Drew Bledsoe Believes Brady-Belichick Tension Fuels Tom Brady

Max McAuliffe

Former New England Patriots quarterback Drew Bledsoe's "E:60" documentary aired Sunday night, which focused on his career and where he is now. The documentary provides lots of reflection from the former franchise quarterback on his days in Foxboro and how his reign in New England ended when Tom Brady took over for him during an injury absence. 

Bledsoe touched on the personalities of Brady and head coach Bill Belichick, and provided some insight about some rumored tension between the two. He said that he believes the speculated rift between the two all-time greats has helped Brady thrive during his two decades in New England.

“In terms of their relationship, you work with somebody for 18 or 19 years, it’s not always going to be warm and fuzzy, especially when it’s Belichick who’s not warm and fuzzy to begin with, particularly in a work environment,” Bledsoe said. "Is there some tension? I’m certain that there is. But that stress and tension can drive attention to detail, it can drive work ethic. Belichick’s great at creating that discomfort. And to be honest, I think Tommy thrives on it.”

There are two points that Bledsoe hits:

1) There is certainly some tension, from his estimation, between Brady and Belichick.

2) Stress is a motivator.

The first point that we noted may be an estimation, but it is really not that hard to imagine. While the relationship between the two is obviously functional, it will naturally have some rough patches, just like almost any long time friendship has. Especially a long time friendship with a more stoic, complex, and less warm and fuzzy character like Belichick. 

The relationship between Belichick and Brady could play a factor in Brady's upcoming contract talks. Brady reportedly wants more say in the personnel decision-making, which is something that Belichick may not easily budge on. After years of Brady taking less money than he could get on the open market just to supply the team with more money to acquire weapons, Belichick has yet to go out and acquire a game-changing talent with that money for Brady to throw to as of late. 

Secondly, stress is a motivator and surely Belichick knows this very well. Bledsoe sights Belichick never holding anyone's job as a lock, including Brady's, which has pushed him to always try and outperform his backups and tightly secure his place on the depth chart. If Belichick believes he can get similar performance from another player for less money, no matter who you are, he is shipping you off and bringing that player in. 

This whole idea of stress ties into a law in psychology pertaining to motivation. This law is known as the Yerkes-Dodson Law. This law states that "performance increases with arousal only up to a point, beyond which performance decreases."

Illustration-of-Yerkes-Dodson-law-1
Here is the Yerkes-Dodson curve, which displays how a motivator like Belichick needs to find the sweet-spot in applying pressure or stress on his players. Too little pressure leads to decreased performance and lack of motivation. Too much pressure leads to players cracking under pressure and being unable to preform their tasks. Courtesy of Research Gate

When Bledsoe says that players like Brady "thrive" under that kind of pressure, he is correct. In order to coach effectively or teach anyone something, one must apply some sort of pressure, which Belichick does every season. This is one of the key reasons why the long-tenured Patriots head coach has gotten the best out his players, whether they are the most talented or not at their position. 

There are several factors that make Belichick the greatest head coach in NFL history. But Bledsoe has now highlighted one factor that plays a big role in Belichick's success that has gone unnoticed by those on the outside looking in. 

Comments (1)
Sarah Weisberg
Sarah Weisberg

For the most part, tension has seemed to work… last season not so much but otherwise


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