As published in The County Times (countytimes.somd.com)
By Ronald N. Guy Jr.
Edward Patrick, Eddie for short, hails from the San Francisco Bay Area. Growing up in the 1980s and early 1990s, Eddie had the good fortune of experiencing the heyday of 49ers teams coached by Hall of Famer Bill Walsh and, his successor, George Seifert.
Walsh was the mastermind behind the then innovative West Coast offense and built the 49ers into an absolute juggernaut. Between 1981 and 1994, the 49ers won five Super Bowls and were NFL darlings. Aside from the strike-shortened 1982 season, San Francisco never won less than ten games between 1981 and 1998. That is…ridiculous. The Washington Football Team hasn’t won more than 10 games in any season since 1991!
The 49ers players from that era are an embarrassment of talent – Ronnie Lott, Steve Young, Dwight Clarke, John Taylor, Ricky Watters, Roger Craig, Fred Dean, Charles Haley, Brent Jones, Randy Cross, Deion Sanders and, maybe the best overall player in NFL history, Jerry freaking Rice.
The trained eye likely caught an omission. Eddie’s favorite all-time 49er was QB Joe Montana. How could a kid not love number 16? Montana was elegant and a cold-blooded slayer under pressure. No ordinary Joe, Montana was 4-0 in Super Bowls and never threw an interception on the game’s biggest stage. He outdueled Dan Marino in San Francisco’s Super Bowl XIX win over Miami, authored a last minute, game-winning touchdown drive to beat the Cincinnati Bengals in Super Bowl XXIII and routed an over-matched Denver Broncos team 55-10 in a signature performance in Super Bowl XIV.
Eddie proudly rocked a number 16 49ers jersey in the 80s and likely re-enacted Montana’s most amazing plays in his backyard, as did most Bay Area kids. But for Eddie this was no transient childhood fascination. He so idolized Montana that he became a youth quarterback of some consequence himself. Eddie made it way all the way to big-time college football, carving out a solid, if not spectacular career at a blueblood program.
Eddie wasn’t athletically gifted, but he had a mind for the game and, most importantly, a competitive drive of rare intensity. Passed over many times on draft day, he still scratched and clawed his way onto an NFL roster. In a modern-day Wally Pipp-Lou Gehrig moment, injury offered Eddie a shot to start in the league, an opportunity he seized and never relinquished. He won a bunch of Super Bowls himself, defied father Time and grew into an icon of the sport.
Eddie’s legacy is a complicated one, though. He never completely harnessed the competitive drive that buoyed his success. Eddie was demonstrative on the field, frequently berated teammates, would bend the truth about his shortcomings and spin stories about the tricks he would pull to maintain a competitive edge. Suggesting that he was a bad teammate or compromised the integrity of the sport might be a stretch, but the accusation wouldn’t be completely unfounded.
There is an argument that Eddie is the best ever; the back of his football card would almost certainly lead to the conclusion that his accomplishments have surpassed that his idol, Joe Montana. But there are off-flavors to his bowl of chili. Neither he nor his organization always did things the right way, and once doubt is created, questions seep into character and integrity cracks.
The sports sleuths have likely identified Edward Patrick. He is Thomas Edward Patrick Brady. Or just Tom Brady. He has won six Super Bowls and might be the greatest player of all time. But equally as real as the Super Bowls are his frequent, theatric lashings of failing teammates, “Deflategate” and his mysteriously destroyed cell phone, and his curious relationship with trainer Alex Guerrero and his unprecedented longevity.
Which is okay, I think. Short of blatant cheating or some other egregious personal transgression, athletes, especially football players, are ultimately judged on wins and losses. But it is good Eddie…errr…Brady found his way in sports and in football, particularly. Deflecting blame, random petulance, a lack of transparency, occasional dishonesty and bullying tendencies are unacceptable leadership traits in most other walks of life.
Or at least they used to be.