New England Patriots Jerseys Matt Cavanaugh did not meet with Tom Brady before the 2000 NFL draft. In fact, though he is a former New England Patriots quarterback who has lived a distinguished football life, and has competed (sometimes successfully) against Brady as an assistant coach, Cavanaugh has never met the most prolific winner in league history.
But 17 years ago, Cavanaugh came to know the Michigan senior in a Baltimore Ravens film room. As an offensive coordinator who was assigned about a dozen prospects to review before the draft, Cavanaugh was most intrigued by the images of a tall, athletically-challenged quarterback who was making plays that most scouting reports said he couldn’t make.
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“I was a big advocate of Tom Brady’s,” recalled Cavanaugh, now the Washington Redskins’ quarterbacks coach. “He looked like he belonged. He was comfortable in the pocket. He had good delivery mechanics. The knock on him was that he was slow-footed, but he played the game faster than he ran. He just stood tall in the pocket, scanned the field well, made his progressions from one receiver to the next. He looked like a team leader on the field, a decision-maker, and his ability to get the guys around him to play hard jumped off the tape.
“I wasn’t brilliant enough to put a first-round grade on Brady. I think I put a second- or third-round grade on him. I really liked him.”
No, it wasn’t fashionable to like Brady back then. He would famously get picked 199th in his draft. He was the seventh quarterback taken that year, and the seventh player selected by New England. In other words, the Patriots missed on their future Hall of Famer six times, too.
So as Brady makes yet another Super Bowl tournament appearance Saturday against Houston (8:15 p.m. ET, CBS), and seeks to add to his NFL-record 22 postseason victories, it’s interesting to imagine what might’ve been had one of the few talent evaluators who believed in the Michigan quarterback persuaded his team to pick him before New England finally did in the sixth round.
Head coach Bill Belichick had charged Dick Rehbein, then his quarterbacks coach, to do a pre-draft study of Brady and Tim Rattay of Louisiana Tech. Rehbein came away thinking one of the two had a chance to be a big star. “Twenty years from now,” he told his wife Pamela, “people will know the name Tom Brady.”
Bobby Grier, the Patriots personnel man then, was the only NFL executive to call Michigan coach Lloyd Carr about Brady, and Carr told him he’d never regret drafting the kid. But the Patriots had an in-his-prime franchise player in Drew Bledsoe, 28, and no apparent need to jump on a quarterback early, Cheap jersey wholesale swinging open the door for a believer the likes of Cavanaugh to pounce.
The Ravens had Tony Banks and Trent Dilfer on their roster, and neither player seemed capable of helping them win the Super Bowl title they’d seize at the Giants’ expense — with Dilfer under center — 10 months after that draft. Cavanaugh was more than qualified to evaluate the position. He’d won a national championship with Tony Dorsett at the University of Pittsburgh in 1976, and in ’78 he’d been drafted in the second round by the Patriots. Cavanaugh had played 13 years in the league, mostly as a backup, and he’d won two Super Bowl rings with the 1984 49ers and 1990 Giants.