Tom Brady's path to super-stardom is one of the most unconventional in NFL history. He played college football at Michigan, far from his hometown in San Mateo, California. As a kid, Brady idolized Joe Montana. Brady's style of play emulated Montana, both praised for their ability to perform under pressure. However, Brady's lack of athleticism caused him to fall in the draft. Brady was drafted as the 199th pick in the 6th round of the 2000 NFL draft by the New England Patriots. For his first NFL season, he was the back-up for Drew Bledsoe. Bledsoe had been a fan favorite among Patriots fans since he was drafted in 1993, and was the franchise's starting quarterback. In 2001, the Patriots played their rivals the New York Jets in the second game of the season. Bledsoe was knocked out of the game at Brady was put in as the starter. When Bledsoe was healthy enough to return, coach Bill Belichick chose Brady to be the starter, after a series of wins put the Patriots on track to make the playoffs.
After a 0-2 start, the Patriots, led by Brady went 11-5, the best record in the AFC East. The Patriots went on to face the St. Louis Rams in Super Bowl XXXVI. The Patriots entered the game as 14 point underdogs. They won the game 20-17, capturing the franchise's first Super Bowl victory. Tom Brady was named the game's MVP. After missing the playoffs in 2002, the Patriots won Super Bowls in 2003 and 2004 against the Carolina Panthers and Philadelphia Eagles respectively. Tom was named the Super Bowl MVP in 2003. As a quarterback, Tom Brady's best season was yet to come.
In 2006, the Patriots once again encountered the Colts and Peyton Manning, for their third AFC Championship battle, this time on Peyton's turf. The Colts rallied from an 18-point deficit to beat the Pats 38-34 and move onto the Super Bowl. Following the Colts defeat, the team overhauled their receiving corps, bringing in Randy Moss to have a career year while Wes Welker emerged as a reliable slot option. The Pats would go on to post a perfect record in the regular season, 16-0, the only time it's been done since the league added two games. The offense, still considered one of the best of all time, scored on 50% of their possessions (elite offenses will generally place in the 20-29% range). Brady had 50 touchdowns, the most in NFL history for a QB at that time. Although the Patriots were unable to win their final game, Super Bowl XLII against the New York Giants, Tom Brady was named the NFL's MVP, and his 2007 season remains one of the best ever at the position.
Brady was sidelined for the 2008 season after an injury in week 1. In 2010, he signed a four-year, $72 million contract extension, making him the highest paid player in the NFL to that point. On October 4th of that same year, Brady became the fastest quarterback to reach 100 wins, after defeating the Miami Dolphins. That year he also set an NFL record by winning 26 straight regular season home starts. He was unanimously named the NFL MVP that season, the first time an MVP has been picked unanimously. Brady revisited the Super Bowl for a fifth time in 2011, becoming the second quarterback to play in 5 Super Bowls. The Patriots once again lost the New York Giants. In 2012, Tom Brady surpassed his childhood icon, Joe Montana, for the NFL record of most playoff victories as a quarterback with 17.
After getting beaten by the Denver Broncos in the 2013 AFC Championship, the Patriots got off to a slow start in 2014. In the off-season the Patriots lost Guard Logan Mankins to Tampa Bay but gained elite cornerback Darelle Revis, formerly of the rival New York Jets. With a 2-2 record after week 4, they had been blown out by the rival Dolphins as well as the Chiefs on Monday Night Football, and had barely edged out a poor Raiders team at home 16-9. Questions were beginning to surface about whether or not the Patriots stranglehold on the NFL was starting to slip. Former QB and current ESPN analyst Trent Dilfer infamously declared "they're just not good any more."
Poor offensive line plan plagued the Patriots through the first four weeks, but their retooled offense became the best in the league after their 2-2 start as they went on a 7 game winning streak. Rob Gronkowski, who spent much of 2013 out with an arm injury, returned as every defensive coordinator's worst nightmare. He quickly resumed his status as the undisputed best tight-end in the NFL, a huge target with great hands who sheds tacklers with ease and is also an outstanding blocker. After losing Wes Welker to the Broncos in free agency, the Pats acquired Danny Amendola in free-agency. Amendola was expected to take his spot, but it was Julian Edelman (#11 in the above gif) who emerged in 2014 as Brady's go-to guy in the slot. The former QB finished 2014 with a dramatic spike in receptions, targets, yards, and touchdowns, and remained one of the league's best punt returners.
The team's 7 game win streak was snapped by the Packers at Lambeau field. The Patriots wouldn't lose another game until a week 17 matchup against the Bills that the starters were rested for (the team had already clinched the division and #1 seed in the AFC). In the playoffs, the Pats bested the Ravens in a thrilling 35-31 matchup at home where Julian Edelman threw for a TD. After blowing out the Colts for the AFC title, the Patriots matched up against the Seattle Seahawks, the reigning Super Bowl champions. The Patriots, behind Brady, rallied from a 24-14 deficit entering the fourth quarter to win the game 28-24. He was named the game's MVP, having thrown 4 TD passes and 2 picks against the best defense in the league. His performance in the fourth quarter was stellar, completing 13 of 15 passes with 2 TD's. In the off-season, controversy surrounded the Patriots as claims surfaced that they had intentionally deflated footballs during the Colts AFC Championship game. Following a months long investigation, the NFL suspended Brady for the first four games on the NFL season. After a lengthy appeals process, his ban was lifted and he started week 1 of the 2015 season against the Steelers.
In week 3 against the Jacksonville Jaguars, Brady became just the fourth QB to throw 400 TD passes when he connected with Danny Amendola for a 1 yard score, the others being Dan Marino, Peyton Manning, and Brett Favre. The Patriots offense continued rolling like it had since the 2-2 start in 2014, and paced out to a 10-0. The team finished on a 2-4 note to end 12-4 again, this time the second seed in the AFC. After a wild card bye, they edged out Kansas City 27-20 at home (in large part due to poor clock management on behalf of KC). Offensive line issues returned for the AFC at Denver, where Brady historically has not been up to par, losing the AFC Championship in 2013 and the two team's earlier matchup during the regular season. The Patriots went on to lose 20-18. Brady was picked off twice to go with 1 TD and was under fire all day from the Broncos ferocious pass rushers. Broncos LB Von Viller had 2.5 sacks on the day and also caught one of Brady's interceptions.
To go along with the loss to Denver, the NFL was also able to reverse the suspension ruling and have the four game ban re-instituted. Brady declined to appeal again. Jimmy Garoppolo, who the Pats had drafted in 2014, was slated to start the first four games, and questions began to emerge as to whether or not Brady might lose his job the same way he had gotten it 16 years ago. Garoppolo was sharp and led to the Pats to a 2-0 record, but was injured in his second game and replaced with rookie Jacoby Brissett. With Brissett, the Pats went 1-1, and finished with a 16-0 shutout loss at home to Buffalo. Brady returned week 5 against the Browns. On November 20, Brady played his first game at the 49ers, although the stadium he visited as a child (Candlestick Park) was replaced before the 2014 season by Levi's Stadium in Santa Clara.