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
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
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.