It was early in 2000. At Muss Bertolino Stadium, a local television reporter and his photographer were doing stories on some of the draft prospects working out with trainer Tom Shaw.
While we were taking pictures of some of the prospects, the father of an obscure quarterback came up to the reporter and introduced himself.
“Hi, I’m Tom Brady,” he said. “I am here watching my son.”
The conversation was nice enough, but I didn’t give it a second thought. In the April, 2000 draft, Tom Brady was selected with the 199th overall pick in Round 6.
That season, Brady threw three passes and completed one for six yards. One year later, Brady and New Orleans would intersect twice.
In November 2001, the Patriots were a 5-5 team, hosting the New Orleans Saints. That day, Brady completed 19 of 26 passes for 258 and four touchdowns. The Patriots won their last nine games.
The last game in that streak was Feb. 3, 2002, in Super Bowl XXXVI at the Superdome. With the game against the Rams tied at 17, the Patriots were backed up at their own 17-yard line with 1:21 to play in regulation and with no timeouts.
“You have to run out the clock, and play for overtime,” said network TV analyst John Madden. “Don’t do anything stupid.”
The Patriots didn’t. Head coach Bill Belichick put the ball in the hands of Brady, who quickly moved New England into position for a game-winning field goal.
“Now, I kinda like what the Patriots are doing,” chuckled Madden.
A strike from Brady to wide receiver Troy Brown was the big play in a drive that ended with a game-winning, 48-yard field goal by Adam Vinatieri.
Brady was the coolest of quarterbacks. Before the game, he took a two-hour nap in the Patriots locker room. In the Monday morning press conference for the game’s Most Valuable Player, Brady stepped to the podium at the Morial Convention Center.
“We got a whole team of underdogs,” said Brady. “Now we are the top dogs.”
That the Patriots became the NFL’s gold standard is a testament to what one great quarterback and coach can do.
Nine years earlier, in 1992, the Saints traveled to New England and defeated the Patriots, 31-14. In a battle of Lafourche Parish starting quarterbacks, Bobby Hebert threw three touchdown passes while Pats starting quarterback Tommy Hodson was pressured by an outstanding New Orleans defense. New England had six first downs and 122 total yards. The loss was the Pats’ ninth straight to start the season.
The Patriots were the poster boys for bad football. But as they scouted a University of Michigan quarterback who was supposedly too slow and too weak, positives emerged.
They felt he fit the offense and had great leadership skills.
Ed Daniels is sports director of ABC26 WGNO. He can be reached at email@example.com.