Longtime NFL scout Jesse Kaye, who worked for for the Jets and Packers, died at 79 years old on Saturday. He had been in failing health since he suffered a stroke in 2016, according to Packers historian Cliff Christl.
Kaye’s career spanned 30 years, but he’s perhaps best remembered for his assessment of one undervalued quarterback in the 2000 NFL draft: Tom Brady. Kaye is one of the few scouts to have seen the potential in the Michigan signal-caller and urged the Jets to take him him despite already having selected Chad Pennington with the No. 18 pick that same draft.
At the time, Brady’s stock was also hurt because he shared playing time under center with heralded prospect Drew Henson.
“[Kaye] liked Brady and there wasn’t anything on the surface that would make you think [Brady would turn out like he did],” Dick Haley, who was then director of player personnel for the Jets at the time, told Christl in a 2002 interview. “First of all, [Brady] was in the 190s and like 6’4”. So he was very thin. He didn’t run fast at all. And Henson was considered to be a big-time player. I saw a game early and Brady didn’t play at all. But it was a matter of [Kaye] going in and digging out and finding the guy.”
Sure enough, New York opted to instead draft North Carolina defensive back Tony Scott in the sixth round of the 2000 draft at pick No. 179. Brady famously fell to No. 199 and was selected by the AFC East-rival Patriots. The rest is history.