Michael Hurley, CBS Boston.
(CBS Boston) – It’s actually ironic that the longer you’re around, the harder it is for you to stand out.
In other words, when your achievements reach unimaginable proportions and you openly refuse to quit, making the list of previously unfathomable rewards even longer, somehow all this reaches a point where it is impossible to digest properly. At least not by the human mind. Mysterious numbers and records can start out impressive, and quickly become wallpaper.
This hypothesis is certainly relevant this week, with Tom Brady playing in the Super Bowl. Again. For the tenth time in 20 years.
Tom Brady is old, we get it. Tom Brady makes a lot of money, we get it. Tom Brady. Tom Brady. Tom Brady. Tom Brady. That’s enough. We get it.
It is understandable that soccer fans – whether violent suicides or occasional followers – are tired of hearing about this man. And yet, while it may seem counterintuitive…., it’s entirely possible that not enough is being said about him.
Given the nature of this brutal sport, this should not have happened.
Given that there is no equality in the league, this should not have happened.
Given the enormous difficulty of simply winning soccer games with unprecedented regularity, that is not the case. Reportedly. It has happened.
Tom Brady celebrates his NFC championship victory. (Photo: Stacey Revere/Getty Images)
As we know, that’s likely to happen. Brady, who has won six Super Bowls, will play in another one Sunday night. The fact that he is joining a new team for the first time in his professional life has not stopped him from reaching this point, nor has a pandemic that has significantly limited his work with his new teammates before the start of the season.
When it comes to the greatest winner in the history of soccer, minor inconveniences will not stop him from getting what he wants. That hasn’t changed, even at the age of 43.
In that sense, with no preseason or spring camps and no OTA, Brady’s impact with the Bucs was more gradual.
The Bucs started the season with a 7-9 record. It took them a week to regroup, and since then they are 7-0.
Listen. Yes, of course, a man can’t win at soccer on his own. And there were times in Brady’s career when he could check off the “W” column because of the defense, the running game or the special teams that helped him out, quote. That’s the way it goes from time to time.
But when you look at his entire career and you see 230 regular season wins (44 more than any other QB) and 33 playoff wins (17 more than any other quarterback) at any given time, you have to expect that none of this is a fluke. Tom Brady’s teams win because Tom Brady is a winner. And when the man at the most important position in team sports lets go of that level of obsessive fixation on winning, well, the results speak for themselves.
Tom Brady (Photo: Patrick Smith/Getty Images)
An indomitable drive is not necessarily something that can be quantified, but developing it is a goal Brady openly set for himself when he was just a former Super Bowl champion at age 24.
When you talk to all these people, you realize, “Now I know why this man did what he did. You understand why. There’s competition in them, there’s spirit in them,” Brady said in 2002 in a legendary interview with NFL Films’ Steve Sabol. “John Elway gives people that feeling. And he passes that feeling on to his teammates and his coaches. Everybody believed in him, and everybody said, “Hey, man, if I’m on your side, we’re going to win.” When you’re surrounded by people like that, you feel like you’re sitting next to him.
Players can do their best to develop this natural presence. But in reality, you either have it or you don’t.
Even at a young age, Brady was in trouble. For example, he earned a spot on Bill Belichick’s team in 2000, which is why the head coach did not return the confirmed veteran with a record contract in 2001 after Drew Bledsoe recovered from an injury.
If a player has it, they don’t ignore it. They ride it as long as they can. Belichick and the Patriots did it for 19 years.
Tom Brady, Bill Belichick (photo Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images).
The one constant was Brady’s insatiable hunger for more. In that same Sabol interview, Brady told the story of his famous Michigan equipment manager, a story he has told countless times since.
“I had an equipment manager in college, and he’s worked at Michigan for about 25 years,” Brady says, throwing himself into a story you’ve probably heard. “He has so many Big 10 rings, he doesn’t have enough fingers for all those rings.” And he says, “You know what? You know what, Tom, do you know what my favorite ring is? And I say, “Which one is it? And he says, “The next one.” And that’s what I’m thinking. The next one. It’s my favorite.”
At the time, he was the youngest QB to ever win a Super Bowl. But he was already working on the next one.
Two years later, he became number two. One year later, number three. So far, he’s the last quarterback to win two Super Bowls in a row, and he’s going to try to keep Patrick Mahomes from doing that this year.
And although the Super Bowl was followed by a “drought” after the third championship in 2004, the work didn’t stop there.
