Ben Lisemore analyses the recent performance of one of American Football’s stars
Two print editions ago an article was published considering who would replace Tom Brady as the next ‘greatest of all time’ or GOAT of American football. The most obvious successor seemed to be Kansas City Chiefs’ Patrick Mahomes, but fast forward a few months and Brady is beating Mahomes to his seventh Super Bowl. It looks as though the GOAT is not ready to lie down just yet, certifying he’s still got it at the age of 43. This age and the fact this was his first year with new team, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, makes this feat extraordinary and potentially his best yet. He won his previous six Super Bowls with the New England Patriots under arguably the best coach ever, Bill Belichick. But this seventh means Brady alone has won more Super Bowls than any other franchise has in their history. There was a sense that in moving to sunny Florida, Brady was beginning to think about life after football, but he has shown that he can win everywhere he goes. Fans had better get ready for another season of Brady because after lifting the Lombardi trophy, which is a regular occurrence for him, he said, “ We’re coming back; you already know that.” If the past is anything to go by, he never stops coming back.
I am a Buccaneers fan and before you declare me a ‘glory supporter’ you should know that I witnessed the Jameis Winston era, the Bucs previous quarterback, and watched him throw as many touchdowns as he did interceptions in a season. This was clearly not bringing out the full potential of the weapons the Bucs had, namely Mike Evans and Chris Godwin, who were still 1000 yard plus a season receivers. Nonetheless this was a team lacking a winning mentality and someone to guide them to success they had not tasted in a long time. The solution was one man who is vastly experienced in winning to say the least. This, combined with the new players that a player of Brady’s calibre was able to attract, created a team that won all their games from the point of losing ironically to the Chiefs at the end of November, up until Super Bowl LV when they beat last year’s champions, the Chiefs, and took their revenge. Brady managed to get his best friend and Tight End Rob Gronkowski out of retirement and he showed his power in the pinnacle of the season where he caught two touchdowns. The Bucs got their other points from two other new players with Antonio Brown and Leonard Fournette getting into the endzone.
The reason that this accomplishment is so impressive is the fact that Brady was able to lead the Buccaneers to their first playoff finish in 14 years and once he was there, that is where he comes into his own. The Bucs had to play three games away, having only qualified for the playoffs as a wildcard, due to not even winning their division, the NFC South. There was a sense of irony then, when the Bucs surpassed these three tests and became NFC Champions, that they would play the Superbowl at their home of Raymond James Stadium. This meant they were the first team to play in a Superbowl at home, as the venue is always decided a year in advance, so it was a mere coincidence. The players Brady had faced to get there are equally regarded and experienced as Brady, but they understandably don’t get as similar accreditation due to a lack of Super Bows. He faced Aaron Rodgrers of the Green Bay Packers and before that Drew Brees of the New Orleans Saints. The fact that Brady alone went up against these teams and was triumphant under pressure is successful in itself but the quarterback he was facing next in the Superbowl, would be the toughest challenge yet. Mahomes is arguably a better football player than Brady based on ability and he is only 25. The Bucs soon discovered that getting to Mahomes isn’t the hard thing, especially when their offensive line was so weak, but it was hitting him that was tricky. He has been described as a magician in the way that he is able to move away from trouble with ease. The fact that Brady was able to outwit and outscore a man of his talent is very impressive, especially when you bear in mind Mahomes had lost only eight times before that and won 44.
The only achievement of Brady’s that came close to this was the legendary 25 point comeback in the Super Bowl in 2017 against the Atlanta Falcons to win what was Brady’s fifth. That is the difference between a good quarterback and the GOAT, only Brady would be able to engineer that. However, back then he was not up against a man of Mahomes’ capabilities and this achievement was in one game. I feel that what Brady achieved in the season just gone is more impressive as it was over a year of ups and downs in a team where the winning mentality was non-existent. Back in the Patriots team of 2017 Brady had everything a quarterback could ask for, offensive weapons in the prime of their career and arguably the best coach in the world on the sideline. The Patriots finished the regular season that year on 14 wins and so them winning the superbowl was expected. No one tipped the Bucs to do what they did this year, when you consider they had to face the Chiefs, who had 14 wins themselves in the regular season. If that difference in how they ended the season from how they started it doesn’t show the difference between Mahomes and Brady then what does? American Football is a results driven business and for Brady to continue to deliver into his 40s is unprecedented and, thus, the best thing he has ever done. I should qualify that by saying ‘for now’ because when asked before what his favourite Super Bowl was, his reply was, “the next one.”