Winning / Priorities / Leadership

How To Think Like Tom Brady

Winning is his highest priority.

All-Pro Reels, CC BY-SA 2.0 <>, via Wikimedia Commons

Tom Brady has played 21 seasons in the NFL which is extraordinary by itself. According to, the average career length is 3.3 years. He has been a starting quarterback for 20 of those 21 years. He has played in ten Super Bowls, winning seven of them. He was named the MVP in five of them. No one else is even close. If you’re even a casual fan of football, you probably knew that. But how has he done it?

Aside from a great deal of athletic talent (all NFL players have a great deal of talent) and an incredible work ethic and workout regime, there’s something else. He has clear-cut priorities.

In an interview with CNBC Brady said, “I think the thing I’ve always felt for me in my life,” he says, “winning has been a priority.”

Tom Brady wants to win. That’s kind of a blinding flash of the obvious — there isn’t a player in the NFL who doesn’t want to win. But is it really their highest priority? It absolutely is for Tom Brady.

With the incredible numbers he’s put up for every category used to measure a quarterback, you’d think he’d be the highest paid quarterback in the league. After all, his position is normally the highest paid position on a football team. Brady rarely breaks into the top ten highest paid players in the NFL. Say what?

He’s never commanded the eye-popping salary so many of his peers have. Maximizing his personal worth isn’t his highest priority. Winning is.

Brady routinely takes substantially less than he could in salary with the understanding the team will invest those savings in other high-caliber players. He understands it takes a team to win football games. Every year the NFL issues a salary cap for each team. A few days ago, they just announced it would be $182.5 million for the upcoming season.

When the star player takes up a huge chunk of that money, there’s less to pay everyone else on the team.

Agents normally negotiate contracts for players. Agents get paid as a percentage of the contract. Thus their motivation is to get as large a package as possible. That means they don’t care whether the team wins or loses because it only marginally affects them. This is a little oversimplified but it’s broadly true.

When players’ agents negotiate for their players’ greatest financial gain, they’re putting the player’s individual interest first and foremost. Brady has elevated winning as his highest priority. As a result, he leaves money on the table at contract negotiations. Business Insider calculated as of March 2020, he’s left more than $60 million on the table. That was their conservative estimate.

Brady has made clear numerous times he expects the team to use the money he leaves on the table by investing in other high-quality players. As a quarterback, he knows the greatest arm in the world isn’t any good without a great pair of hands to catch the passes. As a former quarterback, I can personally attest to how important the offensive line is. My linemen were enormously gracious, always helping me up after a sack.

Brady also appreciates a defense that keeps the other team out of the endzone as well. He understands it takes a team to win football games. He has the statistics and record to back up his opinion.

For Tom Brady, winning is THE highest priority, even more than his personal compensation. As a leader, setting clear priorities will get your team to the championship!

Retired Army officer with two tours in Baghdad, taught at West Point, married with four kids. Proud West Virginian and West Point grad. Amazon pubs.

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