After months of second-guessing players' rationales and wondering why even the league's athletes were prone to media suggestion, I grinned like a Cheshire cat when I saw that Peyton Manning was listed as the second-best player in the NFL. New England's predatory Patriots finally got just credit as the finest at his position in today's game.
Franchises live and die by the man they line up under center, and the New England Patriots may be the prototypical example of what NFL life is like with a fantastic signal-caller running your offense.
In my opinion, Tom's rank as the No. 1 player in the NFL is obvious. As rifles fire with every touchdown at Gillette Stadium, the popping sound and smell of cordite are like a demand to take notice that Tom Brady just put another bullet through another opponent's heart.
Reviewing the results of the countdown on the league website, I noticed that the fans feel differently.
According to fans participating in the poll, Brady is the third-best player in football, which sounds respectful. Yet, both Aaron Rodgers and Peyton Manning rank ahead of him.
Participating fans deem Brady as the third-best quarterback in the game today.
This begs a simple question: Why? For me, it's a classic example of "Tom-foolery," the tendency to want Brady to be less great than he is despite all evidence to the contrary.
The Rodgers sentiment is merely the fickle nature of NFL fans on large display, as though Brady's playoff loss negated his three rings and 36 touchdowns in 2011.
Properly removing the Packers quarterback (for now) presents a simpler question: Peyton or Tom?
One broke Dan Marino's touchdown record. The other broke Peyton Manning's touchdown record.
One vied for the first undefeated season since the 1972 Dolphins in 2005. The other completed an undefeated regular season and drove his team to the lead in the decisive Super Bowl.
One has three rings, a winning record against the other and a 2-1 advantage in postseason contests between the two of them; yet, Manning always seems to get the public nod as the game's finest player.
I don't want to delve into a Manning vs. Brady argument, as it has been tried by various sources, every debate predicated on reason and statistics determining Brady as the champion. However, the legacy of both men is so often tried against the other that a study regarding the greatness of one will inevitably refer to the other.
Critics will argue that Brady's supporting cast has been elite, but those same critics would objectively have to make the same arguments for (or is it against?) Manning, Roethlisberger, Rodgers and every other successful quarterback in the league.
At the end of the day, it really comes down to which quarterback has the skill set to most readily succeed and delivers most consistently.
For any team leader, quarterback or otherwise, there are ups and downs in the football carousel. Sure, Brady hasn't won the Super Bowl since 2005. Manning hasn't since 2006, but they both topped the recent countdown.
Nevertheless, in keeping with the analogy, Brady is a trained canine, tactical and precise in his approach, and there is no more deadly quarterback in the modern NFL. Ever since an injury to Drew Bledsoe let him of the leash, his bite has been nasty, redefining the standard against which NFL quarterbacks are judged.
To put it simply, Tom Brady is the man. Ask yourself, honestly: Which quarterback will be the standard by which the next generation will be judged?
The wise fan realizes that this is the most pertinent question regarding the "best of the best" in any walk of life, and the answer ends with two men: Manning and Brady.
Just like the aforementioned carousel of life in the NFL, our argument has come full circle, proving that the two signal-callers will be eternally graded against each other. Sometimes, fate just has it that way.
Here is my list of the top 10 reasons that Brady should be regarded as the finest quarterback in football, eclipsing each of his peers and creating the benchmark for "The Top 100 Players of 2021." Reasons will include accomplishments, personal attributes and statistics.
Like any sport worth its salt (other than baseball, which has no time clock), the NFL's overtime rules, except for recent revisions regarding the playoffs, follow a sudden-death format.
There is no mercy and no handicap. Whether you win or lose the coin toss, the first team to score wins.
There are no second chances; it's score now, or go home.
By his 2009 return from injury, Brady had proven his salt in clutch situations (later in the list), leading two Super Bowl-winning drives and engineering a number of fourth-quarter comebacks, such as the "intentional safety" game in Denver and "return game" to open 2009 against the Bills.
It is not surprising that his tendencies for clutch playmaking translate into the NFL's fifth quarter.
