I have a theory. Maybe I’m wrong, and maybe it’s silly, but I’ve had it since, oh Tom Brady watched hate daggers through wide receiver Joey Galloway on the sidelines in an early game. of the 2009 season.
Galloway, you may remember, was an accomplished and utterly bewildered veteran receiver whose internal GPS never really got him to the spot on the field Brady expected him to be.
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In a Week 3 win over the Falcons that season, in the sight of Fox’s television cameras, Brady lost his patience and then his temper with the 37-year-old receiver, yelling at him after quitting. A pass ricocheted off Galloway’s uncooperative hands in the red zone.
How angry was Brady? Her face became a red area. Before looking at a hole in the back of Galloway’s head on the sidelines, I’m pretty sure he improvised many multi-syllable curses never heard before or since. It was an impressive display of fury from the quarterback.
During Brady’s two decades of heyday for the Patriots, there were few more effective ways to ensure you were a Patriots short than having repeated communication issues with the perfectionist quarterback.
Galloway was cut before the Patriots traveled to London to play the Bucs in Week 7, but for all intents and purposes he finished when he made his Week 3 mistake.
So on this theory: I think a lot of us – not all of us, but many, and maybe a majority – tend to dwell on the receivers that didn’t connect with Brady rather than the ones. who did, because it was so convincing that you couldn’t look away when it got messed up.
Galloway embodies that, but there have been others, from accomplished veterans like Chad Ochocinco to a team image of young receivers (Chad Jackson, Taylor Price, Aaron Dobson, Brandon Tate N’Keal Harry…). They could form a Tom Brady Lit Me Up support group. They probably should.
Obviously, I’m guilty of dwelling on the ones that didn’t work too. Here I am, on the first scrum piece in this story, talking about all of them for far too long.
It’s easy to forget that there have been several receivers over Brady’s 20 seasons here who have thrived in their working relationship. Some may even owe their careers to him. All of them deserve to be celebrated.
As Brady prepares to return to Gillette Stadium as a first-time visitor this Sunday, it looks like the time is right to greet some of the receivers who thrived with him when they all played for the home side.
Troy Brown was the first to truly bond with Brady. He was already in his eighth season in the NFL in 2001, and he was a fan favorite for his fearless play on special teams and his receptions at the Matrix. With Terry Glenn injured, sulky and ultimately suspended, Brown improbably became the No. 1 receiver, capturing 101 passes for 1,199 yards and 5 touchdowns. The first of the Patriots’ big slot receivers, Brown was at his best in the biggest moments, including making a crucial 23-yard catch in the Super Bowl-winning practice. For me, he may be the ultimate Patriot.
He wasn’t the only wide receiver to hook up with Brady that season. The still unknown David Patten had the best season of his career at this point, with 749 receiving yards and the only offensive touchdown in the Super Bowl. Patten, who died earlier this month in a motorcycle crash, had two 800-yard seasons with the Patriots. He was the kind of reliable but lackluster player who gets overlooked until he’s no longer part of the squad, and then you realize how important he was.
The Patriots added two Brady favorites in the 2002 draft, taking on Deion Branch in the second round and David Givens in the seventh. Branch never had a 1,000-yard season for the Patriots, but Super Bowl XXXIX MVP was so important to their success he appeared to have about five. The tough and physical Givens has the distinction of scoring a touchdown in seven consecutive games in the playoffs.
When Givens left as a free agent and Branch was traded in a contract dispute after the 2005 season, the Patriots struggled to find suitable replacements. (Doug Gabriel, anyone?) Reche Caldwell was reasonably productive in 2006, but his hands tended to turn against him in the most important moments.
But one player who connected with Brady with impressive skills was Jabar Gaffney, a veteran free agent who joined the team midway through the 2006 season. Gaffney only managed 11 catches during the regular season, but gained Brady’s confidence (perhaps because of the lack of more reliable options) in the playoffs, totaling 21 catches for 244 yards and 2 touchdowns in three games.
Bill Belichick quit messing around in 2007, bringing in Randy Moss, arguably the most talented wide receiver in NFL history and one who was on Brady’s mental wavelength, and wide receiver Wes Welker, who would become the main receiver in Patriots history.
Julian Edelman, celebrated last Sunday, is a classic Patriots achievement and perhaps Brady’s most reliable receiver. The former college quarterback, selected in the seventh round in 2009, made 37 catches as a rookie, but it took a while to find his place as a receiver, capturing a total of 32 assists from 2010 to 2012 before going out with a 105 -Capture season in ’13. After Brady, Edelman is more responsible than any player in the Second Phase of the Patriots’ dynasty.
Others? Welker’s de facto replacement Danny Amendola was a mainstay in the playoffs. Brandon LaFell was a low-key hero of the 2014 season. Chris Hogan led the NFL in catch yards in 2016. If Brady had stayed with the Patriots, I bet he would have come to appreciate Jakobi Meyers.
The aforementioned members of Brady’s Circle of Trust had a variety of skills, and none were quite the same. But they had a few important attributes in common. They were good at football and wanted, almost desperately in some cases, to gain the quarterback’s confidence. It has not always been easy to achieve. But when it did, a place in Patriots lore was almost assured.
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