“It takes leaders to win, and it was Tom who held the torch. “And that’s been consistent from the offseason to this program,” backup quarterback Matt Cassel recently told Sports Illustrated’s Albert Breer. “My first year, and it was after his third Super Bowl, where a lot of guys could relax and watch Tom work out in the weight room and in class, there was no part of Tom that was comfortable. There was no movement”.
This work led to two more Super Bowls in 2007 and 2011, both of which the Giants lost narrowly. It seems Brady will never get the chance to compete against his childhood idol Joe Montana, who won four Super Bowls in his career and carried the legacy of being the greatest of them all for 30 years.
We were not wrong to believe that, per se. But we were also fools.
Tom Brady leaves the field after his loss against the New York Giants in Super Bowl XLVI. (Photo: Elsa/Getty Images)
Brady was fired 40 times in 2013, the second-highest total in his career and the highest since his rookie year. As a result, many analysts predicted his impending and unforeseen demise. But instead of following in the footsteps of nearly every quarterback in history, Brady believed he could still play at the highest level and devoted himself to improving his mobility.
At 37, he seemed like a new man. His completion rate increased by 3.6 points, he scored eight more touchdowns and captured two fewer rebounds, his setter ranking increased by more than 10 points and he reduced his sack total by nearly half to 21. Only eight of those sacks came in after week seven. Pundits who claimed before this season (and even four weeks before this season) that he was close to the 18th hole of his career proved them very, very wrong.
Tom Brady after Super Bowl XLIX (Photo: Rob Carr/Getty Images)
But even after winning that elusive fourth title (with a fourth quarter for the ages against a historically strong Seahawks defense, as he completed 13 of 15 passes for 124 yards and 2 TD), it wasn’t enough for Brady. There was no satisfaction. He walked across the field that night for a post-game interview with a pair of smeared game pants on his feet and a steely expression on his face that seemed nothing short of a man enjoying the joy of soccer’s highest glory.
He clearly expressed his displeasure when he appeared at Fenway Park a few months later to throw the first ball, with the giant number 5 on his torso.
Tom Brady throws the first pitch at Fenway Park on opening day in 2015 (Photo: Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)
Bill Belichick and Tom Brady at Fenway Park (Photo: Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)
The message was unequivocal. The man had just won the championship for the first time in ten years. But he didn’t have the power to win. His eyes were on number five.
The following season he led the league in touchdowns, but his final duel with Rob Gronkowski in the AFC title game in Denver became a short one. He served his false suspension in 2016 and then played the best football of his life for three months: 28 touchdowns, two interceptions, 11 wins, one loss.
Then came Super Bowl LI. It started out badly. It ended with the most historic return in Super Bowl history and an avalanche of records for the quarterback.
Tom Brady holds the Lombardi Trophy after Super Bowl 51 (Photo: Timothy A. Clary/AFP/Getty Images)
Of course, with five players under his belt and the 40th anniversary approaching, a big sigh and a slowdown would have been in order for most quarterbacks. Brady, however, didn’t believe it would ever end. So in 2017, at age 40, he won the MVP title, set a Super Bowl record for passing yards (with one loss), and ….won the No. 6 title a year later.
The youngest QB to win a Super Bowl and the oldest QB to win a Super Bowl are perfect for the best career in sports.
But, as you know, he didn’t want to stop. Maybe he never wants to stop.
Despite the absence of an offensive core of players, he remained with the Patriots in 2019. He and the defense helped maintain a 12-4 record, but the team was clearly missing a championship hitter. His stats dropped significantly, leading some spectators to believe it was all over at 42.
Brady – are you sensing a theme here? – I didn’t think so.
He said goodbye to Robert Kraft, Bill Belichick and the only professional home he ever knew. He received few offers in free agency because not every team in the world was willing to take a chance with a 43-year-old man. But the Bucs were smart enough to be ready, and Brady took his chance.
In Buccaneers history, there was an appearance in the Super Bowl. Like the only Super Bowl in their 44-year history. It came in 2002, a year after Brady’s first title…. Brady has played in eight Super Bowls since the Bucs last played and won five; the Bucs have played only two playoff games in the same period and lost both. Even at this championship in 2002, the Bucs franchise had a 6-9 playoff record. Brady was 30-11 at the end of the season.
Saying the Bucs were a losing franchise with a losing record would be nice.
But put Tom Brady in this system, and it only takes about half a season to get to full speed.
