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After a rare taste of defeat in last season’s Super Bowl, Tom Brady has a new resolve to win a sixth championship for the New England Patriots. Arguably the NFL’s greatest ever quarterback, Brady spoke to EDGAR about making the most of his talent, the dynasty he has helped build and why he feels he must pass on his knowledge to the next generation
Last season’s Super Bowl defeat was a tough one to take for Tom Brady. Despite throwing three touchdowns and setting a new record of 505 passing yards against the Philadelphia Eagles, the New England Patriots lost 41-33 with Brady dropping a simple catch on a trick play in the second quarter that would have secured a crucial touchdown. “I just didn’t make the play,” he sighed after the game.
The star quarterback with the golden arm and movie star looks begins his quest for a sixth Super Bowl ring this month when he and his Patriots begin their campaign against the Houston Texans. Can Brady haul the Pats over the line next February in Atlanta and become the first player to put six Super Bowl rings in his locker? You wouldn’t bet against him.
“The first time we ever won a championship was incredible, no one thought we had any chance,” Brady tells EDGAR. “But by the fifth time we won it, everyone thought we had a chance. I guess perspective changes over time, not for me so much, but for everyone else.”
Looking ahead to this 2018/2019 season, Brady is aware, perhaps more than ever, of the youth coming through the NFL ranks, guys who are half his age. “Right now there are so many great young players, the league is in great shape,” says the 41-year-old. “Ultimately it’s about the coaches being able to maximise the talent they have. Every player has their own different style and there are many different ways to get it done as an athlete. Some guys are shorter, smarter, with better movement. Some guys are taller, more powerful. Some guys are faster but not as strong, some guys are just pure strength. It depends what the team needs of you. Most importantly, you have to find the right fit.”
It’s inevitable that, sooner or later, any conversation about Tom Brady arrives at Bill Belichick. The famously grumpy coach of the Patriots drafted the young Brady in the sixth round of the 2000 NFL draft, when many expected him to be selected much earlier. The two men won their first Super Bowl in 2002, which set in motion a golden age for the Patriots of five Super Bowl crowns, four of which saw Brady named MVP. Many players have come and gone since then, but Brady and Belichick have remained a comforting constant for Pats fans – and a thorn in the side of opposing teams.
Tom Brady has repaid Belichick’s faith shown to him during that nervous draft by staying with the Pats ever since, forging a sporting dynasty and simultaneously establishing one of the best coach-QB pairs in the game’s history.
“Coach grinds us hard every day,” explains Brady. “Every day we show up to work knowing what to expect and he expects a high level from us. He wants us to perform at our best every day and when we don’t, he lets us know.” After the Patriots won their fourth Super Bowl in 2015 with a thrilling comeback against the Seattle Seahawks, Belichick, in a rare moment of warmth, said Brady had been “a privilege to coach for the last 15 years.”
Tom Brady tells EDGAR, “We've been fortunate to keep our culture together for a long time so the team has had a great amount of success, which has been built over a period of time.”
For Brady, this has meant adapting his game to the myriad challenges that the NFL throws up every season. “Different people are blessed with different talents, some with an innate drive that’s just part of who they are,” he says. “You have to appreciate it, do the best with what you have. I have always tried to take advantage of the opportunities presented to me where I can.”
As is often the case when talking of the Patriots, there’s an undercurrent of politics and even Shakespearean drama. Franchise owner, billionaire Robert Kraft, has been called a “second father” by Brady. The tug of war between Belichick and Kraft over their star player has led to gossip and, according to rumours over the years, been a source of tension behind the scenes at the 66,000-seat Gillette Stadium in Foxborough.
Of course, the Patriot’s status as the most disliked team in the NFL doesn’t help the situation. Whenever there’s a whiff of discord, pundits leap on the Brady/Belichick-bashing bandwagon. The Boston Herald once poked fun at Belichick and his omnipresent sweatshirt by calling him ‘Darth Vader in a hoodie.’ But whatever brickbats are hurled at them, Brady and Belichick just keep on winning football games together.
Tom Brady and Belichick have also endured uncomfortable moments dealing with another kind of politics, the kind that happens in Washington. Brady had one of Donald Trump’s ‘Make America Great Again’ red caps in his locker and in a 2015 interview, said of the future President, “It’s pretty amazing what he’s been able to accomplish. He obviously appeals to a lot of people, and he’s a hell of a lot of fun to play golf with.” Once Trump’s campaign for the presidency gathered pace, Brady evaded questions about their friendship. In September 2017, Trump issued a stinging criticism of NFL players who knelt during the US national anthem, calling on teams to “fire or suspend… son of a b***h” players. Brady countered, describing Trump’s comments as “just divisive.”
