Tom Brady is the only NFL player, and one of only 64 North American professional athletes, to win at leas six championships. There are no NFL players, and only 30 North American professional athletes, who have ever won more than six. Of those 30 athletes, only two never wore pinstripes, green and white, or bleu blanc et rouge. (Red Kelly won eight Stanley Cups in the ’50s and ’60s [four with Detroit and then four more with Toronto], and Robert Horry won seven titles while moving from dynasty to dynasty in the NBA in the ’90s and 2000s [Houston in 1994 and 1995, the Lakers in 2000, 2001 and 2002, and San Antonio in 2005 and 2007]. )
A win on Sunday would serve to strengthen the claim that the “Patriot Way” is/was really the “Brady Way.” A win on Sunday would cement Brady’s legacy as a one-man dynasty. With a win, he would pass Michael Jordan and tie Babe Ruth with seven championships. While 20 men could still claim more than seven rings, Bill Russell and Joe DiMaggio may be the only two who could credibly claim to be primarily responsible for more team championships than Brady. Brady is already on the Boston sports Mount Rushmore. He’s already on the NFL Mount Rushmore. If he’s not already on it now, a win on Sunday would solidify his spot on the North American sports Mount Rushmore.
Should Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers lose on Sunday, that shouldn’t impact Brady’s legacy. I don’t want to hear the argument that 6-0 (Jordan) or 4-0 (Montana) is better than 6-4 in the championship. That gives Jordan more credit for losing to the Detroit Pistons in the Eastern Conference playoffs three years in a row. It gives Montana more credit for his four one-and-dones. Whether it’s 6-4 or 7-3, Brady should get more credit for likely taking some teams further than they had any business going.
I’ll admit it, I wasn’t driving the Brady/Gronk Bandwagon this season but I will be pulling for them on Sunday. It’s not that I was rooting against them this season. I’ve got no problem with a couple of guys who want to switch jobs or move to a different company. Their departures were no where near as acrimonious as the departures of Bill Parcells, Roger Clemens or Johnny Damon. It’s just not that easy as a fan to switch allegiances. I wish it were, though. No state income tax and seventy-degree days in January and February sound awfully nice. Can’t blame Brady and Gronk for seeking greener pastures.
Like Jerry Seinfeld said, at some level, we’re all just cheering for the clothes.
While Patrick Mahomes and the Kansas City Chiefs still have a long way to go to catch up with Brady and the Patriots, they do look like the type of team that could rip off three championships in a row, or four in five years. As a Patriots fan, I don’t want to see that happen. I’ve got no issue with Mahomes, Andy Reid, or the Chiefs, but I don’t want to see my team challenged like that. Not in the historical context, or even just next year in the AFC. As a fan, I like knowing that the Patriots were the last team to go back-to-back, and that nobody has ever won three in a row. So those are a few more reasons why I’ll be pulling for the Buccaneers on Sunday.
For Kansas City, after a trip to the AFC Championship Game two years ago and now back-to-back trips to the Super Bowl, this will be their 56th game in the last three seasons. That feels like a lot of football. The Patriots were actually in the exact same position three years ago in Minneapolis. After losing to Denver in the 2015 AFC Championship Game, they won Super Bowl LI over Atlanta a year later and got back to the big game the following year. Memorably, they couldn’t finish the job and fell to Philadelphia in Super Bowl LII.
Only a few years prior, Super Bowl SLIX was the 55th game in three seasons for the 2014 Seahawks who were also trying to defend a title against Brady. The Patriots scored 14 unanswered points in the fourth quarter, and made the best goal line stand of all time, to deny the Seahawks in their bid to repeat.
Brady doesn’t just start dynasties, he ends them too. Just ask Marshall Faulk and Pete Carroll. The Chiefs could be the next dynasty/near-dynasty to get derailed by Tom Brady.
In all of the Patriots Super Bowl losses in my lifetime, there seemed to be some drama or general weirdness leading up to the game in retrospect. Before Brady, Parcells had one foot out the door before the Patriots fell to Brett Favre and the Packers in 1997. The first Super Bowl against the Giants had the weight of a potential perfect season crash down on the Patriots, and they couldn’t shake that off in the rematch four years later. (The Giants and Tom Coughlin may just be Bill Belichick’s two bugaboos.) And who could forget the time Belichick lost a Super Bowl on purpose just to make a point when he benched former Super Bowl hero Maclolm Butler in Super Bowl LII?
Maybe things are just tamer this year with COVID precautions, but it doesn’t feel like this year’s Tampa Bay team is engulfed by any similar dramas or weirdness.
It feels like the Buccaneers have already played their toughest games this postseason, winning three straight road games to get back home. While it won’t be a home game in the traditional sense, how could it not be a huge advantage to play a COVID Super Bowl in your home city, getting to avoid the hassle of traveling in the time of COVID? It also feels like the Chiefs have played a lot of football over the last few seasons, and oftentimes teams in that situation can run out of gas.
I’m taking the Bucs -3 and betting the total goes over 56 points. I’m expecting a classic shootout, with the old man getting the last laugh.