The Tale of Tom Brandstater

There are a few things that you can count on with Tom Brandstater. He's a big quarterback with nearly perfect size for the position. Drafted with the 1st pick of the 6th round (pick #174), Tom Brandstater is a 6'5", 222 lb. solid physical specimen. He's very intelligent and finished his degree in communications at Fresno State in only three years, also earning academic honors each year, a three-time Academic All-WAC choice. He's already finishing his Masters degree in psychology. His last name is pronounced Brand-STATE-ur. And after that, no one really agrees.

Oh, and it's fair to say that there are, and will be, comparisons to Tom Brady.  Both were drafted in the 6th round. Both had poor showings at the Combine. Both have reputations as pocket passers. Both have question marks as to arm strength coming out of college. Both have had questions about mobility. One of them has 3 Super Bowl Rings. The other will almost certainly ride the bench during the 2009 season for the Denver Broncos.

Purely for fun, let's explore some of the frequent and sometimes surprising connections between Tom B and Tom B. The more I had a chance to research this, the more I had a chance to laugh. Disclaimer: Do not take this as a blanket endorsement of Mr. Brandstater. It is purely meant in the spirit of fun, but may be inadvertently educational...

A bit of history: Tom Brady was drafted in the 6th round of the 2000 draft, the first of Head Coach Bill Belichick's tenure with the New England Patriots. Coach Belichick came to the Patriots from a rival, after a sudden and (in some quarters) unpopular firing of their head coach. Brady sat for his first year in the pros. Drafted by Bill Belichick and Ernie Adams, Brady was originally drafted as a development project and a backup quarterback who might later break into the ranks of the 2nd string or even start. 

Tom II, the Sequel, was drafted in the 6th round of the 2009 draft, the first of Head Coach Josh McDaniels' tenure with the Broncos. McDaniels came to the Broncos after an unexpected (and in some quarters unpopular) firing of the former head coach, and came from a conference rival. Brandstater is expected to sit for his first year in the pros. Drafted by Brian Xanders and Josh McDaniels, Brandstater was taken as a developmental project who might later break into the ranks of the 2nd string or even start.

Tom I (historically) is a tall quarterback with limited mobility. He was panned at times for this quality. Tom II is a tall quarterback with limited mobility. He has been panned at times for this quality.

Tom I had a poor Combine showing, causing him to drop in the draft standings. Tom II had a poor Combine showing (due to a torn latisimus muscle) that caused him to drop in the draft standings.

Tom I is an extremely intelligent QB who is liked for his excellence in decision making. However, coming out of college he was said to have a decent arm but with suspect weakness on the deep balls. Tom II is an extremely intelligent QB who is (usually) liked for his excellence in decision making. However, coming out of college he was said to have a decent arm but with suspect weakness on the deep balls. 

Tom I's draft scouting reports show that he was a tall, thin quarterback who should consider adding 15 lbs of muscle to his frame. It was suggested that to handle the rigors of NFL life that he immediately put in hours in the weight room. Tom II's draft scouting reports show that he is a tall, thin quarterback who should consider adding 15 lbs of muscle to his frame. It was suggested that to handle the rigors of NFL life that he immediately put in hours in the weight room. 

From Tom I's draft scouting report: "The biggest problems that he has are a lack of good athletic ability and an inability to get good zip on his passes."

From Tom II's draft scouting report: "Weaknesses: Is not a quick-footed athlete who can avoid sacks and buy second chances consistently. Struggles to reset and throw accurately on the move."

Okay, trick question: Which Tom's draft report did this analysis come from? "...is a quick learner who calls a bulk of his plays from the line of scrimmage. He knows all protections and can recognize coverages on the pre-snap and on his pass drops. He is especially effective at reading hot routes and is quick to pick up the blitz."

The short answer is that it comes from Brandstater's report from National Scouting Service, commonly known as 'National'. However - the statements apply equally to both, at least as they left college. Tom Brady's ability to read coverages on the pre-snap, on his passes and to audible is tremendous. Brady's scouting report from New Era Scouting for 2008 says in part, "Brady has a great knack for feeling the blitz and knowing when to step up and to the side."

Both men achieved substantial success in college. Brady threw for 5,351 yards at Michigan and achieved a 62.3 completion percentage with 35 TD passes. Brandstater, in a revolving door program at Fresno State that included playing for 4 different offensive coordinators, out-threw him for distance with 6,857 yards passing over his career, but trailed in TD passes with 'just' 47, and managed a completion percentage at 59.0. Not entirely Brady-like, but certainly not bad at all.

There's just a lot about these two men that is the same, at this point in their careers. What's different about Brady? Three Super Bowl rings and a host of awards as an NFL quarterback (and a supermodel on his arm); Brandstater will be fortunate indeed if he can achieve even a portion of that glory. 

