For the first time in almost 20 years, Tom Brady will not start the season under center for the New England Patriots. The six-time Super Bowl will continue to play football in 2020, but it’s just going to be somewhere else. Even though the greatest quarterback to ever live will still be on the field next year, the football landscape is never going to be the same again. Brady, along with head coach Bill Belichick, ushered in an unparalleled run of dominance in an era designed to limit sustained success. The NFL will never see anything like him again and football will never truly be the same.
A Thank You to Tom Brady
It’s crazy to think about now, but Tom Brady started off as an overlooked sixth-round pick that barely made the roster as a rookie. Most players in Brady’s position don’t amount to anything, whether it be due to a lack of talent or opportunity. Brady obviously had the talent, but he worked tirelessly create his own opportunity. One year after being a fourth-string quarterback, Brady earned the backup job in 2001 and played so well in the preseason that he almost won the Week 1 starting job over Drew Bledsoe.
Bledsoe held on to the job, but quickly lost it after Mo Lewis inadvertently started a two-decade run of dominance. Taking over a roster that had gone 5-13 over the past two seasons, Brady led a supposed bottom-feeder to an unexpected playoff berth. After winning his first two postseason games in dramatic fashion, Brady and company entered Super Bowl XXXVI as double-digit underdogs to the Greatest Show on Turf. Despite the unfavorable odds, the Patriots won that bout, with Brady winning Super Bowl MVP honors after conducting a thrilling game-winning field goal drive.
Brady proved to be more than just a one-year wonder, as he won Super Bowls in two of the next three seasons. While the Patriots had to wait 10 years to win their next title, Brady continued to get better on a year-by-year basis. Brady set countless regular season and postseason passing records while chasing that ever-elusive fourth Super Bowl title, winning MVP honors twice and making eight trips to the Pro Bowl between 2004 and 2014.
Brady showed the world the true extents of his powers in the 2007 season. Finally armed with truly dangerous weapons in Randy Moss and Wes Welker, Brady and company took the league by storm. During that magical season, Brady completed 68.9% of his passes for 4,806 yards, 50 touchdowns, and eight interceptions en route to a 16-0 record. The 50 touchdowns were an NFL record, and Brady led the league in completion percentage, yardage, yards-per-attempt, and passer rating, and just about everything else. While the 2007 Patriots ultimately fell short of a title, this season proved that Brady was more than just a newer version of Troy Aikman.
Tom Brady missed 2008 with a knee injury and wasn’t quite himself in 2009. However, now fully recovered from his ACL tear, Brady had yet another season for the ages in 2010. Despite losing Randy Moss after just four games, Brady managed to complete 65.9% of his passes for 3,900 yards while posting an absolutely absurd 36:4 touchdown to interception ratio. This magnificent season made him the first unanimous MVP in league history.
Despite not winning a Super Bowl, Brady still managed to play at an elite level in each of the next three seasons. From 2011 to 2013, the former sixth-round pick completed 63% of his passes for 14,405 yards, 98 touchdowns, 31 interceptions, and a 97.1 passer rating. He remained in the NFL elite for years on end, but never quite got over the hump to grab that elusive fourth champion. That is, until 2014.
After a slow start to the 2014 season, the wheels appeared to come off the wagon in Week 4. Traveling on the road to Kansas City, Brady and company got humiliated to the tune of a 41-14 beating on national television. Belichick benched Brady for Jimmy Garoppolo towards the end of the game, and some wondered whether this truly was the end.
Instead, Brady and company turned the page and were on to Cincinnati. After their uninspiring 2-2 start, New England went 12-2 the rest of the way, with one loss coming in a meaningless Week 17 game against the Buffalo Bills. Brady vanquished an old foe in the AFC Divisional Round, erasing multiple 14-point deficits to take down the Baltimore Ravens. After demolishing the Indianapolis Colts in the AFC Championship Game, Brady came face to face with the Seattle Seahawks and the Legion of Boom. Brady was up for the task, erasing a 10-point fourth-quarter deficit to win his fourth Super Bowl and third Super Bowl MVP.
Two years later, Brady won yet another Super Bowl in even more dramatic fashion. After missing the first four games of the season, Brady came out of the gate on a mission. Dismantling every opponent that stood in his way, Brady brought the Patriots to Super Bowl LI with barely any adversary. However, the team seemed to meet their match when the Atlanta Falcons took a 28-3 lead midway through the third quarter. Despite the lopsided score, Brady somehow managed to erase the deficit, pulling off the greatest comeback in the history of sports to win yet another championship. Watching Roger Goodell hand the Super Bowl MVP trophy to Brady after the fact was just icing on the cake.
Brady wasn’t done there, winning MVP and appearing in another Super Bowl just one year later. While he came up short against the Philadelphia Eagles, he won it the next year against the Los Angeles Rams. Even though Brady didn’t play that well against Los Angeles, the Patriots never would have made it to the Super Bowl without him. During that playoff run, Brady averaged over 42 passing attempts and 300 passing yards per game while converting countless key third and longs against the Kansas City Chiefs. Sony Michel may have vultured all the two-yard touchdown runs, but the passing game was the reason for New England’s success.
Tom Brady the Person
Tom Brady is a fantastic quarterback, but he’s just as good a person. While I’ve obviously never had a direct encounter with the six-time champion, all accounts show that he hasn’t let the fame get to him. In this masterful work by ESPN’s Mike Reiss, the longtime beat reporter recounted multiple encounters with Tom Brady the person, compared to Tom Brady the athlete.
As Reiss notes, it’s impossible for outsiders to fully know the athletes for who they really are. That said, just about everyone to ever play in Foxboro recounts tales of how down to earth and humble Brady is. Considering where he came from and where he is now, it would be easy for Brady to lose his touch with humanity. However, he remained involved in the community throughout the course of his career and, from the outside, never let the fame go to his head.
Tom Brady leaves the Patriots with too many records and accolades to possibly list in this one article. Sports are an escape, but Brady’s presence on the football field is more than just a distraction from reality. There has never been anyone quite like Tom Brady, and there never will be again. Thank you for memories, Mr. Brady, and best wishes for 2020 and beyond.
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