- Former All-Pro linebacker Shawne Merriman recently revealed the “formula” to Tom Brady’s success
- Merriman believes Brady massively benefits from all-purpose backs like Leonard Fournette
- History proves the Maryland product may have a point
It might not exactly be Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s proclamation about fear, but let’s be honest with ourselves. Brady is still playing at a high level at 44 years old, and he’s shown no urge to hang up his cleats and retire to a life of playing golf and eating healthy. Only age or an injury will render the three-time NFL MVP ineffective and keep him at home for the postseason.
For years, teams and football fans have wondered what Brady’s formula to success really is. Former All-Pro linebacker Shawne Merriman thinks he has the answer, and it has nothing to do with the TB12 Method.
Shawne Merriman said Leonard Fournette is thriving because of Tom Brady’s ‘formula’
A quick glance at the 2021 Buccaneers’ receiving stats doesn’t feature too many surprises. Chris Godwin leads the team with 67 catches and 806 yards, while perennial Pro Bowler Mike Evans is atop the chart with 10 touchdowns. Evans also has 50 catches and 695 yards and, barring injury, should hit 1,000 yards for the eighth time in as many seasons.
However, Evans only ranks third in receptions, and he doesn’t trail the oft-injured Rob Gronkowski or the oft-foolish Antonio Brown. Instead, veteran running back Leonard Fournette has 51 catches, good enough for second on the team and one more than the Texas A&M product.
In a recent interview with Gambling.com, Merriman said Fournette — who tallied four touchdowns from scrimmage in a Week 12 victory over the Indianapolis Colts — is the perfect example of why teams still can’t stop Brady.
“That’s Tom Brady’s formula. It always has been. Check down, give it to the back and let him make plays with his legs. When you have a back capable of doing that like Leonard Fournette, he can do just that. That’s honestly what makes Tom Brady great. Take what they give you, utilize what you have, and you’re gonna win some football games.”
Fournette, who the Jacksonville Jaguars drafted fourth overall in 2017, also has 621 rushing yards and seven touchdowns in 11 games. The fifth-year running back is apace to finish the 2021 season with over 1,500 yards from scrimmage.
The likes of Danny Woodhead and Kevin Faulk certainly prove Merriman’s point
Historically, Brady hasn’t required an elite running back to pound through defenses for him to win Super Bowls. He’s only had five teammates rush for 1,000 yards since he became a full-time starter in 2001. Instead, Brady has always made the most of whatever weapons he’s had, and Fournette is the latest example.
Fournette is a proven all-purpose back, someone who can use his 6-foot, 228-pound frame for rushing through the goal-line or showcasing his strong hands and making plays as a receiver. The latter part of that equation is essential in a system featuring Brady, who has always used receiving backs to his advantage.
Originally a second-round pick in 1999, Kevin Faulk spent over a decade in New England and rushed for 3,607 yards in parts of 13 seasons. He also hauled in 3,701 receiving yards and averaged 41 catches a year from 2000-09. Despite never being the most explosive running back in the Patriots’ game plan, Faulk used his versatility to stick around and win three rings.
Despite only starting 13 games from 2015-19, James White averaged nearly 800 all-purpose yards and scored 32 touchdowns from scrimmage. He added another eight total touchdowns, including the game-winning score in Super Bowl 51, in 12 playoff games.
Even someone like Danny Woodhead, an undersized and undrafted running back, found a perfect role next to Brady. The 5-foot-9, 200-pound Chadron State (Neb.), totaled 2,181 yards from scrimmage and 14 touchdowns (10 rushing, four receiving) from 2010-12. He even caught a 4-yard touchdown in Super Bowl 46.
After further review, we agree with Merriman. Fournette is definitely the type of player Brady needs at his disposal.
Fournette’s recent success could separate him and Brady come 2022
Fournette’s emergence could place him and the Buccaneers in an interesting situation. He’s doing all of this on a one-year contract and, considering he’ll spend most of the 2022 season at 27 years old, could earn significant interest on the open market come March.
Barring an injury in the coming weeks, at least one team will convince themselves that paying Fournette the big bucks is the right move. We’ll see if the Buccaneers are that team, especially with how well he’s handled himself since the Jaguars unceremoniously cut him on the eve of the 2020 season.
The final word will likely come down to Brady. If the seven-time champion wants Fournette back next in 2022, and there’s no reason to think otherwise, then we shouldn’t be surprised to see the duo creating havoc yet again.
Besides, it’s not like Brady to go away from what works, whether it’s the TB12 Method or Leonard Fournette. Add that to the list of sentences you never thought you’d read when the decade began.