TAMPA, Fla. — Joe Judge coached in four Super Bowls as a special teams assistant and coordinator for the Patriots. Judge owns three championship rings and all that precious metal and diamond-encrusted jewelry would have been fitted for someone else’s fingers if not for Tom Brady.
Judge knows this, of course. He spent eight years in New England and had a front-row seat to witness Brady’s excellence. Brady was already in his 12th year as a starting quarterback when Judge was hired by Bill Belichick in 2012. Judge left the Patriots after the 2019 season to become the Giants’ head coach. A year later, Brady also left Belichick and the Patriots and in 2020 won his seventh Super Bowl, his first as a member of the Buccaneers.
No one has seen it all with Brady because his career defies the normal parameters. Judge is in his second year with the Giants and is 39 years old. Brady is in his second year with the Bucs and is 44 years old.
“Does it seem crazy that he’s still having an extreme amount of success? No, from being around him,” Judge said. “When you look just on paper in terms of the age and the level that anyone at that age is playing, like yeah, that kind of seems crazy. But this guy, you have to understand what he does every day to put himself in that position.
“We talk to our young players and we do, we use him and a couple of other guys as examples early when we get these guys in the spring and say if you want to have these long careers, you want to play 10, 15 years in the league, like a lot of guys say when they first come in — which is a lifetime. But you want to play those long careers, you’ve got to start now at a young age — how you eat, how you sleep, how you train, how you prepare, what you do off the field, your level of preparation on film to make sure you start your career out the right way to give you an extended career. So what he does on the front end really is giving him this back end.”
Is it safe to assume this is the back end of Brady’s career? Are there any signs he is slowing down, losing any of his physical gifts or tiring of the grind of an NFL season? He went into Monday night’s game against the Giants at Raymond James Stadium with a passer rating of 106.1, which put him tied with Matthew Stafford for third in the NFL.
The Giants’ coaching staff knows Brady better than most. In addition to Judge’s familiarity, defensive coordinator Patrick Graham was a defensive assistant with the Patriots from 2009-15. Every day at practice, Graham saw how Brady dissected the New England defense and then a few days later, Graham saw Brady carve up someone else’s defense.
“I was around him for seven years, every week is different for him,’’ Graham said. “I don’t know anybody that’s more competitive, more serious about the game and on top of that he’s a great person. I mean, if they won by 20 touchdowns or if they lost, it doesn’t matter. If he’s playing the New York Giants on Monday night, that’s where his focus is and it’s laser focus. If you had a chance to be around him, it’s laser focus, truly.
“To be around one of the best to ever play the game and just see that focus — I mean, I remember practicing against him — it just makes you have to raise your level as a coach because he’ll take advantage. If you don’t have it fixed, he’s going to take advantage of it.”
Brady has been taking advantage of opposing defenses for two decades. Judge and Graham were with him for only a portion of Brady’s run with the Patriots. All three are no longer working in New England. Everyone gets older, but Brady never gets old.
“Look, I’ll be honest with you, I don’t see much of a difference in this guy in terms of how he’s playing from when I first saw him with my own eyes back in 2012,” Judge said. “He’s moving as well now as ever. He throws as accurate a ball as there’s ever been in this league. He gets the ball out of his hands extremely fast. He knows where to go. He diagnoses the defense. He throws a very catchable ball, too. That’s something that some guys can throw the ball hard, he throws a very catchable ball. You don’t see a lot of drops coming off the receiver’s hands from anyone who he’s ever played with.”
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