Brady reflects on how to motivate Patriots teammates

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Brady reflects on how to motivate Patriots teammates

FOXBORO -- Tom Brady is a future Hall of Famer, perhaps the greatest quarterback of all-time.

Yet Brandon Lloyd, Ryan Wendell, Michael Hoomanawanui -- any Patriot who plays, really -- can be at ground zero on the play that alters the team's 2012 season.

Football is unique because -- even when it "comes down to" a team's most important player -- successful performances are contingent on others doing their jobs well. There is no "clearing out" as there is in basketball. You can't make an end-to-end rush as in hockey. No one man can throw a shutout as in baseball.

Where would Eli Manning be without David Tyree, Mario Manningham or Asante Samuel?

Where would Brady be without Adam Vinatieri?

Brady is demanding during games. You can see that in his demeanor between the lines and when he reaches the bench. He'll go to the verbal whip to push his teammates to perform at a higher level.

On Wednesday, I asked Brady about toeing the line with his teammates between criticism and support as the Patriots come off an uneven performance and head toward the playoffs.

"I'm only as good as the guys around me and they're only as good as I am," Brady said Wednesday morning at Gillette Stadium. "Part of that is motivating each other so that we can all be on the same page and all be at our best."

Remaining at the top in a league rigged to bring everyone to the middle requires a different mindset. There is no "good enough."

"We get that from our coaches," said Brady. "We take the lead from our head coach who talks about getting better and making improvements and certainly not focusing on the things we're doing well but on the things we need to improve."

The Patriots don't muddy the water with a lot of different notions having to do with progress or checkpoints. Billl Belichick said before the San Francisco game that every decision is made with winning in mind. "What else is there?" he asked. "What else is there to talk about?"

Well, in professional sports there are now -- and have always been -- myriad other dynamics that can detract from the bottom line of winning.

Among them? Feelings. Finances. Distractions.

Who's getting paid too little or too much? Who's being put out to pasture or played more than he deserves? Who's paying attention to his personal statistic and who needs to be more selfish and assert himself? Who shows up late and doesn't lift as hard as he should because he wants to get home? Who blows practice assignments?

Can a 35-year-old future Hall of Famer translate his feelings into words usable to a 23-year-old fringe player?

"We all have our own feelings about how things are and we express those in different ways," said Brady. "It's all in hopes of winning games and to be at our best when we need it the most.

"Every team is different, every player is different and the motivations are different for different players but obviously, we're all here to win," he added. "That's what our ultimate motivation is as a team. And part of being part of a team is being selfless and giving up whatever individual goals you may have for the benefit of the team. It's all about teamwork and what we can build together."

Brady-Ryan marks rare case of NFL's top two quarterbacks meeting in Super Bowl

Brady-Ryan marks rare case of NFL's top two quarterbacks meeting in Super Bowl

For all the flack that Matt Ryan got heading into this season, he’s been a damn good quarterback. Is his career on the same level as Tom Brady’s? Of course not, but this regular season saw him stand as Brady’s peer, making him an MVP favorite.

One of Ryan’s biggest challengers for that hardware is the same man who stands in the way of him winning his first Super Bowl. Though he missed the first four games of the season due to suspension, Brady finished second in the league in passing yards per game and threw just two picks in 12 games while tossing 28 touchdowns.  

So Super Bowl LI will pin the quarterback with the best numbers overall (Ryan finished two touchdowns behind Aaron Rodgers for the league lead but threw for 516 more yards and had a higher completion percentage) against the quarterback with the best touchdown/interception ratio ever for a single season. 

In other words, this is a Super Bowl that puts what one could argue are the season’s two best quarterbacks each other. That’s pretty rare. 

Going back the last 25 years, there are four candidates for such meetings: Manning vs. Brees in Super Bowl XLIV, Favre and Elway in Super Bowl XXXII (this one is a stretch), Favre and Bledsoe in Super Bowl XXXI and Kelly and Rypien in Super Bowl XXVI.. 

Why haven’t the two best quarterbacks squared off in the Super Bowl more often? Because Brady and Peyton Manning played their entire careers in the same conference, silly. It’s taken other players entering their echelon to even set up such a scenario, and that’s why Brees’ Saints beating Manning’s Colts serves as the only example during Manning or Brady’s career. 