Tom Brady hoisted a magnificent 7-0 overtime mark dating through his record-breaking 2007 season.
Notice that there are no ties in his formerly unblemished record, Donovan.
Denver ultimately tarnished the quarterback's undefeated "sudden death" reputation, a win over the Patriots at Invesco Field dropping his record to 7-1.
However, in 2010, Tommy Terrific returned to his extra-session form, defeating the Baltimore Ravens in a 23-20 thriller. Magnifying the victory was the Patriots' rally from a late 20-10 deficit, largely guided by efficient, determined passing by the game's premier quarterback.
Brady's overtime mark stands at 8-1, and this rally to an overtime victory against a solid defense showcased a lot of fight that remains in the sudden-death sultan.
Since 2001, the Patriots have finished the regular season as the AFC East champion in eight of 10 seasons. One of the non-title seasons saw Brady out with an injury. Excluding that 2008 campaign, New England has won the East an alarming seven consecutive seasons.
Sure, there have been some exceptions—a few notoriously magnified defeats at the hand of his arch-rivals. Yet, when the dust settles, the Pats have consistently finished on top with Brady at the helm.
Their record against their division opponents in the Brady era is as follows: vs. MIA (12-6), vs. NYJ (14-5), vs. BUF (17-1).
Brady has left division games with some bruises, but it is his opposition lying on the ring after most bouts.
Steelers fans probably felt comfortable that their domination of the Cleveland Browns marked the most lop-sided divisional matchup in the NFL, but it pales in comparison to the Patriots' sheer brutalization of Buffalo. Scores of 38-7 and 56-10 haunts Bills fans who are now far removed from their contention of the early 1990s.
In 2003, it appeared that Bledsoe and Buffalo had an upper hand, defeating the Patriots 31-0 on Opening Day, but Brady rebounded, leading New England to a converse score during the season's final week. The 2009 opener was another battery of Buffalo's bruised ego, New England rallying from a 24-13 deficit with less than five minutes remaining to win 25-24. Brady threw for both deciding scores in the last moments.
Like Roethlisberger in the AFC North, the Brady-led Patriots have treated their division as a stomping mat, owning a 43-12 mark, including the most recent playoff loss to the Jets.
While the Jets may have revelled in victory that cold January day, they have a long serve ahead of them before a match point can be set up against Tom.
Even New York has seen embarrassment at Brady's hands, losing games of 44-7 and, most recently, 45-3.
Miami has had the most success against No. 12. A heart-breaking, last-minute touchdown ended the Patriots' hopes of a top seed in 2004 (though they'd win the Super Bowl anyway), and the Pats have even suffered a shutout in Miami. Yet, the ice-water quarterback is cool even on South Beach, boasting his 12-6 mark against the Dolphins.
It seems as though when one quarterback in the current fraternity eclipses a remarkable record, Brady simply circles it in his log of "things to do" and subtly shifts his focus.
The longest overall winning streak and lengthiest regular-season home winning streak both belong to Brady's Patriots. Yes, this is a team accomplishment (thus not ranked higher). Without a magnificent quarterback, a team can't win 10 straight games, much less 21.
After the loss to the New York Jets this past January, Brady had lost his second consecutive postseason game, a surprise considering:
a) The Patriots had recently demolished the New York Jets, 45-3, proving every game is played for a reason.
b) Home-field advantage had been an essential lock for the New England's Super Bowl aspirations prior to 2008. The Patriots are still 8-2 at home under Brady in the playoffs, but those two losses are the most recent contests.
While "home is where the heart is," home is where the Patriots are hottest, sizzling past opponents no matter the matchups or scenario. Bill Belichick preaches about situational football.
It so happens that Gillette Stadium and Northeastern weather is a perfect situation for New England.
With snow being launched into the air in a visually stunning celebration, Patriots skill players celebrate touchdowns as clouds of moisture ascend from their open mouths. The atmosphere is bitter cold into December, a type of weather where Brady thrives.
