Tom Brady clearly beat down a GOAT pretender Sunday night while pushing his new Bucs pals to the NFC Championship Game, one win away from becoming the first squad to host the Super Bowl in its own stadium.
The 43-year-old Brady didn’t necessarily play his best game, but had more than enough to dispatch the NFC South-rival Saints and their 42-year-old future Hall of Fame QB Drew Brees, who threw three interceptions in what was likely his final NFL game and is often put on too high of an historic pedestal by his New Orleans supporters.
Only one aging GOAT could win this one and it was the ageless Brady, completing 18 of 33 passes for 199 yards with two touchdown passes, while adding another score on a QB sneak with no interceptions on the way to the 30-20 win over a Saints team that had beaten the Bucs badly twice in the regular season.
The Bucs are clearly Brady’s team now – in every sense of the description -- and as is customary Brady’s team is still playing late in January.
Brady advances to the NFC title game in his first season in Tampa Bay after guiding his Bucs band of talented teammates to the franchise’s first postseason win since 2002 a week earlier in Washington. In doing so, Brady reaches a conference title game for the 14th time in his 20 years as an NFL starter (in 19 seasons if you remove the 2008 campaign when he missed all but the first quarter of the first game due to a torn ACL).
That’s some real GOAT poo right there.
It’s just the latest accomplishment for a guy whose GOAT status has been well established for years now for anyone with even a hint of objectivity.
It adds to his Hall of Fame resume that is truly light years beyond compare.
It buffs up his is bust.
It tacks on another chapter to the Disney-worthy story of his remarkable career.
In many ways, not enough can be said about what Brady is still doing.
But, regardless of what you’ve heard or read, Brady’s latest, greatest accomplishment does nothing to diminish Bill Belichick’s own greatness.
Sure, Belichick has watched Brady’s recent postseason successes the same way the rest of us have, from his couch. (Oh to be a No-see-um on that Nantucket wall!)
The supposed GOAT coach was left on the outside looking in on the playoffs for the first time since 2008 – yes, the last time he had to field a team without Brady – because he couldn’t coach up Cam Newton into being even a competitive NFL passer and really couldn’t get enough out of a roster of, to try to put it kindly, underwhelming talent. (Damn you, Belichick the GM!)
But it’s one year. One small sample in a much more grand comparison.
Brady turned his back on a Patriots team that he was well aware had talent concerns, especially at the pass-catching positions that most affected his own performance and, at least a year ago, mood. He swapped that out for one of if not the most talented groups of wide receivers and tight ends in the league, joining forces with a Bruce Arians-led team that won seven games a year ago.
Brady helped the team win four more regular season games, while his former team won just seven games to see a five-game net loss in the win column.
He helped break a postseason drought of two decades in Tampa Bay while simultaneously helping break a 20-year run of success in Foxborough.
The circumstantial evidence is a bit damning, your honor.
Brady is obviously winning right now, no matter how you measure it. He’s succeeding in his post-Belichick playing days.
But, Belichick’s post-Brady results certainly have to be judged in a larger window than the makeshift, sign-a-subpar-QB-on-the-fly, COVID-controlled 2020 season that we just witnessed.
Belichick’s own relative greatness was established over a consistent 20 years with Brady in New England. It should take more than just one year to tear that all down. Much the way Brady’s midseason struggles in Tampa Bay weren’t necessarily a sign that he was done. Because he clearly wasn’t.
Small sample sizes lead to premature and inaccurate conclusions.
Brady will have another chance to dispatch a GOAT pretender this coming Sunday when he faces off with How-does-he-have-only-one-ring? Packers QB Aaron Rodgers in Green Bay. After that he might even have a shot to battle modern marvel and too-quickly-anointed legend Patrick Mahomes if another Super Bowl run is really in the making for the TB12 brand.
Make no mistake, Brady is adding to his legendary, unprecedented greatness.
He’s proving both Father Time and Belichick wrong in regards to his capabilities at his age.
What he’s not necessarily doing, though, is proving that Belichick simply rode his Canton-bound coattails for two decades of success in New England, even if he’s potentially planted that seed of doubt.
He’s not definitively answering the question that the entire social media-driven sports world and talk radio airwaves have pondered for years -- Who was more responsible for the Patriots dynasty, Brady or Belichick?
That’s a question that likely will never be answered beyond reasonable discussion, and certainly won’t be after one year of Belichick and Brady competing apart. Hell, it probably doesn’t even really have an answer, likely one of those sum-greater-than-parts scenarios.
Brady’s having success in his first season without Belichick.
Belichick failed in his first season without Brady.
Those are the indisputable facts.
It is what it is.
But that doesn’t necessarily tell us what we’re aching to know in regards to all those years of success and fun in Foxborough.
Sorry, but if we’re being honest there’s much more to it than that.