You would think 20 years would be enough. In a league where the average career is 3.5 years and a quarterback like Troy Aikman is in the Hall of Fame on a 12-year career, you'd think 20 would be more than enough. An embarrassment of riches. Way more than anyone but a deranged person could reasonably hope for. So Patriots fans should probably accept the great fortune of having some scrawny nobody from the sixth round of the first draft of the 21st century giving us two full decades of unprecedented, unthinkable success and move on.
But it's not easy. Not at all. Hell, as a friend pointed out to me, if it weren't for Tom Brady's success, I might still be a badge monkey giving the "All Rise" in a dingy district court right now. He's not wrong.
We were all hoping it would continue. Just to give us like two more years. Two more runs at another banner. Stairway to Seven. Like the bonus time at the end of a soccer game. But as it turns out, those extra bonus years were the years after they traded Jimmy Garoppolo. That unexpected banner was No. 6. Still unprecedented. Still something no other player has ever done. And yet somehow still not enough. Maybe we're being Veruka Salt, but what the hell. We do want the whole damned chocolate factory.
As I go through the Stages of Grief on this tragic and sudden loss (and add some of my own, like the Jameson's in My Coffee Stage, the Fetal Position Stage and the Praying for the Sweet Release of Death at the Thought of Andy Dalton or Jameis Winston Stage) after 20 all too short years, I'm going to make an attempt to put Tom Brady's accomplishments into some sort of easily digestible perspective. As a sort of catharsis. To purge this out of my system, like a Covid-19 vaccine.
Here are some of the things he did in his Patriots career:
- Counting the postseason, there are four quarterbacks who've had 170 or more wins: Brady, Peyton Manning and Drew Brees. Brady has 174 more wins than losses. In other words, you could take Brees - the fourth winningest QB of all time - and subtract his total of 171 wins from Brady's total, and the GOAT would still be three games over .500. There are two QBs in the Hall of Fame with sub-.500 records.
- In regular season records, Brady's 155 games over .500 is more than the win totals of John Elway, Dan Marino or Joe Montana.
- Brady has the same number of regular and postseason losses as Aikman, with 75. And 144 more wins. So in order to tie Brady, Aikman would have to come out of retirement and go 16-0 for nine straight seasons.
- Tom Brady in the 4th quarter and overtime of Super Bowls 49, 51, 52, and 53: 47 for 63 (74.6%) for 538 yards (8.5 YPA) 4 TD, 0 INT a 121.0 passer rating, 9.8 AY/A, 8.65 ANY/A. And in those four-plus quarters, his team scored 53 points against the best teams in the NFC.
- In Super Bowl 51, with 9:44 to go in the 4th, Brady's team had a Win Probability of 0.3%.
Brady hasn't had a Hall of Fame career. He's had three separate Hall of Fame mini-careers:
- 2000-06: Three Super Bowl championships, two Super Bowl MVPs, led the league in touchdowns once, with a regular season record of 70-26 and a postseason record of 11-2.
- 2007-14: One Super Bowl win, one Super Bowl MVP, two-time league MVP, set the regular season TD record with 50, a regular season record of 89-23.
- 2005-19: Two Super Bowl wins, one Super Bowl MVP, one league MVP, a 25-point comeback, three straight Super Bowl appearances, one Super Bowl with a record 466 yards, breaking that mark the following year with 505 yards, a regular season record of 59-17.
There'll be more of this in the days, weeks and centuries to come. Because we have never seen anything like Brady before. Not Gretzky, Jordan, Woods. And for sure not anyone in the NFL. Brady has been less of an athlete and more like someone created whole by the ancient gods to fulfill some prophecy. And his kind will pass this way but once.