“As I have said during this process and throughout his Patriots career, Tom Brady is a classy person of the highest integrity. He represents everything that is great about this game and this league.” It was with those words that New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft began his official statement following the news that New England quarterback Tom Brady had won his appeal against the National Football League regarding the “Deflategate” scandal that had originally earned Brady a four-game ban. The matter is not yet over due to the NFL appealing the appeal decision, but the state of Brady’s availability as it pertains to the 2015 NFL season can be summed up in four words:
Tom Brady wins again.
Whatever personal feelings you may have about Brady’s place in pro football history, not even his biggest detractors can deny that Brady will be a first-ballot Hall of Fame inductee when all is said and done. The guy probably deserves his own wing in Canton, one that allows visitors to rent out comfortable UGG boots as they visually relive all that Brady accomplished during his once-in-a-generation career. Brady has been more than just a special quarterback who has been the captain of a modern-day NFL dynasty at a time when just dominant teams are not supposed to exist.
Tom Brady is the greatest of all time. Period, end of discussion, world without end. Amen. Such statements and hot takes are usually reserved for opinion pieces that pop up at the end of seasons or whenever Hall of Fame discussions arise for whatever reasons. There may not be one specific burden or proof or statistic that shows beyond a shadow of a doubt that Brady is better than any other professional to play the QB position. When you add up all the numbers, though, it is Brady who stands alone on the mountaintop as the undisputed greatest of all time.
10. Brady’s Incredible Rise
Football fans remember that Brady was recruited by the University of Michigan, and that he fell down to pick No. 199 of the 2000 NFL Draft until the Patriots took a flier on the quarterback. Unlike quarterbacks such as Peyton Manning, Eli Manning, Joe Namath and so many others, Brady was not a college football star. He was, in fact, once so low on the Michigan depth chart that he considered transferring to another school. Brady was then an afterthought following the NFL Combine, where he was labeled by some to be not worthy of being even on draft boards. Every team passed on Brady in the 2000 draft, and that would prove to be all of the motivation he would need moving forward.
9. Return From Injury
Brett Favre was often, during his career, credited for being a warrior on the field. Peyton Manning has been praised for returning from what could have been a career-ending neck injury. Peyton’s brother Eli receives respect for being one of the most durable quarterbacks of his time. Why then has history somewhat forgotten that Brady suffered a serious knee injury that damaged his ACL and MCL at the start of the 2008 NFL regular season? This type of occurrence can shorten and even end careers. Brady not only returned. He has, since that time, been as good as he was before that Week 1 injury.
8. Tom Brady Records
One could write a top-50 list of all of the records that Brady has matched or broken during his NFL career. He has thrown a 99-yard touchdown pass. Brady once tossed five touchdowns in a single quarter. His Super Bowl resume is downright ridiculous when you compare with it others who may be considered to be the greatest quarterback of all time. Nobody has thrown more Super Bowl touchdowns, completed more passes in a single Super Bowl or completed more passes in one half of a Super Bowl than Brady. Fans of statistics love to point to the numbers posted by Peyton Manning and Favre. Both of those QBs are all-time greats. Neither, however, match Brady where it matters most.
7. Brady Makes Others Better
No quarterback in NFL history has repeatedly made those around him better to the point that they are All-Pros as has Brady. The possibility exists that Wes Welker would today be a forgotten kick returner who once had an OK season with the Miami Dolphins had Welker never linked up with Brady and the Patriots. Welker is instead regarded as one of the best slot receivers of his generation. Brady has, more often than not, won games and championships without having the services of Hall-of-Fame talent at the wide receiver position and in the backfield. For all we know, Rob Gronkowski would be a serviceable tight end and not much more if he played with an average quarterback.
6. Brady’s Era
Brady has played in the heart of the so-called “Parity Era” of the NFL when free agency, roster turnover and the state of the league makes it harder than ever for a franchise to become a dynasty. That fact makes Brady’s accomplishments even more impressive. No other QB, not Favre or Manning or anybody else, has appeared in six Super Bowls over the past decade and a half. None of them have four Super Bowl victories. Brady has no equal among contemporaries, and that includes the man who has served as his biggest on-the-field rival and who will, like Brady, one day be in the Hall of Fame.
