Last summer a reader wrote me suggested I do the same sort of Knee Jerk Reactions to the 2020 Buccaneers games that I've been doing for Patriots games since the dawn of Barstool. While I usually don't have a lot of use for people who are really generous with my time, I liked this idea enough to give it a try. While recognizing there was no way I could take the sort of deep dive I do on Pats games (rewatching plays 10 times over to figure out which fat guy in a pile of bodies made the tackle and who he beat to do it, etc) I'd at least wade into the shallow end. Without really trying to figure out Tampa Bay's schemes or focus on what they do on defense and special teams, I could at least chart Tom Brady's progress, from the perspective of New England guy who's still guzzling a cocktail of mixed emotions over the fact he's gone. To give a Mini Jerk Reaction.
And after about 17 or so of these, I've finally figured it out. I can now explain how Brady continues to do what he's been doing for 21 years, and counting. Here it is.
We are living in a simulation. And that simulation exists inside Tom Brady's mind.
That's the best explanation I've got. The Boltzmann Brain Theorem. Named after Ludwig Boltzmann, whose theorem is that it's more likely that the universe is a hallucination that it actually exists. To extrapolate, it's more likely that the hallucination belongs to one man than that man could quarterback his seventh Super Bowl championship at the age of 43.
That's all I got. I mean, I'll try to explain the football. But for now, this is how I'm processing what we just bore witness to. Quantum physics. Bear with me a minute. Cosmologist Brian Greene points out that we currently exist at 10 to the 10th power years after the Big Bang. At 10 to the 30th power years, the Earth will spiral into our dead sun. At 10 to the 38th, all protons will disintegrate into a fine spray. At 10 to the 68th, all Black Holes will become macroscopic and radiate away all their materials. By 10 to the 100th, the universe will be a bath of elementary particles. And by 10 to the 10th to the 68th power years- so a double exponential - random motion of particles could form a brain, recreating actual thought. And everything we experience is a hallucination of future random constituents of matter. And I say that future cosmos-sized superbrain belongs to the eternal being that is Tom Brady. I wasn't sure why I memorized this theory, other than for something profound to say some night when I'm sitting around drinking beers at my brother's firepit. But now I realize it's so I could explain the GOAT's existence when this day came. It's far more logical than the 199th pick in the 2000 NFL draft winning his fifth Super Bowl MVP with no end in sight.
Roll your eyes if you must. But what have you got? How else do you wrap your feeble brain around all this? By saying he's good a quarterbacking? That doesn't explain a fraction of it. Watch the man and tell me this is just about athletics. He's on a higher plane of existence than the rest of us. He has no flaws. No weaknesses. No negativity. He leaves his home of 20 years to take a job with the statistically the losingest franchise in his sport, and he turns it into the most desirable place to be in the country. His adopted city plays for the championship in all three of its sports and wins two. He wins his ring in his home stadium, something that's never been done. In an absolute laugher of a game, which he didn't have the luxury of in his previous nine. He does in in front of 25,000 in a league where dozens of teams weren't allowed a single patron, including the one he left. He doesn't need to wear a mask and no one objects. Because, like I said, he exhales the vaccine with each mighty, minty fresh breath. The evil, tin pot dictator who spent millions destroying his reputation stands in awe in his presence as he hands the Lombardi Trophy to his team. And even Ginger Satan takes mask off, because he knows there's no danger. Meanwhile in New England, we woke up in a bleak, dark, plague-riddled winterscape out of a Chekhov play, utterly bereft of joy, with no end to our suffering in sight. It was still sunlight in Tampa at kickoff, a good hour and a half after it got dark here. Brady lives in the same time zone as Foxboro, just on a different planet.
Here are some facts to try to put Tom Brady's accomplishments in some sort of perspective. That's a lot to expect from a few facts, but let's let them try:
- He has won the Super Bowl in three different decades.
- He has more personal Super Bowls than any single franchise.
- Combined, Arizona, Atlanta, Carolina, Detroit, Minnesota, the Chargers, Houston, Jacksonville, Cleveland, Tennessee, Cincinnati, Buffalo, Seattle, the Rams, New Orleans, Chicago, Philadelphia and the Jets have six Super Bowls. That's 18 franchises. More than half the league.
- He's won four Super Bowls since Deflategate.
- In his three Super Bowl losses, he's averaged 349 yards passing, with six TDs and one INT.
- Joe Montana is second all time in postseason wins, with 16. Brady has 34. And 17 just in conference championship and Super Bowls.
- He has as many postseason wins since turning 37 than Montana did in his career.
- He now has 264 wins, regular and postseason combined. Peyton Manning is No. 2 all time with 200. So to tie Brady, he'd have to unretire and go 16-0 for four straight seasons.
