It’s safe to say that no NFL player has had a worse offseason this year than Tom Brady. While the perennial Pro Bowl quarterback of the New England Patriots should be basking in the glow of his fourth Super Bowl win in February against the Seattle Seahawks, he has instead had to deal with the Deflategate controversy and several rounds of court appearances against the National Football League that has suspended him for the first four games of the upcoming regular season. But with the judge in the Deflategate case expected to issue a ruling in the next day or two, Patriots fans are feeling optimistic that their quarterback will be on the field for the first game of the 2015 season on September 10th against the Pittsburgh Steelers. So with that in mind, we look at 10 reasons why Tom Brady is the greatest quarterback ever.
[Ed note: This article was written before Brady was eventually suspended for Deflategate and then led the Patriots to a Super Bowl LI appearance, which only contributes to his legacy.]
10. He Has Defied Expectations
Hard to believe now, but Tom Brady was a sixth round draft pick back in 2000 and was taken number 199 in the draft that year by the New England Patriots. Six quarterbacks were taken ahead of Brady in the 2000 draft class. And even though Brady was drafted by New England, there were no expectations for him as a player. At best it was hoped that he would be a competent backup to then-Patriots quarterback Drew Bledsoe, who had just signed a lucrative extension with the Patriots and had previously led them to an appearance in the Super Bowl against the Green Bay Packers. Nobody saw much in the tall, gangly Tom Brady who never started in college at Michigan and had a dreadful performance at the NFL scouting combine that year. But when Drew Bledsoe went down in 2001 with an injury, Tom Brady stepped in and never looked back—leading the Patriots to their first Super Bowl win in franchise history in his first season as a starting quarterback.
9. He Puts the Team First
Listen to current and former teammates who have come to Tom Brady’s defense since Deflategate erupted and all of them say the same thing about number 12—he’s a team first guy and a great teammate on and off the field. Call it the “Patriot Way” if you want, but Tom Brady has always put the team first and has never let ego or arrogance get in the way of his performance or the performance of the Patriots. When the Patriots play poorly, Brady takes it on the chin. When the Patriots win, Brady shares the credit among his teammates. The number of people who have stood by Tom Brady and defended him during Deflategate is a testament to the respect he commands among NFL players and coaches. He is the consummate professional and a great guy to have in the locker room.
8. He’s Had More Success With Less Talent Than Any Other Quarterback
When slot receiver Wes Welker arrived in New England in 2007, nobody had ever heard of the player. Up until his arrival in Boston, Welker had been a semi-productive pass catcher with the Miami Dolphins for two years. But by the end of 2007, Welker led the NFL in receptions and was named to his first Pro Bowl. In fact, during his time in New England Wes Welker was named to five Pro Bowls. And why? Because he was catching balls from Tom Brady. As a quarterback, Tom Brady has the rare ability to elevate the play of everyone around him and bring out the best in his teammates. The Wes Welker scenario has been repeated countless times as Brady has turned average receivers such as Troy Brown and Julian Edelman into stars. Even when Randy Moss joined the Patriots in 2007, the receiver was at a low point in his career and was coming off a disastrous season with the Oakland Raiders. The result when he paired up with Tom Brady? Randy Moss broke the NFL single-season touchdown reception record in 2007. In the free agency era, nobody has had more success with marginal talent than Tom Brady.
7. He’s Clutch in Big Games
When the game is on the line and the pressure mounts, nobody is more clutch than Tom Brady. His NFL career is full of a number of classic clutch performances—none more impressive than in the playoffs. In Super Bowl XXXVI against the St. Louis Rams, the game was tied at 17 all with a minute and a half left on the clock. Most people assumed that the Patriots, who had possession of the ball, would run out the clock and head to overtime. Instead, Brady moved his team down the field and set up a game winning field goal kick by Adam Vinatieri. In the most recent Super Bowl, Brady erased a 10 point deficit (the largest ever in Super Bowl history) and put his team ahead 28-24 in his last drive in the fourth quarter. No matter how big the game, how high the stakes or how intense the pressure, Tom Brady always remains calm and gets the job done at critical moments. He never flinches.
6. He Defies Age
Tom Brady is now 38 years old—an age when most quarterbacks are on the decline and moving into a backup role. Peyton Manning, Brady’s greatest rival, is 39 years old now and likely in his last season or two of professional football. However, Brady is still in near-peak shape and his performance has not waned with time. In fact, Tom Brady says he plans to continue playing as a starting quarterback until he’s at least 45 years old. Earlier this year, a detailed article in The New York Times Magazine outlined how Brady keeps his body in peak condition and the regimen he follows to remain at the top of his game. With his legendary dedication and commitment, there is no reason to doubt that Tom Brady still has many years left in the tank.
