Tiger Woods and Tom Brady may appear to have little in common, but there’s the iconic stature each holds in his chosen sport, the surgically-repaired left knees, and their first marriages to fashion models. The larger-than-life legends, who have been linked by such eminences as Bill Belichick and Fred Couples -- not to mention the athletes themselves and a Harvard professor -- are similar in other ways as well: age is creeping up on both, and opponents no longer view either as infallible.
Woods got back on the winning track during the 2012 season, but, at 36, he long ago lost the ability to make playing partners wilt at the sight of him on the first tee (see: Y. E. Yang, 2009 PGA Championship).
And while Brady’s uncanny knack for marching his New England Patriots down the field with the game on the line and sticking it to his adversaries has all but disappeared since his last major triumph in February 2005, Sunday’s humiliating loss to Pete Carroll’s Seattle Seahawks put an exclamation point on the end of QB12’s Tiger-esque aura.
When a Seahawks cornerback, the immortal Richard Sherman, got in Brady’s face during the 24-23 squeaker that could have been a much larger smack down -- thanks to the Pats’ Swiss cheese defense and Brady’s rookie-like blunders -- it brought to mind the pre-U.S. Open champ Rory McIlroy telling Tiger Woods to bring it on before the 2010 Ryder Cup. Except, of course, McIlroy was a budding superstar and Sherman’s a trash-talking sophomore for the Seahawks.
“I kept saying I’m going to get that next time. Every TV timeout, I went up and said it right to [Brady]: ‘Please keep trying me. I’m going to take it from you,’” Sherman told Tacoma’s News Tribune about his one-sided badinage with Brady when the Seahawks were still down 20-10 in the third quarter and after Brady had thrown one of his many near-interceptions. “He just gave me that look and said, ‘Oh, I’ll see you after game.’ Well, I made sure I saw him after the game.”
Brady, who ascended to god-like status in Boston and surrounding environs after leading his team to the promised land three times in four years, had already come crashing back to earth after two embarrassing Super Bowl losses to the New York Giants. But Sherman made sure to let Gisele Bundchen’s telegenic hubby know that the two-time Super Bowl MVP’s feet were now most definitely of the clay variety.
“'We're better than you. You're just a man. We're a team,’” Sherman said he chirped at Brady, according to the Seattle Times.
Following his team’s stunning come-from-behind win, Sherman took his taunts to Twitter, where he posted a photo of a downcast Brady walking to the sidelines after Sherman's own key pick and talked some additional smack.
“Brady sure looks like a man who turned the 12thMan [the loud and raucous Seattle fans] against us,” @RSherman_25 tweeted.
Long before Sherman took his shots at the sixth-round draft pick from Michigan, it was not uncommon for Brady to factor into discussions about another sure-fire Hall of Famer. Woods, himself, wished Brady well after the quarterback blew out his knee in the first game of the 2008 NFL season (“Blowing out ACLs is definitely not a bond you want,” said Tiger).
Brady, for his part, spoke briefly -- essentially saying, “No comment” -- when reporters asked him about Woods’ situation shortly after the golfer’s SUV backed into that fire hydrant.
And in an odd offshoot following Woods’ sex scandal, Harvard professor N. Gregory Mankiw replaced a Tiger-based monetary example in one of his economics books with an illustration based on Brady.
Back on the sports field, Coach Hoodie and Freddie drew on Woods and Brady to inspire their respective teams.
"It's like Tiger Woods. The guy spends 13, 14 hours [a day] on the range when he's not playing,” Belichick told New England Sports Network back in 2009. “It's not like he's not a good golfer, but there are still things that he can work on in his game.
“I think if Tiger Woods can spend 14 hours on a driving range, we can spend time on techniques that we're doing. You're trying to perfect your craft...Tom and everybody else, that's what we're all doing."
Couples reversed the analogy, invoking Brady in a head-scratching effort to defend his decision to name the then-struggling and injury-prone Woods to his 2011 Presidents Cup team.
“At the end of the year, if [Woods is] the No. 1 quarterback for your team, and some other quarterback comes in there and leads you in the playoffs and you’re healthy, Tom Brady is the guy that is going to then take over after he’s been out six weeks with an injury,” Couples said on a conference call with reporters after the Super Bowl-bound Brady Bunch had notched another win. “That’s the way I looked at it with Tiger.”
Couples, who, the Boston Globe reported, was in attendance Sunday as his hometown team turned Brady into “just a man,” may want a Mulligan on that Woods-Brady correlation. Because Sunday, Tom Terrific looked a lot like your average 35-year-old play caller making the turn for the back nine.