America insists that there will never be another legend like a retired star. Michael Jordan is crowned with six NBA championships. Then LeBron James arrives and leads his teams to 10 NBA Finals. Gordie Howe is crowned NHL’s greatest skater, while Wayne Gretzky surpasses it by more that 1,000. Joe Montana is retired with four Super Bowl titles, but then comes along a man who almost doubles that total.
We are now in unfamiliar territory, thanks to the retirement of this last guy. Tom Brady is the only NFL player to have won more than once and for as long as he did. Brady is the ultimate example of excellence in the NFL. It would take 10 years for the best players to catch up.
Let’s start with the eye test. Brady has won in every way. He has won in total blowouts and final-drive nailbiters. He also won by winning from only four possessions down. He has played with Hall of Famers like Rob Gronkowski and Randy Moss, and he has raised other-journeymen such as Julian Edelman and Wes Welker to the A-list.
Brady made the playoffs in every season that he played more then 15 plays after the 2002 season. Brady sustained a knee injury that ended his season in 2008’s Patriots opener. After the 2009 season, he didn’t have to miss any games due to injury.
Take Brady’s seven Super Bowl rings. They are more than any other league in NFL. Charles Haley, Cowboys and 49ers, is the only other player to have five rings. Gronkowski is the only active player to have at least four rings.
Brady won his three first Super Bowls with a field goal each. This was the result of game-winning drives, and close-fought battles. He won two Super Bowls with miraculous comebacks against Atlanta and Seattle, and one against Kansas City in a complete blowout.
Although it’s hard to recall now, there was talk back in 2014 about Brady’s potential ability to win another Super Bowl. He lost two games to the Giants after winning three of his first three Super Bowls. He won four more Super Bowls , the fourth one coming after he turned 36. This is a time when most quarterbacks see retirement as a threat to their safety.
Expand the scope. Brady was the most active player in NFL history, playing in 10 Super Bowls. He is backed by his longtime friend Stephen Gostkowski, and Mike Lodish (ex-Buffal Bills and Denver Broncos) who both have six.
Brady, like Jordan in Jordan’s 1990s boxing his Dream Team colleagues for championships, has spent so much time at the Super Bowl lately that almost everyone not on his team is blocked from the way. Brady was a part of four of the five last Super Bowls, five of the seven last Seven… but it was only one third of his career.
This is why it’s important to mention that Brady was a three-time Hall of Famer. Consider:
Brady was in his 20s when he won three Super Bowls as well as two Super Bowl MVPs. He won three of the four regular-season games and threw 147 touchdowns, five more than Bart Starr.
In his 30s, Brady won two Super Bowls and two Super Bowl MVPs. He also received three league MVPs. He won four of the five games he participated in and threw 309 touchdowns, more than John Elway’s entire career.
He won two Super Bowls in his 40s for different teams and was named Super Bowl MVP. He won at a rate of nearly 75 percent and led the league in passing yards and touchdowns last year.
Here are some comparisons to help you see the distance between Brady and other NFL players.
Brady played 22 seasons. To match this, Aaron Rodgers would have to play eight more seasons. Joe Burrow would need to play the 2042 year to match it. The 2042 year. Is this a real year?
Brady’s teams reached the AFC championship games every year between 2011-18. To match this feat, the Chiefs must reach the conference championships each year for the next four seasons; the Bengals and 49ers, respectively, and the Rams, the seven following.
Brady was a great player for every team he played on. Every year for over two decades, he gave hope to every fan that victory was possible. This is the kind of excellence that defies measurement and belief.
Brady seemed to be destined for greatness. His records are likely to last that long, it seems.