Tom Brady’s retirement is official, and we’d have to write 50,000 words to cover all of his accomplishments as a quarterback, and as a winner.
The individual statistics and honors are incredible, but I’ll leave that alone right now.
The winning defined Brady’s career over 22 seasons.
The winning will continue to define Brady’s career into the future – for the remainder of his life, and beyond.
All of Brady’s winning will give young quarterbacks a goal. But for as much as they are inspired by the challenge, they’ll never reach Brady’s galaxy.
Brady made winning look easy, and as time went on we had a tendency to take the success for granted. And Brady won so much that it caused a combination of boredom and backflash, with fans and media needing a new hero to venerate.
The phony, concocted “DeflateGate” fake scandal is an example of that. Brady was punished for being Brady. No other quarterback was worthy of prosecution for a commissioner that had an itch to prove his toughness after letting the New Patriots off easy for SpyGate.
With TB12 in retirement, current and future generations of quarterbacks will take extra-hard hits of criticism from fans and media when coming up short in the postseason. And if losing winnable playoff games becomes a pattern, regular-season success won’t matter as much. Postseason failure does damage to a quarterback’s reputation.
See Aaron Rodgers, who has one Super Bowl ring for Green Bay – and a current streak of 11 consecutive seasons without making it back to the Super Bowl.
And ask Patrick Mahomes. He led Kansas City to four consecutive appearances in the AFC Championship – all home games – and two trips to the Super Bowl. If Tom Brady never existed, no one would be ripping Mahomes for his 8-3 postseason record. And he did win a Super Bowl ring in his second season as an NFL starter. There’s nothing wrong with that; Mahomes is only 26. But hey! Brady had three Super Bowl wins for New England through age 27.
After Mahomes fizzled during KC’s stunning second-half collapse in Sunday’s loss to Cincinnati for the AFC title, the reaction on Twitter was swift and merciless. There were many variations of the same theme: Mahomes isn’t in Brady’s company, and no one should ever Mahomes again — even 50 years from now — when discussion turns to “Greatest Of All Time.”
This was curious. Mahomes had the kind of brilliant career start that would give him at least a chance to be the “next” Brady – as in being the unquestioned No. 1 quarterback in the league for a long period of time. Such a quarterback wouldn’t become Brady, per se — but a truly great Hall of Fame career was possible if not probable.
Mahomes had a horrendous performance in the second half and overtime, and it cost his team a spot in the Super Bowl. Brady had some postseason disappointments but never coughed up an 18-point lead to let his team down in such embarrassing fashion. It was an extreme failure, and Brady doesn’t do extreme failures.
After many rounds of hype casting Mahomes as Brady’s natural successor for the designation of NFL’s best quarterback, Mahomes fell apart. Additional Brady-Mahomes comparisons would be met with hostility and ridicule. That’s an irrational reaction; if you take away the Brady component in assessing Mahomes’ career, Mahomes comes out of it looking sharp. Mahomes’ overall accomplishments are impressive for a four-year starter, and he has many years to go. Yes, Mahomes has failed in two high-profile games – his second Super Bowl, and again on Sunday – but that doesn’t mean he’s eliminated from this American Idol Quarterback competition.
The mistake was holding Mahomes to Brady’s standard. It’s stupid. It’s unfair. And that’s why so many projected anger at Mahomes; they were really angry at themselves for placing Mahomes on the Brady track.
After what happened to Mahomes, perhaps other young quarterbacks will be saved from being thrown into the “Next Brady?” trap whenever they win a big game.
No quarterback will ever win like Brady won.
He holds NFL career records for:
– 243 regular-season wins.
– 35 postseason wins.
– 14 starts in a conference championship game.
– 10 wins in a conference title game.
– 10 Super Bowl appearances.
– 7 Super Bowl wins are a league record.
– 5 Super Bowl MVP awards.
Brady didn’t have the opportunity to do any of these things in 2008 because he suffered a season-ending knee injury in the first game. So if we don’t count his rookie season (didn’t play) and we remove his lost injury year from the record, Brady was a starting quarterback for 20 seasons. The first 18 for New England, the last two at Tampa Bay.
