Often we talk about ‘passing the torch’. In royal terms, this would be known as an heir to the throne. This Sunday afternoon, something similar could be the case on the football field as Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow faces Bucs quarterback Tom Brady. As Burrow enters his third season, this will be the first time they’ve faced each other in an NFL game.
He has emerged as one young star in the league, putting in big numbers and getting on track for a career full of milestones. Burrow has already been compared to the GOAT for what they bring to their respective teams. Already in his young career, Burrow has led his team to a Super Bowl appearance while displaying TB12’s poise, coolness and determination.
Game respects game
Despite these comparisons, Burrow resisted comparing himself to Brady.
“He’s Tom, and I’m Joe,” Burrow said at his Wednesday press conference.
While he didn’t want to draw comparisons, Brady was a huge influence on his football journey. Whether that was when he was growing up getting Super Bowl wins or watching the “Man in the Arena” series last season he won a lot against his opponent in Tampa Bay on what it takes to win it all.
“Just hearing him talk about the way he feels about football just makes you understand what it takes to be a quarterback,” Burrow added. “It’s not just X’s and O’s, it’s much more than that. I think that series and when I heard him talk about the quarterback position, he explained it really well.
The quarterback position also means taking control of the team and leading them into battle. Even at 45, Brady still shows his fire on the sidelines despite reaching the pinnacle of athletic greatness. This is perhaps more apparent now than ever as he attempts to turn around the team’s 6-7 performance:
All this emotion really dives into the persistence and will to win that has made his performance the gold standard for 23 years, something Burrow acknowledges.
“He gets the ball out really fast. He understands what he’s looking at. I think he’s the epitome of toughness in the quarterback position. And he’s a great leader. I mean he’s the greatest of all time for a reason . He’s the total package.”
Now that Burrow’s admiration for Brady has been laid out, how is this answered? Well, game respects game. On Thursday, Brady spoke about his counterpart’s talent.
“He did a great job,” said Brady. He’s a great young player. He has a great arm, walks well, is very athletic.”
Of course, the talent of each of them is evident when watching games, highlights or reading the box score. But another notable similarity between the two is that they’ve all faced major setbacks on their journey to becoming franchise quarterbacks.
Brady, Burrow have overcome adversity
Brady talked about this and went on to talk about Burrow.
“I am really impressed with the fact that he is overcoming the setbacks he has. There were high expectations for his arrival and he has fulfilled them.”
Expectations were high for Burrow as the first overall pick in the 2020 NFL draft, but things have never been easy for him, dating back to his college days.
Burrow was redshirted at Ohio State in 2015 and then spent 2016 and 2017 as a backup. It wasn’t until his move to LSU in 2018 that things started to take shape. He showed promise in 2018, but exploded in 2019. That season, he completed 76.3% of his passes, throwing for 5,671 yards and 60 landings. He would end LSU’s season with a National Championship victory over the Clemson Tigers.
The stats were off the charts, and his performance and intangibles made it easy for the Bengals to select him with the top pick. This would not be a story of instant greatness, far from it.
He played in 10 games his rookie year, had solid numbers as a rookie, but suffered a horrific injury in Week 11. Burrow tore the ACL and MCL in his left knee and faced the grueling challenges of bouncing back and taking his team to a fast lead pace. turn around.
That would be exactly what he would do in 2021, improbably leading them on a Super Bowl run before falling just short of the Rams. He’s overcome years of doubts as a backup in college, recovering from a brutal injury and successfully reviving a franchise that hasn’t held a Lombardi Trophy (yet).
Most already know Tom Brady’s story. He also spent two years mostly as backup in Michigan where he steadily climbed their depth chart. He would be far from a top pick as he was an afterthought to be selected 199e in the 2000 NFL draft.
Drew Bledsoe needed an injury to get a chance. Even then, it was not guaranteed that he would keep his place when Bledsoe returned. Even after leading the New England Patriots to prominence, he has faced numerous setbacks.
After having a career season in 2007, he tore his ACL in the 2008 season opening. Since that injury, he has won four Super Bowls. Even in these big moments, fighting back was necessary in games where almost everyone counted him and his team, most notably in the 28-3 comeback win against the Atlanta Falcons in Super Bowl LI.
While one quarterback is just beginning his reign at the top of the quarterback hierarchy, another is looking to make a final conquest and end the dynasty he’s led over the NFL for more than two decades. They are at different stages in their careers, but both share the intriguing context of how circumstances shaped them along the way.
As their paths cross on Sunday, the Bucs try to turn their season around and start at the end of the season.
Now in week 15, this is in the players on the field who want it for themselves.
“We have to come together and we have to do it ourselves. I appreciate what [head coach] Todd [Bowles] is doing. He puts it on us to fix it, and that’s our responsibility.”
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