Tonight, New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady surpassed the 50,000 passing yards mark, making him just the sixth QB in NFL history to do so, and the 5th to do it all with one team.
On top of three Superbowl wins and five appearances, Brady has put up phenomenal statistics over the past decade, despite having limited weapons throughout a good portion of his career, culminating tonight with passing this rarely reached milestone.
I thought we could take this opportunity to look back at some of the special moments along the way to 50,000.
“And with the 199th pick of the 2000 NFL Draft, the Patriots select Thomas Brady, quarterback from Michigan” a pick Brady would later describe to Kraft as “the best decision of the Robert Kraft’s life”, a statement he would prove to be accurate later on.
There may never have been such an inauspicious start to a legendary career however.
Brady started 7th on the depth chart at Michigan, and fought to back up future NFL QB Brian Griese while there. After Griese’s graduation, Brady battled with Drew Henson for the starting job. He eventually won it, and won 20 of his 25 games at Michigan.
After an unimpressive combine, analysts weren’t sure if Brady would even be picked, in a draft thought to be fairly weak at the quarterback position. Six quarterbacks went ahead of him, and just when Tom was thinking about what kind of money he might make selling insurance, the Patriots called him and took him with the 199th overall pick.
November 23, 2000 was the day that marked the beginning of the legendary career of Tom Brady. While it’s a day most Pats fans might not remember, or may have even turned their television off by then and didn’t see why they should, it’s the day Brady threw his first passes in the league.
Down 34-9, with just 4 minutes to play, the team looked to get backup rookie Brady a few throws, and put him in the game. He opened up 0-2, targeting JR Redmond and Terry Glenn on successive throws, but not to be discouraged, went right back to Redmond on 3rd and 5, connecting for 4 yards.
A penalty on the offensive line negated that gain, and Brady went back to the air on 3rd and 10, connecting with (Patriots trivia time!!!) tight end Rod Rutledge for 6 yards, bringing up 4th and 4 in what is probably the most important 3 and out in Patriot history. (Looking back on that, it’s a little interesting that these days his favorite targets are often tight ends.)
Brady wouldn’t see the field again until the following season.
(Interesting note: Despite playing the next season with Brady at the helm much of the year, Rutledge would only catch 3 more passes from Brady in his short career. He played the following year in Houston where he started only 5 games and then fell out of the league. He now plays for the Tampa Bay Storm in the AFL)
Passing Yards Count: 6
After throwing just three passes in his rookie season while backing up former number one overall draft pick, Drew Bledsoe, Tom Brady was called upon early in the 2001 season when Jets linebacker Mo Lewis (a name that will forever go down in the Jets-Patriots rivalry) put Bledsoe out of the game with internal bleeding, forcing coach Bill Belichick to call upon the second-year sixth round draft pick out of Michigan to take the reins of an 0-2 Patriots team expected to lean heavily on their talented quarterback, who was now going to be out for a while.
Brady took over and never looked back, leading the team to an 11-5 record and a run through the playoffs no Patriots fan could ever forget, leading them to wins over a talented Panthers team, a Raiders team that would represent the AFC in the Superbowl the next year, and the always-tough Pittsburgh Steelers on his way to a meeting with “The Greatest Show on Turf” St. Louis Rams, led by MVP Kurt Warner and future hall of fame running back Marshall Faulk.
Despite coming into the game as the favorites to win, the Rams struggled putting points on the board, and went into the locker room at halftime down, 14-3.
After much of the same back and forth with little scoring in the 3rd quarter that the 1st had brought, with their backs against the wall, the Rams put up 14 points in the 4th quarter, tying the game at 17 with just 1:37 on the clock, putting all the pressure on the second year QB.
Brady answered, going 5-8 for 53 yards and setting up kicker Adam Vinatieri for the game winning field goal to cap off a magnificent first season as starter.
Passing Yards count: 2,849
Super Bowl 38 featured a very young Panthers franchise, in just their 8th season in the NFL and 2nd in the NFC South, representing the NFC against the Patriots, behind what was now a fairly seasoned starter in Tom Brady, playing his third full season as a starter, in his fourth year as a professional.
Brady led his team to a 14-2 record and a first round bye. After squeaking by the Titans on another late fourth quarter, Adam Vinatieri field goal and battling the rival Colts, lead by quarterback Peyton Manning, the Patriots were ready for the challenge the Panthers brought.
While the Panthers were a middle of the road offensive team that year, they were a top-ten defensive team that presented a certain challenge to Brady and the Patriots, who were themselves, also a middle of the road offensive team that year, and were primarily a team lead by their first ranked defense, and coach, known as a defensive guru.
Once again, the game would come down to the final minute. Carolina QB Jake Delhomme would tie the game up with a touchdown pass to Ricky Proehl, leaving just 1:08 on the clock for Tom Brady and the Patriots to drive down the field and try to win the game.
That was 14 seconds more than Captain Comeback needed however, going 5-6 for 47 yards and setting up kicker Adam Vinatieri for yet another game winning field goal, which he made, sealing the second ring for the duo.
Passing Yards Count: 10,233
With two Super Bowl rings and two MVP awards under his belt, Tom Brady and the Patriots came into the 2004 season widely expected to excel, and widely considered the Superbowl favorite from the AFC, if not the league, and they didn’t disappoint.
Brady lead his team to a 14-2 record for the second straight year, giving them the number one seed in the AFC and a first round bye.
