Tom Brady is no stranger to challenges.
From his days at Michigan fighting Drew Henson for a starting spot to being overlooked in the draft before New England took him on the sixth round in 2000, Brady has met all the challenges while becoming the first quarterback to win five Super Bowls.
He faces another Sunday when he goes to Kansas City for his eighth AFC title game appearance in a row and his quest to make the Super Bowl for the ninth time.
It comes after a season in which the Patriots lost five road games to teams that didn’t make the playoffs and he didn’t have the numbers to make $5 million in incentives he made the previous season.
But he was the Tom Brady of old instead of an old Tom Brady when the Patriots crushed the Chargers in their first round playoff game. He couldn’t even resist playing the disrespect card after the game, saying that “everyone” thinks they suck and they can’t win any games. He ignored the fact the Patriots were favored. In Kansas City, they are the underdog even though they beat the Chiefs at home during the regular season.
But his biggest challenge was fighting the NFL for a year and a half in what became known as Deflategate before he was suspended for four games in 2016 on scant and flimsy evidence. He then won redemption and the Super Bowl against Atlanta by overcoming a 28-3 deficit.
The whole saga was chronicled in the book “12:The Inside Story of Tom Brady’s Fight for Redemption.” (Little, Brown) by Casey Sherman and Dave Wedge. Although it was published last year, it is still a timely read. And it is not just about Deflategate. It is a review of his entire career There are a lot of interesting tidbits in the book. Like owner Bob Kraft being ready to hire Dom Capers as his coach when he thought he couldn’t make a deal to pry Belichick loose from the Jets. Brady’s career likely wouldn’t have successful without Belichick.
The book is an inside look at the insanity of Deflatgate and how the league turned a mole hill into a mountain. The authors interviewed both Brady and Kraft and the staff members of the NFL Players Association who assisted Brady in his long legal fight. Not surprisingly, commissioner Roger Goodell declined to be interviewed for the book.
The access they got enables them to to provide a lot of insight. For example, Brady was upset when Kraft, who likes being a league insider, declined to sue the league.
The book also points out that Brady didn’t help his cause by talking at a press conference about the allegations despite the advice of the NFLPA to refuse to discuss the issue in public.
Union head Dee Smith said that since Brady didn’t feel he had done anything wrong, he could address it once and move on.
But as Smith added that the league tries to find a “murder behind every bush.”
“Once they target you, they do not stop,’’ Smith said.
Brady also made missteps when, on the advice of his agent, Don Yee, he refused to give investigators his cell phone. And later destroyed it.
The NFLPA staffers felt that was a mistake and turned the case into a personal vendetta for investigator Ted Wells. But Wells was not exactly a neutral observer. He made $45 million investigator Deflategate and the Miami bullying case and wasn’t likely to exonerate Brady although he could only say it was “more probable than not” that the balls were deflated and that Brady was at least generally aware of the plot.
A rather thin reed to suspend the game’s biggest star for four games on flimsy evidence.
In the end, though, Goodell was destined to win because the collective bargaining agreement gave Goodell the power to hound him.
When Brady won an early round court victory that was overturned, the authors say the judge’s reasoning was that Goodell presided over a kangaroo court in which he served as judge,jury and executioner.
What still isn’t known is why Goodell took such a hard line and damaged the reputation of the league and its biggest star.
One guess is that he felt pressure from the owners for giving the Patriots a slap on the wrist over Spygate. Another theory is that Goodell is incompetent and not qualified to be commissioner.
The authors do describe him as “Nixonion,” which is ironic since his father, Charles Goodell, lost his U.S. Senate seat when Nixon went after him for breaking ranks on the Vietnam War.
The book is a good read although sloppy at times. It misspells the name of former quarterback Mark Brunell and gives an incomplete account of his first Super Bowl win. It doesn’t mentioned that Belichick used a nickel back the entire game to neutralize the Rams’ passing game and Rams coach Mike Martz was too stubborn to counter by running Marshall Faulk, who got only 17 carries.
The book has an epilogue noting the Patriots lost the Super Bowl to the Eagles after the 2017 year to end a season of more controversy about whether Kraft, Belichick and Brady were on the same page after the trading of backup quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo.
Meanwhile, the legacy of Deflatgate will linger. It has made the players more militant and eager to take away some of Goodell’s power when the collective bargaining expires after the 2020 season. It is likely to make the negotiations even more difficult because the players are also upset at the givebacks they gave back to end the 2011 lockout.
If Goodell’s power becomes a major issue, the book is a good roadmap of how the league got to this point.