THOUSAND OAKS – Twelve summers ago, Tom Brady was the New England Patriots’ 30 quarterback and Kevin O’Connell was a starting quarterback looking over his shoulder.
Neither could have imagined where they will be on Monday night when the Rams face the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Raymond James Stadium.
Brady, 43, is still playing and leading the Bucs. O’Connell, 35, is the offensive coordinator and quarterback whisperer for the Rams.
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, to listen to everything, to be a sponge,” O’Connell said Friday, referring to his time as backup for Brady and Matt Cassel. in collaboration with Patriots coach Bill Belichick. and offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels.
“I really think about that time and think back to maybe some things that I could have done differently, but I also reflect on that time and (realize) that it created a lot of who I am from the point of view of football identity. ”
Drafted in the third round after a late-blooming career with San Diego state, O’Connell finished 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 blow and a loss eventually became the only official action of his career. The Pats released O’Connell before the 2009 season, a surprise. He tried but failed to stay with four more NFL teams before taking up coaching.
Brady was a living textbook on how to become a professional quarterback.
That’s some of the knowledge O’Connell is trying to pass on to Ram’s quarterback Jared Goff, even if the coach doesn’t explicitly say, “Tom Brady did it this way and you should too.”
“There are so many things you can take away from watching someone playing at that level,” said O’Connell after practice. “It can be as small as the nuances of (reading) reports. Perhaps it is a matter of footwork, an aspect of playing with the right balance and pocket presence, of being able to play with a calm bottom half in the pocket.
“While he (Brady) may not be a super mobile guy – he’d probably be the first to tell you that – he’s probably as elite as anyone in the pocket and able to move around in the pocket and still get a full position. keep field progression (search for recipients). ”
The fact that Brady is in his 21st season and is pursuing his seventh Super Bowl ring with his second franchise, while O’Connell is already in his sixth year of NFL coaching with his fourth franchise, is astonishing and amusing. Typically O’Connell takes a lesson from it.
“I don’t think people talk enough about the work it takes to be constantly prepared to play at such a high level,” said O’Connell of Brady’s longevity. Just the general attention to detail with which he plays the position.
“I think a lot of quarterbacks and many players in many positions have done a lot to see him as a teammate or from a distance as an opponent.”
O’Connell’s concern in 2020 will be helping head coach Sean McVay kick-start the attack as the Rams (6-3) prepare to face off against the Bucs (7-3). O’Connell was cheered on by Goff’s 27-for-37, 302-yard performance in the Rams’ 23-16 win over Seattle last Sunday.
“Overall, I thought he ran the show with real authority. It was a game to build from, ”said O’Connell.
But seeing Brady on Monday brings back memories of 2008, when at least one of them was young.
“From day one, you have become a teammate of one of the greatest quarterbacks to ever play the position,” said O’Connell of the time. “(It) was really something special to me.”
Aaron Donald isn’t ready to declare this year’s Rams defense the best he’s played. “Let’s finish this season and see,” the All-Pro defensive tackle said Friday in response to a question. “Right now we are doing great things, some things from a consistent basis, which I don’t think I have been involved (before). We just have to keep working, keep getting better, keep dominating. “For 10 weeks, the defense of the Rams is in second place in points and yards allowed. It has not finished in the top eight in either category in Donald’s six previous full seasons.… Matt Gay, the kicker who made the exhibition team on Tuesday from Indianapolis, will go to the Rams on Saturday and audition to replace the injured Kai Forbath. Sean McVay said Austin MacGinnis, the practice squad’s kicker, has been practicing well, but “nothing is set in stone and we’ll be open-minded when Matt comes in here. “… Seattle’s victory over Arizona on Thursday night did not change the position of the Rams in the NFC West standings (second) or the conference playoffs (sixth of seven qualifiers if the season now ended). The Rams (6-3) have a half game behind the Seahawks (7-3), who lead the division, and half ahead of the Cardinals (6-4), who are third in the division and seventh in the division . playoff race. … All Rams players exercised on Friday except backup center Brian Allen, who has a swelling in his surgically repaired knee, McVay said.