- Drew Brees is No. 4 all time in combined wins with 181. Brady is now 184 games above .500.
- He won three playoff games on the road.
- His team became the first to beat three former MVPs (Brees, Aaron Rodgers, Patrick Mahomes) in the same postseason.
- He became the first to lead his offense to 30+ points in all four postseason games.
- Mahomes has lost two postseason games. Both were to Brady.
Actually that is too much heavy lifting for just a few statistics and facts. You can no longer put Brady's accomplishments into historical context by comparing him to any other football player. You have to go outside his sport. You could compare him to Bill Russell, who won 11 NBA championships, two NCAAs and an Olympic gold medal. And who was out with an injury for one of the only two seasons he didn't win the title. But basketball is a sport where one man can make all the difference and played in a time where teams stayed together. Brady doing it in a sport with single elimination playoffs in a time of free agency over 21 years for two franchises is unthinkable. This season would be like if Michael Jordan carried the Wizards to a title. Only more so. You almost have to go outside sports. To history, the arts or business for someone comparable. Alexander. Shakespeare. The richest man who ever lived, Mansa Musa I of Mali. Brady is so great an outlier as to defy analogy.
And if you're a New Englander whose number one loyalty is still to your football team, it's only natural that Brady would cap off the worst year in memory with the worst case scenario. Two touchdown passes to Gronk. One to Antonio Brown. The three guys the Patriots could've used the most, combining to do things the 2020 Pats were utterly incapable of. Gronk had more touchdowns in the 1st half (two) than the Patriots entire tight end depth chart had on the season (one).
At this time last year, Gronk was organizing a Super Bowl beach party, getting ready for WrestleMania and launching a CBD oil empire. Brown was disgraced, involved in several court cases, possibly unbalanced and definitely unemployed. Gronk had been, what's the right verb? Forced into retirement? Strong armed? Passive/aggressively pushed? Regardless, he wasn't feeling football so he decided he'd rather not play than play in New England. Brown was shown the door after 11 days, one game and one unforgivable act of dickish behavior. Now they're Super Bowl heroes, basking in the reflective glow of the quarterback who resurrected their careers.
I won't get much deeper into what this success means in terms of the Patriots, because I think that's a subject for another blog. Or 200. But let's not try to put varnish on this turd. This is the ultimate humiliation for the Patriots on the whole and Bill Belichick in particular.
Just to finally get to the football, Brady simply did what he's done since he took over the offensive coordinator duties (and head coach and GM and VP of football operations) a month or so into the season. He ran the offense he mastered during the days of analog, 4x3 aspect ratio television to perfection. He came out running a ball control offense, letting his outside guys like Mike Evans and Chris Godwin run off the Chiefs deep coverage and then check it down. After several 3rd & longs, he let Leonard Fournette establish himself as a running threat to get into manageable down and distances. then not only play actioned Kansas City to death with the back-to-the-defense, turn-and-throw play fakes he perfected during the W. Bush presidency, he got Fournette involved in the passing game. As the Chiefs began to have no choice but to cheat up and play the curl/flat concepts, it was only a matter of time before he started taking shots. And the 31 yarder to Evans was the one that broke Kansas City's will. When they realized they had no answer.
A lot can and should be said for the Chiefs penalties and their inability to throw stop sticks down in front of the Bucs four man pass rush. But I honestly believe much of that was a response to Brady. Kansas City made unforced errors on defense and special teams for the same reason Mike Tyson bit Evander Holyfield. They were afraid. For the first time in a couple of seasons, they knew they had to be perfect. Even before the Bucs D started producing turnovers Brady could exploit, the penalties were serving the same function. Keeping drives alive. Setting Tampa up with field position, like the hold on a KC punt that produced a net 56 yards to the Tampa 30. Then the subsequent re-kick from the end zone produced a panic punt that set Brady up at the Chiefs 40. A 40-yard swing that flipped the field as any turnover. On defense, the Bucs came in with a huge advantage in talent along the front-7, and played like they knew they could go all out aggressive because any mistake they forced would lead to points. As it had all postseason. Just to contradict what I said about how Bill Russell could impact basketball the way no one can in football, the Bucs entire mindset emanates from having a quarterback who can force the opponent to make mistakes while covering up for his own team's.
So that's what I've got for now. It takes a combination of science, metaphysics, raw human emotions, spirituality and a little bit of football to explain the inexplicable. Maybe when Brady is winning his eighth ring next year I'll be able to put a little more perspective on it. But this will have to do for now.
P.S. What do you think tickets will be going for when Brady, Gronk and Brown (and God only knows what other former Patriots) will come to Gillette next year?