5. He’s Appeared in More Super Bowls Than Any Quarterback Ever
To date, Tom Brady has appeared in six Super Bowls—a record for any quarterback in NFL history. Second on the list is John Elway who appeared in five Super Bowls. Since taking over the reigns in New England in 2001, Tom Brady has led his team to sports’ biggest game six times in 14 seasons—13 seasons if you include the fact that he missed the entire 2008 season with a knee injury. If NFL players, and all professional athletes, are judged on their ability to get to, and win, championship games, then Tom Brady has to be considered the best ever. Especially given the fact that the level of competition in the NFL has never been higher than it is today. For any team to get to the Super Bowl six times in the current era would be incredible. That New England has done it with the same quarterback under center is legendary. In fact, Tom Brady is the only player to have been on each of the Patriots teams during their last six Super Bowl appearances. He’s the consistent factor.
4. He’s Won the Rivalry With Peyton Manning
The Tom Brady vs. Peyton Manning rivalry has dominated the NFL for 15 years. Each season, the game where these two quarterbacks square off is the most hyped one on the NFL calendar. And while some sports analysts and fans still like to claim that Peyton Manning is the superior quarterback, the statistics tell a different story. Brady and Manning have played each other 16 times to date, and Tom Brady leads the head-to-head series with 11 wins to Manning’s five wins. Brady also leads the Patriots-Colts rivalry 8-4 and the Patriots-Broncos series 3-1. If that weren’t enough, Tom Brady has four Super Bowl rings to Peyton Manning’s one ring, and Tom Brady has the most playoff wins in NFL history with 21, while Payton Manning has a losing record in the postseason. The bottom line is that Tom Brady has bested his greatest rival and all other current NFL quarterbacks.
3. Nobody’s Been More Successful in the Playoffs
The playoffs are all that matters in the NFL, and professional sports in general, and no quarterback in NFL history has had a more successful run in the postseason than Tom Brady. He’s won 12 division titles and six AFC Championship titles during his career. He’s also appeared in six Super Bowls and won four of them. With 21 playoff wins, Tom Brady holds the record for the most postseason victories in league history. He has also appeared in more Super Bowls than any quarterback in NFL history, and is tied with Joe Montana and Terry Bradshaw for the most Super Bowl wins by a quarterback with four. And he’s not done yet. By the time he retires, Tom Brady will no doubt have even more playoff wins under his belt and possibly a fifth Super Bowl title to his name. While many players wilt under the postseason pressure, Tom Brady has consistently risen to the challenge and won. He’s at his best in January each year.
2. He’s Got the Statistics and Hardware to Back Up the Claim as Best Ever
Tom Brady has won three Super Bowl MVP awards, two league MVP awards (2007 and 2010), has been selected to 10 Pro Bowls, and has led the Patriots to more division titles than any other quarterback in NFL history, with 12. Tom Brady is fifth on the all-time list for career passing yards and fifth for career touchdown passes. His career postseason record is 21–8, and his playoff win total is the most in NFL history. Brady set the record for the longest consecutive win streak in NFL history with 21 straight wins over two seasons (2003–2004). He also set the record for the most consecutive playoff wins with 10, and in 2007 he led the Patriots to the first undefeated regular season since the institution of the 16 game schedule. Tom Brady has thrown for more passing yards and touchdowns than any quarterback in NFL postseason history, and has the sixth highest career passer rating of all time (95.9) among quarterbacks with at least 1,500 career passing attempts. Brady also became the first quarterback to throw for 50 or more touchdowns in a season. In 2010, he set the NFL record for consecutive passes without an interception at 358, and broke his own record for the highest season touchdown to interception ratio, among players who have started a full season at 9:1. Enough said.
1. He’s Got the Rings on His Finger
Championship appearances are nice. But it’s the wins that count. And Tom Brady has now won four Super Bowls, the most by a current NFL quarterback and tied for the most in NFL history with Joe Montana and Terry Bradshaw. And having four rings to his name puts a cap on Tom Brady’s legendary career and sets him apart from his competitors. And by the time he hangs up his cleats, Tom Brady could have even more Super Bowl rings in his collection. If we’ve learned anything about Tom Brady, it should be to never underestimate him. He’s been proving people wrong his entire career.