I sat back and watch for seemingly, the millionth time as twice Tom Brady led the New England Patriots on drives to take the lead and win the game in overtime. As the Patriots got the ball back with just over two minutes to go in the 4th quarter, I just found myself laughing, because I knew #12 was going to lead New England down for a touchdown, and he did just that.
The win captured the Patriots 9th conference championship of the Kraft-Belichick-Brady era and has them on track to possibly win their sixth Super Bowl, which would tie them for the all-time lead with the Pittsburgh Steelers. It’s clear that the New England Patriots currently have the greatest dynasty in the history of pro football.
Many already anoint Robert Kraft as the greatest owner in the history of pro football and many anoint Bill Belichick as the greatest coach in the history of the NFL. But, for some reason, people still do not want to anoint Tom Brady as the greatest quarterback of all time. People still hold on to this false reality that Tom Brady is solely product of a system or that his team wins in spite of his performance.
It’s a grudge I have never understood, people now want to break it down to subcategories such as “Best QB in terms of winning” or “Best QB in terms of talent” and all this other BS. When it was clear that Joe Montana was the GOAT for many years that no one tried to slight him, why is it like this with Brady?
Myth #1: System quarterback
The first thing I want to tackle is “Tom Brady is an overrated system quarterback”. Yes, Tom Brady has a system, in fact, the greatest quarterbacks in NFL history had a system. Joe Montana played for the greatest offensive mind in the history of football in Bill Walsh, but you never saw anyone call him a “system quarterback”.
Peyton Manning led the highest scoring offenses year in and year out while playing quarterback for the Indianapolis Colts and the Denver Broncos and kept together the same core of players for years, I don’t see him being labeled a “system quarterback”. Brett Favre’s best years were under Mike Holmgren, a disciple of Bill Walsh and the West Coast offense, you didn’t see people labeling him as a “System Quarterback”.
If you look at Tom Brady’s career, he may have had the same head coach, but his arsenal has changed over and over again. At the start of his career, he was throwing to receivers such as Troy Brown and the late Terry Glenn, both of whom were good receivers, but nowhere near the Hall of Fame.
As the first dynasty came to a close, Brady found himself without a top receiver for the two years following the Patriots Championship in 2004. His top receiver was still Troy Brown, but he was nearing retirement. In 2006, Brady was throwing to guys like Reche Caldwell, who was out of the league two years later. All he did was have them at the brink of the Super Bowl, but lost to Peyton Manning’s Indianapolis Colts 38-34 in the AFC Championship.
Has Brady been surrounded by talent? Sure. But before he had that talent (ex. Randy Moss) he was still the top quarterback in the league. Randy Moss never had the same production level he did the two full seasons he played with Tom Brady, hauling in 36 touchdowns in the two full seasons he played with Brady at quarterback. Brady with a talent like that was unstoppable.
Label him a system quarterback if you want, but that fact of the matter is all great quarterbacks have a system, the only difference with Brady is that he’s runs his better than anyone in the history of the game.
Myth #2: “Bill Belichick made Brady”
This one is also very interesting to me. Allow me to give a little history on the background of Bill Belichick. Bill Belichick worked his way through the NFL ranks as a defensive assistant through various franchises until he hooked up with Bill Parcells with the New York Giants. Belichick remained with the Giants for 11 seasons as a linebackers coach and eventually defensive coordinator before being hired as the head coach of the Browns in 1991.
Unfortunately, Belichick didn’t accomplish much with the Browns, while he did have one playoff appearance in 1994, he crashed and burned in 1995 with a 5-11 record before being fired. The Browns ultimately moved to Baltimore following the season and Belichick finished with a 36-44 record with the Browns.
He eventually went back to serving under Bill Parcells with the Patriots and the Jets before becoming head coach of the Patriots in 2000. His opening season fell flat as the Patriots stumbled to a 5-11 record. The Patriots were off to an 0-2 start in 2001 when Tom Brady came in relief for the injured Drew Bledsoe. The rest, as they say, is history.
You can very easily make the argument, that prior to Tom Brady’s meteoric rise, that Bill Belichick was a mediocre coach. The Patriots appeared to be on the same trajectory in 2001 that they were in 2000 until Mo Lewis knocked out Drew Bledsoe and forced Tom Brady to step up.
The saying that “Belichick molded the system around Brady” is completely asinine. Bill Belichick has never once in his 18 seasons with Tom Brady at quarterback, made an offensive playcall. He is a DEFENSIVE COACH, the job of offensive playcaller has been left to Charlie Weis, Bill O’Brien and Josh McDaniels (all of whom have not been extremely successful as head coaches might I add).
