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A Jets scout once begged Bill Parcells to draft Tom Brady. What if he had?

Even if the Jets picked Tom Brady, he may not have seen the field before his rookie contract ran out.

You’re never going to believe this, the New York Jets made a huge mistake in the NFL Draft once upon a time.

A few years ago there was a report from the New York Daily News that then-Jets scout Jesse Kaye was so adamant that the team draft Michigan quarterback Tom Brady that he nearly stood on the table in the war room.

Even though the Jets had already invested the 18th overall pick on Pennington, the first quarterback they had taken in the first round since Ken O’Brien in 1983, the source said Kaye loved Brady, who had thrown for 369 yards and four touchdowns in a 35-34 overtime victory over Alabama in the Orange Bowl in the final game of his college career, but was unable to persuade Parcells — despite the scout’s deep conviction that Brady was going to be an excellent player — to take him.

When the Jets turned in their card in the sixth round with the 179th pick, they took North Carolina State defensive back Tony Scott. Twenty picks later, using a supplemental sixth-round draft choice, the Patriots selected Brady.


It turns out Kaye was right — Brady turned out to be pretty dang good. Scott, on the other hand, posted one career interception and retired after playing in 23 games.

Chad Pennington spent eight seasons with the Jets, taking over as the team’s starter in 2002. He had a strong start to his career and received a huge extension in 2004, but was ultimately undone by a long list of injuries. He was twice named Comeback Player of the Year, but his career ended unceremoniously with the Miami Dolphins after an offseason ACL tear in 2011.

Brady — in case you hadn’t heard — has led the Patriots to an NFL record eight Super Bowls and won five of them, earning three NFL MVP awards along the way.

But what if Parcells listened to his scout in 2000 and made Brady the No. 179 pick? Let’s imagine an alternate decade that follows:



Vinny Testaverde keeps both of the Jets’ rookie quarterbacks, Pennington and Brady, behind him on the depth chart. New York assigns Brady to NFL Europe with Ray Lucas occupying the third quarterback spot on the active roster. As quarterback of the Scottish Claymores, Brady cruuuushes it, leading the team to its second World Bowl victory.

Bill Parcells retires as general manager after the season and Al Groh leaves as head coach to become the Virginia head coach. Herm Edwards takes over as head coach.


Drew Bledsoe starts the whole season for the Patriots with Michael Bishop and John Friesz behind him on the depth chart. With Brady off the board 20 picks earlier, the Patriots take Colorado defensive back Damen Wheeler near the end of the sixth round. Wheeler, like most sixth-round picks, doesn’t do much of anything and gets cut after his rookie season.



It’s still the Testaverde show in New York, where the Jets go 10-6 in year one of the Edwards era, although the team leans heavily on Curtis Martin and an aggressive defense. Pennington watches from the sideline as the Jets lose to the Raiders in the Wild Card round.

Brady goes back to NFL Europe again, and continues to be the best quarterback in the league.


In the fourth quarter of a Week 2 game against the Jets, Bledsoe rolls right and gets blasted by linebacker Mo Lewis.

Bledsoe suffered a hemothorax — a serious injury that kept him out of action for months — and in jogged Brock Huard, who beat Michael Bishop out for the No. 2 spot on the depth chart in August.

Huard did just fine, but it’s not like you can expect a backup quarterback to just turn things around and take an 0-2 team to the Super Bowl. That’d be something.

The Patriots are careful not to rush Bledsoe’s return. The veteran quarterback takes back his starting job in Week 13 with New England now 5-7. He can’t do enough to get the Patriots to the playoffs.


On a bright, sunny day in Miami, the Raiders win a Divisional Round game against the Dolphins that doesn’t have any tuck rule drama. Oakland advances to face the Steelers in the AFC Championship, where Pittsburgh struggles with turnovers and hands a spot in the Super Bowl to the Raiders.

But the high-flying St. Louis offense is too much, and the Rams win a Super Bowl for the second time in three years. Adam Vinatieri watches all of this from his living room.



A slow start to the year for Testaverde, and finally it’s time to see what one of these young quarterbacks — who have been crushing it in practice and preseason — can do.

Pennington gets the nod — he was the No. 18 overall pick, after all — and excels as a rookie with an NFL-best 104.2 passer rating. Things are getting frustrating for Brady, who is now in year three and still hasn’t had a chance to play in the NFL. The Jets choose not to send Brady to Europe another year, instead keeping him as a full-time third string quarterback, similar to the decision the Saints make with Jake Delhomme.

Luckily for Brady, his three-year rookie contract expires and he can hit free agency in the 2003 offseason. With Pennington looking like a great pick and Testaverde serving as a capable backup, the Jets can stomach their other promising young passer walking.

New York’s next 15 years look a whole lot like the way they would have if they just picked Tony Scott.


Perhaps if Huard shocked the world with an incredible run in 2001, the Patriots would’ve traded Bledsoe to — oh I don’t know — the Bills, maybe? But nope, New England sticks with the veteran passer it gave a 10-year, $103 million extension to prior to the 2001 season.

And that’s fine. He’s no GOAT, but Bledsoe is a Pro Bowler in his return, but not quite enough to get the Patriots over the hump and into the playoffs.



Brady and Delhomme are a pair of young quarterbacks who starred in NFL Europe and are sought-after free agent passers along with Jake Plummer. Delhomme joins the Panthers, Plummer joins the Broncos, and the Cowboys get Brady, reuniting the former Jets draft pick with new Dallas head coach Bill Parcells.

