THOUSAND OAKS — Twelve summers ago, Tom Brady was the thirtysomething quarterback of the New England Patriots and Kevin O’Connell was a rookie quarterback looking over his shoulder.
Neither could have imagined where they will be Monday night when the Rams face the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Raymond James Stadium.
Brady, 43, is still playing, leading the Bucs. O’Connell, 35, is the Rams’ offensive coordinator and quarterback whisperer.
O’Connell is wiser for what he learned as a teammate of one of the greats for parts of 2008 and 2009.
“I chose to use it as an opportunity to be seen and not heard, listen to everything, be a sponge,” O’Connell said Friday, referring to his time as a backup to Brady and Matt Cassel, working with Patriots coach Bill Belichick and offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels.
“I really reflect on that time and think back to maybe some things I could have done differently, but I also reflect on that time and (realize) it created a big-time part of who I am from a football identity standpoint.”
O’Connell, drafted in the third round after a late-blooming career at San Diego State, wound up playing behind Cassel after Brady’s knee injury wiped out the 2008 season for the already three-time Super Bowl winner.
His six passes (four complete) late in a blowout win and a loss ended up being the only official action of his career. The Pats released O’Connell before the 2009 season, a surprise. He tried but failed to stick with four more NFL teams before taking up coaching.
Brady was a living textbook on how to be a pro quarterback.
That’s part of the knowledge that O’Connell tries to pass along to Rams quarterback Jared Goff, even if the coach doesn’t explicitly say, “Tom Brady did it this way and you should too.”
“There’s so many things that you can take away from watching somebody who plays at that level,” O’Connell said after practice. “It could be something as little as the nuances of (reading) coverages. Maybe it’s a footwork thing, an aspect of playing with the proper balance and pocket presence, of being able to play with a quieted lower half in the pocket.
“Although he (Brady) may not be a super-mobile guy – he probably would be the first one to tell you that – he’s probably as elite as anybody within the pocket and being able to move within the pocket and still maintain a full-field progression (looking for receivers).”
The fact that Brady is playing in his 21st season and pursuing his seventh Super Bowl ring with his second franchise, while O’Connell already is in his sixth year of NFL coaching with his fourth franchise, is amazing and amusing. Typically, O’Connell draws a lesson from it.
“I don’t think people talk enough about the work it takes to constantly stay prepared to play at such a high level,” O’Connell said of Brady’s longevity. “Just the overall attention to detail with which he plays the position.
“I think a lot of quarterbacks and a lot of players at a lot …read more
Source:: Los Angeles Daily News