The New England Patriots' hopes for another Super Bowl ring ended in disappointment similarly to Super Bowl XLII at the last minute when Ahmad Bradshaw ran into the end zone for the go-ahead touchdown for the New York Giants, and Tom Brady's efforts to come up with a miracle touchdown fell short when his Hail Mary pass to Rob Gronkowski was inches from his fingertips.
The Patriots' loss to the Giants has left some fans questioning whether Brady's legacy is on the line. That may be fair to say if you were expecting him to become the best quarterback of all time after this game, but one game shouldn't completely affect a player's legacy.
The Patriots had arguably the worst defense in the NFL this season and still managed to pull off a 13-3 regular season record and clinch the No. 1 seed in the AFC. That speaks volumes about Brady's leadership of the offense.
The argument that he needed Randy Moss to put up big stats was proven false as well since he threw for 5,235 yards and 39 touchdowns with a 105.6 rating. He only threw 12 interceptions. In almost any other season those kinds of stats would be enough to win an MVP award, but killer seasons from Aaron Rodgers and Drew Brees prevented that from happening.
The Patriots have gone through changes in their receiving unit the past couple of years and chemistry between a quarterback and his receivers is key to getting an offense flowing. Randy Moss was traded to the Minnesota Vikings last season. Brady still kept going with what he had and won the MVP award unanimously in a season that also had a struggling defense.
Some would argue that he had the benefit of having two great tight ends in Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez and that he still has Wes Welker.
Gronkowski did break the record for touchdowns caught by a tight end in a single season, but having Brady to throw to him has definitely helped him become an instant impact for the Patriots.
Welker is known as the greatest slot receiver in the NFL, but try to remember what he was doing before the Patriots signed him off the street. He was mostly just a return man for the Miami Dolphins and was a mediocre-at-best receiver.
When he came to New England, he started going off and recording seasons with 100-plus catches and earned four consecutive Pro Bowl berths. Having Brady as his quarterback has helped him a lot in boosting his NFL career.
Deion Branch is another great example of Brady's impact on the Patriots. When he was traded to the Seattle Seahawks he did almost nothing but revived his career when he returned to the Patriots.
Another key argument used against Brady is his recent playoff record. A 16-6 overall record is not bad at all though, and this season has squashed that argument.
With one of the worst defenses, he still managed to make his fifth career Super Bowl trip, and while he made a few mistakes, he arguably would have his fourth Super Bowl ring if his receivers had caught their passes late in the game.
If Welker and Branch caught the passes thrown to them, Brady would be called the best quarterback of all time, but because they lost, he is now being labeled a choke artist and people are saying his legacy is getting tarnished. There's no middle ground when these arguments are being made.
No quarterback who has won three Super Bowls and made five trips should have their legacy questioned. Brady is still an all time top 10 quarterback and arguably top five. He has still accomplished much more than almost any other quarterback in NFL history, and his ability to lead and make his teammates around him better the instant they play with him is unique.
There's no reason to think Brady still can't win a fourth ring before he retires. His chemistry with his coaches and his receivers will still be intact next season barring major injuries, and the defense is still young and promising and should improve next season.
But no matter how the rest of his career plays out, Brady will go down as one of the greatest quarterbacks to ever play the game of football and definitely the greatest of this generation.
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