Jason Licht wasn’t directly involved in the New England Patriots’ choice to draft Tom Brady. But he did have a front-row seat to that franchise-altering decision
Long before Licht rose to his current position as Tampa Bay Buccaneers general manager, he was a Patriots scout. He joined New England before the final year of the Pete Carroll era and was retained when Bill Belichick took over command of the organization in 2000.
That year, the Patriots used a sixth-round pick (199th overall) on Brady, who now is preparing to quarterback Licht’s Bucs in Super Bowl LV.
During a video conference Wednesday, Licht recalled his arrival in New England and the behind-the-scenes conversations that preceded the Brady selection.
“I got my first job with the Patriots in 1999,” Licht said. “It was my first full-time scouting job for a club. We went 8-8 that year. Pete Carroll was the coach. He was let go, and then Bill Belichick was hired and went right into draft meetings the minute he walked into the building. So I got to know him through those meetings. A little intimidating, but he ended up giving me a promotion after that.
“I did not personally scout Tom. I was a Southeast area scout at the time. I listened to the conversations about him and we watched tape together, but I can’t take any credit for Tom being drafted.
“I do know that Coach Belichick really had his eye on him for a long time. We took him in the sixth. We didn’t need a quarterback at the time. (Belichick) had him (ranked) much higher than that — he and Scott Pioli had him much higher than that on the board. The conversation started with, if I recall correctly, the third round, and he was still sitting there in the sixth and they took him.”
Brady, of course, went on to lead the Patriots to nine Super Bowl appearances and six championships over the next 20 seasons. Licht left the organization after the 2002 season but later returned, serving as New England’s director of pro personnel between 2009 and 2011.
Last offseason, Licht helped convince Brady to sign with the perennially mediocre Buccaneers, who hadn’t reached the playoffs since 2007 and haven’t won a Super Bowl since 2002.
“I wish I could take credit for (drafting Brady),” Licht said. “But I got to know Tom a little bit in my years there. We never really kept in touch other than if we happened to play each other and maybe waved to him on the sideline or something. So when we signed him here and talked on the phone, it was really the first time I’d talked to him since 2011 when I was with the Patriots.”
Brady and the Bucs will face the defending champion Kansas City Chiefs next Sunday at Raymond James Stadium.