Your SI Sportsman of the Year Tom Brady Tells the Story of Randy Moss Sneaking Into the Patriots Team Hotel in 2006 Asking to Play With Him
So Tom Brady wins the Sports Illustrated Sportsman of the Year award. Fine. And dandy. I'd say this is one of those institutions that used to be a huge deal and no longer is, like being on the cover of the SI Swimsuit Issue, which inexplicably still exists, but a quick Wikipedia search tells me he won it before, in 2005. And had absolutely no recollection of that. So maybe it was a huge deal back in the '70s when they were giving it to jockeys and motorsports drivers, but not in recent memory.
But still, it's something. It means that Brady gets to re-join the ranks of such past luminaries as Pete Rose, Joe Paterno, Mark McGwire & Sammy Sosa, and Lance Armstrong. To use the publication's own name that is some real illustrious company among which to be included.
But Brady receiving an award that will be stored in a box in his basement in Tampa next to his collection of NFL Player of the Week plaques and his digital camera from 2002 with the Tara Reid nudes on the memory card isn't the most significant Brady story of the last 24 hours. As far as this amateur GOAT historian is concerned, is this clip from Brady's docuseries "Man in the Arena":
So Randy Moss flew on his own from Oakland to Minnesota, disguised himself (not an easy task since he's 6-foot-4, 210 pounds and had been one of the most recognizable athletes in North America since he was at Marshall 10 years earlier), found Brady's room in the Patriots team hotel, and said he wanted out of the Raiders and into New England to catch passes from Brady. So after the season, Belichick calls Brady to say "We're thinking about trading for Randy" and wanted Tom's opinion. The response? "Abso-fucking-lutely!"
Holy smokes, what a story. How this has gone unreported for the 15 years since is beyond comprehension. But it's never too late to hear details like this on one of the most significant personnel moves of our lifetimes.
Just to confirm some of the details, the Patriots played the Vikings on Monday night, October 30th. And the performance Moss references in the clip was Brady throwing for 374 yards and four touchdowns in a 31-7 blowout. The Raiders beat the Steelers at home in the afternoon game the day before, so presumably Moss had the day off to do with whatever he wanted. And what he wanted was to salvage his career. In the middle of his second season in Oakland, first going 4-12 under Norv Turner and then 2-14 under Art Shell, Moss realized he had to take bold and decisive action. Desperate times call for desperate measures, and all that. So he surreptitiously hopped a plane, went incognito and tried a little secret diplomacy.
The rest is history.
I mean, obviously these kinds of discussions happen all the time in the NBA. They don't even bother with the cloak & dagger either. They do it on the floor at the All Star game in front of packed arenas. But in the NFL of the mid-2000s? This had to be unheard of. Especially when it's one future Hall of Famer flying 500 miles to knock on the door of another future Hall of Famer's hotel room. Being witness to this would've been like being there when Washington was introduced to Jefferson. Sitting in on Churchill's first meeting with Roosevelt. Hanging out in the room when Lennon and McCartney had their first jam session.
Still, I think maybe my favorite element of this story is the Belichick phone call. Like so many parts of this "Man in the Arena" series is that it totally discredits the notion that these two men resented each other. That it was strictly a boss-employee relationship, and Brady hated the fact he wasn't included in personnel decisions. For certain, GM Bill made moves he didn't approve of. That was made clear by his reaction to Lawyer Milloy getting released in the episode about the 2003 season. But even there he went to great lengths to let his audience know Belichick never lost the locker room.
Now we find out the two had consultations over the decision to trade for Moss. The story there has always been that by 2006, Al Davis was beginning to lose his fastball. That someone running the day-to-day personnel operations called Foxboro to ask if Belichick would be interested in Moss, and the two agreed on a trade for the Pats 6th round pick. When Davis found out, he called Belichick back furious that anyone would sign off on such a terrible, one-sided deal and asked for some mercy. GM Bill, out of respect, said he wasn't trying to rip anyone off and suggested Al make him a more reasonable offer. Davis asked for a 4th, which the Patriots had just obtained. The two metaphorically shook hands, and one of the great trades in the history of the franchise was complete. The fact that Belichick got Brady's approval before completing the deal is incredibly telling about what their professional and personal relationships were all about.
As does the way Belichick talks about Brady, and the show he hasn't had the time to watch yet:
When he starts comparing coaching you to coaching Lawrence Taylor - so the greatest defensive player and the best offensive player of all time - the idea he couldn't stand working with you and wanted you gone is beyond laughable.
Almost as laughable as Randy Moss sneaking into a team hotel to make football history. But Patriots fans are the only ones able to laugh about how great it worked out. Except Giants fans. But since this is the episode with the Super Bowl That Shall Not Be Named in it, fuck Giants fans.