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  • Stacey Motley

Time, Trauma, and Tom Brady



I had an interesting conversation with my husband as we were watching the Tampa Bay/New Orleans Saints game yesterday (fittingly Halloween). I had been thinking about Tom Brady’s Hall of Fame-worthy career and what makes him such a great Quarterback. I decided to share my thoughts with my husband to get his take. I told him that I think what really makes Tom Brady so great isn’t just his talent and ability. It’s not necessarily intelligence either. Yes, he is all those things, but what really separates him from so many other talented, capable, intelligent QBs is that he gets great protection.

Knowing that you are protected from your opponents whose sole focus is to come after you, to halt your success, to pressure you into making quick (a.k.a. "bad") decisions, affords you time to think things through and make the best decision.

My husband’s response was “Yes, he gets great protection, but he also has an amazing ability to see guys down the field and get the ball to them.”

True. And how is he able to do that? He has time to scan the field and make “smart” choices.


When you think about it, Tom Brady is not a very mobile QB. That typically does not spell success. You must be able to scramble. You must be able to make plays with your legs. You must be able to be the plan B when plan A (getting the ball to anyone else) doesn’t work out. Yet, Tom Brady is one of the most successful QBs in NFL history. He has also rarely been injured. Why is that?


He is usually well-protected. Mobile QBs are more susceptible to injury. QBs in general are all somewhat more protected than everyone else on the field. You must be careful how you come for them because there are costly penalties involved.


When you become a runner, you are subject to the same rules and treatment as everyone else, leaving you just as vulnerable to injury as everyone else.

With protection, Tom Brady doesn’t have to run. He doesn’t have to worry. He can calmly survey the field and make the best decisions and that makes all the difference in the world. That protection doesn’t make him elite, however, it gives him room to show exactly how elite he is. The talent has to be there already, but time and protection allows the Quarterback to execute at the highest level possible.


Here’s the thing, everyone in the NFL is capable. Everyone in the NFL is talented. That’s how they got there in the first place. No one wakes up on draft day and gets drafted because they have a nice smile and winning personality. They get drafted because they had the ability to make it past years of tests of their talent and they have been designated not just talented, but the most talented. They’ve been flagged as top talent. Their greatness has already been established. Their potential for even more success has been noted and confirmed by scouts, coaches, General Managers, Presidents, Owners, and others who have spent years determining the formula for success and deciding who’s the best.


And yet not everyone reaches Tom Brady level success once they arrive in the NFL. Why is that?


Everyone doesn’t have the same opportunities to shine because not everyone is protected the same way.

I acknowledge that seems overly simplistic, but as my husband and I had that conversation, my point was proven simultaneously.


Tom Brady wasn’t well protected – a rarity. That led to another rarity: For one of the few times that I’ve seen it in his career, Tom Brady looked human. He looked like any other QB. Not having the protection, he was used to led to him getting hit and chased and he had to do things he doesn’t usually have to do. He had to scramble. He had to make rushed decisions. Anyone who has watched Tom Brady during his career knows that giving him the ball back with any amount of time left on the clock in a close game means the game is far from over (and you will likely lose). However, this wasn’t a regular night for Tom Brady. With New Orleans’s defense consistently and quickly getting to him, he made several uncharacteristic mistakes in the last 2 minutes of the game. He threw an incompletion that was almost intercepted. His next throw was intercepted and run in by New Orleans for a touchdown. He got the ball back and it didn’t get any better from there. Human Tom Brady and his Tampa Bay Buccaneers…lost.


Will anyone question his greatness because Tom Brady was human for Halloween? No. It will be a blip. It may be discussed this week, but when his career is over, hell, when this year is over, it won’t even be a flicker on the radar.


He will get the benefit of the doubt. Everyone has an off night. It wasn’t his fault. He wasn’t getting the protection he needed.


All the above is true. He is great. He is worthy of all of the praise, all of the accolades, he receives. The lack of protection was the difference maker.


The same is true in life.


People who are protected, people who have time, people who have room to breathe and think are usually the most successful.

It’s not that everyone else isn’t smart, talented, or capable. It’s that we don’t have the most important ingredients in the recipe for success: time and protection. How do we make “smart” decisions without time to really figure out our choices? When we feel rushed, when we feel pressured, when we must make snap decisions, it’s difficult to see how many choices we really have. We go for what’s closest. We go for what seems most certain. We go for what’s in our immediate line of sight. Unfortunately, that’s rarely the best option and it probably won’t get us nearly as far as the decision we would have made if we had time to see all of the options in front of us and think things through before making a choice.

For some the consequences are minor, for others it’s literally life and death. The same is true of the threats in front of us as we choose.

Imagine what it’s like for a Brown child surrounded by threats, yet left unprotected because the world sees them as older than they are? We could argue it’s up to their parents to protect them, but their parents were likely once that child themselves and the impact of a childhood without protection has consequences that continue well into adulthood. Too frequently, the consequences continue for the rest of their lives.


They will protect that child the best they can, but they haven’t necessarily learned to protect themselves, and adults need protection too. They also might not have that other very necessary ingredient: time. It takes time to be able to do what is necessary to protect your children (and yourselves) and, for far too many of us, time is a luxury we cannot afford.


It's not ideal. It's not fair. It's not okay. It is, however, reality.


Which isn’t to say we accept that this is what it is and what it will be, but we must acknowledge where we are starting from to make the changes needed to get where we want to go.

For now, if you are dealing with the impact of a life unprotected, remember: You are smart. You are capable. You are talented. You are valuable. You are worthy. What happened to you was not your fault. And no matter how it feels, you are not alone.



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