Does Tom Brady need another Super Bowl win to cement his legacy?
Despite his six rings, detractors of the most decorated player in NFL history say his success is aligned with Bill Belichick, the greatest coach of all time.
After the split of that all-conquering fusion in New England, Brady took the biggest risk of his career and joined the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at the start of the season.
Tom Brady left the NE Patriots and has led the Tampa Bay Bucs to the NFC Championship game
On Sunday night, Brady and the Bucs go head-to-head with the Green Bay Packers and fellow all-time great Aaron Rodgers with a place in the Super Bowl up for grabs. The stakes could not be higher.
On the face of it, success this season appeared implausible. The Bucs hadn’t been in the play-offs for 13 years. But, with next month’s Super Bowl taking place in Tampa, the Glazer family spent big.
History tells us dream teams don’t work in the NFL. Too many egos, too many forces pulling in different directions.
But in a career spanning four presidential inaugurations, Brady, 43, continues to rewrite the rulebook as much as he does the record books.
Despite a pandemic-hit pre-season and working under a new head coach, only his second in 20 years, he has transformed a downtrodden franchise.
Brady threw for 4,633 yards prior to the play-offs, third-most in the NFL. His 40 regular season touchdown passes are a team record and second only to Sunday’s opponent Rodgers who threw 48.
The Bucs have won their last six games — and seven straight on the road, another Tampa Bay record. It has not been perfect. Outspoken Bucs coach Bruce Arians has called Brady out — something which never happened in New England — and the Bucs were inconsistent.
They lost to the middling Chicago Bears one week and beat Green Bay the next.
‘We’ve been pretty good on the road all year outside of the first game and the Chicago game,’ Brady said during a five-minute press conference on Wednesday.
Brady threw for 4,633 yards prior to the play-offs this season – the third-most in the NFL
‘For one reason or another, we’ve just done a good job. Some years it’s been like that. I’ve been a part of other teams where it wasn’t quite like that.
‘Let’s keep that streak going. That would be pretty sweet. Let’s get another one. We’re going to be challenged to get it because we’re going up against a great team.’
Tampa Bay have assembled one of the great supporting casts of Brady’s career. Superstar receivers, reliable tight ends, a decent running game, a strong offensive line and a young, playmaking defense. They even added combustible wide receiver Antonio Brown midway through the season.
‘We’ve certainly come a long way,’ said Brady. ‘We’re just going to keep improving. The more we’re together, the more we’re talking about football, the more we’re trying to be on the same page, the better it is.’
Brady is looking for his seventh Super Bowl ring but his first with the Buccaneers franchise
Brady, 43, and Rodgers, 37, have only met three times in their careers.
Home advantage has been the constant. Brady and the Patriots won in 2014, Rodgers and the Packers in 2018. In October, the Bucs swept the Packers 38-10.
‘I’ve been a fan of his for a long time and enjoyed the few times we got to play,’ Most Valuable Player-elect Rodgers said of Brady.
‘I remember when I heard about him coming to the NFC, I thought this was a real possibility. I’m excited about the opportunity to play against him.’
As he prepares for the 14th conference game of his career —his nine wins are more than any other quarterback has starts — Brady is no stranger to cold-weather play-off wins. And where better to do it than Lambeau Field in chilly Wisconsin?
Aaron Rodgers (left) and Brady (right) are two legends who go head-to-head this Sunday
‘It’s a great environment,’ said Brady. ‘It is one of the coolest stadiums in the league to play in. I know they’re excited, we’ll be excited, and it will make for a great football game,’
With Belichick and the Patriots in Brady’s past, in front of him is the chance to join Peyton Manning as only the second quarterback to win a Super Bowl with two different teams.
This season has always been Super Bowl or bust for him. It will be compelling to see how it ends.