Excerpts from The Education of a Coach continue...
Just to remind himself not to believe all the hype and that he could readily have screwed up on that draft, Pioli kept on his desk a photo of Brady, along with a photo of the team's fifth-round draft choice, the man whom he had taken ahead of Brady: Dave Stachelski. He was a tight end from Boise State who never played a down for New England. Stachelski was taken with the 141st pick, Brady with the 199th one. 'If I was so smart,' Pioli liked to say, 'I wouldn't have risked an entire round of the draft in picking Brady.'
Brady himself had expected to go in the fourth round--going in the sixth stunned him--and he took it as a personal challenge and became even more determined to turn himself into a quality NFL quarterback. N one, he decided, was going to work harder. That was what surprised us the most, Ernie Adams said, and it was there from the very start. It would have been very easy for a player who had already done well in college but who was now listed as the number four quarterback to lose heart. Adams and the other coaches had all seen young quarterbacks, accustomed to being at the center of things and hearing the cheers, emotionally disappear on them when they found themselves very much off to the side. But here was Brady during the off hours behaving as if there were no off hours; he was always sitting in a small room, studying film, comparing it with the playbook, which he had already mastered. He did it in an interesting way, Adams thought; some players might have done it noisily to show how hard they were working, but Brady was as unobtrusive as possible, as if this were a private thing; he was doing it as quietly as possible, sneaking into a tiny office and burying himself in front of the film.
Then, when everyone else was gone for the day, he would go out and practice, using some of the receivers from the taxi squad, most notably a young man named Chris Eitzmann, a tight end how had just graduated from Harvard and signed as a free agent. Some members of the custodial staff were a little uneasy--did this young man have permission to d this, and keep them from closing up--but Pioli and Adams assured them that it was perfectly all right. What impressed Pioli and Adams, both of whom liked to slip down and watch these workouts, was how disciplined Brady was and how exceptional his work ethic was. What he was doing in those extra practices set him apart. He was not just telling the receivers, let's run a down and out, or a square in, but he was calling plays as if they were in the playbook and as if the players were in a pressurized, game-time situation. He would use the playbook terminology and call the requisite play. He was taking the theory of the playbook, Adams realized, and making it a reality, so he could understand it in a game situation, in case he was ever sent in.
The other thing he was doing was cajoling the receivers to work with him--pushing them to do more, telling them that it was the only way they were going to make it. He was a fourth-string quarterback behaving like a coach. He was also working out every day in the weight room, building his body up, and working on drills to improve his agility. 'I remember one night, it was late on a Friday, and everyone had gone home, but the light was on in the bubble, so I sneaked over, and there he was working with the wide receivers, using the playbook as if it were a game-time situation,' said Pioli. 'It was absolutely Belichickian.'