Warm-weather and dome teams stand nearly no chance in Boston after November.
Brady's current streak stands at 28 consecutive home victories heading into the 2011 season. Impressive, though flawed, is this stretch of games, for playoff losses in Boston will cause fans to consider the accomplishment with a subconscious asterisk.
October 5, 2003 through October 31, 2004 requires no asterisk.
(Timeout: Obligatory pout-fest from Spygate crybabies about inane arguments inserted here. Since the events, the Patriots had a near-undefeated season, have won over 50 games and lost only 15 contests.)
The Patriots won 21 consecutive games, covering 391 days without a loss (and 397 if you account for the days preceding the first victory of the streak).
The record was snapped at Heinz Field on Halloween, but everybody knows how welcoming the Steelers have been to Brady in every other contest. Given the history, a Pittsburgh win over Brady was spooky, indeed.
In a cold-weather city, if a quarterback wants to be accepted by a fanbase, he must do one of two things:
1) Embrace the advantage of freezing temperatures.
2) Pretend to embrace the advantage of freezing temperatures.
After attending a Cowboys-Steelers game in 2008, I left with the visual of Dallas quarterback Tony Romo, his snow-leopard arms turning crimson beneath his short sleeves, running to the bench heater like an invisible attacker with a machete was six feet behind him.
Immediately, I realized some quarterbacks aren't cut out for Northeast football.
Brady is a gamer. Sharp as a razor, he understands defenses, but the element that separates him from many of his peers is an attribute often overlooked when outlining a quarterback's strengths: the backyard. Sometimes, you just have to let football be football, not a weekly dissertation. He'll line up and play, wherever and whenever.
The first time I noticed his exuberance, even in awful conditions, was his first playoff victory against Oakland.
Brady balances both football I.Q. and a regular love for the game. He's, as one might say, a mudder.
He's also a snower.
First, Brady's career passer rating trails only three starters of more than five seasons: Phillip Rivers (California), Steve Young (California) and Tony Romo (dome). Given his resume and sizeable portfolio, it's easy to distinguish Brady as the finest cold-weather passer to date, including even the illustrious Packer partners, Brett Favre and Bart Starr.
Atop of great numbers, Brady is an assassin in the cold, not prone to the turnovers of a typical weather game and equally able to move the ball with authority.
Dare I use the term "perfect storm" or "cold as ice?"
The Titans found out hardest of all, losing at Gillette Stadium in 2009, 59-0.
Most recently, he destroyed Chicago in heavy snow at Soldier Field, 36-7. Apparently, Brady is more than willing to take his show-stopper "snow-bopper" (his great right arm) on the road.
As impressive as the offensive outbursts are the defensive victories. Playing in the former Foxboro Stadium and now Gillette, Brady has encountered eight snow games and a plenitude of contests with a temperature below freezing.
Well paid, muscular and athletic doesn't matter if a player can only think about the fact that he's freezing. Brady puts this aside, prepares well and avoids the mistakes that his opponents bestow.
He beat the Colts twice in the playoffs in adverse conditions by merely being careful, a trademark not shared by his quarterbacking counterpart, Peyton Manning.
The AFC Championship Game in Pittsburgh (2004) was played in a windchill that was below zero degrees; yet, Brady achieved a perfect passer rating in the 41-27 defeat of the Steelers.
In summary, a great team that plays in a cold-weather city has a clear advantage after November. This handicap is magnified with proper personnel.
Brady takes the concept of proper personnel to another level, being quite possibly the greatest cold-weather quarterback to ever play the game of football.
In the 1970s, the Pittsburgh Steelers were a dynasty.
In the 2000s, they could have been, but there was one ultra-specific man disrupting the league conquest.
In the Steel City, the logic is as simple as equivalency: Brady = Bane.
With no regard to the strengths and weaknesses of either squad, the Patriots have been toxic to Pittsburgh ever since Drew Bledsoe decided that he had to have five extra yards up the right sideline.
Before Tom Brady, Steelers fans embraced fine moments between the teams, such as "The Immaculate Interception" by Kevin Henry in 1997.
