- By D. Orlando Ledbetter The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Tom Brady is from the Bay Area in California.
He grew up idolizing Joe Montana and the San Francisco 49ers. He went to a store-opening as a youth and got Roger Craig and Tom Rathman’s autographs.
But on the brink of his sixth Super Bowl victory and eighth appearance, Brady likely has already done enough to surpass Montana as the greatest quarterback of the NFL’s modern era and perhaps the greatest of all-time.
Before Brady passed Montana last season with the historic comeback victory over the Falcons in Super Bowl LI, Montana generally had the nod over Pittsburgh’s Terry Bradshaw, a four-time Super Bowl winner, and Green Bay’s Bart Starr, a five-time NFL title winner.
“I don’t think about legacy,” Brady said. “I’ve never thought about that. I think my motivation just comes from me trying to be the best that I can be for this team.
“What has happened in the past is great, but that’s not going to win us anything this weekend. I know what my goals are and what our team’s goals are. We have go to out and figure out how to play our best game of the year, if we are going to win this game.”
The Patriots (15-3) are favored to defeat the Eagles (15-3), and another Super Bowl victory clearly would put an end to “greatest quarterback” debate.
Brady’s approach to the game is unique.
“I don’t like to have things boil over on me,” he said. “I know where I need to be emotionally at some times. If you are not in a place of balance things can affect you if you are too high or too low.
“For me, I’m pretty even-keeled most of the time. I know when I need to rev myself up for games. I know when to bring myself down after games to find levels so that I can deal with other parts of my life. That is just something that is always a work in progress.”
Brady believes that meditating through the course of the day helps give him sustain his reality.
“It can be challenging,” Brady said. “Obviously, my mind races a lot. For me, the car ride home is a great time for me. That’s 30 minutes of time where I can listen to music.”
Brady’s musical selection is varied and includes such artists as Kendrick Lamar, Coldplay, Jay-Z and U2.
“I can just find a good space for me to be in for the day on my way to work in the morning,” Brady said. “I can think about things that I need to do and what I want to do.
“Leaving practice, after you’ve expended a lot of energy, you have to find good balance to deal with things at home. Music is a great thing for me. That’s probably what I do most and then at night I try to make sure that I get a little quiet time before I go to bed.”
Brady wants to play into his mid-40s. If he can play at a high level – and there have been no overt signs of slippage – he’ll have a chance to stack even more Super Bowl titles.
His approach to fitness borders on maniacal.
“My body is very important for me as an athlete,” Brady said. “That is your asset, your body and how well your body can handle the rigors of training and playing, that’s the length of your career.”
Brady views his body as a key to longevity.
“For me, I’m investing in my body,” Brady said. “I need to invest in the things that are going to make me feel good or else I would have stopped playing 10 years ago.”
Brady tries to eat well, drink a lot of water, get the proper amount of rest and maintain a mental balance.
“I’ve found things that really work for me,” Brady said.
The tactical Brady also stays on top of his fundamentals. He uses Tom House, a former Atlanta Braves pitcher turned NFL quarterback guru, as a offseason coach. Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan has been going to House, too.
“I’m so critical of my fundamentals, I really what them to be perfect,” Brady said. “Tom has been so important in helping me understand what I need to do to achieve. He always keeps in touch. I know he watches a lot of games. He came along at a great time in my life.”
Brady can’t see himself walking away from the game anytime soon.
“It’s easy to do this when you love it,” Brady said. “If you find some thing that you love to do, then it never feels like work. I found football and I found it at a young age. I just always loved it.”
The Eagles have an ample amount of respect for Brady.
“Arguably, he’s the best quarterback to ever play the game,” Eagles defensive end Vinny Curry said. “You can’t take that from him. (Defensive coordinator) Jim (Schwartz) is going to have a good game plan for us. It’s going to be a good game.”
Defensive tackle Tim Jernigan believes the Eagles’ unit is ready for Brady.
“When you are dealing with a team like the Patriots, you can stop the run, and it still doesn’t matter,” Jernigan said. “If you can’t control that middle of the offense when they drop back to pass the ball, then it doesn’t matter because they have a quarterback (who) can beat you with his arm.
“A lot of times when you play a team that doesn’t have a quarterback, he can’t beat you with his arm, and they are forced to run the ball.”
The Eagles consider Brady extremely dangerous, even at 40.
“It’s not business as usual,” Jernigan said. “We know what we are dealing with. We are not going to play dumb and look down to that fact. We know what we are up against.”
Jernigan was drafted in the second round of the 2014 draft by Baltimore. The Eagles acquired him via a trade in April and signed him to a four-year, $48 million extension in November.
“I have had my experience playing against Brady,” Jernigan said. “I beat the guy in front of me clean, and I still never got to him. He knows exactly where to go with the ball, sometimes even before the play has even started.”
Jernigan knows the defensive line will be on the spot against Brady and the Patriots.
“It’s going to take all 11,” Jernigan said. “I know there is a lot of pressure up front. I know we have to control that line of scrimmage up front, but I know at the end of the day, it’s going to take all 11. That’s the biggest thing. When you are playing an offense like the one that we are playing, they know exactly what to do in certain situations.”
The Eagles anticipatea chess match with Brady.
“They are definitely masters of just the mind part of it,” Jernigan said. “Just the knowledge of knowing where they are supposed to be and being where they are supposed to be. We just have to make sure that we can go out there and play that same kind of game.
“There is a physical game, but we have to be able to play the mental game, too.”
Brady will worry about his place in history later.
“I’m focused on what I need to do now,” Brady said. “One day, there will be a chance to reflect on my career. It’s just not a good time to look back.”
He does have a plan for his jersey this year. It was stolen after last year’s Super Bowl.
“If we win, I’m taking it with me,” Brady said. “If we lose, I’m throwing it in the garbage.”