Tom Brady, a three-time Super Bowl champion, a two-time Super Bowl MVP, a two-time league MVP, an eight-time Pro-Bowler and a two-time First Team All-Pro selection, really doesn't have much left to prove, with many of the sport's accolades in the rear-view mirror.
As a 10-time AFC East champion, a five-time AFC conference champion, a 23-time AFC Offensive Player of the Week and a 12-year veteran, who accomplished each of the aforementioned feats with the same franchise, he has already carved a niche for himself in not only Boston sports, but the NFL in general.
Tom Brady may have already cemented a spot in NFL history, which may well see him in the Hall of Fame one day. It's tough to argue with those accolades.
In recent seasons, however, voices both around the league and within the New England Patriots fan base have started to question not only if Brady will bring another championship to Foxboro, but whether he deserves to be considered the greatest quarterback of all-time.
I cannot make a firm claim that he is the greatest of all-time, but his recent contract extension certainly immortalizes him in the lore of Boston sports history. Old-timers may always be hesitant to open the door to that shrine — and it's incredibly rare that we can justifiably swing that door open while an athlete is still playing, but number 12 had the keys in his back pocket all along.
I'm talking about rare instances: Bobby Orr, Bill Russell, Larry Bird, Ted Williams, Johnny Pesky, Cam Neely, Ray Bourque and Pedro Martinez. The list is spread out throughout a century of teams in Boston, but we are hard-pressed to find many qualified suitors that come in the past decade or so.
Tom Brady isn't just included in this list. He headlines it. Whether he wins another title, several more titles or none at all, the facts remain unchanged and his spot remains saved.
Brady's new extension is a significant pay cut. No, I'm not saying the guy is living in poverty because of his new deal. But let's be rational here.
The sports industry of the modern day overpays athletes. That's the nature of the business. When it comes down to it, you're paying that cable bill along with millions of other people to tune in on Sunday afternoons. You're buying the products that are advertised during commercial breaks.
You're essentially paying the athletes. So, let's ease up on the complains that they are overpaid.
Sure, Brady increased his guaranteed money over the remainder of his contract. The contract, of course, lasts three more years than it did last week. If he didn't increase the dollar amounts while adding three years to the deal, he'd be one hell of a poor negotiator.
He's making big bucks, but he's not making what he could make. He's not making what Joe Flacco will likely make. His pay is roughly equivalent to what a slightly above average quarterback makes, which does not describe Brady.
Call it a hometown discount if you want, but Brady decided to put the team before himself once again. When the Patriots won their three Super Bowls, the team came first as well.
Everyone remembers the amazing defense and lackluster offense that Brady captained during those glory days. Because some truly special defensive players retired and the franchise suffered a horrendous drafting lapse from 2006-2009, some people have had the audacity to blame Brady for making the Patriots into an offensive juggernaut without a defense. They have called him a pretty boy. They have said he lost his touch.
Erroneous on all accounts. Take a closer look at reality.
The reality of the situation is that Brady has become a better quarterback with every season that has passed in his career, with a few rare spikes upward along the way. 2007 was magical. 2010 was superhuman. Every other season was merely brilliant.
The Patriots, possibly due to an increasing dependence on their star QB, fell apart in terms of building a winning roster from top to bottom for a few seasons. For the past eight years, fans have constantly wondered why the Pats haven't won another Super Bowl. The answer is very simple.
They haven't had the best team. In every season since 2004 with the exception of the 2007 campaign, the Patriots have not had the best team in the NFL, a season which saw them fall short of another Super Bowl ring. New England has had a top-three quarterback in Brady every year, with the exception of the Matt Cassel season. The team hasn't been up to par with him.
Now, Brady is making sacrifices on the salary sheet to make room for the key pieces the roster needs to return to greatness. So many rosters around the NFL have experienced the same type of drop-off after signing a Super Bowl-winning quarterback to a big contract, including the Patriots were one of those examples. Fortunately for New England, Brady sees the big picture.
A few million more is so mind blowingly irrelevant in the grand scheme of things, especially considering Tom's wife makes more than he does. He most certainly could have rode out his contract and made huge dollars somewhere else to round out his career and wash up on a losing shore. We've seen it time and time again from athletes at the tail end of their careers.
Tom Brady falls into the top of the class when it comes to heroes in Boston sports. Whether from a standpoint of winning, statistics, great memories or team loyalty and the dedication, Brady is a true Patriot for life. That puts him in special company.
Let me reiterate my earlier sentiment: Tom Brady's place in that shrine of Boston sports legends is cemented; Etched in stone. No shortcomings in the remainder of his career can detract from his tremendous accomplishment.
Why? Because he lives for this franchise and its fan base, even if some continue to doubt that. In a world in which many athletes of Brady's caliber skip town to chase money and rings or simply to live in a tropical area, the California boy has never shown the slightest inkling of wanting to leave town—not when Pro-Bowl, even future hall-of-fame supporting cast members left the team; not when rookies flooded the locker room; not when he fell short for the eighth consecutive season.
He'd rather fall short for 13 consecutive seasons right here in Foxboro than tarnish that legacy by signing a deal with anyone else. Continuity, especially with a quarterback and coach together is a rare thing in today's game. What Brady has done is nothing short of jaw-dropping.
Ray Bourque spent 21 outstanding seasons with the Boston Bruins, captaining them for many of those years. He built a truly legendary legacy in the Garden. His number hangs from the rafters and he is one of the most beloved athletes Boston has ever called their own. We didn't let the lack of a Stanley Cup cloud our judgment of what a special person, competitor, athlete and hometown hero number 77 was. We realized that he was a very special player whose teams just didn't have the perfect formula to reach the promised land.
Why would anyone think it's different with Brady? Winning championships in professional sports is an amazing feat. There are 32 teams in the NFL that claw at each others' throats for 17 weeks each season. We were spoiled by the Patriots' collection of three rings in four years. Some fans have allowed that to skew their perception of reality when it comes to TB12.
Boston has never known another Pat with a higher standing than Tom Brady. Indeed, it has known very few athletes across the board with a higher standing than Brady. Many of you already realize this, but I wish to issue a disclaimer for those who have lost faith in our "golden boy."
The shrine of Boston sports legends has added another figure. He's already near the top and there's nothing that can happen in the next five seasons to bring him down.