It seems hard to fathom two decades on, but at one point the Miami Dolphins actually wanted to see Tom Brady under center for the New England Patriots.
On October 7, 2001, Brady was restricted to just 86 yards on 12-of-24 passing in his first road start, Miami routing the Pats 30-10 to improve to 3-1.
At that point, Bill Belichick’s New England were 1-3 and their quarterback was an unproven sixth-round backup who had thrown just 306 yards in his NFL career and was yet to toss a touchdown.
«To be honest, we were kind of hoping that he stuck around for a little bit,» Jay Fiedler, the Dolphins quarterback at the time, told Stats Perform of Brady, who was drafted exactly 20 years ago on Thursday.
«Drew Bledsoe was a pretty good quarterback before him and no one really knew anything about Tom when he first got into the line-up and became the starter there.»
Seven days later and Brady went off to the tune of 364 passing yards and two touchdowns against the San Diego Chargers.
The Patriots won 10 of their next 12 games to reach the playoffs and went on to win Super Bowl XXXVI – their first of three Lombardi Trophies in four years – as Brady kept his place even after Bledsoe returned from injury.
«Certainly in those early 2000s when they made their big run of three Super Bowls in four years, it was really their defense that consistently carried the way,» Fiedler said.
«Brady was coming into his own and just getting that offense going but didn’t really hit full steam until later on in the decade.
«He was obviously someone that knew how to win games and knew how to make big plays at the right time, and doing what he had to do and complement what their defense was doing.»
What followed was a period of dominance that few teams in any sport – let alone the parity-preaching NFL – would enjoy.
New England would win six Super Bowls and finish top of the AFC East in 17 of the 19 seasons Brady was their starter – and he was injured for virtually all of 2008, the last time a team other than the Patriots won the division.
Were the 2000 NFL Draft to be redone with hindsight, the Cleveland Browns would have furiously scribbled down Brady’s name as the first overall selection as soon as they were on the clock.
But Fiedler, who made 60 NFL starts despite being undrafted, thinks Brady has long been driven by a desire to prove himself due to his draft position.
«I think there’s a common thread in all of us, having that chip on our shoulder, having that supreme confidence that no matter what anyone else thinks, we feel we can go out there and perform and win games,» he said.
«The legendary story with Brady is after he got drafted and saw [Patriots owner] Bob Kraft in the hallway and told him it’s the best decision he’s ever made speaks a lot to his psyche and the reason why he became who he is.»
Twenty years after Brady was drafted 199th overall in the 2000 NFL Draft, the man many consider the greatest of all time has finally left the AFC East after joining the Tampa Bay Buccaneers this offseason.
Unfortunately for the Dolphins, he stuck around for quite a while beforehand.