The strong performances of those who dominated the regular season have often carried over into their Super Bowl meetings, but not always. Drew Bledsoe and Jim Kelly (both throwing two touchdowns and four picks in Super Bowl losses) are examples of the wheels falling off in the final game. 

Here’s a breakdown of past occurrences. Note that all four of them saw the winning team score at least 30 points, something the Pats have done just once in Brady's four Super Bowl wins: 

Super Bowl XLIV: Brees vs. Manning

Brees led NFL with 34 touchdowns in regular season; Manning finished tied for second with 33

Final score: Saints 31, Colts 17

Brees: 32/39, 288 yards, 2 TD, 0 INT
Manning: 31/45, 333 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT

Brees completed a postseason in which he had no turnovers and did so in a nearly exactly average game for him that season, as e averaged 292.5 yards, 2.26 touchdowns and less than one interception per game in the regular season. The two quarterbacks also combined for just one sack. 
 
Super Bowl XXXII: Favre vs. Elway

Favre led NFL with 35 TDs in regular season, Elway finished second in TD/interception ratio

Final score: Broncos 31, Packers 24

Favre: 25/42, 256 yards, 3 TD, 1 INT, fumble lost 
Elway: 12/22, 123 yards, 0 TD, 1 INT

Again, this is the forced one because Jeff George (3,917 passing yards, 29 touchdowns, nine interceptions) had the better regular season than Elway (3,635 passing yards, 27 touchdowns, 11 picks). Elway may have been the winning quarterback, but he didn’t have anything to do with the win. Terrell Davis carried the Broncos, playing through a migraine and rushing for 157 yards with three touchdowns en route to Super Bowl MVP honors. 

Super Bowl XXXI: Favre vs. Bledsoe

Favre led NFL with 39 TDs, Bledsoe third with 27

Final Score: Packers 35, Patriots 21

Favre: 14/27, 246 yards, 2 TD, 0 INT
Bledsoe: 25/48, 253 yards, 2 TD, 4 INT

Both quarterbacks took five sacks in this game. For Bledsoe, it was the most he took all season. The game was the third four-pick performance of his NFL career. 

Super Bowl XXVI: Kelly vs. Rypien

Kelly led NFL with 33 TDs, Rypien second with 28

Final score: Redskins 37, Bills 24

Rypien: 18/33, 292 yards, 2 TD, INT
Kelly: 28/58, 275 yards, 2 TD, 4 INT, fumble lost

Turns out five turnovers (and being sacked four times) is not a recipe for winning the Super Bowl. Kelly’s 58 passes thrown set a Super Bowl record.
 

Dimitroff, Pioli the first Belichick defectors to lead new team to Super Bowl

Dimitroff, Pioli the first Belichick defectors to lead new team to Super Bowl

Working for the Patriots makes you attractive to other teams. Many have left, but Thomas Dimitroff and Scott Pioli are finally showing that major success can be attained in the process. 

Dimitroff and Pioli have built a team in Atlanta that will play for the franchise’s first Super Bowl title on Feb. 5. While many have been hired away from Bill Belichick's Patriots to lead other organizations, Dimitroff is the first of the defectors to get to the Super Bowl on his own. Adding an old friend in Pioli has played a part in that. 

Dimitroff served as New England’s director of college scouting from 2003 through 2007 before becoming Atlanta’s general manager in 2008. He hired Pioli in 2014 as an assistant GM after the longtime Patriots director and vice president of player personnel had a messy stint as the Chiefs’ GM. 

Executives and coaches (even Field Yates; yes, the fair-haired boy from the television) leaving the Patriots for better positions with other organizations has been common, but with the new positions have often come diminished success compared to New England. 

Romeo Crennel, Eric Mangini, Bill O’Brien, Charlie Weis (in his brief return to the NFL in 2010) and Josh McDaniels make up the list of coordinators who have left winning with the Patriots to experience a dropoff without Brady and Belichick. John Robinson (Titans), Jason Licht (Buccaneers) and Bob Quinn (Lions) currently serve as GMs elsewhere, while former Pats secondary coach Joe Collier works with Dimitroff and Pioli as the Falcons’ director of pro personnel. 

It’s only fitting that Dimitroff and Pioli will have to go through Belichick in order to secure a title on their own. Winning without Belichick has proven hard enough for his former colleagues; winning against him will be even harder.