The Tom Brady story--how the star New England Patriots quarterback was drafted in the sixth round of the 2000 NFL Draft (199th pick overall) and eventually became a Super Bowl machine--has been one that is oft-mentioned during draft season.
Whenever an overlooked quarterback is picked in the late rounds, immediate and often-ridiculous comparisons are made to Brady, who has won four Super Bowls at the helm of the Patriots, a franchise that went from assured mediocrity in the decades before Brady to dominant force with him.
When former Northwestern quarterback Trevor Siemian was taken by the Denver Broncos with the 250th overall pick in this past weekend's NFL Draft, he was the last of just seven signal-callers selected, the fewest taken since 1955. The pick was a bit of a surprise--even though the Broncos put in serious work on Siemian during the pre-draft process--due to his injury-stricken senior year in Evanston and uninspiring career 27-24 TD-INT ratio.
Some of the same comments made about Siemian, an Orlando native who went to the same high school as current NFL running back Chris Johnson, were probably also made about Brady back in 2000, when he was drafted. At the time, the Patriots were choosing between eventual career backup Tim Rattay and Brady, but decided to go with the Michigan product.
In Ann Arbor, Brady backed up Brian Griese for his freshman and sophomore seasons before starting in his final two, as he went on to throw 30 touchdowns in his college career. Even with this relative success at a top football school, concerns about his mobility, among others, led to him falling so far to New England.
The archetype of a Big Ten quarterback coming from a football-heavy area (Brady is from the Bay Area and went to the same high school as Hall-of-Famer Lynn Swann and the MLB's Barry Bonds, as well as many other pros) with speed/quickness issues that had some success in college but falls deep into the draft sure sounds familiar.
When Brady was drafted, and immediately slotted in as New England's fourth-string quarterback behind Drew Bledsoe and two other guys who weren't in the NFL for long, no one--maybe other than Bill Belichick--thought Brady would make much of an impact, lest win four championships. And the same could be said about Siemian. But, when you compare their physiques (Siemian is 6'3", Brady is 6'4"), playing styles (neither is going to win a rushing title anytime soon), football intelligence (possibly the biggest attribute of each after college) and situations (Siemian is stuck behind Peyton Manning, Brock Osweiler and Zac Dysert in Denver), the comparison must be made.
Let's do a little comparison of Siemian's and Brady's respective junior seasons--Siemian missed a good chunk of his senior year and Brady rolled off an improbable, almost magical stretch of winning close games in his. See if you can tell who is Player A and Player B:
Ok, maybe it's not that hard to guess that Brady is A while Siemian is B. However, consider the mediocre numbers that Brady posted with a 10-3 Wolverines team that won the Citrus Bowl thanks to having a host of future NFLers catching the ball. Siemian, on the other hand, wasn't helped much by a 5-7 squad with the exact opposite. Yeah, Brady had a few hundred more yards and a couple of additional touchdowns, but he also didn't have to split passing duties with Kain Colter.
In the NFL, even more so than in other sports leagues, impressive college performance--or bad performance, conversely--doesn't translate into pro success. Especially for quarterbacks, unteachable intangibles and instincts--of which Brady is universally considered to have in stockpiles--as well as supporting cast, coaching staff and mental makeup can be even more important than a 40 time or other measured NFL Combine statistics.
So don't be so quick to completely dismiss Siemian, who had his fair share of follies with the Wildcats but clearly has a quality to him that so intrigued Broncos' general manager John Elway, who happened to be a decent quarterback in his own right. Is Siemian the next Tom Brady? Probably not. But is there a chance? Of course.