says that it was the defenses he had that carried those teams. Coincidentally he’s viewed in the same light as Eli Manning is today. Never really that great but “Hey, he did win two Super Bowls”.
San Fransico 49ers
The 49ers take Brady here with the 65th pick of the draft instead of Giovanni Carmazzi. Tommy Brady loves it because he gets to play for his hometown team that he grew up watching with dreams he would become the next Joe Montana one day. That dream comes true but he sits on the bench behind Jeff Garcia, who actually plays fairly well even though the 49ers finish a disappointing 6-10. Brady learns a lot about being an NFL legend from Jerry Rice, who actually played with Montana, and Brady matures quickly in his first year. Jeff Garcia pulls a hammy week two of the season and just like he did in New England, Tom takes over an already talented team and leads them to a Super Bowl his first year as a starter. Steered by a QB minded coach in Steve Mariucci, Brady quickly learns and comprehends the West Coast offense and thrives in it. He has a loose cannon, but extremely talented wide-out in Terrell Owens. He convinces Terrell to chill out with the driveway sit-ups and they get on the same page and quickly become the most dominant QB-WR combo in the league. The 49ers, who were still a well-run organization at this point, realize the potential they have in Brady and surround him with talent. This may be hard to believe, but I think he possibly has an even better career with the 49ers than he has had in New England. You can’t discount Brady’s drive to be greater than his idol Joe Montana and in San Fran he hears those comparisons come through even louder, as he is the quarterback of the same team Montana played for. He wins his first three titles during the 2000’s, and in 2011 and 2013 he wins two more. The team has a couple of sub par seasons in a row and people question if he is washed up and no longer the once great QB he was. Finally in 2016 he wins his unprecedented 6th title and rides off into the sunset. He has no aspirations of playing until he’s 45. He’s lived his dream on the team he always wanted to play for, and done it better than the guy they previously called GOAT in San Francisco.
The Baltimore Ravens are the one of the more interesting what ifs in our little experiment here. Particularly for the fact that it was Brady and the Patriots that stood in the way of many great Ravens teams from deep postseason runs. And vice versa, the Ravens have given Brady his fair share of playoff nightmares. So what if with the 75th pick in the 3rd round the Ravens selected Brady instead of Chris Redman? You could argue the success of the Ravens and Patriots franchises could be swapped, and it would be the Patriots with two Super Bowls since the 2000 season and the Ravens anointed as the premier NFL dynasty with five or six. Considering Brady would have been a rookie in 2000, the year a historic Ravens defense basically carried a dead corpse of a quarterback in Trent Dilfer to a Super Bowl victory, we can count that as one Super Bowl win in the bank. But what about after that? It’s easy to forget that those early 2000’s Patriots teams were not carried by Brady to their three Super Bowl victories in four years. It was their tough, well coached defense along with a mixture of the still young and developing Tommy Brady and hard-nosed rushing attack that the Patriots would lean on when Brady just didn’t have it that day (which really used to happen). In fact I remember many a game that Brady would go 12 for 20 with 140 yds and 1 TD, and yet the Patriots would still win 17-10. Not exactly GOAT numbers. That’s why I also believe Brady would have definitely been in the same realm of success with a loaded Ravens defense behind him. A defense that seemed to stay among the best in the league for the entirety of the 2000’s and into the next decade. I mean the “elite” Joe Flacco took this defense to a SB win at the tail end of their run. So who’s to say Brady couldn’t have gotten at least three or four titles with them. No doubt he would be in a much tougher overall division than the AFC least, and would have had to contend with some tough Steelers teams over the years. Also, he would have had to compete with a Patriots team that still would have boasted a classic Bill Belichick defense that could scheme up ways to give Brady fits come the playoffs. Regardless Brady is still successful and him and Ray Lewis go down as the best offensive/defensive player combo that the league has ever seen.
The Steelers feel almost like the twin brother of how the Ravens scenario could have gone with Brady. They too had a few tough 2000’s teams that saw their Super Bowl dreams squashed by Brady and his Patriots. So instead of replaying that scenario let’s think about how Brady would have fared if instead of Ben Roethlisberger, they had Brady playing with the talented but disappointing Steeler teams of the past few seasons. A team that has boasted one of the most explosive offenses in football. In this scenario, Brady, in twilight or prime of his career has weapons around him the likes of Antonio Brown, Le’Veon Bell and Juju Smith-Schuster. He also would have had Martavis Bryant for a couple of years and might have convinced him that avocado ice cream is a better guilty pleasure than bong rips and blunts. And while it’s not all on Big Ben that the Steelers haven’t had more success over these past few seasons, (their defense has consistently let them down as well), but he also has not played at the absurdly high level the ageless GOAT has. Brady has one of the greatest statistical runs in NFL history with this team. It doesn’t mean they win countless Super Bowls though. The Steelers have one of the worst controlled locker rooms in the league under HC Mike Tomlin and their players are more likely to be posting Instagram videos in the locker room than studying film. He wins the same Super Bowls with the Steelers that Big Ben has won and gets another one in 2015, but is inevitably less successful than he should have been. With his Steelers teams being a consistent pick to win the Super Bowl each year, but continuously falling short, Brady gets frustrated with the lack of success and feels like the “old man yelling at cloud” when it comes to his teammates, often clouds full of weed smoke and suspensions. He ends up being traded to the 49ers to end his career. Once there he never truly recaptures the success he once had and retires at the age of 40 as a 3x Super Bowl Champion and sure-fire Hall of Famer, but certainly not considered the GOAT.
