(EDITOR'S NOTE: To access the Jason Licht interview click on the following attachment: Ep 54: Buccaneers GM Jason Licht Joins The Show | Spreaker)
There isn’t much Tampa Bay GM Jason Licht doesn’t know about Tom Brady … and not because their history dates back to last season. But because it stretches back to 2000.
That’s the year Licht was a scout for New England, and the Patriots drafted Brady in the sixth round. New England already had a starting quarterback in Drew Bledsoe, so there was no need to draft another. Yet they reached for Brady with the 199th pick, kept him as one of four quarterbacks and the rest you know.
Licht, on the other hand, remained with the team through 2002 when he was its assistant GM before leaving for Philadelphia. But he returned in 2009 for three more seasons as the Patriots’ director of player personnel before again departing, this time for Arizona.
So he witnessed Brady winning his first Super Bowl, returning to another and becoming … well, becoming Tom Brady, the greatest of the greats, before he and TB12 were reunited in Tampa last spring.
There were, then, few mysteries between the two. But that doesn’t mean Licht knew everything about the 43-year-old quarterback. Because he didn’t, as he explained on a recent “Eye Test for Two” podcast on fullpressradio.com.
“When I was with him the two times in New England, the two eras that I was there,” Licht said, “I didn’t have as much of a personal relationship with him in my role there. Would see him at practice, talk, have a few sentences here and there, see him in the hallway … but didn’t have the relationship I have now.
“I knew he was a great guy, great leader (and) all those things, but (I didn’t know) just how important it is for him to be a ‘normal’ person around the team and to not want special treatment; wants to be treated like every other teammate. It’s very important to him.”
That’s admirable. Except it’s easier said than done.
Because every other teammate doesn’t have seven Super Bowl rings ... hasn’t won twice as many playoff games (34) and nearly twice as many Lombardi Trophies as any quarterback in NFL history ... hasn't set -- or is about to set -- nearly every NFL passing record ... or established himself as the platinum standard against whom all others before and after are measured.
Yet Brady’s greatness isn’t confined to numbers or achievements. It’s reflected in leadership, too, with so many players yearning to join him that there’s a “Brady Effect” going on in the NFL similar to the “LeBron Effect” in the NBA. In essence, it speaks to the impact Brady has on others – not only as a magnet to draw them to his side but, once they’re there, to positively influence their play.
In New England, the Patriots were 5-11 the year before he took over. Then they never had another losing season until last year … when he was gone. In Tampa Bay, the Bucs hadn’t been to the playoffs since 2007 … and hadn't won a game there since 2002 ... until Brady arrived. Now, according to the Elias Sports Bureau, Tampa Bay is the first Super Bowl winner in the salary-cap era to retain all of its starters.
There is nothing normal about that. So while Brady may want to be “treated like every other teammate,” that’s not going to happen.
“It’s hard for him to be that just because he is Tom Brady,” Licht acknowledged. “But he’ll be walking down the hallway and introduce himself to a new player that we signed as an undrafted free agent: ‘Hi, I’m, Tom Brady.’ And (it’s like), ‘No s**t, you’re Tom Brady.’ Just the way he approaches his teammates, I didn’t realize how special he was in terms of earning their respect. It’s important to him.”