After getting a couple of days off, Tom Brady was readying to return to work and preparations for the Denver Broncos this morning when he called in to WEEI for his weekly chat.
Brady, who was in good spirits, said he didn't watch every minute of last night's Pittsburgh-Denver game, but he checked on the score every few minutes, and then he heard his friends screaming over the incredible finish in the next room.
Not surprisingly, Brady credited the Broncos team, not just quarterback Tim Tebow, for the win.
"(Tebow) is a good player, and I think it’s a lot for the defense to prepare for. I know in our preparations from this last time, it’s challenging, it’s a very different style, but they’re effective," Brady said. "They have a very good team, it’s certainly not about one player on this team, and I know a lot of people try to make it out to be one player on a lot of teams, but reason why Denver Broncos are in this position is because of their team as a whole and certainly the way Tim played yesterday…it was just a great win all around by them.
"We’ve got a big challenge; we realized going into Denver how challenging that game would be, we were the beneficiaries of some turnovers, and we’re going to need to get some turnovers this weekend."
As for the changes on the offensive coaching staff - Bill O'Brien will depart when the Pats' season ends, and Josh McDaniels has been re-hired and will serve as an offensive assistant until O'Brien moves on to Penn State - Brady isn't sure how things will work out with McDaniels coming into the fold now.
"I’m not sure – I don’t know. We’ll see how it plays out. Josh is a great friend of mine and the a familiarity that we have with Josh is something that’s great, but we’ll see how it works this year and going forward, but it’s always great to have another great coach on our staff and he’s certainly a great coach and has been, and I’ve always enjoyed my time with him, either as quarterbacks coach in ’04 all the way till he left to coach the Broncos," he said.
Brady said he's spoken with McDaniels briefly, but hasn't yet seen him since he's returned to the Pats' staff.
On the differences between McDaniels and O'Brien, he noted that each is simply running the offense that New England has been running for over a decade.
"They both have a great understanding of offense, and what we’re trying to do, and Bill worked with Josh – they’re great friends, and how…their styles differ – it’s the same offense. What we’ve done since Charlie (Weis) was here is pretty much the same offense, and I’ve been lucky to be in the same system for 12 years," he said. "There’s different wrinkles that different coaches have, but Josh and Billy always worked really close together."
Was Brady surprised that O'Brien took the Penn State job, where he faces the dual challenges of following a legend in Joe Paterno and overtaking a program mired in scandal.
"Am I surprised? No. I think it’s a great opportunity for a very deserving coach," Brady said. "He’s worked his tail off for a long time to get opportunities. We’re all competitive – if you’re a backup quarterback you want to be a starting quarterback someday and I think that probably goes the same for a lot of coaches; you want to get your opportunity to be a coach. Everyone’s very happy for Billy and his family; it’s a great tradition they have, a great school, and hopefully he doesn’t start work there full-time for another month or so but we’ve got to go out there and play our best football this time of year, and I know Billy’s committed to that, players are committed to that, and that’s why we work so hard is for opportunities like this."
A recurring theme among the Patriots' leaders over the last week or so is the character of this team, and how it's different from in recent seasons, in a positive way.
Brady was asked if he also believes that the team is doing what Bill Belichick needs it to do.
"We’ve done it more on a consistent basis. I think we definitely have put ourselves in a position – 13-3 is a very respectable record," he said. "Last year we were 14-2 and that was a very different team last year and the strengths of this team are different than they were last year. How it all plays out, it depends on how we play. There’s nothing that happened last week or last year or five years ago or 10 years ago that can play into this game. If we bring a good attitude, if we’re committed this week, which I know we will be, then we’re going to go out there and be ready to play our best game.
"Does that mean you win 50-0 because that’s what you want or that’s what you hope? No. you have to go out there and do it on the field. So that’s where all of our energy is focused, is on what we need to do this week so we can put ourselves in the best position to play our best this weekend. I’m not going back and looking at a game five years ago to say, ‘wow, this happened five years ago.’ I think that’s the approach that we’ve taken is to focus on very short-term goals; (we’re a) very short-term focused team and I think that’s the thing that coach Belichick talks about that really we’ve bought into. The game that we played in Denver four weeks ago will mean nothing. That means nothing. The determining factor in this game will be our level of execution, and that’s why we need it to be at our best."
Perhaps Brady's most interesting answer came when he was asked about his days at Michigan. This week's Sports Illustrated takes a look back at Brady while he was there, and Brady discussed how it shaped him into the player he is now.
"I think I grew up a lot there and it was a very challenging experience, and I was a young man – you’re not 25, 26, I mean I was an 18-year old kid who was a long way from home and really battling through some challenging situations, just in terms of the competition on a daily basis and what’s expected of me, and I really had to grow up, you can’t sit there and pout," he said. "I tried to look at everything as a positive – even when the coach would say, ‘Ok, you’re going to play this first quarter and Drew (Henson) is going to play the second quarter’, or the competition I had with Brian Griese – I just felt like, ‘man I’m getting reps. That’s the best thing in the world. At least they’re giving me an opportunity to show what I can do.’ Rather than bitch about how many chances I got or ‘man, I only got a few reps and this guy got nine reps, so that must mean that they like him more…’ – no. I mean, if I was getting one rep, I was going to try to do the best I could with that one rep. And look, if I did well there, it would lead to another rep.
"I think that really helped my competitive spirit in practice, and I treat practice very seriously. If you can’t perform in practice – I don’t buy into the player, ‘oh, I just flip a switch this weekend and I’ll be ready to play on game day.’ That’s not the way it works. You’ve got to prove it day in and day out and that you’re level of consistency in practice and as a professional, and studying and all that discipline that it takes to be a professional, I was really fortunate to be able to learn at a younger age. I was under scholarship so they couldn’t really cut me, but in the pros, when guys learn that lesson when they’re 22, 23, they’re on the street and they don’t have a job.
"All those opportunities that guys get at different times, whether you’re a first-round pick and you finally get your chance to play or you’re a late-round pick like Wes Welker [Welker was undrafted] who gets his opportunity and takes advantage – everyone has a different story to tell. I’m really fortunate to do something I love to do in aplace that I love to do it and I owner I love to do it for and an owner too – it’s been a great situation."