Belichick, meanwhile, once wrote a letter to the President, praising him, which Trump read out at a rally. When talking of his work ethic, Trump said, “I learnt that from Belichick.”
All this drama and we haven’t even got to Deflategate yet, the 2015 scandal which saw Brady banned for four games for using under-inflated balls in the Patriots’ AFC Championship victory against the Indianapolis Colts. And let’s not forget Spygate, the 2007 furore caused by the Pats videoing opposing coaches, for which Belichick apologised. Add all this off-field activity to their domination on it and it’s no wonder the Patriots are regarded as the most unpopular team in the NFL.
And yet, at the start of every season, standing behind the Pats’ offensive line, ready to take the first snap in his number 12 jersey is the bulletproof Brady. He and Belichick are known for never looking back on past glories. Much like the dynasty Sir Alex Ferguson built at Manchester United, the Patriots’ success relies on an insatiable appetite for winning and a zero tolerance attitude to complacency.
Speaking on this issue recently, Brady told CNN, “You can look back to learn but at the same time you’ve got to look forward. We’re facing a new set of challenges and we’ve got to be able to embrace those in order to maximise the season. Every team starts at the same place, and we’ve got to build in order to achieve the success we want.”
Tom Brady, a father of three, said, “A lot of people are making great sacrifices and commitments to playing. You don’t have all the time with your family. A lot of the time you have to focus and commit to the team. So when you do that the goal is to win. That’s certainly where my energy is directed.”
Tom Brady turned 41 in August. This is not headline news, but because it’s Tom Brady, it takes on a much bigger significance, especially as speculation continues to swirl about his retirement.
In an interview with Oprah Winfrey in June, Brady remarked, “I’m seeing there’s definitely an end coming, sooner rather than later. As long as I’m still loving it, as long as I’m loving the preparation, the training, I’m willing to make the commitment. There are other things happening in my life, too. I do have kids that I love, and I don’t want to be a dad that’s not there, driving my kids to their games.”
Using that quote as fuel, the NFL gossip machine cranked up to 11. Brady’s quote appeared on an ESPN Instagram post and there, amid the hundreds of comments was one from Brady himself that read, “cuarenta y cinco,” which is the number 45 in Spanish, accompanied by three monkey emojis. Brady has two years remaining on his Patriots contract and has the experience to squeeze more time out of his career by playing clever football that lessens the toll on his body – even if there aren’t many places to hide on an NFL field.
The kids he talks about are his son Benjamin and daughter Vivian with his wife Gisele Bündchen, and his son John from his relationship with actress Bridget Moynahan.
When he was a youngster, Brady dreamed of one thing and one thing only. “It was always professional sports for me, which is crazy when you think about it as the odds for it happening to anyone are so small,” he tells EDGAR. “It was almost naïve, but I never really thought about anything else. Maybe necessity is the mother of invention in that regard. In some ways it was good not to have a Plan B as it meant I wasn’t distracted by anything.”
Sitting here today as a TAG Heuer ambassador on a luxury yacht in Monaco with five Super Bowls, Brady can afford to smile. “I could never have imagined this is how it would have worked out,” he adds. “I am very blessed. Professional sports has brought me so much and been so rewarding to my life.”
James Harrison is a now-retired linebacker who won two Super Bowls with the Pittsburgh Steelers and spent six weeks of the 2017 season with the Patriots. A year younger than Brady, Harrison had already made up his mind on Brady when he walked in the Patriots locker room. “To be honest with you, I wanted to hate this dude,” he admits. “But as soon as I get there, who is the first person I see, with this smiling, happy face? I thought he was faking but you watch how he moves in the locker room, how he communicates with guys – he’s the ultimate teammate.”
It sounds like Brady would make an ideal NFL coach. “I don’t know about coaching in particular but, for sure, I believe the experiences I have had can be used to help younger players,” says Brady. “I have so many young players who come up to me and ask, ‘How do I maximise my potential?’. You have to give to other guys, that’s certainly something I value in my position, as a mentor in a way. If you've made it through as far as I have, I see it as a responsibility to pass on that knowledge and information to other people.”
But for now, starting on September 9 in the first game of the new NFL season, Brady will use all the street smarts he’s learned over a storied career to help his beloved Patriots land Super Bowl number six and – to use a phrase Brady is fond of saying – “just get it done.”
END OF INTERVIEW