An NFL Feud

Ed Reed signing targets Tom Brady: Bob McNair knows Old Man Swagger baffles the Patriots

Ed Reed signing targets Tom Brady: Texans love Pats killer

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Ed Reed brings plenty of swagger to the Texans. Photo by Getty Images
Bob McNair Kareem Jackson
You might not know it by looking at him, but Texans owner Bob McNair likes swagger. Photo by Michelle Watson/
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Think Tom Brady might suddenly respect the Texans a little more?
Ed Reed tank
Bob McNair Kareem Jackson
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Ed Reed doesn't need American Idol or Modern Family. And you can keep The Voice.

The Houston Texans new showcase addition is more than fine with simple, old game film.

"Tape honestly just became like regular TV to me," Ed Reed says in his first official day as a Texan. "I enjoy it."

It's the 34-year-old, nine-time Pro Bowl safety's devout attention to detail, his determination to gain every edge he can, that's helped make him such a pain for elite quarterbacks like Tom Brady. And that bothersome ability is one of the attributes that makes Texans owner Bob McNair so excited to open up his checkbook and bring Reed to Houston for a three-year free agent deal that could add up to more than $15 million with incentives.

 Houston doesn't just want talent. It lusts after a champion's swagger. 

"It was quite clear that Baltimore was able to play the Patriots very effective, and I think their center fielder had a lot to do with that," McNair says. "Their quarterback, Tom Brady, has said the first thing he does every play is look for Number 20.

"It's a tremendous asset."

Flanking Reed on one side of a table in Reliant Stadium — with Texans general manager Rick Smith, the architect of the deal, on the other — McNair looks as happy as I've seen him in four years of covering the Texans. And why not?

The numbers certainly back up the notion that Reed has a way of making life miserable for the very best quarterbacks.

Brady's put up a mediocre 67.5 passer rating in his last five games against Reed and the Ravens, producing only five touchdown passes (a paltry one per game average) and a very un-Brady-like nine interceptions. That includes that complete second-half throttling of Brady in the second half of the AFC Championship Game, which came just a week after the Golden Boy ripped apart the Texans secondary yet again.

Brady handed the Texans their two most devastating losses last season, embarrassing them in that Monday Night showdown before ending their season on an uncharacteristically balmy January day in Foxborough. And as McNair notes, he's hardly the only elite quarterback who will be in Houston's way next season.

Reed makes one feel better about playing the touchdown rainmakers.

"To say that we have added a player who can impact a game is an understatement in this instance," Smith says.

For Smith — who called Reed on the very first day of free agency and made it clear he was the Texans No. 1 target — and McNair, it's all about adding a proven game changer to an already talented team. The Texans need Reed's mental edge maybe even more than they need his still potent physical skills.

Houston doesn't just want talent. It lusts after a champion's swagger.

"You have to have leaders who can handle pressure at those critical times," McNair says.

That is something worth going a little outside your salary structure for, something that resigning Glover Quin (as talented as an up-and-coming safety as he is) and Connor Barwin couldn't have even done. Quin and Barwin are not guys who command a locker room in times for crisis. J.J. Watt — for all his dominance — isn't even that type of leader yet.

Few are. But Ed Reed is.

Old Man Swagger

There's no question the new Texan has something of a presence about him. He walks in with McNair and Smith on this day, fashionably late after a few last-minute details on putting pen to contract, already wearing a Texans hat.

He's charming and open on the stage and when the press conference is done and he's posed with his already freed-up No. 20 Texans jersey, Reed is gone. There are none of the post press conference, media side sessions that usually accompany a signing like this. Reed brings it for the main show.

Call it Reeds' "Old Man Sensibilities" — the sage presence that teammates and coaches have been joking about with Reed forever, even back when he was a very young player. Call it whatever you want.

Ed Reed knows how to rule a room. When someone asks about that Old Man rap, Reed cracks, "Should I take the hat off and show you the gray hairs?" And then he does take his hat off, building the laugh.

 "Tape honestly just became like regular TV to me. I enjoy it."  

To Reed, it comes back to that preparation he puts in, the idea that there is always something new to learn, always another edge to be gained.

"My high school coach used to hand me a VHS tape and say go watch it," Reed laughs, reaching back to when it all started.

Reed's already reached out to Wade Phillips, the architect of the Texans' Bulls On Parade defense with some specific, urgent requests.

"I'm telling Coach, I want to see a playbook," Reed says. "I want to get to the mental part of the game."

This is the rare guy you do want messing with your mind. Besides, what else is Ed Reed supposed to watch — The Office?