New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady now knows exactly what former New York Yankees star shortstop Derek Jeter had to deal with late in his career.
A winner of multiple championships, the captain and on-field leader of one of the most successful franchises in sports and arguable the face of the game, Jeter’s success helped spawn a generation of big, athletic do-it-all shortstops who grew up modeling themselves after him and eventually competed against him.
A 13-time Pro Bowl selection, five-time Super Bowl champion and three-time NFL MVP, Brady has been the central figure in the Patriots’ run of dominance over the course of 19 seasons. Now he increasingly looks across the field, like he will Sunday night at Gillette Stadium, only to see opposing quarterbacks who’ve idolized him the way he did Joe Montana while growing up outside of San Francisco.
“Yes, I definitely watched a good amount of him in college,” Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes said of Brady. “Coach (Kliff) Kingsbury actually played with Tom at one point. He liked to show me some things that he did where he was in the pocket, his pocket movements and things like that. I have definitely taken some things from him. He does it at such a high level, it’s something you have to strive to be like.”
The Patriots drafted Kingsbury, Mahomes’ coach at Texas Tech, in 2003, a couple of years after Brady had led them to the first of their Super Bowl victories and before he guided them to another in February 2004.
Brady began his career watching and learning from the bench as a backup to established veteran quarterback Drew Bledsoe. Brady played in just one regular-season game and threw one pass as a rookie in 2000. However, he ran with his chance when he became the starter during the 2001 season and led the team to a Super Bowl title.
Since then, Brady has been the trigger man in some of the most-productive offenses in NFL, including 2007 when he set then-NFL records for touchdown passes in a season (50), best touchdown-interception differential (plus-42) and posted the fourth-highest passer rating in a season in league history (117.2).
“There was a lot of guys that inspired me when I was younger,” Brady said during a conference call on Thursday. “I think that you always look up to guys that are doing really great things as athletes, as competitors. I certainly had people to look up to, and I’m sure Patrick did as well.
“He’s obviously doing really impressive things as a young player, and I know how hard that is to do. The Chiefs obviously have a lot of confidence in him and what his abilities are. The players really rally around him. I think that speaks to his leadership. He’s got a great future ahead.”
Mahomes, who sat behind Pro Bowl quarterback Alex Smith last season as a rookie, comes into this game as the talk of the NFL in his first season as a starter.
He’s posted a quarterback rating of 112.7 (fifth-best in the league), passed for 1,513 yards, thrown 14 touchdown passes compared to two interceptions, completed 63.6 percent of his passes and rushed for a pair of touchdowns on his way to a 5-0 start. He didn’t even throw his first interception until the fifth game of the season.
“Patrick Mahomes didn’t play his best game, not by any means, a week ago against Jacksonville — a pretty good defense — but you see the magic,” NBC Sunday Night Football analyst and former NFL wide receiver Cris Collinsworth said. “You see the raw ability. You see the potential. You see the Brett Favre-esque kind of plays.”
Mahomes, who made one start last season, set an NFL record with 13 touchdown passes through the first three games of the season. The previous record holder had been Peyton Manning, the future Hall of Famer and until recently the NFL’s career leading passer.
Mahomes wasn’t even born until the fall Brady sat out as a redshirt at the University of Michigan, and was too young to remember Brady’s first few Super Bowl wins.
Asked if he sees any parallels between his early years in the NFL and a young Mahomes, Brady replied, “I’m not sure. He’s very talented. He has a great arm. He moves well. I think he does a great job seeing the field. Like I said, the guys seem to really embrace him as a leader and that tells you that he’s putting the work in and gaining the trust of everybody.
“It’s just a great thing to see. I think for anyone who is a fan of football, you want to see younger players carry the torch.”