Great athletes are like any other types of entertainers in that the fast majority of them tend to fall into one of two groups. The ones who tend to burn white hot for a while before suddenly flaming out (think Bobby Orr or Sandy Koufax), and the ones who achieve perhaps a lower level of excellence, but sustain it for a long period of time (Gordie Howe, Nolan Ryan).
In music, you've got your Beatles, who changed pop culture forever in an enduring fashion, but who couldn't stay together for a decade. Then you've got your Rolling Stones, who never topped the charts the way the Fab Four did, but are in their sixth decade of selling out stadiums.
In acting, there's Russell Crowe, who's prime was as good as anyone's before he developed the Foster's belly and has been reduced to cameo roles as the king or the dad or whatever. Then there's Tom Hanks, who's a threat to win another Oscar every time his name appears above the title almost 40 years after his finest cinematic masterpiece, Bachelor Party.
As far as sex symbols, there's the all too brief peak of say, Lindsay Lohan. As opposed to the sustained excellence of Jennifer Aniston.
But then there are the true elites, who are on another level entirely. Who manage to combine both qualities. Who blaze brilliantly, and keep that fire going for superhuman lengths of time. Wayne Gretzky. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. Roger Clemens (with a little help from modern medicine). Musically, Dolly Parton. In acting, Clint Eastwood. Sex symbols, Helen Mirren. (Don't act like you wouldn't.) And no one, but no one, in any field of endeavor, has ever hit a peak as high as Tom Brady's and stayed there as long, relative to their peers.
And so, with everyone rerunning the same Brady tributes they put out last year, it's worth taking a fresh look at his career numbers and fun facts, in order to truly put in perspective what we have witnessed between Draft Day 2000 and Groundhog Day 2023. (Note that if he's going to retire on the same day every year, he really missed an opportunity by not choosing February 2nd as the date.) Memorize these to impress your friends. Save this to your phone so you can refer to it and be the hit of parties. Or choose a couple of favorites in order to break the ice with dates you just met online. Remember that ignorance about interesting Tom Brady factoids is among the leading causes of feminine dryness. The research is very clear on that.
Tom Brady is the greatest winner in the history of pro sports.
You can cite Cy Young with his 511 wins, Bill Russell with his 11 NBA championships, two NCAAs and an Olympic gold, and Jack Nicklaus with his 18 majors. I'm taking nothing away from anyone in any other sport. But consider this.
Taking regular and postseasons combined, there are three quarterbacks in history with 190 or more career wins:
Brady is 191 wins above .500. Meaning you could subtract the entire win total of the fourth winningest QB in history, Drew Brees, from Brady's total and he'd still be 10 games over .500. By way of comparison, there's talk of Eli Manning going in the Hall of Fame on the first ballot. His career record is 125-121 (117-117 regular season). Joe Namath is already in, with a record of 64-64-4. And a grand total of two career postseason victories.
By way of further comparison, Peyton Manning has three fewer losses than Brady. And 86 fewer wins. So in order to match his "rival's" record, he'd have to unretire and go 17-0 for five years. Then come back and win the opening game of the next season.
Joe Montana, who was considered the greatest winner ever in the pre-Brady era, has fewer than half the Brady's victory total. To pass him and regain his GOAT status, Joe would have to win 15 games a year for 10 years, and would still be three shy.
Furthermore, Brady has more road wins (124) than Brett Favre had home wins (123). And almost as many as Montana (65) and Aaron Rodgers (64) combined.
Brady has lapped the field of the most successful quarterbacks to ever play the game.
Speaking of the Hall of Fame …
Brady had three separate Hall of Fame careers.
At a time when experts in the field are already anointing Patrick Mahomes a Hall of Famer:
… it's more important than ever that we take full measure of the standard Brady set. A few seasons ago, we were splitting his career into two distinct Canton-worthy halves. Now that it's been over 21 years, we can divide by three, and each seven-year stretch is first ballot material:
Each third of Brady's career compares favorably to the best there has ever been:
Divide Brady's career up by age decades and it's even more impressive.
By any measure, Brady's five seasons after he turned 40 were better than practically any great quarterback's prime. Except Brady's.
NBC Sports Boston - If you break his career into his 20s, his 30s and his 40s, each section would be worthy of the Pro Football Hall of Fame. …
Tom Brady in his 20s
- 21,564 passing yards
- 147 passing TD
- 3 Super Bowl wins
Tom Brady in his 30s
- 40,018 passing yards
- 309 passing TD
- 2 Super Bowl wins
Tom Brady in his 40s
- 27,632 passing yards
- 193 passing TD
- 2 Super Bowl wins
Brady also is the only player in pro football history to win a Super Bowl or NFL championship in three different decades.
There have been enough human beings who could truthfully say they caught a touchdown pass from Brady to almost fill the United States Senate:
Brady's postseason accomplishments defy description.
--In those 21 seasons as a starter, he led his team to the conference championship game 14 times, or 66.7%. Which means statistically speaking, at the start of every year there was a better chance of Brady playing for the conference title than there's been Patrick Mahomes will complete a pass attempt (66.3% for his career).
--In those 21 seasons as a starter, he's led his team to the Super Bowl 10 times, or 47.6%. Which means statistically speaking, at the start of every year there was a better chance of Brady playing on Super Bowl Sunday than Steve Kerr hitting a 3-pointer (45.4%). Kerr is the NBA's all time leader in 3PT%.
--Among his 10 championship game wins, he beat the conference No. 1 seed four times (Pittsburgh in 2001 and '04, Kansas City in '18, and Green Bay in '20). He beat the No. 1 passing defense twice (Baltimore in 2011, Jacksonville in '17).
--Among his seven Super Bowl wins, he beat the league's No. 2 defense, the Eagles in 2004, and No. 1 defense, the 2014 Seahawks' Legion of Boom. In the 2013 Super Bowl, Seattle held Peyton Manning's Broncos, the most prolific offense in league history, to eight points. Brady threw four touchdowns against them to four different receivers, including two in the 4th quarter to erase a 10-point deficit.
--In the postseason, he defeated NFL MVPs eight times: Kurt Warner, Peyton Manning and Steve McNair (tied), Manning again, LaDainian Tomlinson, Matt Ryan, Patrick Mahomes and Aaron Rodgers. And I'll make a case it's actually nine, since in 2001 Marshall Faulk won both the PFWA and Sporting News awards, and was the league's official MVP the year before.
--His 48 starts and 35 wins include 14 game winning drives and nine comebacks.
In conclusion …
Tom Brady has been a big hairy, American winning machine. I could do this all day, but about six paragraphs ago I started to get dizzy from all the numbers. And his awesomeness is a like staring at an eclipse of the sun; you really need to look at it through special glasses or it's shadow cast through a small hole in a piece of cardboard, or else it could blind you. So I'll end it here. With a final caution. I hope you appreciated all you've witnessed with this singularly incredible athlete. Because unless he unretires again, his kind passes this way but once.