They pounded their rival Colts, 20-3 in their opening playoff game at Gillette Stadium, then Brady played his best game of the year against the Steelers, despite posting a fever of 103 the night before. Led by mouth pieces like Terrell Owens, and Freddie Mitchell, the Eagles’ players had hyped up the pending Super Bowl matchup between them and the Patriots more than the prior two appearances had been, feeding Brady and the Patriots all the motivation they’d need to put the Eagles away.
This game wouldn’t require a late game drive by Brady, as previous landmark wins had, but late game heroics from the defensive side of the ball instead, in the form of strong safety Rodney Harrison, who would make the game saving interception, picking off a McNabb pass intended for TE LJ Smith.
This season, the Patriots had the league’s second highest rated defense, and after winning their third Superbowl in just four years, had marked themselves as a dynasty in the NFL.
Few teams could boast the success either short term, or throughout their whole history that the Patriots had found in just four short seasons.
While the winds of change were blowing about New England in the form of rumors of job offers to coordinators, pending free agents, and expiring contracts, for the moment, players like Tedy Bruschi and Tom Brady were able to bask in the glory of their third ring, a feat few can list on their resume.
Passing Yards Count: 13,925
16-0, The 2007 Patriots
No team since the 1972 Dolphins has ever had a “perfect season”, one with no losses throughout the regular season, or the postseason. No team has even approached the feat since then, until the 2007 Patriots took the league by storm, posting the first (and only as of this writing) 16-0 season the NFL has ever seen.
Coming off the week one “Spygate” controversy, the Patriots seemed bound and determined to prove that they could easily dominate the league, and that they’d gained no advantage in the past. Coach Belichik and Tom Brady put their foot to the pedal of the Patriots’ offense, and never let off, setting NFL records in Passing TD’s by a quarterback (Tom Brady, 50), Receiving TD’s by a WR (Randy Moss, 23), and several team offensive categories that have since been surpassed.
The 2007 Patriots stormed through the regular season, winning by an average of almost 20 points per game, and coming into the postseason not only with home field advantage, but considered the overwhelming favorite to win it all, again.
And then they met the 2007 New York Giants.
Led by a vicious defensive front consisting of the likes of Osi Umenyiora, Justin Tuck, and Michael Strahan, the Giants had struggled a bit in the regular season, going just 10-6, but had caught fire at the right time, tearing through the NFC playoffs, setting up a meeting between the two northeastern teams. Brady and the Patriots struggled to score, putting up just 14 points, and Plaxico Burress sealed the game with a wide open touchdown catch on a blown coverage by Ellis Hobbs.
In a disappointing ending to what had been a thrilling season for Patriots fans, the Patriots finished just 18-1, one win short of immortality.
Passing Yards Count: 26,370
2011 Playoffs, 4th Quarter Comeback over the Ravens
After sitting out a season, nobody was quite sure what to expect out of Brady when he came back in 2009.
Would he be the same QB he’d always been?
He answered his doubters, going 10-6 in 2009, and 14-2 in 2010, and making the playoffs both seasons.
Both years the team fell short of their ultimate goal though, losing to the Ravens in 2009, then the Jets in 2010, lead by former Ravens coordinator Rex Ryan. In 2011, the Patriots were ready for some payback.
The Pats initially took the lead, scoring 3 points in the first quarter of a defensive struggle, then both teams opened things up in the second, trading shots and putting up ten points each, leaving the Patriots to walk into the locker room at halftime up 13-10.
In the third quarter, Baltimore outscored the Patriots 10-3, grabbing themselves the lead 20-16 as the fourth quarter began and Brady and company held the ball at the Ravens’ 26, already 2 completions and 32 yards into what would be the game winning drive. After a few more plays, Brady himself would run the ball in from the 1, putting the Pats in front as the lead changed hands for the final time that game.
The Patriots would go on to lose in the Super Bowl once again, to the New York Giants.
(Fun Patriots fact; Brady threw for 5,235 yards this year, making it the first and only time in his career he’s thrown for more than 5,000 yards in a season.)
Passing Yards Count: 39,979
Brady opened up the 2014 season poised to take 6th all time on the passing yardage list, sitting just 176 yards short. He made sure to take care of that milestone in the first game, putting up 249 yards in the air, giving Patriots fans something to cheer about despite a rather ugly loss to the Dolphins.
In gaining 6th all time on the passing yardage list, Brady passed the legendary Warren Moon, who posted a total of 49, 325 yards through the air in his career.
Passing Yards Count: 49,326
Tonight, Brady marked 50,000 yards through the air, sealing his place as one of the golden arms in NFL history, forever. As just the 6th man to accomplish this feat, he’s done it with less than stellar receivers throughout much of his career (save the years with Moss and Welker).
He’s done it while winning on teams known widely for their defense, under a coach known for his desire to sacrifice surrounding Brady with talent, for surrounding him with quality role players, a guy known as a defensive coach, and one who runs one of the most complicated offenses in the history of the league.
He’s been the consummate leader, said and done all the right things, never appeared negatively in the headlines, never spoke publicly in any negative way about any part of the team, his teammates, the coaches, or ownership. He’s never been anything but everything you’d want in a quarterback, an athlete, a leader, and a role model for children all over the country, not just all over New England.
He’s done it in the face of difficulty, and despite the odds being stacked against him, coming into the league as a 6th round pick backing up a first overall pick. In a season where the Patriots have struggled, it’s important to remember, we have a lot to be proud of when it comes to our quarterback.
Tonight isn’t just about the win over the Bengals, but the place in history Tom Brady has written himself into.
Thanks for taking this stroll down memory lane with me. I hope you enjoyed it. Did I forget your favorite Brady moment? Tell us about it in the comments!