COMMENTARY | The quarterback for the New England Patriots goes by many names.
There's "Tom Terrific," "The Great Tom Brady," "Tom F'n Brady" (my personal favorite, usually heard in South Boston) and, of course, "Future Hall of Famer." But the biggest challenge of his entire NFL life may be fighting the urge to be too much like ... Tom Brady.
Tom Brady has made careers. Think Deion Branch, David Givens and maybe even Wes Welker. Catching passes from No. 12 has led to a Super Bowl MVP Award, multiple Pro Bowls, and barrels of cash.
Tom Brady has also helped put an end to careers. Bethel Johnson, Chad Jackson, Brandon Tate and Taylor Price say hello. Those four have combined for fewer than 150 catches, and 15 touchdowns. That was barely a season for Brady and Randy Moss. Definitely not, "straight cash, homey."
Much of the blame for the Patriots' failure to develop receivers in the last decade rightfully falls at the feet of Bill Belichick. He drafted them, he coached them, and he couldn't get them on the same page as his three-time Super Bowl-winning QB. That's fair. Belichick passed on Greg Jennings to move up and draft Jackson. The Green Bay Packers thanked him by riding Jennings and Aaron Rodgers to a Super Bowl of their own in 2010.
Was it poor drafting? Certainly. Did these receivers lack the work ethic and drive necessary to make it in New England's demanding system? Absolutely. Could Brady have done more to help them along? Straight cash, homey.
"Patience" is not a word Tom Brady was accustomed to using prior to 2013. But with three rookie receivers on the depth chart and another at tight end, if the Patriots are going to end their nine-year Super Bowl drought, it better become a catch phrase. Think less, "back, back, back, back, back," and more "en fuego."
Sometimes watching Brady on the sidelines makes you wonder if his previous crop of young receivers weren't the inspiration behind this commercial.
"Yeah, I'm not the most patient guy to begin with, so that's something that I'm working on," Brady said after Wednesday's practice, most definitely without a trace of a Boston accent. "But you understand that there's a learning curve…"
It's a learning curve about as tight as the winding New England back-roads around Gillette Stadium. But Brady better hope the team moves faster than traffic on Route 1 headed back to Boston after a game. So that leaves him playing traffic cop.
"Look, some guys haven't experienced the things I've experienced, so you try to talk about, 'OK, this is possibly going to happen, if it happens then I want you to make this adjustment.' Well, it happens and the adjustment is not made and I say, 'Well, I told you…'"
Maybe the injection of youth into Brady's home life will help him relate to his youthful receiving corps? The man does now have three young children, after all.
"But sometimes that's what I do with my 3-year-old, too, and he doesn't listen, either," Brady said. "You try to just hang in there, and when you communicate you determine how good of a communicator you are by the feedback that you get, and if you're not getting the right feedback, then you communicate more and you're obviously not doing a great job of it so I've got to do a better job. And that's I think part of what I tried to do this offseason."
If Brady's treating this current batch of rookies like 3-year-olds, he must have been burping the old crop like newborns. Undrafted rookie Kenbrell Thompkins has more catches this preseason than Chad Jackson had in his entire 3-year NFL career. Draft picks Josh Boyce and Aaron Dobson have both flashed chemistry with Brady as well. He's not ready to buy all the rookies their own pair of U.G.G.s, but at least the perfectionist is beginning to show some confidence in his new weapons.
"Everyone feels really great about how far they've come, because they've really worked hard and they deserve the opportunity that they have," Brady said. "So hopefully they all play a big role in the upcoming regular season. But we'll see how that goes, and we're going to do what we need to do to win games and hopefully those players are a big part of the reason why we do it. "
They'll be the reason all right, win or lose. Brady has to build a level of trust with these young wide receivers that he's been reluctant to do in the past. But as teams have found out for the last dozen years, it's not a good idea to tell Tom Brady he can't accomplish something.
The better bet is that Brady will find a way to turn Thompkins into Branch, Boyce into Welker and Dobson into a poor-man's version of Moss. If that happens, Moss himself would know exactly what to say about the Patriots' chances in 2013.
"Straight cash, homey."
Evan Fitzgerald was born and raised in Boston, following all things New England sports. A veteran of nearly a decade in sports journalism, he now lives in Chicago, where he can be seen covering college sports for the Big 10 Network.
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