Over two years ago, Josh Burton wrote arguably the greatest Inside NU article of all time, entitled “Is Trevor Siemian the next Tom Brady? Maybe.” Today, after Siemian’s exhilarating opening night performance against the Chargers in his second year as a starter, Mr. Burton is back for more.
The date is November 23rd, 2000. The camera pans across the Pontiac Silverdome in suburban Detroit. At the tail end of a blowout loss to the Detroit Lions, New England Patriots rookie head coach Bill Belichick subs rookie quarterback Tom Brady in for starter Drew Bledsoe during garbage time to make his NFL debut.
Brady, a 6th-round pick out of the University of Michigan, attempts three passes in that first game, with his only completion going to tight end Rod Rutledge for six yards. It would be the only game Brady appeared in during the 2000 season, one in which New England went 5-11, missing the playoffs.
The next season, in a Week 2 game against the New York Jets, Bledsoe tried to scramble for a first down with New England down 10-3 in the fourth quarter. Right along the sideline, he was hit hard in the helmet by New York linebacker Mo Lewis and left the game with internal bleeding. Brady took his place and was named the starter for the remainder of the season. A few months later, he led the Patriots to a victory over the St. Louis Rams in Super Bowl XXXVI. The rest is history.
The date is September 7th, 2017. The setting is Gillette Stadium in suburban Boston. With their 40-year-old quarterback Tom Brady struggling against an athletic and hard-hitting Kansas City Chiefs defense, the defending Super Bowl champion New England Patriots lose their season opener 42-27.
It’s the most points the Patriots have ever allowed under Belichick, but it isn’t just New England’s thin linebacking corps that leads to a demoralizing defeat. Brady only completes 44 percent of his passes — none for a touchdown — on the night, compiling 267 yards but getting sacked three times. He also fails, on multiple attempts, to pick up first downs with his patented QB sneak, a play Brady has used to near-perfection throughout his career.
The loss drops New England to a tie for last in the woeful AFC East, as they share a 0-1 record with the very New York Jets team that gave Brady his first starting job in the NFL. Fitting, in more ways than one.
The date is September 11, 2017. The setting is Sports Authority Field at Mile High Stadium in suburban Denver. Super Bowl 50 champion Trevor Siemian throws for 219 yards and 2 touchdowns in a 24-21 win over the division rival Los Angeles Chargers. For good measure, the Orlando native adds a rushing touchdown on a QB keeper. Behind Siemian’s three scores, the Broncos prevail. Sports Authority Field roared in approval at the play of its champion.
And no, that’s not a typo. Despite filing for bankruptcy and closing all of its remaining retail stores in May 2016, Sports Authority continues to own the naming rights to the Broncos’ home stadium. A past-its-prime reminder of prior, and long-gone, success. One thing football doesn’t lack is irony.
Sports are a microcosm of life, and one of the greatest similarities between the two is that there is always a beginning, and there is always an end. We know that, for every team, every fan and every player, both are unavoidable. Father Time is undefeated. The trouble is knowing when Father Time will take its hold.
For Brady, Mo Lewis was the beginning. That season-opening Thursday night game in Foxborough just may be the end. As French Impressionist artist Pierre-Auguste Renoir said, “You’ve got to be a fool to want to stop the march of time.”
Call Tom Brady whatever you want — a cheater, a sleepwear pioneer, a food entrepreneur, a human-like android, Giselle’s husband, a Super Bowl champion — but do not call him a fool. It’s almost impossible for Hall-of-Fame athletes to just step away from the sport they’ve dominated for almost their entire adult lives.
But, if there’s one coach to realize when ties must be cut, it’s Bill Belichick, who once released a player the night before a Super Bowl to pick up a backup defensive end that didn’t end up playing. The NFL is a heartless league, with no room for emotions or allegiances. Results are results, and the Patriots need better ones.
Now, I won’t be naive and expect that the Broncos would just give away the quarterback with the highest playoff winning percentage in league history (minimum of three games) to a conference foe. It would cost the Patriots a premium price, maybe both highly valued backup Jimmy Garoppolo and a future 1st round pick. Even that might not be enough.
But if the Patriots are going to extend their championship window, they need to make a move and Siemian is the perfect guy for Belichick’s system.
With a quick release, high football IQ and a work ethic that would outclass most construction workers and schoolteachers, Siemian would fit in from Day One. Like Brady, Siemian — as a former 7th round pick — has that almighty intangible of a chip on his shoulder that you can’t just learn in Jon Gruden’s QB Camp.
He has always been up for the task in big games — Siemian is undefeated in the playoffs while Brady has lost nine times — and has the business-like attitude needed to always get the job done, a key tenet of Belichick’s coaching philosophy.
Even Siemian has Brady bested in their previous off-field pursuits.
Brady interned for financial firm Merrill Lynch for two summers during college while Siemian, if the whole football thing never worked out, had experience in both real estate and medicine, per his LinkedIn profile. Then, he left. During the 2008 financial crisis, Merrill Lynch needed to be bailed out and was eventually bought by Bank of America.
Meanwhile, Siemian’s most recent employer, the Duke Realty Corporation, currently boasts an all-time high stock price. Good leaders need to make good decisions, and is there a more important decision than choosing where to work?
The facts are in, and the evidence is clear. Just because this is the end for Tom Brady doesn’t mean it has to be the end of the Patriots’ reign over the AFC. There’s one guy who can help New England avoid crashing and burning, and he’s the same guy who completed just a shade under 59 percent of his passes during his time in Evanston.
Make the call, Bill.