In today's football reality, outside of a Halloween 2004 victory to snap New England's record of 21 straight victories, Tom Brady has simply abused the Steelers secondary.
Why not call them the "Still Curtain?" When Brady plays Pittsburgh, it becomes obvious that the game is in slow motion to him. His decisions are so precise, his passes so perfect, that the defense appears to be standing still.
The real mark of the warrior came in 2002.
Coming off of an AFC Championship Game loss marred by special teams breakdowns, Pittsburgh felt confident that it would attain a measure of revenge by defeating the Patriots and their young quarterback in the subsequent season's first Monday Night Football game.
For the better part of a half, it appeared they'd get their win, trailing 10-7 at halftime in a game they should have been winning. Then, it happened.
Tom Brady graduated from game manager to quarterback extraordinaire by opening a spread offense against the NFL's most feared defense; the formula would exploit the Pittsburgh Steelers for the next two seasons, until the return of Dick Lebeau. Brady's 29-of-43 expose of clinical quarterbacking saw three touchdown strikes.
By 2004, Steelers fans considered Brady a nuisance that resulted from a combination of good fortune and the horrible play of Kordell Stewart. For one day, their theory seemed accurate, as the 21-game winning streak of New England was snapped at Heinz Field. Lost in a dominant Pittsburgh performance were Brady's statistics—a two-touchdown game with over 200 yards passing. Not bad for a "terrible game."
In the AFC Championship Game, a brilliant mix of misdirection of crisp decision-making took advantage of an over-aggressive Steelers defense. Brady, who was on an IV drip hours earlier with a fever, caught Pittsburgh out of position on multiple occasions, racking up a perfect quarterback rating in the 41-27 win. It still stands as the highest point total by an opponent in Heinz Field history.
In 2005, the Steelers seemed to have a grasp on the rematch, leading 13-7 in the second half. In the fourth quarter, Brady completed 12 consecutive passes to finish a remarkable 31-of-41 passing performance. In theme, the Patriots won 23-20.
The only element larger than the gap between the Steelers and the Pats in 2007 was Pittsburgh safety Anthony Smith's mouth, guaranteeing a victory over the undefeated Patriots. Brady took advantage of the safety, using his pump-fake to perfection and fooling him on a back-breaking gadget play. The Patriots won 34-13.
Lastly, Brady ran his mark as a starter against the Steelers to 7-1 in 2010, a romp at Heinz Field that saw the second-highest scoring output by an opponent, 39-26.
Nobody has had a more negative impact on the ability of a franchise to take their ability over the top than Tom Brady has had on the Steelers.
"I just have to tip my hat to the Yankees and call them my daddy."
—Pedro Martinez, former Red Sox pitcher
Pedro, Western Pennsylvania feels you.
The reality is that Manning and Brady will ultimately be graded against each other over the rest of their peers, their rivalry playing a large role in cementing the legacy of their careers.
You can specify all of the reasons that Brady is the best in the business, but the argument of his top ranking falls short without consideration against the legendary Peyton Manning.
We've discussed Brady's dominance over his division and the Steelers. It's his superiority in matchups against his positional rival, Manning, that seem lost on the majority of fans who are more than willing to crown the spur of Archie's loins as the NFL's elite QB.
There are a number of key areas that are used to judge quarterbacks from a historical perspective, ranked in order of accuracy:
2. Wins and losses
5. Best Season
6. Attributes (The Eyeball Test)
7. Personal rivalries
There are surely others, but these are the most major indicators that I've encountered. Leadership is the most subjective, and both quarterbacks' peers give their field general high praise.
Critics argue that Brady is the result of a system, but anybody who witnesses his throws realizes that he is the most accurate quarterback since Troy Aikman. His style of play is to simplify the game, play smart and utilize his deceptively strong arm.
In keeping with the topic of attributes, you could credit Manning's film study in the regular season and fault him for his tendency to over-analyze the game against supreme opponents, especially in the playoffs.
