Tom Brady’s legacy is a template for final lesson Detroit Lions must learn in this rebuild

Detroit Free Press

Sitting on the couch, eating my morning yogurt, watching ESPN’s “Get Up.”

And the news popped across the TV.

Tom Brady is retiring. No, seriously this time.

And they aired his short, homemade retirement video.

“I know the process was a pretty big deal last time, so when I woke up this morning, I figured I’d just press record and let you guys know first,” Brady said on his social media post. “I won’t be long-winded. You only get one super emotional retirement essay, and I used mine up last year.”

ESPN host Mike Greenberg threw it to Tedy Bruschi, Brady’s good friend and longtime teammate on the New England Patriots.

Who told an amazing story.

“I think the best story I have about Tom Brady’s addiction to winning is the one when we were in the Pro Bowl together after our third championship, after we beat the Eagles,” Bruschi said, flashing back to February 2005. “It’s back when you played in the Pro Bowl. Then every team is introduced, and their Pro Bowl representatives are introduced, and we were the last ones in the locker room.”

Bruschi was sitting in the locker room with Brady, Richard Seymour, Adam Vinatieri and Larry Izzo — his New England teammates.

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“Tom looked at all of us and he said, ‘You know, no one’s ever won three in a row,’ ” Bruschi said. “I still had confetti on the bottom of my cleats, and we’re looking at Tom like, ‘Dude, we just had the parade man. Can we just go out here and they are about to announce us as world champions? And can we just play the Pro Bowl first?’

That was Tom Brady. Not just one of the greatest football players of all time — probably the greatest. But one of the greatest champions in any sport.

“It was always about the next one,” Bruschi said. “And it was almost flabbergasting to us.”

Then I started thinking about the Detroit Lions. About the progress this team has made.

And I realized something.

MORE FROM SEIDEL:Why Lions window for success is open but they have entered critical QB crossroads

Grit will only take you so far

I love the Lions’ “grit.”

Love that they are searching for toughness and resolve and competitiveness. The desire to play anyone anywhere.

Because it showed up during the season. Yes, they were horrible at the start.  And if I’m being honest, I questioned this team, its direction, leadership and decisions.

But not now. Because that team didn’t fold. It didn’t give up. Didn’t turn on itself. It kept grinding and won eight of its last 10 games.

That’s grit.

You know how you do that?

It starts with Brad Holmes — he’s searching for players with that never-give up attitude.

It flows to Dan Campbell. He is so obsessed, trying to find a small advantage. To get this team to improve.

And you can see it in several players.

You can see it in Aidan Hutchinson, in his amazing motor. Never giving up. Never relenting.

You could see it in Amon-Ra St. Brown, who plays with so much heart.

You could see it in Jamaal Williams, who was dealing with the death of a family member but went out there for the Lions’ finale and played with so much passion and love for the game.

MORE FROM SEIDEL:The serious love for Jamaal Williams shows something about him — and Lions fans

You can see it in Jameson Williams. An All-American wide receiver who still was a special teams gunner in his one season at Alabama. I know he barely got going in 2022 because of injury. But it’s inside him.

You could see it in James Houston, who kept plugging away on the practice squad — and he exploded when he finally got his shot.

And you can see it in some of the veterans they have kept, guys like Frank Ragnow — a guy who could barely walk through the locker room because his foot was so sore and tender. But he freakin’ went out there and played.

Grit implies toughness and desire and never giving up.

Grit is exactly what this team needed to climb from the pits of NFL misery.

And that’s why there is reason to be excited about the direction of this franchise.

All hail the champion

But there something needed beyond grit. To go to the next level.

And Brady embodied it.

“The man who set the standard is walking away,” Bruschi said. “I’m not only talking about the standard in quarterback play, but I’m talking the standard for entire locker rooms to look to … I don’t know what the word … addiction … of the entire process of preparing and sustaining and maintaining. Those three words — they’re entirely different. To prepare for a game. To maintain it for two decades. And sustaining a level of MVP-caliber play.”

Over the next few months, there will be all kinds of talk about how the Lions have an open window for the playoffs next year.

How they have a chance to take the next step.

But grit alone doesn’t take you there.

You need something else.

At some point, this team needs to transition from “grit” to “obsession.”

An obsession for titles. An obsession for more than one.

Never being satisfied.

That’s the real secret to long-term, sustained success.

An obsession to be like Tom Brady.

All hail, a true champion.

Contact Jeff Seidel: jseidel@freepress.com. Follow him on Twitter @seideljeff. 

To read his recent columns, go to freep.com/sports/jeff-seidel.

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