1. His Historic 2007 Campaign
Let’s forget about Super Bowl XLII for a minute.
I’d love to forget about it forever, but being that most of my relatives are from New York, that's just not feasible.
Brady’s season in 2007 was unlike any other for a Boston sports athlete this decade. Not just athletes in Boston, either; his season was one of the best for any athlete in any sport.
His consistency was remarkable; of his first 100 pass attempts, he completed a remarkable 79.
He threw for 4,806 yards, the third-highest total in league history.
Oh, yeah. There’s something about a record-setting 50 touchdown passes on the season. Peyton Manning’s old record of 49 touchdown passes, which many thought would be good for a long time, lasted only three years.
Brady broke another record by throwing for three or more touchdowns in each of the season's first eight games. Along the way, he threw a career-high six touchdown passes in one game, tying an NFL mark.
There isn’t even a close second in this area, but if there was one, I’d have to give it to Pedro Martinez. His statistics weren’t record-setting, but let’s face it—baseball’s records are almost impossible to break.
With a meager 1.742 ERA in 2000, Martinez staked himself as one of the premier pitchers of the “steroid era”. Another stat indicative of Martinez’ dominance is his average of 11.78 strikeouts per nine innings pitched back in 2000.
Martinez had some historic seasons, and will eventually land in the Baseball Hall of Fame.
But when taking into account the history that was made by Brady and the Patriots in the 2007 season, it’s hard to think of any Boston athlete who had a season during the 2000’s that was anything like Brady’s 2007 season.
2. He’s a Nightmare When It Comes to Game-Planning to Beat Him
It’s quite the quandary to be in, facing a quarterback like Tom Brady.
The common theory about beating a pocket passer like Brady is to pressure him early and often. Don’t let him get in a rhythm. Don’t give him all day to throw.
That would be the wrong thing to do against Brady.
So the consensus would be to blitz him and hurry his throws.
One small problem: he’s almost better against the blitz.
It’s almost a paradox. He can’t be beat if he stays in the pocket, but he can beat the blitz.
The only way to beat him is to drop several men into coverage and hope that your four main rushers can get pressure on him.
If a defense is going to blitz Brady, the pressure has to get there fast in order for it to be effective. Brady has a quick read, and an almost quicker release.
But he’s not invincible, either. He’s been known to get gun-shy if he continually gets hit throughout a game. He doesn’t step into his throws with as much authority and his timing gets thrown off.
In terms of stopping the New England offense, it all starts with the engine that makes it run—Tom Brady.
I take nothing away from guys like David Patten, David Givens, and Troy Brown, but none of them are game-breaking receivers, and still Brady made them all look marvelous. He leads his receivers into the throw, and hardly ever leaves them open to a vicious hit after the catch.
Although Troy Brown was long one of Brady’s favorite targets, Brady is known for spreading the ball around, allowing everyone to get in on the action. He only ever had five receivers with over 60 catches in a season, and Brown counts for two of those (’01 and ’02).
And how about this—none of Brady’s receivers ever logged eight or more touchdowns until Randy Moss had 23 back in 2007.
It’s a little harder for one player to make a difference in baseball, but none are so remarkable at making the players around them look good.
And Paul Pierce is a great player, don't get me wrong; as far as making everyone else on his team look better? Back when the Celtics were struggling, no one but Pierce looked good.
Now that he has KG and Ray Allen? It certainly helps each of the Big Three to have the other two, but they already make themselves look good.
Brady, on the other hand, is great himself, and makes everyone around him great the way he plays.
He's great at delivering all the throws, from high-percentage to back-of-the-end zone jump balls.
To put it simply, Brady’s ability is game-changing. No single Boston sports athlete this decade has commanded the amount of preparation that Brady does for each game.
If the defense doesn’t beat him up, he’ll simply beat them down.
3. He Helps The Team Win During the Regular Season and in the Playoffs
It’s no secret that the Patriots have high regard in history as a decorated dynasty. It’s also no secret that Brady has been clutch for the Patriots, especially when it matters most—the playoffs.
Before his 2007 anomaly, Brady was better known as a game manager, quite possibly the best one the game had ever seen. He wasn’t going to decimate a defense, but he’s an efficient passer who knows how to win.
Here are some gaudy and daunting stats from the Patriots website for all those stat-heads:
Brady holds a 111-33 record entering the 2010 season, a whopping 77.08 victory percentage. That’s the best among quarterbacks in the Super Bowl era with at least 100 starts—better than Roger Staubach (74.96 percent), Joe Montana (71.34), and Peyton Manning (68.23).
Entering 2009, Brady had 28 game-winning drives to take a lead or tie the game in the fourth quarter or overtime. Six of his 14 playoff wins have come in this manner.
Even when Brady was out there breaking records week in and week out during the undefeated regular season, he continued to point out that his team was doing something way more important—winning.
No Boston athlete this decade has meant as much to the success of his franchise as Tom Brady has to the Patriots.
Who even comes close?
Paul Pierce has been a scoring machine since he entered the league in 1998 as the 10th overall pick in the NBA Draft.
Although he wasn't the star player, he helped the Celtics reach the Eastern Conference Finals alongside Antoine Walker.
Besides that season, the Boston Celtics were primarily known for their culture of losing leading up to the 2007 season. Then, Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen joined the fold and suddenly the weight of the world was no longer on his shoulders.
He attempted an average of four shots per game less in 2007 than in 2006. His points per game went down by six. This isn’t to suggest that Pierce had a dip in production, but simply that he wasn’t as instrumental to his team’s success.
Though many can say that Brady was backed by a top-tier defense during the dynasty days, the fact remains that Brady led the Patriots to the Promised Land by playing mistake-free football at the position where mistake-free is the most important characteristic.
Manny Ramirez played remarkably in the postseason in his tenure with the Red Sox. He helped Boston break the Bambino’s 86-year-old hex on the team in 2004. He was 7-for-17 with a home run and four RBI, earning him the title of World Series MVP.
But what about 2007? He came out swinging, and helped the Red Sox reach the World Series once again with a .409 batting average in the 2007 ALCS, but he had a .250 BA in the World Series.
Besides, Josh Beckett’s pair of wins in the ALCS meant more than Ramirez’ BA.
And it was Mike Lowell’s bat, not Ramirez’, that helped the Red Sox hoist the World Series trophy for the second time in four years.
NFL Network counted Brady as the third best clutch quarterback in NFL history, but you’d have a hard time convincing me he’s anything but No. 1 . He has orchestrated 28 game-winning drives to break a tie or take the lead in the fourth quarter or overtime.
In the measure of championships and Super Bowl/regular season MVP awards, no Boston sports athlete even comes close.
And if it’s not about the championships, what is it really about?