My attorney has been vehement in his opposition to my posting on this particular topic. No, it’s not because what I have to say is particularly controversial. Indeed, the writing has been on the wall now for the last year or two. The problem is, my attorney, Charlie, owns Tom Brady in our keeper fantasy football league. And well, what I have to say about Tom Brady is not something he wants to read.
You must understand that I was firmly on Team Brady in the Manning-Brady debate. His individual statistics weren’t quite as impressive as Manning’s until his historic 2007 season, but he was a guy who I felt was the one I would want leading a crucial drive for my team, and that’s the essence of greatness at the QB position. Of course, it was always what Brady did for his teams that was at the crux of most arguments about his greatness. He led his team to three Super Bowl victories in 4 years, winning 2 game MVPs along the way. His victories included a toppling of the mighty 2001 St. Louis Rams and close wins over a game Panthers team and a talented Eagles team, during which he was called upon to drive his team down the field for late scores to nail down the wins. I will direct you to a previous post for a partial analysis of Brady vs. Manning in head-to-head playoff matchups. Suffice it to say, I feel strongly that Tom Brady was the best player in the NFL for the period covered by 2001-2007.
All that said, I think Brady’s football career is already on the downside, for reasons which may or may not include the linked photo:
Tom Brady caught Bieber Fever.
I’ve compared all NFL QBs who have won Super Bowls in the first 5 years of their careers. The list:
Joe Namath (1969)
Roger Staubach (1972)
Terry Bradshaw (1975)
Joe Montana (1982)
Jim McMahon (1986)
Jeff Hostetler (1991)
Mark Rypien (1992)
Troy Aikman (1993, 1994)
Kurt Warner (2000)
Tom Brady (2002, 2004, 2005)
Ben Roethlisberger (2006, 2009)
Eli Manning (2008)
This is an interesting list, complete with superstars and future Hall of Famers, game managers, journeyman and everything in between. As you can see, Aikman, Brady and Roethlisberger are the only QBs to win multiple SBs in their first five years. Here’s another interesting stat: the total number of SBs won by this list of QBs after their 5th NFL season is 8. This is as compared to the 16 they won in their first five seasons. In fairness, Eli and Ben are probably at most halfway through their respective careers (unless Ben moves to Vegas, in which case all bets (no pun intended) are off). But what I think we can take from this list is that QBs who are successful early in their careers are not likely to match that success later in their careers.
I know what you’re thinking. Mac, you’re an idiot! Tom Brady’s career is a lot more similar to Montana’s and Aikman’s than to Rypien’s and Hostetler’s. And, Mac, you’re an idiot!
Fair points, all. I did pick Cleveland to win the NBA championship, which proves I’m an idiot. And that Tom Brady comparison is fair as well. It is true that Staubach, Bradshaw, Aikman and Montana have all eight of the post 5th year championships referenced above, and it is also true that Brady is much closer in talent and career trajectory to those guys. However, what if I told you that of the prodigies on this list, only one, Montana, the man I consider the best to play the QB position in my lifetime,
so much as played in a Super Bowl after his 10th season. He lead the Niners to an historic drubbing of the Broncos in his 11th season, completing a quest for back-to-back titles, reaching the pinnacle of his career…and never played in the Super Bowl again. That means seven of those eight post fifth season titles were won between career seasons six through 10.
By the way, Tom Brady is going into his 11th season.
Okay, so past history suggests the odds are against Brady reaching the summit again. But that’s what elite athletes are all about, right? Overcoming long odds is what they do. Brady himself was the 199th pick of the 2000 draft. Picking against him is crazy. Why, as I’m typing this, he’s probably bench pressing boulders and throwing footballs through pay phone coin slots to prepare for the season, right?
Um, probably not.
Brady will hear a lot of questions about his commitment, now that he’s spending so much time in Los Angeles. Hs goal in the offseason used to be to win the prized parking spot given to the most dedicated player in the offseason program. Now his family goals take precedence, and because his older son (he shares custody), lives in Los Angeles, he feels he has to be in southern California more. He made it clear he’s not going to give short-shrift to either of his sons, and if he has to work on his own for a good part of the offseason, away from his teammates, so be it.
“It’s a balancing act,” he said. “I don’t want the next 10 years to go by and to say I wasn’t there for my sons. I wish I could be there [in Foxboro daily in the offseason] the way I was when I was 24, but life is different now. Things actually are much more simple than they’ve ever been. I used to spend every weekend running around with friends. Now I’ve got two great kids, and I love spending time with them. [Benjamin] is usually up at 6 in the morning, so that’s when the day starts now.”
Just for fun, let’s compare what Brady said in that last passage to what he said just a year prior, going into his 10th season, and rehabbing from an injury that ended his 9th season pretty much after the national anthem for the first game:
This week, when New England starts full-roster organized training activities (OTAs), Brady will step into the huddle with the entire offense for the first time since he tore his left anterior cruciate ligament and medial collateral ligament in the 2008 season opener. (Last week’s sessions were for rookies, free agents and select veterans returning from injury, with Brady and his top receivers working in seclusion.) The quarterback acts and sounds as if he wished the Buffalo game were tomorrow. In his first extended interview since he got hurt, Brady told SI that his recovery is on schedule, he’s running and cutting without pain or restricted movement, and he has no ill effects from two follow-up procedures to flush out a postop staph infection in the knee. In fact, calling the last eight months “the halftime of my career,” Brady said, “I want to play another 10 years.”
He was convincing when he said he was “as confident as anyone could be that I’ll be ready to play, back to playing normally, when the seasons starts. I’ve done everything I could to push myself, sometimes too hard. Right now, I’m doing everything. Literally everything. There’s nothing I can’t do.”
With his voice rising as he leaned forward in his chair, Brady said that playing 10 more seasons “is a big goal of mine, a very big goal. I want to play until I’m 41. And if I get to that point and still feel good, I’ll keep playing. I mean, what the hell else am I going to do? I don’t like anything else.
In fairness, Brady did mention being with his wife and son in the following paragraph, but still.
I should also point out that far from being critical of Brady for his perspective, I applaud the man. I think he has his priorities in order. I wish him and his Justin Bieber haircut well and nothing detracts from what he’s accomplished to this point in his career. The fact of the matter is, we spend a lot of time thinking about the physical toll sports take on our favorite athletes. We obsess over things like mindset, mental toughness and how committed our sports heroes are to the level of preparation that will take them to the top of their respective fields. We worry, as these great players get older about how able they are to continue to do what they have always done. Tom Brady is a perfect example of how important it is to think about how willing they are to do those things.
That’s not to say that Brady’s not going to work his tail off. I have no doubt that he will and that he’ll be prepared. But often times that extra something necessary for an athlete to raise himself up from merely elite to the best, is extracted from him or her at the expense of other things that make a life complete. At some point, most people decide that it is no longer worth it. Is that why Bradshaw and Staubach and Aikman and Montana stopped winning championships? Who knows. I do believe, though, that it is the reason Tom Brady will never win another Super Bowl. And you know what? I’m happy for him!