Now to make sure I cover this, I am not saying at all that Bill Belichick isn’t a great coach. In fact he is the greatest coach in NFL history in my book, but I think people are giving him way too much credit as to the success of Tom Brady, he did not hand develop Brady himself, that was Charlie Weis and Josh McDaniels.
Tom Brady has made the Patriots offense into what it is today, you can talk about how successful the New England offense would be if they had Drew Brees or Aaron Rodgers and so on and so forth. But you know what? That’s theory, I’m talking about reality, and in reality, Tom Brady owes his success to himself as much he does to Bill Belichick. Belichick isn’t suiting up and leading them to wins on Sunday, that would be #12.
Myth #3: “Brady’s team wins big games in spite of him”
I saw this in a tweet following the AFC Championship Sunday Night and was just dumbfounded. Those who don’t care to do their research look at the raw data and say “Yeah he really is average in AFC Championships” don’t look to investigate the circumstances and the context surrounding Brady’s AFC Championship performances.
Let’s break this down: Tom Brady has appeared in 13 conference championship games in his career. He has thrown for 3,394 yards, 18 touchdowns, 14 interceptions, a completion percentage of 62.3%, averaged 6.95 yards per attempt and had a quarterback rating of 83.3. It’s not stellar, I will admit, but let’s look at the context surrounding those AFC Championship Games.
In Brady’s first AFC Championship Game in 2001 against Pittsburgh, he went out in the second quarter with a knee injury. At the time of his departure, he was 12-for-18 for 115 yards, no touchdowns and no picks. His next appearance in 2003 came against the Indianapolis Colts in the freezing cold and snow. Brady finished that game 22-for-37, 237 yards, a touchdown and a pick. His counterpart Peyton Manning threw 4 interceptions that day.
In 2004, against the Steelers, Brady was once again efficient in a cold night in Pittsburgh, completing 14-of-21 passes for 207 yards, 2 touchdowns and no picks. The Patriots wouldn’t return to the AFC Championship until 2006, when Brady, with a completely depleted receiving core, went 21-for-34 for 232 yards, a touchdown and a pick in a close loss.
The 2007 AFC Championship, with perfection on the line, Brady was not great on a windy day in Foxboro against the Chargers. He did throw three interceptions against the Chargers, but did throw two touchdowns and led the Patriots on the drive that won them the game and got the ball back with over 9 minutes to go, and didn’t give the ball back to the Chargers.
The Patriots wouldn’t return to the AFC Championship until 2011, against the Baltimore Ravens and their dominating defense. Brady threw two interceptions in the game, but scored the go-ahead touchdown with 11 minutes to go in the fourth quarter and sent the Patriots back to the Super Bowl.
In 2012, Brady faced the Ravens again, and once again struggled with a Ravens defense that was again one of the best in the NFL. He threw 54 passes for 320 yards, a touchdown and two picks. The next season, he ran into one an all-time great offense, as he threw for 277 yards and a touchdown as the Patriots came up short against the high-powered Broncos.
Brady returned to the AFC Championship in 2014 and in the “Deflategate” game against the Indianapolis Colts, threw for 226 yards, 3 touchdowns and an interception. In 2015, the Patriots ran into, statistically, one of the best defenses in NFL history in the Broncos. Brady played well against a vaunted defense, throwing for 310 yards and a touchdown, but the two interceptions were too much.
In 2016, Brady terrorized the Pittsburgh Steelers, throwing for 384 yards, 3 touchdowns and no interceptions in a win. Last season, against the #2 defense in the NFL, Brady threw for 290 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions. And finally, in this season’s AFC Championship against the Chiefs, Brady threw for 348 yards, a touchdown and 2 picks in the win.
Two summarize it shortly, in AFC Championship wins, Brady has thrown for 2,255 yards, 14 touchdowns, 9 interceptions and a completion percentage of 66.3%. I would hardly say that is winning in spite of Tom Brady. When the Patriots are winning the AFC Championship, they are winning because of Tom Brady.
Bringing it home
These are three of the best cases I can give towards Tom Brady in terms of defending his case as the greatest of all-time. I could add in endless soundbites from personalities such as Deion Sanders, Shannon Sharpe, Skip Bayless, Stephen A. Smith, Will Cain and countless others saying that Brady is the GOAT and it isn’t close, but I don’t have the time for that.
The fact of the matter is that those who say Brady is not the GOAT are only just delaying their minds from accepting what is the truth. He is the GOAT, no one has accomplished what he has, and no one will ever again accomplish what he will and he is the one who controls is, because he’s the one, on the field, making it happen.