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Beyond The Game

Passing point: With Brady's uncertain football future, cherish his legacy

Patriot quarterback Tom Brady has provided much joy, winning past two decades
By Ken Waltz | Dec 29, 2019
Courtesy of: New England Patriots website Tom Brady.

After a tough, difficult-to-imagine-or-swallow loss — given what was at stake — to the not-ready-for-prime time Miami Dolphins in the regular-season finale over the weekend, it is time to wonder: Will New England's Wild Card playoff home game with the Tennessee Titans on Saturday, Jan. 4 be the last football game in which future first-ballot Hall-of-Fame quarterback Tom Brady wears a Patriots' uniform?

In that vain, inquiring minds want to know: Will "Tom Terrific" play for the Patriots in 2020? Will he play for another team? Will he retire from the National Football League after an illustrious career in which many consider him the GOAT (greatest of all time)?

So many questions as perhaps Brady's final few game(s) — including a possible but seemingly unlikely run to a seventh Super Bowl championship — as a Patriot play out in the days and maybe weeks ahead.

As a lifelong Patriots' fan — who witnessed decades of bad before decades of incredible (as a little boy in the early 1970s I loved "Mini" Mack Herron)  — I have thoroughly enjoyed watching from the sidelines (my couch) as Brady operated as an intelligent, efficient and often spectacular quarterback for nearly 20 years.

He has, by all measures, been special. Perhaps the greatest to play his position. His legacy is, well, now considered at legendary status.

In the decades ahead, his name will be one of sports lore. Perhaps akin to baseball's George Herman "Babe" Ruth, basketball's Michael Jordan, soccer's Pelé or hockey's Wayne Gretzky, among others.

The actor/model handsome, 6-foot 4-inch, 42-year-old, University of Michigan alum has accomplished so much in his time with the Patriots. Most of it has been about winning. In the regular season, at home, on the road and, of course, in the playoffs. And often, on the most impressive of stages — the intense spotlight of the Super Bowl.

Brady's impressive career credentials, from 2000-2019, are familiar to most. At this point, he is a three-time league most valuable player, three-time All-Pro, 14-time Pro Bowler and has orchestrated six victories in nine Super Bowl nine appearances.

At this point, Brady had played in 285 games, completed 6,377-of-9,988 passes, with a 63.8 completion percentage, amassed 74,571 yards through the air, 541 touchdowns, 179 interceptions and a 97.0 quarterback rating.

He even has rushed for 1,037 yards (what? really?)

The only quarterback to reach 200 regular-season wins, Brady is the winningest quarterback in NFL history. With a postseason record of 30–10, he is first all-time in playoff wins and appearances for an NFL player.

He essentially holds all the league's quarterback win statistics and is near the top in so many statistical categories.

Brady, who has been so durable and missed little time (except for 2008 due to a knee injury suffered in the first game), has helped the Patriots be nearly a lock to win the American Football Conference East Division title each year of his career and one of the squads expected to reach the AFC title game

Since Brady, who was born in 1977 (damn it, that was the year this old writer graduated from high school), became their starting quarterback in 2001, the Patriots have never had a losing season and have won 16 division titles. The Patriots played in 13 AFC championship games 2001 to 2018—including eight in a row from 2011 to 2018—and won nine of them.

As I have said for 20 years. Nobody has gotten more out of his "limited" athletic ability — by professional sports standards — than Tom Brady (and the great Larry Bird before him). But both are among the all-time greats in their sports because of their heart, determination, intelligence, work ethic and ability to rise their level of focus and skill when it matters most. He often is, as the old saying goes, cool as a cucumber when the pressure is the most intense.

The following observation never ceases to amaze me: Brady has accomplished all that he has — the wins, passing yardage and lofty accolades — without an opponent once having to pay one iota of attention to the fact Brady could beat them with his legs if a play broke down. Because he cannot.

Oh, he has scrambled for a few key first downs over the years and no one in the history of the game has been better at the quarterback sneak and eluding pressure by moving in the pocket, but when Brady drops back to pass, the threat of him scrambling or running with the ball is, well, nearly zero.

Fran Tarkenton, Steve Grogan, Michael Vick, Randall Cunningham, Steve Young, Cam Newton, Doug Flutie, Russell Wilson, Lamar Jackson, among others, he is not.

Brady has not looked himself this season. His trademark accuracy, especially on short to intermediate passes has not been good. He has missed a lot of opportunities. Is it age, is it injury (mark my words, he will have surgery on his elbow after the season), lack of offensive weapons, inconsistent offensive line play or all of the above, which is the most likely answer.

Of course, Brady's legacy may be tarnished somewhat by "Deflategate," an investigation by the league into the Patriots' supposed altering of the air pressure in game-used footballs.

While I believe the issue was blown out of proportion because it was the Patriots and no one has ever produced concrete evidence of his guilt, I do believe Brady likes/liked his football at the lowest legally allowable air pressure for better grip. Do I believe he orchestrated a nefarious scheme to deflate footballs to an illegal amount of air pressure to give him an advantage? No. As evidence, he did quite well in the second half of the in-question playoff game with the Colts and has done quite well since the league has supposedly watched to make sure the underinflated footballs do not reemerge.

Brady, who also has almost always carried himself with grace, dignity, respect for others and the utmost level of professionalism, might end up in Dallas, Miami, Los Angeles or Chicago — think Joe Montana to the Chiefs, Joe Namath to the Rams or Johnny Unitas to the Chargers for their final seasons before him — but he always will be a true blue Patriot.

Even if leads the Cowboys, Dolphins, Chargers or Bears to the promise land the next few years.

If this is Brady's final year playing for the Patriots, it has been quite a ride. An amazing journey. I will cherish all the memories and joy he provided. You should too.

Like Bill Russell, Larry Bird, Ted Williams, Carl Yastrzemski, David Ortiz, Bobby Orr, Phil Esposito, Ray Bourque, Patrice Bergeron, John Hannah and Rob Gronkowski before him, he will be remembered — and revered — as one of New England's greatest sports legends.

Not too shabby for a boy from San Mateo, Calif. who was never the fastest, strongest or physically-gifted to play his sport — but just may go down as simply the best.

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Comments (1)
Posted by: Tom Mellor | Jan 02, 2020 06:26

Great article Ken!! GOAT-Hard to believe that Brady's time as a Patriot might be over.

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