Picked-up pieces while wondering if George Santos would agree to a one-year contract with the Red Sox …
▪ Tom Brady. Brock Purdy.
Their names roll off the tongue in similar fashion.
Remember how much fun we had watching 24-year-old Brady in the 2001-02 playoffs? Fresh-faced Tom had been fourth string in 2000, but one year later took over after franchise quarterback Drew Bledsoe got hurt. With Brady at the controls, the Patriots won their last nine games, including Super Bowl XXXVI in New Orleans. Young Brady was Super Bowl MVP.
Now you get to watch this all over again. You get to see 23-year-old rookie Purdy take the San Francisco 49ers into a conference championship game Sunday in Philadelphia. Purdy is 8-0 since taking over for Jimmy Garoppolo (remember him?) Dec. 4. Until proven otherwise, he is the new Tom Brady.
Absurd, right? There will never be another Brady. We all know that.
But Purdy’s 2022-23 story is the closest thing we’ve seen to Tom’s epic run from two decades ago.
Brady was a sixth-round pick, No. 199 in the draft. Purdy was a seventh-round pick, “Mr. Irrelevant” — the last player selected in the 2022 draft. Brady got his chance in his second season when Bledsoe got hurt. Purdy watched the Niners’ new franchise QB, Trey Lance (third overall pick in the 2021 “Mac Jones draft”), go down with an ankle injury in Week 2 of 2022, then relieved Jimmy G when Garoppolo broke his foot against the Dolphins Dec. 4.
Remember all those endearing TV shots of Tom and Galynn Brady watching their boy make good 20 years ago? Now we see Shawn and Carrie Purdy in the stands watching young Brock.
Like young Tom, Purdy has exceptional pocket presence for a newbie QB. When the Niners beat the Cowboys last weekend, Purdy (19 for 29, no turnovers) totally outplayed Dallas’s Dak Prescott. Overall, Purdy has 16 touchdown passes and only four interceptions.
He is the fifth rookie to take a team to a conference title game. None has advanced to the Super Bowl. And he’s going to have to get there by winning on the road.
Sunday’s doubleheader features a new generation of conference championship game quarterbacks: We’ll see Patrick Mahomes (27) vs. Joe Burrow (26) in the AFC, and Jalen Hurts (24) vs. Purdy (23) in the NFC matchup. Purdy and Hurts famously dueled in a Big 12 bout in 2019 when Hurts was at Oklahoma and Purdy at Iowa State. The Sooners prevailed, 42-41, holding off a Bradyesque comeback steered by Purdy.
San Francisco’s kid QB got an Instagram message from Brady this past week.
“Prove em wrong or prove em right!” wrote Tom.
Brady proved ‘em right all those years ago. And almost every year since.
Now we get to see what Purdy can do.
▪ Quiz: Name four coaches who won both NCAA and NFL championships (answer below).
▪ Baseball’s 1997 Rookies of the Year were Nomar Garciaparra and Scott Rolen. Nomar was the better player and should have been the Hall of Famer.
It’s amazing to think that Cooperstown’s first Hall class was Babe Ruth, Walter Johnson, Ty Cobb, Christy Mathewson, and Honus Wagner. Now we have Rolen, Harold Baines, and Trevor Hoffman, while stat guys and the Twitter mob clamor for Todd Helton.
▪ NESN’s hourlong recap of the Red Sox Winter Weekend fiasco in Springfield was hilarious. It was like going to the Nixon Presidential Library to learn about what happened during Watergate. Some folks who were in Springfield described the fans’ heckling of the Sox bosses as “a bloodbath” and “a bludgeoning.”
So what did we get on NESN three nights later? We got the Full Rochie/Disney+ version, in which Chaim Bloom seemed to be the only guy getting roughed up by fans.
My favorite part of the well-scrubbed NESN recap was when team-friendly moderator Jared Carrabis asked John Henry and Sam Kennedy if the Sox are still a top priority in the Fenway Sports Group portfolio. While Kennedy started to say, “John Henry and Tom Warner are committed …,” Henry chuckled, shrugged, and looked at his watch. He never addressed the question.
NESN didn’t share the portion of the evening when the Sox owner was loudly booed and interrupted as he told disgruntled fans, “The most informed thing I can say is that it’s expensive to have baseball players …”
▪ Sad that the Red Sox have become a holding station for seemingly half of the reclamation projects in big league baseball. Here’s hoping Bloom has a hazmat suit to protect him in all these dumpster dives.
