MIAMI — Dolphins quarterback Jacoby Brissett is a pretty light-hearted, upbeat person; he won’t play games in the locker room though. He has Tom Brady to thank for that.
As a rookie backup behind Brady with the New England Patriots in 2016, Brissett joined a few teammates in playing a game in the locker room after a practice in training camp. That is, until Brady entered the room.
“I was playing and he walked into the locker room and was like ‘What are you doing? Didn’t you just mess up this in practice? Then you shouldn’t be playing,'” Brissett said. “[I was like] ‘All right.’ So ever since then, I never play games in the locker room anymore. That was when I really saw full Tom. I thought it was pretty cool, though.”
Brissett and the Dolphins (1-3) will try to end their three-game losing streak when they travel to face Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (3-1) on Sunday (1 p.m. ET, CBS). It will also be a reunion of sorts for Miami coach Brian Flores, who was an assistant with Brady and the Patriots from 2008 to 2018. He is 1-1 against Brady, with both games coming in 2019.
Flores started with the Patriots as a scouting assistant in 2004 before joining the coaching staff. Even then, Brady, now 44, was an established NFL starter. Seventeen years later Flores is still impressed by the three-time MVP’s growth as a player and his longevity.
“He was a great player when I last saw him in person when we were on the same team and he’s a great player [now],” Flores said. “Smart. Great command of the offense. Accurate. Can find the space in the pocket. I think he’s playing great football right now … I learned a lot from him, for sure. It’ll be great to see him, great to compete against him.”
Flores said observing Brady in New England taught him the value of preparation, a trait he said Brady has in common with Buccaneers coach Bruce Arians, offensive coordinator Byron Leftwich and defensive coordinator Todd Bowles. That level of preparation, combined with Brady’s experience means the seven-time Super Bowl champion has seen just about everything this league has to offer.
So much so that Flores smiled a bit when asked how difficult it is to get the QB off his game.
“I could sit here and say, ‘Yeah, you can do this, that and the other,’ but there’s no confusing the guy,” Flores said. “It’s about trying to execute … The entire team has to play well offensively, defensively and in the kicking game. That’s what we’re going to have to do to have success against this team.”
Dolphins safety Jason McCourty, who spent three seasons in New England and two with Brady, compared the future Pro Football Hall of Famer’s knowledge of the game to one of McCourty’s former coaches with the Tennessee Titans — longtime NFL defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau.
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“I remember [LeBeau] was standing in front of the room and we talked about fire zones,” McCourty said, “and he would say, ‘Well, when I first created this defense,’ or he’d say, ‘I’ve played against or I’ve watched every single play — that’s every single play — that has ever come across the NFL.’ Obviously, Tom is not to that point yet, but a guy that has seen that much football, it is very hard to confuse him.
“It’s up to us as a defense to not make it easy on him, give him different looks and do things that you possibly can [to] make him uncomfortable.”
Flores stopped short of saying his team was more excited to play the Buccaneers than any other team, but admitted playing against “arguably the best player of all time” forces any team to up its level of preparation.
Brady also happens to be one of the hottest quarterbacks in the league. His 1,356 passing yards through four games rank second in the NFL and his 10 touchdown passes are tied for third. He also leads the league in completions (119) and attempts (184), proving he is not slowing down despite being on pace to set a career-high for attempts per game (46).
If there is a silver lining for Miami, it’s that Brady has more losses (12) and interceptions (27) against the Dolphins — a former AFC East rival — than any other opponent. Those stats are explainable because he faced Miami twice a season while with New England, but serve as a reminder that even the GOAT is still a man.
“He’s human, so there’s going to be times where you may get a chance to make a play,” McCourty said. “Maybe you confuse him on a certain play and you were able to get him. It’s a football game, so you still have to go out there and play on Sunday.
“We don’t want to go into the game thinking it’s going to be impossible to make a play against this guy. We have to go out there and execute well and when our plays and our opportunities happen, we have to take advantage of them.”