I shook my head when the Colts ran on a 3rd-and-9 deep in Jets' territory in the fourth quarter of their most recent playoff game against the Jets. This was not due to the failure to obtain the first down, but the situation; even if the secondary is playing off on coverage, the amount of field that has to be covered to make up ground against a runner out of the backfield is minimized. The call made no sense to me.
That's my eyeball test (categories No. 6 and 8).
The debate regarding the "Eyeball Test" (the Pete Prisco speciality) and intangibles such as leadership will rage on endlessly, with no quantitative barometer to bear out a clear victor.
The fact is that both of these wonderful quarterbacks have been surrounded by a great group of talent, though Manning's receiving core has been more consistently great. The transition from Marvin Harrison and Reggie Wayne to Dallas Clark and Reggie Wayne isn't an alarming shift. Yet, it was Brady who made Deion Branch and David Givens superb receivers.
What did Branch do between his stints in New England?
Considering the Brady has not had a clear advantage in offensive personnel, it would seem credible that his statistics should suffer. Meanwhile, Manning has indeed been blessed with a consistently opulent set of receivers.
Yet, Brady surpassed Manning in career quarterback rating this past season, giving validity to his superior play and capturing his victory in category No. 4.
Those unconvinced can refer to his 2007 season, besting Peyton's record of 49 touchdowns with 50 of his own. In his first season with game-breaking talent at offensive skill positions, the signal-caller appeared unstoppable, ending the notion of his inability to put up Manning-like numbers.
In addition, he has a higher average yards per attempt and far fewer turnovers per pass than Peyton.
Most importantly, however, are Brady's wins.
...more wins than Manning (category No. 2).
...more playoffs wins than Manning (category No. 2).
...a huge advantage in head-to-head matchups vs. Manning, including the playoffs (2-1) (category No. 7).
...three Super Bowl rings to Manning's one (category No. 1).
Atop of the wins are pressure-filled streaks that would cause most quarterbacks (and teams), even the most cerebral types, to crumble.
In every key quantitative category, Brady is superior to Manning. In every qualitative category, fans get to pick their favorite.
So, what is it that blinds the public, causing fans to rank Brady third among peers?
It must be Manning-mania! After all, that commercial with him in the mustache...gosh! Still cracks me up...
Boys dream about having the football in their hands when the game is on the line.
A select few get to try it out.
A few of those fall flat on their face. The others fare well enough to keep their job.
And, the rarest breed, the ones who thrive under the pressure, take quarterbacking to a new level.
In the clutch, Tom Brady has proven his pedigree as a top dog in the NFL. Like a trained canine, the mission is painfully simple with the game on the line: find and destroy.
On November 4, 2003, the infamous 21-game winning streak would have ended very early if not for Brady's quarterbacking heroics. In one night, he made his coach the finest genius in the NFL.
Trailing Denver at Invesco Field 24-23, the Patriots were pinned deep in their own territory, facing a desperate down and distance. Instead of punting to the Broncos, Belichick had his long snapper fling the ball out of the back of the endzone. This gamble was in an attempt to receive the ball with better field position in an attempt to tie.
The Patriots got the ball back with little time left, and Brady exceeded expectations. With room to work the offense, he methodically engineered his magic, finding gaping holes in the Denver secondary. The touchdown drive culminated a 30-26 victory. With his clutch performance, Tom catapulted Belichick to the head of the coaching fraternity.
Yet, it wasn't that surprising. Brady had already shown an aplomb beyond his experience, engineering last-minute drives in the 2001-02 playoffs against the Raiders and the Rams. Later in that 2003 season, his heroics would come into play again, guiding the Patriots down the field en route to a 32-29 victory over the Panthers.
If the game is on the line and the Patriots have the football, there's a great chance of a New England victory.
Brady was winning championships, but Manning was breaking Dan Marino's long-standing quarterback records.
Manning was considered the better quarterback, but the Patriots were considered the better team.
