Love him or hate him, Tom Brady is one of the most recognizable names in all of sports. He began his career in an almost fairytale like fashion; winning three Super Bowls in his first four seasons as the Patriots starting quarterback. Many people in the football community were ready to prematurely anoint him the greatest quarterback ever. Now, almost eight years removed from his last Super Bowl title, the legacy of Tom Brady has reshaped. Once regarded as possibly the best to ever play the game, recent postseason failures have brought up questions about his legacy; the glamour of the "Golden Boy" is slowly wearing off.
Spygate. Possibly the biggest scandal in NFL history. In 2007, the New England Patriots were disciplined for videotaping opposing teams' defensive signals. The NFL discovered that this practice had gone on since 2000, the year before the Patriots first Super Bowl under the Brady-Belichick era. Head Coach Bill Belichick was fined $500 000 for his role in the scandal, the largest allowed under league rules and the largest fine every imposed on a coach in league history. The team was also fined $250 000, and lost their 1st round pick in the 2008 NFL Draft. Legendary former head coach, Don Shula, summed it up appropriately when he said
"The Spygate thing has diminished what they've accomplished. You would hate to have that attached to your accomplishments. They've got it. ...I guess you got the same thing as putting an asterisk by Barry Bonds' home run record."
Certainly in the eyes of many fans, as well as other players and coaches around the NFL, spygate has tarnished what the Patriots have accomplished during their three championship seasons. Tom Brady was never implicated in having any knowledge of the videotaping what so ever, but the fact remains that since this advantage has been taken away by the league, the Patriots' postseason success has never reached the same heights.
One could argue that while the Patriots have not won a Super Bowl since 2005, by most team's standards they have been very successful. Three AFC Championship games and two Super Bowl appearances in a span of eight years is quite impressive. Yet, Brady began his playoff career 9-0, winning three Super Bowls, but since that point has an uninspiring 8-7 postseason record. The Patriots have lost three home playoff games since 2009 and despite the team being built around their prolific offense, they have not managed to score more than 21 points in their last five playoff losses.
Tom Brady's performance in the Patriots loss this past Sunday was a perfect microcosm for the downward trend of his legacy. The Patriots started the game strong, but came up completely empty in the second half. The clock mismanagement at the end of the first half was completely out of character for someone with Brady's experience. It cost the Patriots a chance to really distance themselves from the Ravens before the half, and it helped the Ravens go into the locker room with the attitude that they were still in the game. The league's number one offense was then shut out in the second half. It was probably Brady's worst playoff performance and another example of him being clearly outplayed by the opposing signal caller in the games that matter most. This stat says it all. Before Sunday's game, the Patriots were 67-0 at home when leading at half time since Tom Brady has been the starting quarterback of the team. What once was a sure thing, doesn't seem so sure anymore.
What are the other things people are starting to remember Tom Brady for? The "Brady" Rule. The rule instituted after Tom Brady missed the entire 2008 NFL season from a hit by then Chiefs safety, Bernard Pollard. The rule banned any defensive player from targeting a quarterback at or below his knees. Outside of football, Brady is certainly famous for his supermodel wife, Gisele Bundchen. He also does commercials and ads for Ugg boots. While Tom Brady is certainly in the mainstream media today, even without any recent championship success, the memories of Super Bowl glory are starting to become just that; memories.
So how do i view Tom Brady? I view him as a great quarterback and a future hall of famer. He is probably given too much credit for his Super Bowl wins, and given too much of the blame for the Patriots lack of championship success over the past eight seasons. One thing is certain; the days of considering Tom Brady as the best of all time are gone. While another Super Bowl ring could certainly reopen the discussion, Tom Brady, without a championship caliber defense and "well chosen" offensive play calling, has proven to be just one of many of the great quarterbacks of this generation.
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Written by: Kelly McGuire