On 11-12, it's time to celebrate plain-old 12.
Tom Brady was not the first member of the New England Patriots to wear the No. 12.
He will be the last.
This Sunday’s game at Indianapolis provides a showdown of the top two No. 12s in the AFC. The past and present in Brady, and the present and future in Andrew Luck.
Sorry, Jimmy Garoppolo. You’re stuck with No. 10.
It may not be simple coincidence that Luck and Brady, both at the top of their games, wear the No. 12.
The No. 12 is simple elegance.
The No. 12 looks cool. A 1, followed by a 2. The most-natural progression in mathematics. The first two numbers virtually everyone learns how to count. It’s the largest monosyllabic number.
There are “12s” everywhere in our culture and society. We have 12 inches in a foot, as opposed to five toes on each foot. We buy baked goods and eggs “by the dozen.” On NFL Sundays, we load up on “12-packs” of beer. There are 12 months in the year. There are 12 hours on the face of a clock. We sing about and celebrate the “12 Days of Christmas.” There are 12 face cards in a deck. A typical jury has 12 members.
The “12th Man” claims a role in victory in places like College Station and Seattle.
“That number 12 has had power attached to it from the beginning of time. If you look at astrology, there are obviously 12 planets we pull from. In Chinese astrology, there are 12 symbols that we look at. And Christianity, the 12 apostles,” author and numerologist Glynis McCants told NFL Films last year. “You take the number 12 and you break it down. The number one is ambition and drive. The number two, I’m intuitive, it’s about love. And being love. One plus two is three, which is all about communication.”
Speaking of communication, here's Brady showing off his speaking skills against the Broncos two weeks ago.
NFL quarterbacks who wear it often carry huge expectations. The greats have added to its swagger, or been inspired by it. Fourteen Super Bowls have been won by quarterbacks wearing No. 12. Four more were lost by one single No. 12, Jim Kelly of the Buffalo Bills.
Super Bowl III was the first won by a No. 12, Joe Namath of the New York Jets. Namath did not throw a touchdown in that 16-7 victory over the Baltimore Colts, but he infamously did “guarantee” victory.
The original “Joe Cool,” Broadway Joe personified the “Mad Men” era of the late 1960s and helped the NFL transform itself into “America’s Game.” Namath wore fur on the sidelines, sold pantyhose on TV, and got "creamed" by Farrah Fawcett. On the other hand, Mark Sanchez, who wore No. 6, "sacked" a 17-year-old high school junior while playing for the Jets. But the No. 12 doesn’t always “guarantee” numerical greatness. Sanchez has more post-season victories than Namath.
Bob Griese wore his No. 12 as the Dolphins’ starting QB for parts of 1972. He bookended the lone [post-merger] perfect season in NFL history as the Dolphins went 17-0. The 2007 Patriots went 18-0, but they didn’t know when to stop.
Dallas’ No. 12, Roger Staubach, earned the nickname “Captain America” thanks to his Navy service, and the fact that he led “America’s Team” to four NFC titles and two Super Bowl crowns.
Terry Bradshaw brought swagger and verbosity to an unforeseen level. He anchored the “Steel Curtain” dynasty of the 1970s and went 4-0 in Super Bowls, all while wearing No. 12. His presence each week on the Fox “NFL Sunday” panel reminds us of just how omnipresent Bradshaw has become in our sporting culture. Just don’t ask him to spell “cat.”
Stuabach beat Griese in Super Bowl VI. Bradshaw beat Stauback in Super Bowl X and XIII. Lest we forget the NFL’s slickest No. 12, Kenny “The Snake” Stabler. That No. 12 beat a No. 10 in Super Bowl 11.
The dominant Number 12s of this era – Brady, Luck and Aaron Rogers – have as many Super Bowl wins combined as Bradshaw. Brady’s first title came in Super Bowl XVI, which is 12x3. Rogers’ Packers and Brady’s Patriots would be the favorites to reach the Super Bowl if the playoffs began today.
Any of these three 12s would be a reasonable and sound pick for someone starting a real franchise playing to win it all this year. Luck is the obvious choice if winning in 2024 is your thing.
Much of the madness over the No. 12 can be traced back to the ancient Egyptians, who didn’t draft Brady, either. They gravitated toward 12 when breaking daylight and nighttime into equal parts. Each part of the day, as discovered on sundials, had 10 parts, with one part set aside for sunrise and sunset. Twelve parts were set for darkness. The Egyptians used a base-12, or “duodecimal,” system because of the number of joints in both hands, as opposed to the number of fingers. Each finger has three joints. If you count by pointing to finger joints with your thumb, you can count to 12 on each hand.
The 12 months of the Julian [no relation to Edelman] calendar were introduced by Julius Caesar Goodelll in 45 BC. Those months were based on the 12 cycles of the lunar calendar.
For much of Western Culture, the significance of No. 12 – at least before the days of Namath, Griese, Stabler, Bradshaw, Staubach and Namath – came from Judeo-Christian tradition and ancient Greece.
The Ancient Greeks worshiped 12 major gods who lived on Mount Olympus. None owned a pizza shop. But there are three Olympic Pizza restaurants in Massachusetts. Jesus Christ had 12 apostles because Biblical Israel had 12 tribes. The book of Revelations contains several references to 12.
"[The number's significance] bleeds into the Western civilization, especially through Europe as Christianity spread from the Mediterranean into Europe and into the West. Our whole culture is influenced by that religious frame of reference." University of Toronto professor David Reed told the CBC in 2012.
Brady has at least 12 million apostles willing to spread the Word of his Good deeds across the NFL.
Unlike many of his top-ranked No. 12 counterparts in NFL history, and as outlined on the NFL Films’ “Top 10 Players to Wear No. 12,” Brady was the longest of long-shots.
Among the highlights on his 2000 draft report.
- Poor build
- Lacks great physical stature/strength
- Lacks mobility/ability to avoid rush
- Can get pushed down easily
- Can’t drive ball down field
- System-type player
- Can be exposed if forced to ad-lib
We heard many of those same claims on WEEI and 98.5 The Sports Hub after Week 4. Just 199 picks after the 2000 draft began, Brady was chosen. You know the rest. So does Giovanni Carmazzi, Spergon Wynn, Chris Redman and the rest of the "Brady 6." Both Luck and Rogers were highly-touted first-round picks. Luck, who was born on Sept. 12, went No. 1 in 2012. There’s that whole No. 12 thing again.
Brady leads every NFL QB who wore No. 12 in passing yards, touchdowns and winning percentage. And those three Super Bowls are second only behind Bradshaw’s four. He also leads in super-model wives, general awesomeness and remains the most handsome human being ever.
Luck, well, not so much.
Apparently, not all No. 12s were created equal.
The OBF column is written by award-winning journalist and Bay State native Bill Speros. Bill has written and reported for ESPN, CBSSports.Com and was a sports/deputy sports editor at several metro daily newspapers. Reach Bill on the OBF Facebook page, on Twitter @realOBF or at his
OBF email Address. Thanks always for reading.
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