New Orleans Saints
Won’t spend a ton of time here because it could be easily argued that if Brady and Drew Brees swapped places they would have the same amount of success that the other respective QB has had. But if the Saints were to have selected Brady over Marc Bulger in the sixth round of the 2000 Draft, would Brady have actually made the team instead of being cut like Bulger was? It’s possible he doesn’t, but let’s say he does and he joins a Saints team that had been one of the consistent basement dwellers of the NFL. And although they basically played .500 ball from the years 2000-2005 they were still always considered a joke franchise in the eyes of many in the league. With Brady not much changes over those years, he plays OK but not great, and the Saints are never really taken seriously. But all that changes when Sean Payton arrives in 2006. Coming off a year of trials and tribulations dealing with the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, this new revamped Saints team starts dominating teams with their prolific offense. Playing his home games in the Superdome he racks up absurd numbers for many years and ultimately becomes the most statistically accomplished Quarterback in league history. He wins two Super Bowls in 2009 and 2011, but he then struggles carrying a team that can’t stop a nosebleed on defense post Bountygate. But then he rebuilds himself in the same TB12 Method that we are familiar with and the Saints become very relevant contenders like they have been the past two seasons. Brady makes it to two more Super Bowls, losing one, and ends up as a 3x Super Bowl champ. New Orleans loves and endears him as the first player to ever bring true success to their city and they let him play until he chooses to retire which ends up being 3 years later than it should have been. He is a first ballot HOFer and rides off into the sunset, highly regarded as the 2nd best QB of all time behind Joe Montana.
Here’s the team we’ve all been waiting for…What if the Cleveland Browns had taken Tom Brady instead of Spergon Wynn with the 183rd pick of the draft. This is the most likely what if out of these scenarios because Wynn was only taken 16 spots before the Patriots took Brady at 199. Would Brady fall victim to the same ill-fated history of the other Cleveland Brown quarterbacks drafted over the years? Would we even know the name Tom Brady? Or would he just be a guy whose name was added to the back of the famous Cleveland Browns quarterback jersey alongside Couch, Detmer, and Quinn? (His name sort of fits on that jersey if you look at it.)
Brady gets drafted to a pitiful 2000 Browns team, one of the worst in the history of the franchise, which says a lot. They were a team that finished the year scoring a horrendous average of 10.06 ppg, the third worst ever since the NFL moved to a 16 game schedule. Brady gets thrown out there way too soon, and hears the boo birds very early because they remember him in Cleveland, Ohio from his University of Michigan days up in Ann Arbour. He plays sporadically his rookie season, splitting time with Tim Couch but the season is a disaster and he goes into his second year with Butch Davis as the new head coach. This is where things get very interesting. It’s easy to forget amidst the fog of traditional Cleveland Brown stinkery, but when Butch Davis was hired he was projected to be a huge signing for the Browns after returning the Miami Hurricanes program to their once former glory. He went 7-9 and then 9-7 his first two seasons and looked to be on a path to becoming a perennial contender in the AFC. With Brady he actually has a young talented QB that he can build a team around and he tells the disappointing Tim Couch to go find a burning river to jump in. Before we get too excited, and hypothesize another Tom Brady miracle of a career, lets not forget it’s still the Cleveland Browns. But even so Brady plays well and the Browns go 10-6 two years in a row before having a breakout year in 2005 where they go 12-4 and make it to the AFC championship game. They’re poised to win the game, but end up losing in dramatic and unbelievable fashion when they allow a last second hail mary to cost them their trip to the Super Bowl. (Told you it was still the Browns) Brady never forgives the coaching staff and while he plays terrific football for the next couple years including his first NFL MVP and first ever for a Browns quarterback in 2007, he still isn’t happy. The Browns, who are sick of dealing with him, make the insanely idiotic move of trading their MVP Quarterback for three future first round picks. A move that goes down in history as the dumbest trade of all time because Brady then goes on to lead the (fill in the blank, doesn’t matter) to 4 Super Bowl titles and is widely regarded as the best QB in the history of the game. Cleveland dwells in the basement of the league for the next 11 seasons and their fans wonder what could have been if they had kept their beloved Tom Brady. All because one last time, it’s still the Cleveland Browns.