Tom Brady's not the greatest quarterback of all time, not even after winning his fourth Super bowl and third Super Bowl MVP, so cool it with that talk. But he's quite probably the most successful. And in a team sport that's disproportionately reliant on one position, especially in the game's current era, the two aren't as far apart as they might seem.
After last night's win over Seattle, Brady now holds the following Super Bowl records (they're all counting stats, which says plenty about durability and success and consistency):
- Most career passes with 247
- Most career completions with 164
- Most passing yards with 1,605
- Most touchdown passes with 13
You just tip your cap, as Richard Sherman did when he sought out an emotional Brady after the game, a moment caught in a photo that conveys volumes:
"I said, 'Good game,'" Sherman revealed. "He battled through. We're just two competitors. He played a good game today."
A great game, really—he set a single-game Super Bowl record for completions with 37, and put up his second-highest passer rating behind his 2004 win over Philadelphia. "I'm ready to play the biggest game of my life," Brady texted a former teammate before kickoff.
And yet none of those stats would have changed a whit had the Seahawks scored on their final drive, though everything else would have Brady might never have touched the ball again—he would have had the exact same game—but instead of another MVP and GOAT discussions, he would've been the guy who couldn't win after Spygate, couldn't do better than .500 in Super Bowls. That's not fair, but you can't fight perception. And Brady, who's been both ends of legacy-defining flukes (the Tuck Rule, the Helmet Catch, etc), isn't about to look a gift championship in the mouth.
Here's Brady at the moment of Malcolm Butler's interception:
Pretty sure if you had a camera on any given Patriots fan at that moment, they'd have looked exactly the same.
That's sheer, mind-obliterating joy, but it's also relief. "Jubilant relief" is how an ESPN writer described Brady's low-key, private postgame party, while his teammates celebrated down the hall. Which sounds about right. Every year turns into another referendum on the Patriots, as if the most successful coach-QB combination of our generation needs to scuffle to gain and hang on each additional rung of history. Many years come down to a single game. This game came down to a single play, one entirely out of Brady's hands. That's stressful, even if you've got three titles already. "I'm tired," Brady admitted at the podium after the game.
Four's better than three. It's still not satisfying enough, not when you think you have more in the tank. Brady immediately banished any thoughts of retiring on top, going out like John Elway, who called it quits after two straight Super Bowls when he was just one year older than Brady is now.
In his postgame press conference, Brady waved away any attempts to quantify his legacy, because he says that'd be premature. "I've got a lot of football left," he said.