By Matt Dolloff, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) — You may already think Tom Brady has it all. But did you also know that he’s also really, really smart? Like, photographic memory smart.
Of course, Brady has to have a high football I.Q. to run the Patriots’ complex offense at all, let alone do it at an elite level for nearly 20 years. But apparently, Brady doesn’t even need to look much at pictures of the opposing defense on a tablet or piece of paper after drives – he’s mostly already seen what he needs to see on the field.
“You know, I’ve never been too much of a picture or tablet [guy],” Brady said. “I kind of know what I see.”
It’s a good thing he doesn’t rely on tablets, because Bill Belichick is done with them.
Brady has, of course, been spotted many times throughout his career looking over pictures of the opposing defense with offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels, so clearly they offer more than zero value. He continued to elaborate on how pictures can still help him and the coaching staff improve in certain areas:
“I’ll peek at them from time to time with Josh. It’s great for the coaches, because they have a different angle. It’s hard to see when you’re seeing from the sideline. … A lot of times, I can come over to Josh and say, ‘This is what happened, this is why we did that.’ … Maybe [I use pictures] to verify some fronts and stuff like that, to make sure where guys are shaded and [for] identification, because in our system we always set the scheme of blocking on every play. So we want to make sure we get it set the right way, so everyone can really be deployed the right way. So that’s where the pictures probably help me.”
If you’ve ever wondered how a quarterback could be like a “coach on the field,” well, there’s your answer.
If nothing else, Brady’s comments show another reason why he’s been so great in his career and why not just any quarterback could do what he does or run the Patriots offense the way they want to run it. You could have the world’s best arm, but if you can’t mentally process the opposing defense the way Brady does, you’ll be in trouble. Very few quarterbacks in history have processed plays like Brady does, and apparently, he barely even needs to look at a tablet or piece of paper to do it.
The Pittsburgh Steelers defense, in particular, always gives him plenty to think about as far as diagnosing their plays and schemes.
“It’s always kind of the same Steeler defense. It’s a lot of pressure – I mean, they blitz a lot,” said Brady. “They have every blitz in the book. They have every combination you can think of. … So much for us is about just making sure everyone’s aware of who we have in [blitz] pickup and who we have in the run game, and make sure you try to get a hat and account for everybody.
“It’s a challenging defense to play. They test you in every area, and that’s why we’ve had so many tough games against them. They’re tough to play, especially at home.”
Speaking of the Steelers’ home stadium, Heinz Field is guaranteed to be super-loud and force the Patriots to communicate via silent counts come Sunday afternoon. Silent counts were a major issue for the team in their AFC Championship Game loss last January in Denver.
“It’s all just [a matter of] being on the same page,” said Brady. “At home, it’s verbal communication, and on the road, it’s non-verbal communication, and we work on those things pretty hard. So we practice them all week, and we’re really going to need to utilize [silent snap counts] this week, because it’s such a tough environment [in Pittsburgh].”
Hopefully, the Patriots are more on the same page than they were the last time they played in Denver. But fortunately, they have a quarterback who sees the field as well as anyone in history, and against the Steelers, Brady’s field vision could prove to be their ultimate advantage.
Matt Dolloff is a writer for CBSBostonSports.com. Any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect that of CBS or 98.5 The Sports Hub. Have a news tip or comment for Matt? Follow him on Twitter @mattdolloff and email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.