Tom Brady has said that he wants to play 10 more years. As several of you have pointed out, Friday marked the 10-year anniversary of his arrival on the NFL scene.
On September 23, 2001, Jets linebacker Mo Lewis applied a lung-damaging hit to Drew Bledsoe. Brady took over while Bledsoe healed, and the career of one of the greatest players in NFL history was launched.
Some wonder what would have happened if Bledsoe hadn’t been injured. There’s a school of thought that Brady was destined to overcome Bledsoe regardless of injury, and that coach Bill Belichick at a minimum had been toying with the idea of putting Bledsoe on the bench.
This much is clear — Bledsoe didn’t play the classic role of Wally Pipp. When Brady suffered an injury during the AFC title game at Pittsburgh, Bledsoe came in and presided over the win. Though Bledsoe was more of a bystander than a gamebreaker in that victory, there was considerable hand-wringing in Boston regarding the question of whether Bledsoe or Brady should get the nod in Super Bowl XXXVI.
In the end, Bledsoe didn’t pull a Pipp on Brady. Belichick made the decision that he supposedly had been pondering before Bledsoe’s injury. The team won the Super Bowl, Bledsoe was traded to Buffalo for a first-round pick in 2003, and the Pats won two more Super Bowls while being perennial contenders. (Bledsoe, by the way, was inducted into the team’s Hall of Fame last weekend.)
Though it’s been seven years since the last championship, Brady authored in 2007 and 2010 two of the best single seasons in league history. This year, he has had the two best regular-season games of his career (statistically), and he seems to have deliberately kicked his game to another level.
Whether it’s a burning desire to be known as the best ever or simply the confluence of still-sharp physical skills and sufficient experience to make the best decisions and execute them well, Brady is moving toward the mantle of his boyhood idol, Joe Montana. And at Brady’s current pace, he’ll surpass it.