I’m clearly biased as a Patriots fan but what Tom Brady has achieved in the NFL is absolutely incredible. Although records are there to be broken, did anyone really think we’d ever see a 43 year old quarterback win a 7th Superbowl? Not to mention he was quite unlucky not to win 3 more, losing in close games to the Giants and Eagles. It’s an amazing feat that may stand as the marker that all QBs will be measured against for the years and decades to come. Yet – let’s not forget – every single team in the NFL passed on Tom Brady several times in the 2000 NFL draft. It’s a famous story but one that will probably fade somewhat down the line in retrospect when people look at the rings and records and forget that no one predicted he would be a starter never mind a 7 time champion.
Here are 6 lessons that can be learned from the GOAT!
1.) Ignore the naysayers
The above story of pick number 199 is famous because in hindsight knowing what we know now – we all laugh at how many teams missed out on the opportunity to draft him. Even the Patriots who obviously saw something picked him quite late. Even when he became a starter, many were calling for Drew Bledsoe to take over for the Superbowl. Several times in his career pundits have claimed he’s too old or past his best – the best example being the Max Kellerman “fall off a cliff” declaration a few years ago. Even now after winning 7 there will be many who claim he is “lucky”, “a cheat”, “wouldn’t be successful without Bill Belichick”, “saved by a good defence” – the list goes on. He has continued to prove his doubters wrong. Clearly he doesn’t pay attention to the negativity from outside. Or, if he does he uses it as motivation not self-sabotage.
2.) The past is the past – move on
“My favourite ring is the next one” – If anyone could have rested on their laurels and achievements in the past – then Brady certainly could. In fact many QBs tend to look for high paying contracts after they’ve won championships to cash in on their championship winning credentials. Brady has never lost his desire to win titles. He has never been one of the highest earners in the NFL over his career. Sacrificing financial reward for long term success. On top of that we forget he has lost in Superbowls and AFC championship games. Brady has always picked himself back up after every setback and comes back stronger. After losing a Superbowl where he threw for 500 yards he came back and won the following year.
3.) Put yourself in the right environment
I’m not going to get into the boring and pointless argument of who is more responsible for the Patriot’s dynastic success in the 2000s out of Brady and Belichick. The New England Patriots were and are a well ran franchise with great facilities and coaches. Brady clearly benefited from that environment. While there is an element of luck to his drafting by the Patriots – he also stuck with the team when he could have moved on for more money elsewhere or for teams with greater offensive weapons where he could have increased his stats and records or had greater short term success. He knew that New England provided him with the right environment to succeed in over a longer period of time. When he left New England he chose an environment with the tools to succeed in Tampa Bay – recognising their talented roster as a team he could thrive in. Evidently he chose well. It seems obvious now with Mike Evans and Chris Godwin and a Superbowl win but the Bucs went 7-9 last season and finished 3rd in their division. You wouldn’t look at that team at the end of last year and predict a Superbowl win. Clearly Brady saw he could succeed there and was proved right.
4.) Success – It’s not just about ability
He’s not the tallest, strongest, fastest or most athletic. There are and have been quarterbacks with stronger throwing arms and wider physical skill sets. As pointed out in the NFL combine performance. What those markers couldn’t pick up on were character and commitment. He has the record for the most 4th quarter winning drives in the NFL, in playoff and Superbowl history. Many of us look at pure ability as the most desirable quality in sports or business but character is the unseen factor. It’s the values, work ethic, attitude and mentality that someone brings to an environment. Sports and business is filled with many cautionary tales of talented individuals who believed in their own hype or wasted their talents. The great Manchester United manager, Alex Ferguson used to like to meet young player’s parents as it gave him an insight into a player’s character, work ethic and attitude instilled by their parents or environment. Brady brings dedication, a winning desire/mentality, flawless preparation and a high intelligence to the game. He fought his way to a starting role at Michigan which should have told NFL teams what they needed to know – this is someone who wants to succeed.
5.) High achievement takes high commitment
His strict diet is famous for the sacrifices he makes. I’m not going to argue about the pros and cons of excluding certain vegetables, dairy etc but whatever he’s doing is working for him and has allowed him to compete in professional sports at the highest level at an age when most athletes are long retired. Would he be able to have done this consistently without his commitment to his health, nutrition and fitness – no. But he’s also well known for the time he puts into doing “his homework” and game preparation. Nor do we see photos of him falling out of bars and nightclubs like some players. Whatever it is you’re trying to compete in – it takes time, effort and dedication. While there is no single route to success per se – Brady has shown that committing to a programme that works provides positive outcomes. Too many people talk the talk but fail to commit to doing what needs to be done. High achievement requires work
6.) Fail to prepare, prepare to fail
Bucs QB coach Clyde Christensen talked in an article about how Brady prepares footballs before games. He spends days preparing balls before games so they’re just as he likes them and factors in weather, temperature and humidity. I’ve read articles that during the season he spends 16 hours a day preparing for a game. He also starts studying for his opponents for the following season at the end of the season. He’s well known for extensive game film study and preparation for meetings. But he also practices and applies what he learns to prepare practically as well as in theory. When Drew Bledsoe went off injured against the Jets – Brady was prepared to take his opportunity. If he hadn’t been he would have went back to benchwarmer on Bledsoe’s return from injury later in the season. We all ask for opportunities to come our way – whether it’s a new job, a new project, a Superbowl appearance – if you’re not prepared to take that opportunity you’ll fail to take full advantage of it.