Let's look at Tom Brandstater alone for a moment. He came to Fresno state, a former safety who willingly transferred his skill set to quarterbacking. He redshirted his freshman year and applied himself to his studies. Unusually intelligent, Brandstater went on to finish his undergraduate degree in just three years, coming to his junior campaign as a quarterback with the milestone behind him. He didn't stop there, either - he has now finished his Masters degree. he went on, during that year, to finish 23rd in the NCAA with a 140.49 passing efficiency rating. He also finished sixth in the WAC with an average of 213.23 yards per game. He amassed 2,654 yards on 211 of 337 passes (62.6 percent), connecting for 15 touchdowns against only five interceptions. 

Yet another change in offensive coordinators brought difficulties during his senior season. Brandstater has never, that I could find, spoken a word in the media about this constant churning of the program. in fact, he's apparently a very together young man. His leadership, a quality that Brady carries around him like a miasma, is also said to be very good. His coaches and teammates have universally praised him in that regard. 

Brandstater faltered, in degree, during his senior campaign. He had trouble with the system and found himself forcing some of his passes. His TD/INT ratio went from 15/5 to 18/12. However - his arm strength continued to improve, as did his footwork. He still needs help on his footwork and mechanics - every quarterback at every level needs help, in some degree, on both - but he's continuing to learn and improve each year. Most importantly, he developed an increasing ability to deliver the deep pass, something that had eluded him earlier. Scott Wright on NFL Draft Countdown also noted that he developed an increasing skill at throwing on the run over the course of this year. It's just one example of the continuing growth and development that makes him an attractive project at QB.

There is a great deal of disagreement on Tom Brandstater. For example, Walterfootball.com takes the BLESTO scouting (based in a ranking system from 1-8.0, with 8.0 being the highest) and gives it a negative twist. They claim that he has a tendency to panic and rush, had trouble with his reads and that his confusion is creating his mistakes. They may be right, in degree (they also laud the strength of his arm, which also apparently, from the reports, developed later). But if you look at his performance before and during the Senior Bowl, that isn't in evidence. Brandstater grew and developed, which made many of the comments (mostly negatives) from early in his college career inaccurate later. And even Walterfootball.com agrees that he can be a top backup in the NFL. That's what they said about Brady. 

Why talk about so much about Tom Brady? As you can see, it's because the coincidences are tremendous (and fun). Will this Tom II manage a similar career? Probably not. Right now, it's his job to keep his head down, learn the playbook fast, work hard in the weight room just as Brady did in his first year with the Patriots. Brady's work ethic was one thing that endeared him to coaches and teammates alike. Consider this from Michael Holley's Patriot Reign:

"Scott Pioli, the Patriots' vice president of player personnel, has told people that Brady is the hardest-working player he's ever known. In his rookie season, Brady would come into the facility at 6 a.m., well ahead of the curve, and leave around 7 p.m. On many nights, he'd come back four hours later and work out and study film on his own for another two hours. When the security guard asked Pioli if he could give Brady his own key to the facility, Pioli didn't think much of it. Brady got the key. Working past midnight one night, Pioli encountered Brady and came away impressed."

How about this one?

"Possesses ideal size and good arm strength for the position. A calm, mature signal caller who processes information quickly. Displays nice touch and accuracy on all levels of the field and knows how to look off a safety and dictate to a defense. Throws a tight, accurate ball on all areas of the field and can fit passes into tight windows.

It's Brandstater, from Rivals.com. And this?

"Is not what you're looking for in terms of physical stature, strength, arm strength and mobility..."

That was from one of Tom Brady's predraft reports. Embarrassing, isn't it?

But as far as Tom Brandstater, this was taken from a school newspaper article:

Too bad there are no extra-credit points awarded to quarterbacks who absorb countless beatings but never miss a game due to injury. Brandstater was nothing if not leather-tough and thick-skinned.

He'll leave Fresno State as the No. 6-ranked quarterback in school history in total offense, but that doesn't mean as much to him as his team MVP trophy.

"To know that came from my teammates, even though I felt I could have played better, says a lot," Brandstater said. "I hope to go out the right way Saturday and see the smiles on the guys' faces."

In case you missed it, his teammates chose him as the MVP of his senior season. And, Brandstater is a guy who has never missed a game to injury. Not even a snap, at least that I can find. Durability clearly isn't an issue. That's one area in which he's even stronger than Mr. Brady. 

Not that anyone's counting.

For those inquiring sorts of folks, I wanted to add a few things:

  • Brandstater's bio at DenverBroncos.com
  • Brandstater's YouTube Interview Talking with Tom -- he discusses a play against Rutgers on the whiteboard
  • His college profile
  • August 27, 2007 Interview (audio only):
  • Summer 2008 interview transcript:
  • Local, hometown journal article, post draft:
  • A Bleacher Report Pre-Pro Day interview:
  • By the way, for those hardcore draft enthusiasts and history buffs, here's an article by Bill Walsh, written in the 1990s on how to scout quarterbacks. I thought that you might find it interesting.

Thanks again to CoastalBronco for all of his help in accumulating the research for many of this summer's Tales!

Originally posted at MHR

Learn to laugh at yourself. You will be ceaselessly amused. - Sri Gary Olsen

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