What’s Tom Brady playing for Sunday? What can the man who has achieved more than any other professional football player in history add to his legacy?
Ever since he won his fifth ring to pass the likes of Joe Montana and Terry Bradshaw, everything else has felt like a bonus for the six-time Super Bowl champ. But it turns out that winning title No. 7 can still provide a major boost to Brady’s inimitable resume. Examples?
He’ll have won the Brady/Bill Belichick argument.
All right, Brady may have already done this, but a Super Bowl win will confirm it. For years, a debate has raged as to who was more responsible for the Patriots’ success — Brady or Belichick. Yes, Brady has three regular-season MVPs and four Super Bowl MVPs, but might this simply have been the result of Belichick’s system?
After all, the Pats went 11-5 with Matt Cassel under center the year Brady was out with a knee injury, and were 3-1 during Brady’s suspension for the Deflategate scandal.
Was it possible that any decent quarterback could have had success in New England? Doesn’t appear that way.
This year, when Brady left for Tampa, the Patriots missed the playoffs for the first time since 2008. And Brady is back in the Big Game. A win Sunday gives him permanent bragging rights over his old coach.
He’ll distance himself from Patrick Mahomes
Brady is the greatest quarterback of all time, but the biggest threat to catch him is the 25-year-old QB for the Chiefs. In just three seasons, Mahomes has won a regular-season MVP, a Super Bowl MVP and is now vying for championship No. 2. So what happens if Patrick wins? Well, he’ll be within four titles of Brady with perhaps 15 years to catch him.
Mahomes winning six still wouldn’t be probable, but it would be highly possible given his talent. And if he does get to six, he’ll have the tie-break over Tom given that he beat him head-to-head in the Super Bowl.
But if Brady wins? He’ll have a 7 to 1 lead over Mahomes and bragging rights in head-to-head competition (remember, the Patriots beat the Chiefs in the AFC Championship Game before their 2019 Super Bowl win). In other words, Mahomes would likely have to win eight championships to pass Brady as the greatest quarterback of all time in the minds of many. Gifted as he is, that seems next-to-impossible in the parity-filled NFL.
He’d likely go down as the greatest team-sport athlete ever
Similar to comparing eras, it might not be fair to pit athletes from other sports against each other for all-time-great status, but that’s the world we live in. In 1999, remember, ESPN put together a list of the greatest North American athletes of the century, and the countdown was compelling.
So would another Super Bowl win put Brady at the pinnacle? Michael Jordan was at the top of that ESPN list, and for good reason. The NBA star won six championships in six Finals appearances, and took Finals MVP every time.
Brady has a chance to win title No. 7 in his 10th Super Bowl appearance. I’ve never bought the argument that losing multiple Super Bowls (or in the finals in a particular sport) damages one’s legacy. Jordan going six for seven in the Finals would have been more impressive than six for six, as it meant he got to that stage one more time than he did. As sports radio host Colin Howherd pointed out, Brady making the Super Bowl (he’s done so 10 times in 21 seasons, good for 47.6% of the time) is more likely than Steph Curry making a three-pointer (he’s 43% all-time from deep).
So what would a win mean? Well, it’s hard to compare when a quarterback is on the field for half the game and a basketball player is playing offense and defense. But given Brady’s consistency, his ability to deliver with multiple teams, and his two-decades worth of NFL dominance, a seventh championship and a fifth SB MVP would probably give him the nod over MJ.
Of course, this is all just bar stool chatter (once bar stools come back, that is). These are the kinds of debates that could go forever unsettled if the combatants are determined enough.
What’s hard to debate is that this is one of the most intriguing Super Bowl matchups ever. Brady isn’t just going against the Chiefs, he’s going against history.