A Look Back: Tom Brady's Combine
Every year, when the calendar turns from February to March, hundreds of the most talented players in college football travel to Indianapolis for the NFL Combine. To be honest, it's nothing more than a glorified meat market. From running the 40-yard dash to bench pressing as many reps of 225 pounds as possible, this is the time for NFL teams to place these prospects under a microscope. Still, even with their close evaluation teams still get it wrong so often in the Draft just a couple of months later.
You may have seen it. Every year, the media digs up an old picture of Tom Brady at the NFL Combine 23 years ago. In the famed photograph, he stood shirtless, looking like he had never seen a day in the gym. Desperately needing to turn some heads, Brady failed to impress at the Combine and performed below average. Fat, slow and with a weak arm, Tom Brady spent the next 22 years proving the NFL wrong. What follows is a description of his failings in the Combine and how he proved each of those valuations wrong.
Ever since Paul Brown first popularized timed sprints to determine the speed of his players, the 40-yard dash has been an institution within the annals of NFL prospect studies. While each position group carries its own expectations, a slow time has sunk the dreams of many.
From a quarterback's standpoint, this tests their ability to run for the first down. While Brady had never been known as a natural runner, he expected to be in the middle of the pack. So it was a bit of a surprise when he ran a sluggish 5.28, the second worst for his position group with only Chris Redman being slower. Interestingly, Redman was drafted higher than Brady, even winning a Super Bowl as a backup with the Ravens that year. What's more, Brady's time was slower than a future teammate, Vince Wilfork. Lined up in the middle of New England's defense for a decade, the rotund nose tackle inspired the crowd with his run-stuffing ability mixed in with the occasional interception. But that's an entirely different position group.
Over the course of his career, Tom Brady was never known as a scrambler in any way. It took him until 2018 before he surpassed 1,000 yards on the ground, with most of those yards coming off of sneaks. While leading New England and Tampa Bay to ten Super Bowl appearances, Tom Brady solidified his legacy as the game's greatest to perform the act of sneaking over his center's backside and into the endzone. While he was never the most athletically gifted, this simple act was executed to perfection each and every time.
The Wonderlic is an aptitude test that is similar to the SAT. But while the SATs are scholastic, the Wonderlic measures one's overall intelligence. Even though the scores are supposed to be a secret, somehow they find their way out into the public.
The public can be a cruel, cruel place when the wrong information is brought out into the light. When people hear the low scores of players such as Frank Gore and Akili Smith, they snicker and howl with laughter, at once finding it amusing while thankful that their own shortcomings will probably never be made as public.
At the 2000 Combine, Tom Brady reportedly scored 33. With a perfect score being 50, his score was nothing overly impressive and didn't stand out among the other prospects. As a quarterback, intelligence is always craved.
Intelligence is especially craved in New England. Bill Belichick's offensive system is notoriously one of the most complex in the league. In this day and age, most teams have option routes with some relying on that tactic more than others. The Patriots almost exclusively relied on the option route during the Brady-era. With the right personnel in place, option routes can cause an infinite amount of headaches for defensive coordinators. Throughout the first two decades of the millennium, the Patriots became notorious for flooding the field with increasingly expansive route trees with the ability to change the route at a moment's notice.
Over the years, Tom Brady has had to work with a slew of various types of receivers. From short, shifty players such as Wes Welker and Julian Edelman to long, rangy receivers such as Troy Brown and Randy Moss, Tom Brady has seen them all. Every year brings new receivers into the mix and thus more challenges. He had to figure out their strengths and weaknesses within the offense and learn how to incorporate them into their attack. With seven Super Bowl triumphs and three league MVP's in hand, it's safe to say that Tom Brady passed the Wonderlic test on the field with flying colors.
The vertical leap measures the power and explosiveness of the lower body. Usually, it is not vital for a team's franchise quarterback to have the ability to leap tall buildings in a single bound. Explosiveness is another discussion altogether. A quarterback needs to have control of his lower body in order to complete passes and ultimately lead his team to victory.
Tom Brady finished dead last among his position group in the vertical jump, leaping for just 24.5 inches. Despite his poor performance, over the course of his NFL career, Tom Brady showed remarkable poise within the pocket and became one of the most accurate passers in history.
20-Yard Shuttle/ Three Cone
Footwork, footwork, footwork! So much of a quarterback's livelihood depends on that single word. Its a game of inches, one where the minute detail of footwork can be the difference between victory and defeat. The 20-yard shuttle measures acceleration, deceleration and multidirectional short-distance speed. In other words, it measures footwork.
Tom Brady timed at 7.20 in the 20-yard shuttle and 4.38 in the three-cone drill, both mediocre times. Over the years, Brady improved his footwork to the point where his teams were constantly ranked very high in the fewest sacks given up. It was his careful attention to the smallest detail that left opposing defenses befuddled. Just as his career left the rest of the NFL.