When Tom Brady signed with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on March 20, he ended a historic run in New England that included six Super Bowl championships, more than any player in NFL history. Brady’s 20 seasons with the New England Patriots, in which he combined with coach Bill Belichick to form one of the all-time great quarterback-coach combinations, are the most ever with one team by a quarterback. If the GOAT (Greatest Of All Time) question was still up for debate, Brady put that to rest once and for all.
Despite this, many claim that Brady is a “system” quarterback is absurd because New England’s system has constantly changed, and Brady has always adapted his game to fit the team’s needs and maximize its advantages. He’s also thrown touchdown passes to more than 70 different players, an NFL record, the vast majority of whom are not, or were not, top-tier offensive weapons. Apart from Randy Moss, Brady has never played with a truly elite deep-ball threat.
Furthermore, since 2001, New England has by far the league’s best record against non-division opponents, teams that won their division and season, teams that made the playoffs that season and teams that finished with a winning record that season. Looking at all the feats the Patriots have accomplished during the Tom Brady era, it’s why football coach Jeff Vlk believes Brady is the GOAT.
“Through [Brady’s] record, it’s hard to envision that the New England Patriots have won 16 division championships since 2001,” Vlk said. “[Brady’s] also been to nine superbowls and won six of those; two of those losses were against a hall of famer.”
Those who believe Brady is the GOAT have a moment in time when they gave him the title. Freshman Max Shultz considered Brady to be the GOAT in 2011 when Brady posted some career-best statistics thanks to the second best offense ranked that season.
“That year he had 5,235 passing yards, a rating of 105.6 and threw for 39 touchdowns versus his 12 interceptions,” Shultz said. “That was one of Brady’s best years on record. Ever since then, he’s been the GOAT.”
While Brady did have a good year in 2011 statistically, which led the Patriots to a 13-3 season and ultimately lost to the New York Giants in a Super Bowl, that was not the year he became the GOAT in my eyes.
Brady became the undisputed GOAT in Super Bowl 51 when they beat the Atlanta Falcons 34-28. The halftime score was a bleak one from New England’s perspective: Falcons 21, Patriots 3. However, Brady led the Patriots to score the game’s final 31 points, including the winning touchdown in overtime, while outgaining the Falcons 338-69 with a 48-16 advantage in plays and 20:34-6:55 in time of possession. This was the largest comeback in Super Bowl history. The sequence serves as arguably the finest moment in the careers of Bill Belichick and Tom Brady.
While that served as arguably the finest moment in their careers, Brady and Belichick’s relationship grew more sour than most would think. For all of Belichick’s greatness, and for all of the praise that he had thrown on Brady in public and all of the hard coaching he had dished in private, the relationship had run its course. As a result, Brady left New England and signed with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Nonetheless, Shultz believes Brady departed in order to win another Super Bowl elsewhere and had nothing to do with personal feelings with Belichick.
“Brady departed because he wanted to have a new era with Rob Gronkowski in a different place, giving another team a chance to win a Super Bowl,” Shultz said. “I feel [Brady and Belichick] have great respect for each other and a great relationship, it wasn’t anything personal.”
However, it’s difficult to say that the relationship between the two wasn’t frictional. The Buccaneers weren’t anything special in most people’s eyes, considering they haven’t been to the playoffs in over a decade. It would take a factor for Brady to depart from New England at any costs.
According to ESPN, Brady wasn’t just looking to win Super Bowls, the majority of his career, he wanted what everyone wants from an employer: to feel valued and to love work. They seemed like two reasonable tasks, until Brady realized that in New England, under Bill Belichick, he might be asking the impossible.
Now that Brady is in Tampa Bay, winning another ring will not only add to his legacy but it will cement his status as the GOAT. However, winning a Super Bowl in Tampa will be a difficult task due to the fact that other NFC foes, such as the San Francisco 49ers, will be difficult to beat to advance to the Super Bowl. If Brady succeeds in Tampa Bay, critics may have to reconsider their opinion.
“Can Brady be successful without Belichick and can Belichick be successful without Brady, I think they both want to know,” Vlk said. “If Brady goes to Tampa and they stink, people are going to talk forever [about how] Belichick and the chances of [Brady] being the GOAT are done, but if he does well there, then the debate is over once and for all.”