Fans ignored statistics, arguing Brady's success was anchored by a defense that was among the league's elite. In fact, in their three championship seasons, the defense has ranked 24th (no joke), sixth and—in 2004—had wide receiver Troy Brown playing cornerback.
Unfazed and blinded by fantasy football bifocals, the perception was that if the two quarterbacks traded teams, it would be Manning breaking records and winning championships.
I think Manning has botched enough games in Foxboro and Gillette in inclement conditions to prove that's simply false...
More importantly, in 2007, the quarterbacks didn't change teams. The Patriots simply brought elite receivers to Tom Brady. The feast began.
Manning broke NFL records throughout 2004, his most famous record of 49 touchdowns exceeding Marino's brilliant sophomore total.
As weeks passed by in 2007, it became obvious to anyone paying attention: Brady's sights were set on the man who put up the big numbers.
He was chasing Peyton Manning.
At Giants Stadium, the Patriots' regular-season finale saw Brady's 50th touchdown pass of the season.
Teams suffered who played New England, most losing in embarrassing fashion.
52-7? 56-10? Compared to these efforts, the consecutive 38-14 losses by the Chargers and Jets to start the 2007 season were nail-biters.
The accomplishment is important not only for the NFL record, but in proving Brady's as a dangerous quarterback (opposed to a game manager) and negating the validity of the argument that Peyton Manning's statistics are a validation of his superiority. The NFL's cerebral assassin used his new weapons with a deadly precision unmatched in the annals of league history.
Following a Super Bowl loss to the Packers in 1996, Bill Parcells left for the New York Jets. Pete Carroll took over the ranks, leading them to consecutive playoff appearances.
While this would seem a successful transition, the team's record steadily declined until, in 1999, the team finished 8-8.
Bill Belichick, with great controversy, took over as the new head coach in 2001. The Patriots were abysmal. The coach's reputation was not entirely favorable, as former players indicated he did not have a good relationship with his teams.
Year one in New England brought more of the same. The coach's seat became a bit warm as the team fell to 5-11. The low point was a 34-9 loss on Thanksgiving in Detroit.
At the start, 2001 appeared to be an encore presentation. Following a loss to Cincinnati, the worst team of the previous decade, franchise quarterback Drew Bledsoe took a devastating hit against the Jets. A resulting injury caused massive internal bleeding, forcing the long-time Patriot from the lineup.
Nobody could have known that synergy was born.
Before Brady, Belichick was a bum.
Before Brady, the Patriots were losing 34-9 to the Lions.
With Brady, everyone was better. Inspiring everyone around you to play better is the mark of the championship quarterback.
His first start was a 44-13 win over Peyton Manning and the Indianapolis Colts. The first-year starter erased a 1-3 start to lead the team to an 11-5 finish.
In 2001, the Patriots defense ranked 24th, though they were sixth with regard to opponent scoring. They saved their best work for the playoffs, which allowed Brady's rise to stardom to occur much more immediately.
If time travel is possible, the impact spot of Mo Lewis and Drew Bledsoe should be an area of high atomic energy. This nuclear wormhole rewrote history, catapulting Bill Belichick from the unemployment ranks to the status of ultra-elite NFL coach.
Everyone in New England deserves credit for the turnaround, but the obvious turning point that launched a dynasty came on a Foxboro afternoon as No. 12 snapped his chin strap into place.
Sadly, for the productive and typically reliable Drew Bledsoe, this marked the end of his career in Boston.
Breaking down the numbers, a quantitative analysis of Brady's career reveals a great passer rating, a number of records (win streaks, touchdowns, ratios, etc.) and three championships.
It's his intricacies that allow him to be successful.
Coming into the draft every year, scouts discuss a number of fundamental elements that they look for in a quarterback: footwork, stance, arm strength, accuracy, speed.
Heading into draft day, Brady allegedly lacked in all categories, resulting in his selection in the NFL draft's sixth round.
This was never lost on Brady, revealing his first intangible key to success: determination.
Brady understood that quarterbacking greatness would be the cumulative result of desire and hard work.
His footwork could be showcased in a quarterbacking clinic for aspiring young athletes.
