New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft enjoys telling the story about how he met Tom Brady for the first time. It was during the 2000 mini-camp when Brady was a rookie buried at the bottom of the depth chart.
He stopped Kraft one day after practice. “We’ve never met,” he said, “but I’m Tom Brady.” Kraft said, “I know who you are, you’re the quarterback from Michigan. You were our sixth round draft choice.”
Kraft recalls Brady saying, “Yes, and I’m the best decision this organization has ever made.”
It seemed like a boast at the time, but it has proven to be prophecy. In 2007, Brady had the greatest season of any quarterback in NFL history, throwing a record 50 touchdown passes and leading the Patriots to a perfect 16-0 regular season. He was the landslide winner in the voting for the Maxwell Club’s 49th annual Bert Bell Award as pro player of the year.
Brady passed for 4,806 yards while compiling an off-the-charts 117.2 quarterback efficiency rating. He led a New England offense that set league records for points scored (589) and touchdowns (75) in a season. He completed 26 of 28 pass attempts in the 31-20 win over Jacksonville in the AFC Divisional playoff round.
“All those team records are really fun considering the history of the NFL and all of the incredible teams that have played,” Brady said. “To be up with the best of them is exciting.”
Brady grew up in San Mateo, Ca., near San Francisco and idolized Joe Montana as the 49ers were winning their five Super Bowls. Now Brady is often compared to his boyhood hero for his accuracy, his leadership and his multiple Super Bowl victories.
“He understands where to go with the football,” said Dan Marino, another Hall of Fame quarterback. “He’s never indecisive. He makes decisions and he goes with it. He’ll stand in against the blitz and make the tough throw. He was just so consistent, week after week, it was amazing.”
“Cold weather doesn’t bother him, bad weather doesn’t bother him, neither do big bad defenses,” wrote Mike Lupica in the New York Daily News. “He puts the ball where he wants to and makes a play every time he has to. You try to think of a better money player in any sport and you can’t come up with one who you say beats Tom Brady hands down.”
Brady opened the 2007 season by throwing at least three touchdown passes in 10 consecutive games, a league record. He also tied former Dallas great Roger Staubach for the most victories (76) in his first 100 NFL starts.
“He is going out there determined to kill you at any given time,” said wide receiver Randy Moss, who broke Jerry Rice’s record for touchdown catches in a season (23) in his first year playing with Brady. “They can give you fourth-and-24 and Tom’s still ready to kill you. I don’t know how you’re going to get it, but that’s really his mind set.
“When you have a guy like that leading your team, leading your offense, everybody else has to pick up and get on his level.”
That drive and unwavering focus kept Brady going — and kept the Patriots on track – to a perfect season. The quarterback never let up and as a result, the team never let up as it completed the first 16-0 regular season in NFL history.
“I’m always trying to prove to myself that I am capable of leading a team to a win,” Brady said. “I’m trying to prove that stuff to myself every week. It’s not like you win and then you say, ‘OK, well, I’ve done it.’ No, you have to do it again. You just have to stay hungry and not get too happy.”
New England Patriots