Many are conjecturing that Sunday's Super Bowl will hinge on Tom Brady's right arm, but according to his coach, Bill Belichick, Brady's brain may be the deciding factor. In a CBS News interview, Belichick described Brady's brain as a superstar. "Tom works hard. But he has a great ability to comprehend a lot of different things. Our plays, our adjustments, defensive tendencies, defensive coverages, game situations, down and distance score, wind, field position-all those kinds of things. He's just able to put that into one computer chip up in his mind and sort it all out," Belichick said.
Belichick is no slouch when it comes to brainpower either. According to CBS, he is considered one of the best coaches, if not the best, at the game's chess match. A master at eliminating an opponent's strength and exploiting their weaknesses, Belichick brings, what CBS describes as a "jeweler's eye" for detail to the game. Together, Brady and Belichick have won 140 games-more than any other coach-quarterback combination in NFL history.
Unfortunately, at least for the Patriots, Eli Manning is also known for having superstar brainpower. When he's at the top of his game, Manning thinks fast on his feet, literally picking a defense apart in seconds, and keeps his cool under fire. He also has a reputation for doing his homework and intently studying his opponents.
National Review columnist Neil Minkoff predicts that Tom Brady will lose his focus during the big game, noting that the stakes are very high, i.e., immortality. "The fourth (Super Bowl) ring places him on par with his childhood hero Joe Montana as a champion," Minkoff wrote. "The rest of his career-the MVPs, the passing records, the 16-0 2007 season-surpasses Montana and Brady becomes the Greatest of All Time."
Minkoff suggested that this will lead to Brady overthinking the game. "A great athlete displays unconscious competence, which is high performance achieved by reflex without thinking. This is what all of those thousands of hours of practice achieve, moving action from conscious thought to reflex, but outside thoughts disrupt the flow of unconscious muscle memory." According to Minkoff, Brady may be so focused on his legacy that he loses his automatic reflexes and falls victim to thinking too much.
Both quarterbacks obviously have superior ability to absorb information, process stimuli, and integrate information faster than most of us, and both are skillful at overruling their emotions under the gun. But while a lot of reporters are trying to pinpoint the mind games that each team will have to master-or overcome-to win the big game, it may all come down to which quarterback has successfully trained his brain to win.
Both Brady and Manning have had the ability to consciously cultivate (by using his mind) which parts of the brain he wished to strengthen, rewire, or even regenerate (see our previous column "Plastic Is Fantastic"). As experienced quarterbacks, each has bolstered neuronal activity in the regions of his brain by employing their minds (and bodies) when repetitively focusing upon game strategy, studying videos of previous games, and repeatedly playing and practicing football. Doing so has sparked neuronal activity and thereby increased neuronal responsiveness to stimuli related to the game.
Effectively, when it comes to their brains, both players have become accomplished at:
All of this has contributed to how well each quarterback plays the game. Other activities related to the brain that may positively affect which quarterback wins include:
Both quarterbacks (and their teammates) have laid the necessary neuronal groundwork so it will likely come down to which quarterback's brain has been successfully primed to process information at lightning speed, tamp down fear, and bring its best game under the added pressure of Super Bowl madness.
The article was cowritten by Susan Reynolds and Teresa Aubele, Ph.D.