During the 20 seasons Brady competed in 47.6 percent of the Super Bowls and his teams competed in 66.7 percent of the title games in their conference. Minus 2008, Brady has been the winning quarterback in 35 percent of 20 Super Bowls. And he owns NFL postseason records for (among other things) most passing yards and touchdown throws.
And again, winning is supposed to be HARD.
And is hard.
Since 1992, Green Bay has had two starting quarterbacks: Hall of Famer Brett Favre, and the future Hall of Famer Rodgers. That’s two quarterbacks in the last 30 seasons, and each guy has one Super Bowl ring to show for their three decades of sensational quarterback play. Favre competed in back to back Super Bowls (1996 and 1997) and never made it there again. In fact, Favre made it to one NFC Championship Game (a loss) during his final 10 seasons with the Packers. Combined, Favre and Rodgers won 299 games as Green Bay’s starter – but went only 23-20 in the postseason.
Jim Kelly took the Bills to four Super Bowls and lost. Fran Tarkenton was 0-3 in his three Super Bowls. Dan Marino (Dolphins) was 0-1. In addition to Favre and Rodgers, the list of quarterbacks with one Super Bowl championship as a starter includes Drew Brees, Kurt Warner, Len Dawson, Joe Namath, Ken Stabler, John Unitas and Russell Wilson.
Terry Bradshaw and Joe Montana each won four Super Bowl rings, but four isn’t close to matching Brady’s seven. John Elway started five Super Bowls; Brady doubled that amount. Montana is No. 2 all-time with seven starts in a conference championship game; Brady had twice as many. Montana is second all-time with 19 postseason victories; that’s 16 behind Brady’s total.
And the immense scope of Brady’s dominance is amazing. He won his first Super at age 23, and captured his seventh at age 43. His first postseason win came at age 23; he was 44 when Tampa Bay defeated Philadelphia in the wild-card round on Jan. 16. Brady won three Super Bowls through his age 27 season – and won four Super Bowls at age 37 or older. He won six Super Bowls as Bill Belichick’s quarterback, then headed to Tampa Bay to win a Super Bowl under another coach, Bruce Arians.
Brady was rare for another obvious reason: he was strong until the end. He never competed with a burned-out arm, a broken-down body, or the signs of severe deterioration. He was never a shell of himself, or a we felt sorry for. In his final season, the 44-year-old Brady led the NFL with 5,316 yards and 43 touchdowns. He wasn’t Joe Namath as a Ram, John Unitas as a Charger.
If there are any comparisons to be made, it’s based on competitiveness that borders on mania. Two stand out in my lifetime: Brady and Michael Jordan. It wasn’t just talent; both legends were fierce and relentless and won 13 league championships between them.
“It’s his inner soul,” former Brady teammate Julian Edelman told The Athletic. “It’s his competitiveness. It’s his ability to go out and stay motivated year in and year out without letting acknowledgments, winning, adversity affect him. It’s unreal. It’s a killer instinct. When you hear about people talk about Michael Jordan, how competitive he was, Tom is just like that. Those special, special people have the chemical makeup for greatness, and that’s what Tom Brady has.”
There’s nothing wrong with touting a matchup. For example, saying that Josh Allen vs. Patrick Mahomes could be the new Brady vs. Peyton Manning. That’s about pointing to the possibility of the next great and compelling rivalry – and definitely not a comparison of individual quarterbacks.
There will never be another Brady. Mahomes, Allen, Joe Burrow, Justin Herbert, Lamar Jackson, Dak Prescott, Kyler Murray and other future stars should be free to create their own legacies. Brady helped them all by setting a perfect example of how to prepare, train, eat, study, work and pursue perfection every day.
Brady is the No. 1 quarterback of all time. Now that the present-day title has been vacated by Brady’s retirement, all the young and old quarterbacks can fight it out to determine the new No. 1 of this time.
Thanks for reading …
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