Whether you love him, hate him, root for him or ridicule him, the fact remains that New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady has officially exceeded Joe Montana’s record in Super Bowl wins, appearing in seven championship games over the span of two decades, accumulating five titles overall, winning the AFC East division 15 times as the team’s starting quarterback since 2001 and shattering numerous league records in the process. From the New England Patriots’ undefeated 16-0 regular season in 2007 to moving ahead of Miami Dolphins’ quarterback Dan Marino as the fourth all-time passer in NFL history, Brady has excelled as a passer annually aging like a fine red wine at 39, unlike many at his position who endure no longer than a banana.
Since succeeding Drew Bledsoe in 2001, Brady holds an exemplary postseason career with a 25-9 record, appearing in the playoffs more than any player at any position. His whopping 208 combined regular season and postseason wins are also netted as the most of any quarterback in NFL history.
No other quarterback has attained such an impressive feat, placing Brady into a category of his own. Montana, Jim Kelly, John Elway, Peyton Manning and Marino are all indisputable in their own right at the position. Their contributions to the sport are unparalleled to each other and no greater or worse to the next. Every great quarterback has a rare tangible or insurmountable quality that distinguishes them from the rest. Montana is the only quarterback undefeated in the Super Bowl, acquiring four with the San Francisco 49ers. Kelly led the Buffalo Bills to four consecutive Super Bowl visits, although to no avail. Elway implemented the effectiveness of the dual-threat quarterback as the Denver Broncos helmsman. Manning mastered the audible and hurry-up offense while commandeering the Indianapolis Colts. Marino redefined the passing game, emphasizing the importance of arm strength and quick release during his career with the Miami Dolphins.
The aforementioned quarterbacks are widely respected by the masses and universally regarded as the greatest to play the position. If it hasn’t become apparent before, Brady has transcended from the ranks of an unknown quarterback prospect coming out of the sixth round of the 2000 NFL Draft to an elite gunslinger, to a paradigm of the position. Last Sunday alone illustrated how enigmatic of a quarterback Brady has become when the duress of the game ensues.
There are many reasons why Brady stands out from the majority. He is uncanny when scanning the field for receivers, calm under constraint from the ferocious brawn of opposing defenses and is astoundingly expeditious when the game appears all but implausible as substantiated in Super Bowl LI. The dexterity of Brady is boundless, but what particularly makes him unique and unclassified in contrast to the likes of Montana and Kelly lies in his ability to produce success without the support of a legitimate wide receiver.
Aside from Randy Moss and Rob Gronkowski, Brady never truly had the luxury of a prominent pass catcher. Montana and Kelly were fortunate to have the likes of Jerry Rice and Andre Reed in their respective offenses with the former and the latter being among the greatest playmakers in NFL history. The New England Patriots, on the other hand, have lacked stability at the wide receiver position for years, ignoring the glaring needs since the departure of Moss. Nevertheless, Brady has proven time after time that he can prevail without a consistent target as he has done more or less so cunningly, making the most subpar of wide receivers such as Brandon LaFell and Matthew Slater look stellar.
Despite the copious allegations of cheating against the New England Patriots in years past, Brady performed gallantly in the game’s climax last night rallying his team from a 25-point deficit. Just when the game appeared out of reach as the Patriots trailed 3-28, Brady revamped his offense after a poor showing in the first half and engineered a historical comeback, resulting in the first overtime in a Super Bowl.
If it isn’t evident by now, the New England Patriots are the epitome of a dynasty and unlike any professional sports saga we have ever seen. The Brady-Belichick era is undoubtedly an NFL empire that has outstretched that of the Walsh-Montana regimes in terms of league accolades, wins and perennial triumph. The Patriots under Belichick and Brady have quelled in nearly every bracket of defense and offense, building the team’s 53-man roster purely through the draft, inking free agents to high risk/high reward contracts and watchful salary cap management, which stems the question as to whether the organization has been completely honest in its glorious run.
Since the team’s Cinderella story began in the 2001 NFL season, there have been numerous accusations and scandals of cheating towards the Patriots. Beginning with Spygate in 2007, which pertained to unauthorized video recordings of the New York Jets practices, and most recently Deflategate in 2015, which regarded the deliberate deflation of footballs in the AFC Championship game against the Indianapolis Colts. The latter resulted in a four-game suspension for Brady, a $100 million fine, and the shucking of the team’s first-round draft pick in 2016. In defense of the franchise, there has been evasion and dishonesty league-wide since the early 1970s, when players utilized stickum spray to their uniforms and gloves so they could easily grasp the football. To act like this deceit hasn’t happened previously is just arrogant and shortsighted.
Whether it is Bountygate, Fakegate or Textgate, every NFL franchise has cheated at one point. What hasn’t happened until yesterday was the emergence of a once in a generation quarterback—one that will be difficult to replicate or study in the near future. While many continue to be bitter and envious, I personally can’t help but appreciate the sheer greatness and mastermind of Brady and Belichick. Regardless of opinion, I can guarantee that we will never see a quarterback-coach duo of this magnitude in our lifetime again.
Drew Mattiola can be reached at RM814408@wcupa.edu.