The Irony of the Tom Brady Problem
Pt. 3, How Tom Brady was a victim of the Tom Brady Problem
Definition of irony: incongruity between the actual result of a sequence of events and the normal or expected result
I’m not a big sports or football guy, so please stay with me even if you are not either. In just a moment, I’ll go back in time and share a bit about how Tom got a rather inauspicious start in the NFL. I will try to do so without getting too sporty or technical.
I find it a fitting irony to conclude this series of three articles on the Tom Brady Problem by sharing that Tom Brady himself, arguably the G.O.A.T. (greatest of all time) when it comes to NFL quarterbacks, was himself a victim of the problem that I have playfully named after him — The Tom Brady Problem.
It bears repeating.
Tom Brady was a victim of the Tom Brady Problem.
What in the world are you talking about Joe?
As it turns out, the Tom Brady we know today, who holds nearly every major quarterback record, has won 7 NFL championships, including the latest nearly 20 years after his first, was the 199th player picked by NFL teams the year he entered the NFL.
That’s 198 other players, including 6 other quarterbacks, who were selected before the player who had the potential to become, and arguably did become, one of the greatest players of all time. Whether you love him or hate him or his teams, his success speaks for itself.
Even with the advantage of hindsight, most experts would say based on what he had done at the time playing at the University of Michigan, he wasn’t a top selection. However, many would also agree that he probably should have been selected much earlier than he was and every team that passed on him lost a golden opportunity.
So what happened?
In his show, The Herd with Colin Cowherd, the host makes a compelling case for what he thinks went wrong.
They didn’t look at his production, his intelligence, or his efficiency; they just stared at his body. People just couldn’t get over the fact that he was skinny.
Tom had fairly average athleticism coupled with some impressive game results and sound throwing ability. The scouts for the NFL teams knew and even acknowledged much of this, but overall they were were biased against him because he didn’t look like a star NFL quarterback. Implicit leadership bias, anyone? Or maybe implicit quarterback bias?
A few unflattering quotes that were made about him by the scouts at the time:
“interesting, he looks like one of those poles you hang your coats on”
“he’s a very good deep passer, highly competitive, can’t run a lick, but he can step out of the way”
“he’s bony, he’s very thin, good Lord you can see his ribs on his build”
Here is where the Tom Brady Problem can be so insidious. Despite many positive statistics, results, and performance qualities, a person can be judged to be a poorer choice than they really are when viewed through the lens of bias. This can decrease the chances of the person being selected, developed, and achieving their full potential — which will benefit any organization they join.
This is what happened to Tom Brady. And this is what is happening in organizations around the world today ALL THE TIME. This is the Tom Brady Problem.
So ask yourself, if your organization is truly passionate about success, can you afford to turn a blind eye to the Tom Brady Problem in your own house, or will you implement a solution to help minimize the chances of losing your next rainmaker, creative genius, or CEO?
Maybe people like Juan, Deshawn, Priya and Ali deserve a closer look?
If you are interested, you can watch the clip of The Herd with Colin Cowherd where he discusses Tom Brady’s draft situation below: