I get it. No one man should have everything. We were not put on this earth to win six Super Bowls, win MVP four times in the league’s biggest game and marry supermodels worth nearly $200 million more than we are. Yet, Tom Brady has managed to achieve all that and more.
We will never see greatness like this again, in any era, in any team sport from any athlete. You can argue that Bill Russell’s eleven NBA championships rival Brady and his accomplishments. I would counter argue that Russell won in a time that there were far fewer teams in the NBA and the league was significantly shorter, in Russell’s fourth season there were only four players taller than 6’8’’, Russell was one of them.
Brady and the New England Patriots have strung together nearly two full decades of excellence in a time where the athletes are bigger, faster, stronger and more skilled. Still, they’ve defied the odds in almost every way. Since 2000, the Patriots have had seventeen first round picks, only two were selected inside the top ten and four inside the top twenty. They’ve developed their talent. Super Bowl LIII MVP, Julian Edelman, was selected in the seventh round. Super Bowl XLIX hero, Malcolm Butler, went undrafted in the 2014 draft. Super Bowl LI surprise impact player, Chris Hogan, went undrafted in 2011. Hogan came to New England with 959 career reception yards and six touchdowns in three seasons on the active roster for the Buffalo Bills. Three seasons in with the Patriots, Hogan has 1,651 receiving yards to go along with twelve touchdowns, nearly double the production.
Oh yeah, Tom Brady was selected in the seventh round of the 2000 draft. Nearly nineteen years after hearing his name called, he is still on top of the football world.
On the sideline, Bill Belichick is the longest tenured coach in the NFL and is arguably as important, if not more, than Brady to the Patriots. Sean Payton is the second longest tenured coach. Belichick was hired six years before Payton.
There’s no telling where the Patriots would be without Belichick or Brady. We will never know what would have been with one and not the other, and we shouldn’t want to know.
We do know this, the obituary was written; the relationship between Belichick and Brady had soured, Gronkowski was done, Brady too old, Edelman too slow. They suffered back to back losses in both September and December, as well as a twenty-four-point blowout loss to the Tennessee Titans. All five loses came to teams who failed to qualify for the playoffs and for only the sixth time in nineteen seasons, the Patriots would lose more than four regular season games. It was over in New England until all of a sudden, it wasn’t.
Fueled by the talk he was finished, 41-year-old Brady would torch the L.A. Chargers for 343 yards and a QB rating of 106.5 in the AFC Divisional Round. A week later in the AFC Championship game, although throwing two interceptions, one off the hands of Julian Edelman, Brady collected another 348 through the air. As he’s so often done throughout his career, he saved his best for last, he threw darts to Edelman, twice, and Gronkowski completing three 3rd and long situations in OT. It was an upset heard around the football world. An old Brady and the Pats had gone into Kansas City as an underdog and left with a gutsy road win. Two weeks later, Brady hoisted the Lombardi trophy for the sixth time in his illustrious career.
Brady hasn’t won with ten first team All-Pro offensive weapons or played with multiple high-priced receivers. In fact, only five of Brady’s teammates on offense have earned first team honors: Wes Welker, Randy Moss and Rob Gronkowski. The other two, offensive linemen Logan Mankins and Matt Light.
Sure, the dynasty will come to an end. Father time catches up with everybody and things will be no different for Brady who turns 42 in August, but we sure as hell shouldn’t rush it. What Brady has accomplished isn’t rare, it’s unheard of. We will never see another athlete play at championship levels into his forties, we will never see another quarterback lead his team to six championships and we will never see another franchise sustain this level of success with, let’s be honest, a core group that entered the league as nobodies.
As sports fans, we should enjoy this run while we can. We should want 42-year-old Tom Brady to bring home his seventh title next season and ride off into the sunset on his terms, as a winner once again. No matter how much you may dislike the guy, twenty years from now we will tell stories about a quarterback that will never be duplicated, only imitated. Enjoy history.