It’s a situation that works out great for all parties. Brady easily beats out Quincy Carter and Chad Hutchinson for the starting role, and — with the help of a great defense — lifts Dallas to the best record in the NFL and its first Super Bowl win since Barry Switzer was coach.

Brady has arrived.


Bill Belichick has built one hell of a defense in New England. It’s not quite as great as it would’ve been if the Patriots had more draft capital to build with — say, an extra first-round pick in 2003 — but it’s still one of the NFL’s best.

And with Bledsoe, a capable and above-average starter in his 11th season at the helm, the Patriots are really good. Enough to beat the Titans and the Colts on the way to the Super Bowl, but not enough to top the Brady-led Cowboys.



With Brady at the helm, the Cowboys are set up to be a contender for years to come. Behind him on the depth chart are his former Michigan teammate Drew Henson and promising second-year passer Tony Romo.

But the defense takes a step back and Dallas isn’t able to repeat as Super Bowl champions. They aren’t even able to defend their NFC East title with the Eagles making a run to the Super Bowl that ends with the franchise’s first Lombardi Trophy.



Bledsoe’s consistently average performance and climbing age means it’s time to invest at the quarterback position, because late round picks haven’t been blossoming into future stars.

Picking near the middle of the first round can make it tough, but California’s Aaron Rodgers inexplicably slides to the back half of the first round and the Patriots take him at No. 20 overall.

Rodgers doesn’t start during his rookie year, though.



Green Bay is in need of a quarterback to eventually replace now 36-year-old Brett Favre, but was unable to land a highly-touted player in 2005. Instead, the Packers take Matt Leinart in the top 10 of the 2006 NFL Draft. The impact of the Packers filling their quarterback hole early has a domino effect through the rest of the 2006 NFL Draft.

The former Heisman Trophy winner from USC spends his entire rookie year behind Favre, football’s Iron Man.


Arizona signed Kurt Warner to a cheap, one-year deal in 2005 and gave him a three-year extension after his first season. But he’s about to turn 35, and the Cardinals take Jay Cutler to be the team’s quarterback of the future.

It doesn’t take long for Cutler to take the reins from Warner and he never gives them back.



After missing out on the quarterbacks in the 2006 NFL Draft, the Broncos get their Jake Plummer replacement in 2007 instead. The answer is Brady Quinn who is forced to start right away when Plummer retires. It’s not a great situation in Denver.



Romo has been kept around by the Cowboys as a long-term backup — like the Jim Sorgi to the Colts’ Peyton Manning — but he’s forced into action when Brady tears his ACL in Week 1 of the 2008 season.

It’s a breakout year for Romo, who finishes with 26 touchdowns and 14 interceptions, but can’t quite get the Cowboys to the playoffs. Still, it makes him a hot trade commodity for Dallas.


After two years behind Favre, Leinart finally takes over when Favre retires, unretires, and gets traded to the Jets. Two years of waiting to see what Leinart can do has shot expectations through the roof and the quarterback doesn’t come close to reaching them. He finishes his first year as a starter with 12 touchdowns and 13 interceptions.



There’s a trade market for Romo, who has had plenty of time to develop behind Brady. The winner of the sweepstakes are the Kansas City Chiefs, who land the quarterback for the No. 34 overall selection in the 2009 NFL Draft.

It’s no sweat off the Cowboys’ back because Brady returns in top form for the 2009 season with 28 touchdowns and 13 interceptions. It’s not another Super Bowl season for Dallas, but the team is very much back in business.


Romo is a revelation for Kansas City with 26 touchdowns and nine interceptions to make his first Pro Bowl. The Chiefs aren’t quite ready to be a winner yet after a 2-14 year in 2008, but the team doesn’t regret the six-year extension it gave to Romo after trading for him. He’s their quarterback of the future.



After three years of Quinn struggles, Denver moves on by selecting Tim Tebow in the 2010 NFL Draft. That draft pick also doesn’t go well, although he does have a tendency to pull a rabbit out of a hat every once in a while. A couple years later Peyton Manning finally smooths things over for the Broncos.


The combo of Jay Cutler and Larry Fitzgerald results in huge passing numbers, but the Cardinals can never quite get over the hump with Cutler. But he’s lived up to his draft billing and the team keeps him around with a long-term extension.


Romo’s collarbone becomes a problem eventually, but Kansas City has their guy and doesn’t need to trade for anybody in 2013. He sticks as the team’s starter until Patrick Mahomes finally takes over in 2017 due to a Romo back injury.


Turns out Brady’s really good and also maybe immortal? By the time 2018 rolls around, Dallas has won five Super Bowls with Brady at quarterback and he hasn’t showed any signs of stopping despite hitting his 40th birthday in 2017.


Two years of Leinart is enough years of Leinart. Trading for Jason Campbell in 2010 and drafting Christian Ponder in 2011 doesn’t fix the problem for the long-term either. The Packers finally get a band-aid that sticks when they trade for Alex Smith in 2013, but it doesn’t lead to much postseason success.


Turns out Rodgers is also really good. He took the reins from Bledsoe in 2006 and is a Pro Bowler year in and year out in New England. His dry humor and distrust of the media makes him a perfect pairing with Belichick and the duo lead a perennial contender. The Patriots make the Super Bowl three times over the next decade, winning twice.