Bruce Arians – who has a 56-39-1 record in the regular season and a 1-2 record in the playoffs as head coach prior to this season – was asked this week about his undeniable desire to play in a championship that depends on his quarterback.
“I think all great quarterbacks have this. They have the ability to get other people to commit to the cause.” And the reason for that is the ring. To put a championship on the trophy,” Arians said. “So Tom brings that attitude every day. And that carries over to the locker room.”
This attitude cannot be imposed on teammates, especially those who were in grade two or kindergarten (or younger) when Brady got his first Lombardi. Needless to say, this was no problem at all for Brady.
“I think the most important thing about Tom is that he’s just one of the guys. As long as you’re not around a guy his size, you don’t really know his personality on a day-to-day basis,” Arian said. “He’s just great, one of the guys. And he’s so good at working with young players and older players. It’s like having another coach on the field, and it’s great.
Sometimes it comes in the form of encouragement on the practice field or on game day. Sometimes it takes the form of tough love on the sidelines or an admonition to a teammate who cries in celebration for reaching the last goal. Balancing between both sides of the good cop/bad cop dynamic with teammates without stepping on the toes of the coaching staff would be a huge challenge for anyone … Except for the person who was born to be the leader.
Tom Brady is partying with his Buccaneers teammates. (Photo: Stacey Revere/Getty Images)
In fact, the theoretical composite quarterback that Brady idolized 19 years ago does not yet fully exist. Brady has now become the man and leader he always considered the embodiment of the perfect winner.
“Everybody believed in him, and everybody said, ‘Hey, man, if I’m on your side, we’re going to win.’” When you’re surrounded by people like that, you think, “Dude, I’m sitting next to a man!”
As Brady, a 24-year-old, said with wide eyes, the late Sabol – who did know a thing or two about experiencing the greatness of football – told the young QB that he was already exuding that special charisma.
“I have a lot of years to catch up with these guys,” Brady said.
He’s obviously done it several times. He has won four more Super Bowls than Elway, the man he believes embodies that spirit. He more than doubled the number of playoffs won by Joe Montana. He had nothing to prove in 2020, but he came in with a new team, without Belichick and without a preseason, and led the Buccaneers to the Super Bowl – and the first playoff win for the franchise in 18 years.
Dan Marino, Tom Brady, Joe Montana, Peyton Manning, Roger Staubach, Brett Favre and John Elway get the honor of making the NFL 100’s regular season team. (Photo: Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
His influence, his dynamism, his obsession, all of that is undeniable. Of his 19 seasons in the NFL, 10 ended with the Super Bowl. That’s just not possible. He won four MVPs in the Super Bowl; in the two wins where he was not MVP, it was wide receiver. In two of the three losses, he threw touchdown passes in the fourth quarter to give his team the advantage. In the last loss, he set a record of 505 passing yards at age 40.
Maybe one day, decades from now, we will be able to see how important all this was, how fantastic and ridiculous this career was.
But while that’s happening, it’s just too much to handle. Trying to make sense of it all in real time is like crossing the highway on foot. That level of wins, that level of success and that relentless consistency to play the Super Bowl five out of seven years after you’re 37 is just too much.
We can’t treat it. We can’t. For now, we can only observe.
Tom Brady (Photo: Billy Weiss/Getty Images)
You can contact Michael Hurley via email or find him on Twitter at @michaelFhurley.
Frequently asked questions
Why is Tom Brady so important?
Tom Brady, real name Thomas Edward Patrick Brady, Jr. (born August 3, 1977 in San Mateo, California, USA) is an American football quarterback who led the New England Patriots of the National Football League (NFL) to six Super Bowl victories (2002, 2004, 2005, 2015, 2017 and 2019) and was named the “Most Valuable Player in the World” by the U.S. State Department in the …
What does the future hold for Tom Brady?
Brady becomes a free agent on March 18, and there have been many rumors about his return to the Patriots or his new home. However, Ian Rapoport of the NFL Network reports that the 42-year-old quarterback is not going anywhere. “Tom Brady actually supports the Patriots’ plans for 2020,” he said.
Will Tom Brady be leaving the Patriots?
Opinion: If Tom Brady leaves the Patriots, 2020 will be the greatest season in the NFL … While there is obviously a chance he will return to New England and finish his career with Bill Belichick and the Patriots, it is significant that he drafted his contract with the specific purpose of exploring his options.