Contemplations and Consumptions: Vol 13


I have seen something else under the sun: The race is not to the swift or the battle to the strong, nor does food come to the wise or wealth to the brilliant or favour to the learned, but time and chance happen to them all.

The Book of Ecclesiastes‬ ‭9‬:‭11‬ ‭(NIVUK‬‬)

I wrote about the role of luck in my last post using the story of James Dean and Paul Newman. In this post, I talk about luck in a sporting context, specifically the story of Tom Brady’s rise to fame in the NFL.

To provide some context, the NFL (National Football League) is the highest professional American football league in the United States. It is divided into two conferences, each with 16 teams. The quarterback is considered one of the most important positions in the game, responsible for leading the offence and passing the ball. The Super Bowl is the championship game that decides the league champion at the end of each season.

In the 2000 NFL draft, where college players are selected by professional teams, Tom Brady was picked by the New England Patriots in the sixth round as the 199th overall pick. There are 32 teams in the NFL and 31 other teams looked at him and ignored him. The reason was because he didn’t match their profile of an elite quarterback. He was considered too thin and too slow for that position.

The New England Patriots who had scouted Brady felt he had some intangibles that showed promise. But they had no urgent need at the quarterback position. They already had 3 quarterbacks on the squad. However, the Patriots decided that Brady was worth a shot in the sixth round despite not needing him. He joined the squad as the fourth quarterback in the 2000 season and by the 2001 season had elevated himself to the second quarterback and backup to Drew Bledsoe.

Bledsoe was the starting quarterback for the New England Patriots, having been drafted by them as the number one overall college pick in 1993. He looked like the ideal quarterback and met the criteria. He put in good numbers during his time at New England. He even led the team to a Super Bowl final in 1997 but lost. 

Bledsoe was loved by the New England fans and the Patriots’ owner considered him a son. In March 2001, Bledsoe was awarded a $100 million contract over 10 years because the owner believed he was the future of the team.

On 23 September 2001, in the second game of the NFL season, Bledsoe was injured in a collision with an opposing player and had to be replaced by the backup quarterback – Tom Brady. It was assumed that Bledsoe had a concussion. But his injury was more serious than a concussion. The collision had broken Bledsoe’s ribs which tore an artery that leaked blood into his chest. One of his broken ribs also punctured his left lung. He would require surgery later that day to save his life.

Brady won five games and lost three while Bledsoe was out injured. Everyone (Patriots fans, football pundits, sports journalists, the Patriots owner and even Bledsoe himself) expected Bledsoe would be reinstated as the starting quarterback once he returned from injury.

However, when Bledsoe recovered and returned 9 weeks later, Bill Belichick, the head coach, made the controversial decision to keep Brady as the starting quarterback and relegate Bledsoe to the backup role. There was shock and outrage. The consensus was that this crazy decision would cost the team getting into the NFL playoffs. Belichick refused to buckle despite the public pressure and criticism.

Against all odds, Brady led the New England Patriots to the 2001 Super Bowl final and won, securing the team’s first-ever Super Bowl victory. Bledsoe would get traded to another NFL team at the end of the 2001 season and his career would be a footnote. Brady’s success continued as he would play in 8 more Super Bowl finals for the New England Patriots over the next two decades, winning 5 more titles for them.

He left New England after 20 years with the team because of personal issues with Belichick. He would then win another Super Bowl with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at the age of 43 years old. He is regarded as the greatest quarterback to ever play in the NFL with 7 Super Bowls. The closest quarterback to him has four.

While Brady’s talent and hard work were undoubtedly essential, his story highlights the important role of chance and circumstance in shaping someone’s journey to greatness. All the six quarterbacks selected in the 2000 college draft ahead of Brady had mediocre NFL careers. Were the teams who dismissed Brady in the 2000 draft wrong? Yes with the benefit of hindsight. But given the information they had when they made the decision, they were probably right. It shows that forecasting is hard. Brady just didn’t fit the mould of previous successful NFL quarterbacks in 2000.

He was lucky that Bledsoe’s injury allowed him to prove himself as a starter. And perhaps most crucially, he benefited from Belichick’s bold decision to stick with him as the starter, even in the face of intense criticism and pressure to reinstate Bledsoe, the fan-favourite and highly-paid starter.

Belichick’s stubbornness in the face of external pressure and backlash is impressive considering that he had faced a similar situation in his previous head coaching job. However, things didn’t work out for him in Cleveland when he replaced the fans’ favourite quarterback.

Even the Patriots who believed in Brady in 2000 didn’t expect him to have the career he had. If they had expected Brady’s success then they wouldn’t have offered Bledsoe a $100 million contract over 10 years. Brady was a lottery ticket whose number turned up for the Patriots.


📺 (Film)

Dune: Part 2 – I watched Dune: Part 1 at home because it was released in 2021 during Covid. It was one of the blockbuster movies that Warner Bros released on its streaming platform when no one knew when the world would return to normal. I have a large TV and watching Dune 1 on it was a good viewing experience. However, despite the size of my TV, I went to see Dune 2 in my local Odeon because movies like Dune need to be seen in the cinema to appreciate the scale and grandeur of the film. The desert landscape is beautiful. 

The first Dune movie was the setup -we see the fall of the House of Atreides with Paul and his mother fleeing for their lives. In Dune 2, we see the rise of the reluctant Paul Atreides as he leads the insurrection to avenge his father.  In Dune 3 we will see the full manifestation of his Messianic powers as he wages war against the other Houses. 

I must confess that I have not read the Dune books but I did watch the Dune TV series (2000) which I loved. This new Dune movie adaptation by Denis Villeneuve is a step up in terms of vision and scale. 

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