Greatness: Can it Be Debated Any Longer?

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If you weren’t watching Super Bowl LI on Sunday, what in the hell were you doing? For a game to gain not only national attention and viewership, but also international, nothing else on television during that timeslot was more important. That’s why stations will purposely not try to outdo the big game and put on something that’s “background noise.” Let’s face it, you just can’t compete with the Super Bowl.

Well, if you missed it, quick recap:

The Patriots embarked on the biggest comeback in Super Bowl history, trailing the Falcons 28-3 at the end of the third quarter, to win in overtime (a Super Bowl first) 34-28 and earn their fifth Lombardi Trophy in franchise history, and Brady and Belichick’s fifth together as a QB-coach duo.

At first, the game looked in favor of the Falcons, aiming for their first NFL championship win in franchise history. Matt Ryan, the league MVP, along with offensive weapons in Devonta Freeman (who made impressive runs) and Julio Jones (who made extraordinary, game-changing catches throughout), took control of the game early, leading 21-3 at halftime. Not to mention the defense who were dominating with Grady Jarrett sacking Brady three times and Robert Alford returning an interception for an 82-yard touchdown.

Patriots running back LeGarrette Blount, AKA Blount Force Trauma, made a huge mistake turning the ball over on a fumble leading to one of the Falcons’ scores. For a player to do that who’s known for running the ball with power and flattening people, Patriots fans were only left to look on with heartbreak.

The Falcons played an absolutely amazing game; their high powered offense and ever-improving defense were poised to deliver Atlanta their first championship since the Braves won the World Series in 1995. They just forgot to take one factor into account: Tom Brady.

Brady had been in that situation before; being clutch in these types of scenarios is one of his specialties. With catches by his receivers, especially one by Julian Edelman which looked almost impossible to bring in, the Patriots offense had awoken. Danny Amendola and James White both grabbed a pass for scores, with two successful two-point conversions. Dont’a Hightower made a huge play on defense forcing a fumble off of Matt Ryan, turning over the ball to the New England offense, creating a huge turn in the win probability chart of the game. What Brady did in that last quarter going into overtime physically demonstrated to the world, to a large-scale audience why he is one of, if not, the greatest quarterback to ever play the game of football.

Arguments and debates have gone on for years about who is the best at different positions. At wide receiver, candidates include Jerry Rice, Tim Brown, and Terrell Owens. At running back, names like Emmitt Smith, Walter Payton, Barry Sanders, and Jim Brown grace the list. At quarterback, however, one name has cemented itself, as of this past Sunday, at the top for many years to come, and it may be a while before it changes. Thomas Edward Patrick Brady, Jr., from San Mateo, CA is a name that will be remembered forever.

The past couple mornings after the big game, I’ve been watching way too much ESPN and sports-based television shows. One of the many topics they’ve been discussing is if Brady can finally be called the GOAT, the greatest of all time. While I’ve been sick of listening to the incessant, never-ending banter on ESPN’s First Take and FOX Sports’ Undisputed, they all agree and have made valid points as to why Brady takes the cake.

Of course, Touchdown Tommy is among a heavy amount of company in his field: Peyton Manning, Brett Favre, Joe Montana, Dan Marino, etc. What does Brady have that they all don’t? Answer: he is the only quarterback to win five Super Bowls, all of them for one team.

But wait, there’s more…

Four Super Bowl MVP awards (most ever), two league MVPs, 12 Pro Bowl Selections, 14 division titles (most ever for a QB), 9,094 career playoff passing yards (most ever), 63 career playoff touchdown passes (most ever), 25-9 playoff record (best all time), seven Super Bowl appearances (most ever), 2,071 career Super Bowl passing yards (most ever), 15 career Super Bowl touchdown passes (most ever),… do I need to keep going?

By the looks of this list, it can only keep going and going and going… you can compare him to the Energizer bunny.

Okay, maybe I’m a little bias. For those of you who know me, you know how much the Patriots are a part of my life. Every Sunday in the fall, when I’m not somewhere on Long Island or some random location in New Jersey playing rugby with my university club team, you’ll find me in front of the television watching the Pats catching any little shred of football I can that day. Even during rugby games, my focus is in two places at once: what we’ll do to win this game we’re playing right now and what the score of the Patriots game is (only if they’re playing while I’m playing).

But what can’t be denied is what’s on Brady’s resume. I mean, love him or hate him, you better damn well respect him.

Kraft said it best when he accepted the Lombardi Trophy Sunday night; after all that’s transpired over the past couple years with the Patriots and Brady, this Super Bowl win was definitely the sweetest, and it was one for the history books. Brady has endured a scandal, a suspension, and his mother falling ill leading up to the game. It almost seemed like this was going to be his revenge tour this season. But to clear up any tension, Brady wasn’t performing out of hate, but out of love: love for the game, love for his family, love for his team and fans.

Super Bowl XLIX - New England Patriots v Seattle Seahawks

And can we just take note of how classy it was for Brady to shake Commissioner Roger Goodell’s hand after winning rather than just blowing him off? I see no hate there.

A lot of people can argue the failures that Brady has went through in his career. Yes, he’s lost two Super Bowls to the Giants. Yes, Peyton Manning has a better record against him in the playoffs. People love to see Brady lose, and for a guy who’s been winning at almost everything, I can see why people are not too fond of him.

Greatness isn’t measured by losses and failures. Muhammed Ali lost fights in his career, and he’s still regarded as the greatest boxer who ever lived. Michael Jordan failed multiple times, and he’s still the greatest basketball player to ever hit an NBA court. Wayne Gretzky lost a couple games, and he’s still considered the greatest hockey player to ever skate on NHL ice.

What’s different between all of them and Brady? What’s causing people to consider them great and Brady’s legacy remaining on the fence? People expressed their hatred for all those athletes and they’re still considered legends. Why are you not giving Brady the credit he’s earned?

Brady has got the competitive heart, pure grit and determination, an everlasting knowledge of the game, and the will to win and do whatever it takes. It’s incredible what he’s accomplished, and if there’s any doubt and you still need more proof, just keep watching because he’s not done yet.

As I watched the last play that night where James White dove to cross the ball over the plane of the end zone, among my brothers in my fraternity, I can remember hugging the select few of us who were Patriot “faithfuls” who, all game, were gripping our stomachs and hearts with worry. It was a moment of exasperation turned to relief that I will never forget.

But then I started to think and reminisce on what led to this point. A lot of “what if’s” popped into my head: what if Brady was never a Patriot? What if Drew Bledsoe had never gotten hurt during that game against the Jets in 2001, introducing the nation to what would become “the Brady era”? What if the Patriots didn’t pick him for their sixth round, 199th pick? Would the Patriots still be the laughing stock of the league like they used to be? Where would we be?

What did the organization see in him? Was it that his last career college game at Michigan where he defeated Alabama in the Orange Bowl? Was it his ugly looking run in the 40-yard dash? Was it his average-looking, unathletic body that would not meet today’s standards for a successful NFL player? What was it?

Well, whatever it was, it sure as hell worked off in the long run.

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