His arm strength is among the league's elite, and he is able to throw the ball with velocity into passing lanes that do not exist for many quarterbacks.
His accuracy rivals that of his peer, Peyton Manning, and former stars Troy Aikman and Joe Montana.
Yep, I even said Joe...I went there.
Ten years ago, his attributes were sixth-round quality. Brady referred to a coach's notebook in a segment of America's Game, telling the audience that his analysis was "everything he does, he has to do FASTER!"
He worked at it, got better and is proof of the value of dedication.
Beyond his physical skills and mental toughness, Brady showcases a winning attitude. New England Patriots players respect their quarterback, and they've rewarded him in spades with solid play. Before their decline into obscurity in other locations, the quarterback has made seemingly average receivers into NFL stars.
Just ask Deion Branch who he would like to have throwing him the football.
Hard work, improvement, capability, leadership, inspiration...and hate. Let's face it, fans do not project their anger at players who are average.
Two things solicit fan rage: bad players and great players.
And, in an odd way, the number of fans who hate Tom Brady may just be his greatest accomplishment, certain proof of his impact.
When a quarterback throws touchdowns, he is a force to be reckoned with. When he attains these numbers without throwing interceptions, he's an assassin.
During his record-breaking 2007 season, Tom Brady set an NFL record with a 6.25:2 touchdown to interception ratio (among qualifying passers).
In 2010, he broke his own record. The defense was considered a liability on the team, and this notion ultimately played out as accurate in the playoffs. However, for most of 2010, teams were forced to drive at length in order to score on the Patriots; Tom wasn't handing out freebies.
In a record that may never be eclipsed, Brady tossed 36 touchdowns against four interceptions, going an amazing 335 consecutive passes without an interception. This 9:1 ratio showcased a devastating effective quarterback—able to read defenses, make big throws and protect the football. As efficiency is concerned, Brady's 2010 campaign bordered on perfection.
In a league where playing to win benefits teams and turnovers destroy them, it is difficult to walk the narrow line between taking a chance and putting the team at risk. Brady playfully ignores the line, brilliantly marching his teams down the field with apparent ease while limiting turnovers.
More than any other statistic, turnovers determine winners in NFL games. How nice it must be for Patriots fans to witness nine touchdown passes between every intercepted pass.
Since I know you're thinking it, perhaps we can say it at once, in unison: duh!!
Bradshaw and Roethlisberger.
Starr, Favre and Rodgers.
Theismann, Williams and Rypien.
Staubach and Aikman.
Unitas and Manning.
Even Montana and Young.
A number of great organizations have storied histories, rich traditions of excellence.
It spans generations, each wonderful era led by another great quarterback, inevitably compared to his predecessor.
Before Tom Brady, the New England Patriots were a snake-bitten franchise, looming outside a cave of darkness that they seemed destined to enter. They'd slowly fallen apart at the seams since an AFC Championship in 1996, and by 2001, they were 0-2 off of the heels of a 5-11 season.
With the Tom Brady era began the Patriots' dynasty, exiting the class of clowns and making entrance into the fraternity of fame, a legendary class of teams that comprise the NFL elite.
And now, the Patriots.
Brady has won three Super Bowls and four AFC Championships, more than any of his active peers. With one more conference title, he'll have appeared in more Super Bowls than any quarterback in NFL history. Another championship would put him on a coveted plateau with Terry Bradshaw and Joe Montana.
On this list of credentials, some of the elements making up a fine quarterback would seem more obvious than others, and perhaps there are countdowns with more clever endings.
Cliché or not, selecting anything else would simply be wrong.
Brady's run of championship success has redefined not only his stock as an athlete (he was a backup at Michigan), but also the entirety of the New England Patriots.
The one-time afterthought of the NFL who occasionally showed up for a Super Bowl beat-down (see: Super Bowl XX) is now a destination that is perceived as distinguished amongst its peers.
And the reasons aren't all simple, but one is...
The New England Patriots field the three-time world championship quarterback, Tom Brady.