TAMPA — Clyde Christensen thought it was a setup. When the Bucs quarterbacks coach was asked to do a report on 42-year-old Tom Brady for free agency, he looked around to see if there were hidden cameras in his office.
“Free agency this year, the first guy I wrote, it was in alphabetical order, so I’m writing up Tom Brady in free agency like you do every year,” Christensen said. "And answering the questions: ‘Do you think he can be a starter in the NFL? Can he start for us? Is he a leader?’ And I really thought it was Candid Camera. ... Is he a leader? Do you think he’s a leader?
“...I watched every throw for four years and couldn’t see any dropoff whatsoever. ... I think that narrative was dead, off-base. And if I thought that, we probably wouldn’t have gone after him. He is playing at an extremely high level. He took his physical and they said his joints are like that of a 30-year-old man...There is nothing on the film that shows he has fallen off, accuracy-wise, arm-strength wise.”
Appearing on the Pat McAfee Show Thursday, Christensen talked about the Bucs’ recruitment of Brady, how the team insisted he learn Bruce Arians’ offense, the ways he will make everyone better from those in the equipment room to the cafeteria, and a Tennessee summit between the Patriots quarterback and Peyton Manning.
Christensen had never met Brady, despite competing against him nearly every year for the AFC title while serving as the quarterbacks coach and later offensive coordinator with the Indianapolis Colts. He admits to having to re-program himself and his family after discovering he was going to get a chance to coach one of his most hated rivals.
Brady won him over immediately.
“One of the things we did while we were in the process of evaluating, was (Bruce Arians) said, ‘Hey, rather than teaching 21 guys the New England offense, we’re going to teach one guy our offense.' So the foundation will be Bruce Arians’ offense," Christensen said. "And then what we think will happen, which happens with all these great ones, is Tom Brady will come in and he’ll make it better. He’ll see some things, he’ll tweak it, he’ll have a few favorite things. ... So it will be a mesh of the things, but the foundation, how you call formations, how you do things will stay Coach Arians’ offense. ...
“(Brady) said, ‘Just tell me what you want to do. I’m going to learn it. We’re going to do it. And if you want my ideas, I’ll give them to you (which we obviously do). What number? It doesn’t matter to me.’ And that’s what’s been extremely impressive. ... He’s been tremendous as far his attitude."
Christensen said he never talked to Brady until after the start of free agency, but he speculates that there had been some conversations between the six-time Super Bowl champion and former Colts and Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning.
“I’ve bounced stuff off Peyton and I’m sure they’ve talked,” Christensen said. “I think Tom had an interest in this place right from the get-go for a lot of reasons and it was felt from the beginning the thing was going to happen. And it was exciting for me that I was going to get to coach him and learn from him. Yeah, those two guys have a unique relationship.”
In fact, when Christensen finally did meet Brady, he was armed with 12 pages of notes about when Manning and Brady completed a secret summit in Chattanooga, Tenn., more than a decade ago. The quarterbacks spent time at a lake, talked playing in your 30s and compared career notes.
“It was so secret and I had all those notes and you’re dying to want to share it because it’s so interesting that it happened and you can’t say anything to anybody," Christensen said. "So I pulled those out (when I met Brady). I said, 'I know a little more than you think I know.’ I had these 12 pages of notes on everything he believed about everything and how they did things. And so, just the story to show how those two guys think and how they’re wired is really unique.”
Christensen made it clear that Brady is focused on winning a Super Bowl with the Bucs. This is not a guy looking to take a victory lap before his career ends or wanting to retire to Florida.
Christensen said Brady has the same chip on his shoulder he has carried since he was selected No. 199 in the 2000 NFL draft.
“I just think this is going to be great for Tampa, it’s going to be great for our locker room as you’ve seen. It’s going to be a huge advantage in this offseason, because if you don’t have a leader at quarterback … those guys are going to have to drive the whole thing. As of right now, we can’t meet with those guys. We can’t have anybody in. Having a Drew Brees or somebody like that who knows how to organize and reach people and get people better, there’s going to be a huge premium on those guys this year because of no coaches and no offseason. The quarterback is going to have to be your offensive coordinator and head coach and get things organized and the ones that have great ones are going to be ahead of the game this year."