Once upon a time, Sean Payton was a young, unproven coordinator looking to climb the NFL coaching ladder.
That takes us back to the year 2000, when Payton served as Giants offensive coordinator on head coach Jim Fassel’s staff. As Payton told former NFL defensive end Chris Long on the Green Light Podcast, that’s when his agent asked Payton to speak with a draft prospect he’d just signed.
And wouldn’t you know it, that prospect turned out to be a 6-foot-4 quarterback out of Michigan named Tom Brady.
“All right, so I’m in New York and my agent is Don Yee, and Don also represents Tom Brady,” Payton said, via CBS Sports. “Don would periodically call me with a client that he just signed, and he said, ‘Hey, will you call up Tom Brady? He’s at Michigan and I’ve got him, and just help him out with things that would be important for him at the Combine.’
“Basically, I remember it being a half an hour phone call on what’s important. Make a good impression, be prepared to answer some football questions. The interviews were much more informal at that time.”
Unfortunately for Payton, his pull in the Giants organization was rather limited. Payton even had a third-round grade on Brady, who ended up going in the sixth round at No. 199.
“We were (scouting) Brady. Now this is going around the room and everyone’s seen Tom run the 40 at the Combine. Everyone’s seen, you know, you get the body, weigh-in pictures, all of that,” Payton said. “So, you have a guy who is not fully developed yet, who was pretty much a one-year starter. You could tell that he needs the weight room. But (Michigan head coach) Lloyd Carr said this, I’ll never forget it, he said he’s the toughest player that he’s ever coached. That meant something.”
Apparently, it didn’t mean enough to convince the franchise to select Brady.
All was not lost for the Giants, however, as quarterback Kerry Collins embarked on a run that led New York to Super Bowl XXXV in 2000.
The moment also shows Payton’s coaching acumen, which we’ve seen develop over the years. Payton went on to revitalize the career of Drew Brees, who will undoubtedly find his way to Canton some day.
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