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Sean Payton says he told New York Giants to draft Tom Brady in 2000

Matt Johnson

The New York Giants are among the NFL teams living with regret for passing on quarterback Tom Brady in the 2000 NFL Draft. In an alternative history, Sean Payton believes things could have played out much differently if his former team listened to him.

Payton, currently retired, served as the Giants’ quarterbacks coach in 1999 and then took over as offensive coordinator (2000-’02). During his time with the organization, Payton scouted each quarterback class and evaluated options for the team.

As offensive coordinator, Payton had a voice in the Giants’ draft room when it came to quarterbacks. However, from his account, one fateful decision cost the Giants a shot at Brady and a chance to prevent one of the best dynasties in NFL history.

  • Tom Brady career stats: 84,520 passing yards, 624 passing touchdowns, 97.6 QB rating

During an in-depth interview on Chris Long’s “Green Light” podcast, Payton detailed how he first learned about Brady and later pushed the Giants to draft him.

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“All right, so I’m in New York and my agent is Don Yee, and Don also represents Tom Brady. Don would periodically call me with a client that he just signed, and he said, ‘Hey, will you call up Tom Brady? He’s at Michigan and I’ve got him, and just help him out with things that would be important for him at the combine.”

Sean Payton on first hearing about Tom Brady, via Green Light podcast

As Payton tells it, the recommendation from his agent led him to take a deeper dive into Brady and resulted in a meeting with the quarterback. At the end of his evaluation, he assigned a late-third or early fourth-round grade to the Michigan quarterback.

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Payton then recommended to the Giants that they draft Brady. Instead, New York spent its fourth-round pick (105th overall) on linebacker Brandon Short and the 140th pick on defensive back Ralph Brown. With the 177th pick in the 2000 NFL Draft, the Giants drafted Michigan linebacker Dhani Jones, allowing the Wolverines’ quarterback to fall to the Patriots.

How does NFL history change if the New York Giants listen to Sean Payton?

NFL: Preseason-New York Giants at New England Patriots
Brian Fluharty-USA TODAY Sports

It’s fascinating to think about how multiple franchises would have forever changed if the NFL Draft in 2000 plays out a little differently. Assuming Payton’s account is accurate, the Giants could have drafted Brady with one of their later picks.

The future Hall of Fame quarterback still would have carried the chip on his shoulder that has played an important role in his success. Furthermore, Brady would also have spent several years working with one of the most respected offensive minds in his era.

Payton might have spent the next few seasons working with Brady, helping him develop into a version of the quarterback we see today. However, Payton left New York to become the Dallas Cowboys’ assistant head coach & quarterbacks coach in 2003. The Giants also likely wouldn’t have found as much success with head coach Jim Fassel (1997-2003).

More than likely, Brady doesn’t come close to winning seven Super Bowls and multiple NFL teams win a Lombardi Trophy during his two-decade stretch of dominance in New England. Of course, Belichick likely isn’t viewed as the greatest coach in NFL history if this alternate reality happens.

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It likely would have also impacted the career of Eli Manning. Instead of being traded to the Giants in 2004, things could have unfolded very differently. Hypothetically, the Pittsburgh Steelers draft Philip Rivers instead of Ben Roethlisberger and then flip a similar trade package the Giants provided the Chargers to swap rookie quarterbacks.