Robert Griffin III recently made one of his smartest comments since joining the Washington Redskins, acknowledging he was eager to observe New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady during the teams’ joint practices at Richmond. For a young quarterback, there’s no better role model.
Beginning his 15th season, Brady is the most successful quarterback of his generation. He has guided the Patriots to three Super Bowl titles, set records, won major awards and emerged as one of the faces of the league. While achieving his success, the future Hall of Famer — who leads the Patriots in the preseason opener Thursday night at FedEx Field — has been a consummate professional. Griffin should take notes.
Although Brady undoubtedly could offer tips to help Griffin on the field, the third-year player also needs direction off it. Griffin still is learning how to conduct himself in a high-profile leadership role. Brady long ago mastered the art of maintaining a positive persona. When you live in a fishbowl, that’s a good skill to have.
“The news cycle is different now,” said Brady, the 2010 NFL MVP. “There’s so much pressure for the younger guys. The spotlight is so bright.”
Nonetheless, it hasn’t burned Brady. Redskins cornerback DeAngelo Hall admires Brady’s knack for “doing it the right way. Just his whole approach, man. That’s what you want out of your quarterback. . . . It’s definitely good for Robert to just sit back and watch how Tom handles everything.”
In the “gotcha” age of 24-hour sports television programming and the omnipresent social-media microscope, Brady has deftly sidestepped land mines many other athletes have repeatedly detonated. (Even a potential scandal — fathering a child with former girlfriend Bridget Moynahan — was neutralized in the most amicable way possible.) At 37, Brady still is as impressive at attacking a two-deep zone as he is representing the Patriots on the red carpet.
Through hard work and dedication to his team, Brady has earned every bit of his fame. The fact that Brady has protected it so well is an accomplishment on par with winning his first 10 postseason starts.
Even if they’re stay-at-home types, it’s hard for celebrities to maintain their privacy. Brady has been an NFL superstar since he led the Patriots past the heavily favored St. Louis Rams in the Super Bowl at 24.
Brady is married to a supermodel. He’s a sought-after corporate pitchman. He’s one of the all-time best players at professional sport’s most glamorous position. You know what Brady’s life seems like? A wonderful fantasy most guys would give a body part to experience, even if only briefly.
But the intense media glare on such a superstar lifestyle has revealed other athletes’ warts. Brady continues to shine. That’s why he’s worth studying, especially for Griffin.
After Griffin’s war with former coach Mike Shanahan, the Redskins stuck with Griffin, making many moves intended to bolster the coaching staff and roster around him. The Redskins’ message was clear: Griffin is our guy, and we’ve turned the page. Unfortunately for the Redskins, Griffin hadn’t put it all behind him.
He inserted his foot into his mouth (again) during an interview in July, taking a shot at Shanahan by saying there’s no longer anyone in Redskins management who has “ulterior motives.” Much of the Shanahan-Griffin ugliness would have remained behind closed doors if Griffin hadn’t made his contempt for Shanahan so obvious.
When you’re on stage as much as an NFL quarterback, you can’t afford to flub your lines. Brady is known for nailing his. And with the amount of money quarterbacks are paid, they become de facto partners of the men who lead teams. Patriots Coach Bill Belichick doesn’t worry about his partner casting a shadow over the franchise.
“Tom and I came in together. His rookie year  was my first year with the Patriots, and I’ve had a good relationship with Tom,” Belichick said. “He’s always had a strong leadership role on the team” even when he was a rookie backup.
“I have a lot of respect for Tom. There’s no other quarterback I’d rather have [leading] our team than Tom Brady. That’s the best way I can sum it up.”
Brady’s bond with Belichick has benefited both men and the Patriots. Finally, Griffin is on the same page with Washington’s coach. Jay Gruden believes in Griffin. He wants him to succeed.
“We want to get Robert to where he has absolutely total control over . . . whatever it is,” Gruden said.
Without feeling as if he still has to look over his shoulder, Griffin should be more comfortable this season. That could help him grow into the leader the Redskins need him to become. Brady, for one, believes Griffin will get there.
“He’s got a great future,” Brady said.
To get to where he wants to go, Griffin has a long road ahead. Emulating someone who is already there is a good place to start.