Tom Brady’s comments about leadership presaged an epic Super Bowl comeback

Cool under fire.
Cool under fire.
Image: AP Photo/Jae C. Hong
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After five Super Bowl victories, Tom Brady’s status as one of the greatest quarterbacks—maybe the greatest ever—is unassailable. Last night he proved why.

As he demonstrated in carving up the Atlanta Falcons en route to a record breaking comeback, Brady has remarkable physical gifts. But rallying the Patriots from a 21-3 deficit required more than precise passing; he needed to convince his teammates that winning the game was still possible.

In a taped, pre-game interview with Terry Bradshow on Fox, he explained that leadership is all about projecting confidence:

You get in the huddle and you call those plays, you have 10 other guys that are feeling your energy. And what are you putting off? Are you putting off confidence? Are you putting off fear? You know, they can feel all that. And when they get in the huddle with me, I want to look in their eyes, and I want them to feel a belief that we’re gonna do it.

The ability to command the huddle is a trait shared by other legendary quarterbacks. Sometimes all it requires is a sense of humor. As his team trailed the Cincinnati Bengals late in the 1989 Super Bowl, the San Francisco 49ers’ Joe Montana pointed to a celebrity he had spotted in the stands. “Look,” he said, breaking the tension. “Isn’t that John Candy?” The Niners then methodically marched downfield to win the game, 20-16.

Brady’s leadership skills are not the most celebrated part of his game. That’s due in part to the laid-back, Ugg-wearing persona he cultivates, and in part to the presence of Patriots coach Bill Belichick, a master motivator who is the driving force behind the team’s unprecedented 15-year run of success.

But Belichick wasn’t in the huddle last night. It was Brady who rallied a team that looked woeful in the first half and turned them into champions.