The Sox baseball boss did himself no favors in Springfield with his rambling metaphor about driving off the cliff. He needs to stop talking about what a mess he inherited while referencing the 84-win Sox of 2019. At this hour, an 84-win season would feel like the 1927 Yankees.
It should be noted that in addition to inheriting an 84-win team that subsequently finished last twice in three seasons, Bloom also “inherited” Triston Casas and Brayan Bello, the two top prospects the Sox are selling to fans this year.
▪ Gary Sheffield had more hits, a higher career batting average, and a higher on-base percentage than David Ortiz. Sheffield’s offensive WAR was 80.7 compared with 56.7 for Ortiz. In the words of the New York Times, “Both have connections to performance-enhancing drugs.”
The Times also stated, “Personality and postseason success play outsize roles in voting by the writers, and there is potentially no better proof of that than Ortiz sailing in on his first ballot while Sheffield … [falls] short yet again.”
Sheffield reached 55 percent in his ninth turn on the ballot this year and will get one more crack. He should petition commissioner Rob Manfred for the same presidential pardon that was granted to Big Papi in 2016.
According to USA Today’s Gabe Lacques, “In an era when the electorate is supposedly getting so much ‘smarter,’ Ortiz in and everybody else out makes no sense.”
▪ Grant Williams needs to stop complaining to the officials. Period. He’s a useful and improving player and probably has a future on television, but he is insufferable to watch during games. The guy never stops. Never seen a guy with a smaller role make more noise.
▪ The AFC Championship will be played in Kansas City, but it’s clear that the NFL loves the idea of playing the conference championship games at neutral sites. The league loved the response to a potential Chiefs-Bills AFC title game in Atlanta, and greedy owners no doubt will make this happen sooner rather than later. Boo.
▪ Super Bowl LVII in Glendale, Ariz., next month will be the first one not covered by Detroit News legend Jerry Green. Green was the last of a group that attended the first Super Bowl in Los Angeles in 1967 and never missed. The Globe’s Will McDonough was a proud member of the group before his death in 2003.
The Newark Star-Ledger’s Jerry Izenberg and Green were the last two, and Izenberg bowed out after the Patriots beat the Rams in Atlanta in 2019. Earlier this month, Green, now 94, announced that he will not be making the trip to Arizona because of declining health.
▪ Keep an eye on coach Deion Sanders and his feud with Nike. It’s always about Deion when it comes to Deion, and Colorado’s new coach hates Nike, which has a huge contract with his new school. Deion is an Under Armour guy, and Colorado officials will be in a bind if their fraud head coach balks at wearing Nike.
▪ This typist is tired of the “he’s just competitive” excuse for star athletes who act out and yell at their teammates when things aren’t going well in big games. No excuse for Stefon Diggs. Same goes for Brady and/or Jones.
▪ Hub hockey fans were treated to a wonderful moment during the Bruins’ victory in Montreal Tuesday when NESN’s excellent Sophia Jurksztowicz spoke with young Bruins forward A.J. Greer about the thrill of playing his first game at the Bell Centre.
“It’s a very special day for me,” said Greer, who grew up an hour and a half north of Montreal. “I actually emptied my bank account one time — $200 — to come to a game, and I didn’t even think twice because of how special an NHL game was to me.”
▪ NBA fans of a certain age can’t help but look at the 2022-23 Warriors and see shades of the 1968-69 Celtics. Those Bill Russell-Sam Jones Celtics were the last of the old guard. They finished fourth in the Eastern Division with a 48-34 record, then somehow beat the Wilt Chamberlain/Elgin Baylor/Jerry West Lakers to win the franchise’s 11th title. The 1969 championship ring was the one Red Auerbach wore for the rest of his life.
▪ I am a big fan of all things Kendrick Perkins, so let me recommend you read “The Education of Kendrick Perkins,” a memoir that goes on sale Feb. 21. No NBA player has transitioned better to becoming a commentator.
▪ Peter Gammons changed baseball writing forever on these pages in the 1970s and ’80s. Do yourself a favor and read his 2013 Red Sox retrospective in The Athletic. It is sensational, and might even give you hope for 2023.
▪ RIP Victor Ortiz, longtime boys’ basketball coach at Brockton High, who died at the age of 74 in late December. Ortiz won 385 games and a state championship for the Boxers.
▪ Quiz answer: Pete Carroll (USC, Seahawks), Barry Switzer (Oklahoma, Cowboys), Jimmy Johnson (Miami, Cowboys), Paul Brown (Ohio State, Browns).