5. Brady vs Manning
Peyton Manning is the greatest regular season quarterback in NFL history. Even Brady would probably concede this point. Brady has a +3 Super Bowl advantage over the older Manning brother. Brady’s playoff record, following his latest championship run, is 21-8, while Manning is 11-13 in postseason play. Brady had the Patriots in positions to win in each of his six Super Bowl appearances. Manning was lackluster in his first title game, the only time that he has won a Super Bowl. He tossed a costly pick-six against the New Orleans Saints his second time at the big dance. Manning and the offense of the Denver Broncos were thoroughly outclassed by the defense of the Seattle Seahawks at Super Bowl XLVIII. Of the two, it is not a contest on who has had the better overall career.
4. Brady vs Montana
Joe Montana is often the standard for the greatest quarterback of all time. Montana, Brady and Terry Bradshaw are the only quarterbacks in history to have won four Super Bowl championships, while Montana and Brady are alone as the only two players to have three Super Bowl Most Valuable Player Awards on their resumes. What about stats such as passing yards, passing touchdowns, passing yards per game, games started, and wins? Brady has the advantage in every one of those stats. One other thing: Brady did not have the luxury of his team drafting the greatest wide receiver to ever play in the NFL, Jerry Rice, during the middle of his career.
3. Super Bowl XLII Not Brady’s Fault
It is said by some that Brady cannot be any greater than Montana and Bradshaw since those two legends of the game went undefeated in Super Bowl games, while Brady has twice lost title contests; Super Bowl XLII and Super Bowl XLVI. It was the New England defense and not Brady who failed the Patriots at Super Bowl XLII. Brady connected with wide receiver Randy Moss for a go-ahead touchdown with under three minutes left in the game, but the New England defense failed to stop Eli Manning and the offense of the New York Giants, particularly on four plays. The Giants converted on a 4th-and-1. New England cornerback Asante Samuel dropped an interception that would have sealed the deal. David Tyree made his famous helmet catch. The Giants then converted on a 3rd-and-11 before Manning hit wide receiver Plaxico Burress for what was to be the championship-winning touchdown.
2. Super Bowl XLVI Not Brady’s Fault
Brady was on the cusp of righting a wrong at Super Bowl XLVI when he was again staring down the defense of the Giants in the fourth quarter of a championship game. The Patriots were leading the Giants 17-15 with 4:06 left on the clock when Brady dropped back to pass on second down at midfield. Brady threw a pass toward Wes Welker that probably could have been thrown a touch more accurately but that nevertheless hit the receiver’s hands. Had Welker reeled in the ball as he should have, the Patriots would have picked up a first down. This would have allowed Brady to evaporate more time off of the clock and maybe even find the end zone for the score that would have made him 4-1 in Super Bowl games.
1. Brady Defeats Goodell
The “Deflategate” scandal that arose from the 2015 AFC Championship Game probably would have gone away as quickly as it appeared had Brady admitted that he danced around the rules when the Patriots trounced the Indianapolis Colts on Championship Sunday. Brady likely would have received a slap on the wrist and maybe even a one-game ban. Despite being guilty in the eyes of the court of public opinion, Brady continued to fight the matter after he was suspended for the first four games of the 2015 regular season. Victory would again be Brady’s, as the suspension was overturned by a US District Court Judge on September 3.
This case and all that stems from it may prove to be even more important than every touchdown pass Brady has thrown and every trophy he has kissed. Brady defeating Goodell could open the floodgates for similar player appeals, as the court decision deemed that Goodell can no longer be the czar of the NFL who makes up rules as he goes along. The position of league commissioner may never again hold such power over players if the NFL loses its appeal of this decision. Because of that reality, Brady’s legacy among current and future NFL players could go far beyond his statistics and championships. Brady may have changed the NFL forever.
Would you expect any less from the greatest of all time?