Only five men have ever won the NFL MVP award more than twice: Peyton Manning, Jim Brown, Johnny Unitas, Brett Favre, and two players who are still on the field: Aaron Rodgers and Tom Brady. Rodgers is a few years behind Brady, but it’s nearly impossible for him — or anyone — to catch Brady in either Super Bowl rings or reputation.
You don’t win the Lombardi Trophy seven times without a little bit of luck. But in some ways, Tom Terrific’s career has actually fought against the odds.
An unlikely start to a GOAT career
Brady’s career started in college at the University of Michigan where he played four years in the Big Ten. The skinny kid showed glimpses of the magic that would make him the NFL GOAT. But he did little to distinguish himself from more accomplished quarterbacks.
A year before Brady was drafted, Donovan McNabb went second overall in the draft. McNabb immediately started to redefine the QB role with his incredible speed, casting doubt on the ability of Brady (who infamously ran a 5.28 40-yard dash at the NFL combine).
As Brady settled into the New England system as the 199th draft pick overall, he never got much faster. But his competitive drive and desire to win made up for his lack of rushing ability. Surrounded by ever-changing receivers, Brady won the Super Bowl six times with Patriots head coach Bill Belichick, along with three MVP awards. The California native was the first player ever to win the MVP award unanimously in 2010.
The 18-1 heartbreak and recovery
In 2007, Brady led the Patriots to their infamous 18-1 season. The first perfect regular season in decades did little to lessen the sting as the Giants stole the Lombardi trophy. It was another seven years before the Patriots won the Big Game again. But they managed to do it in the 2014, 2016, and 2018 seasons.
New England finally let Brady go after a 2019 wild-card loss to the Titans, believing that the then-42-year-old was out of magic.The QB made his way to Tampa Bay, where he quickly replaced Jameis Winston as the starting quarterback and reunited with one of the best tight ends of all time (the then-retired Rob Gronkowski.)
During his first season in Florida, Brady did just enough to get the team into the wild card game, which they won on the road at Washington. Then, they won in New Orleans and pulled off a 31-26 nailbiter in Green Bay, earning the right to return home and play a Super Bowl at their own stadium.
Tom Brady wins the Super Bowl at home
Due to coronavirus restrictions, Raymond James Stadium was less than half full when the Buccaneers welcomed the Kansas City Chiefs. But the limited attendance rallied the defense and shut down one of this century’s most exciting teams. Patrick Mahomes, Tyreek Hill, Travis Kelce, and rookie Clyde Edwards-Helaire couldn’t reach the end zone once.
On the other side of the ball, experience trumped youth as Brady, Gronkowski, Antonio Brown, and Leonard Fournette put up 31 points to win by 22. Brady’s decisive win at 43 years old in his new home stadium is threatening to redefine what’s expected of an aging quarterback.
Packers great Brett Favre was pushed out of town to welcome Rodgers — it turned out alright for Green Bay — but what would the early 2010s have been like for the Packers if they built a team around the Gunslinger? Or perhaps Brady is just one in a billion. The latter seems more likely.
For someone so obsessed and driven on the football field, it’s fair to assume that Brady doesn’t have much of a personal life. After all, the morning after the Super Bowl victory, he celebrated by FaceTiming a Buccaneers coach to discuss how they would win again in the 2021 season. But how does a driven quarterback relax when he’s off the field? It turns out that family man Brady might just be the GOAT of the offseason, too.
Who is Tom Brady’s wife, Gisele Bündchen?
Brady has one of the most famous spouses in pro sports: Gisele Bündchen. The supermodel goes above and beyond to support her husband as he competes at the highest level, even when she may want to see him call it a career.
As long as he’s on the field, Bündchen is all-in when it comes to helping him prepare. Even if it’s outside of the traditional pre-game warmups, the Brazilian model is wholly invested in Brady’s success. After all, it makes sense; he’s the breadwinner, right?
Surprisingly, the greatest football player of all time (worth over $250 million) is not the richer one in the marriage. As the pair recently co-invested to boost their $650 million net worth further, it’s clear that Bündchen is worth nearly twice what Brady is.
At over $400 million, Bündchen is potentially the highest-paid supermodel in history. Though she’s “retired” from actively modeling, she still rakes in over $40 million a year with fashion and fragrance contracts.
Leaving the Patriots revitalized Tom Brady’s career
For the first 20 seasons of his NFL career, Brady was synonymous with New England. He shared the glory (and infamy) with Bill Belichick whenever the team won a Super Bowl or got caught cheating. During the Patriots dynasty, it was unclear whether Brady’s arm or Belichick’s playbook was the driving factor.
But in the twilight of his career, Brady chose to head off to Tampa Bay where he seems to be more popular than ever. Winning the Super Bowl in his first season with the Buccaneers did a lot to boost his popularity, but it seems like there’s something beneath the surface.
Maybe it’s distancing himself from Belichick and New England, or maybe it’s the fact that Brady signed on with an underachieving franchise instead of surrounding himself with talent (although, after Gronkowski came out of retirement and Antonio Brown joined the team, this isn’t necessarily true).
Touchdown Tom and his tequila
One image that’s stuck with Brady since the end of last season is his overindulgence during Tampa Bay’s Super Bowl celebration. The normally discrete QB got drunk, stumbled around, and even threw the Lombardi Trophy from one boat to another — a marked departure from his plant-based superfood ultra-strict diet.
Whether Brady comes back next year (it’s likely) or wins another Super Bowl (also not outside the realm of possibility), he’ll go down in history as the greatest. In the final years of his career, can he pull off the ultimate heist and go down as one of the most popular? Fans, especially AFC fans, have hated him for 20 years. But as an aging player doing his best in his mid-40s? If it were anyone else, he’d be universally acclaimed. But Tampa Bay Brady seems to be winning the NFL fans over one step at a time.
The quarterback’s recent seasons haven’t lacked controversy. Notably, his role in the Deflategate scandal saw him miss four games due to a suspension. Additionally, he made headlines when it came out that the Bucs hid his knee injury for the entire 2020 season.
Another scandal: Brady’s TB12 company received PPP loans at a time when plenty of other businesses were struggling. Has that (or anything else) tarnished the GOAT‘s reputation?
How Deflategate kicked off Tom Brady’s third act
In 2015, the New England Patriots (Brady’s team at the time) got caught letting air out of footballs prior to the AFC championship game. They went on to roll over the Indianapolis Colts, 45-7. The NFL investigated (and investigated, and investigated, as NFL fans know) and settled on suspending Brady for four games in 2016.
Unfortunately for the league, Jimmy Garoppolo and Jacoby Brissett stepped in and started the season 3-1 for the Pats. Brady’s suspension ended in Week 5 and he took the reins back.
The Patriots went 11-1 the rest of the season, cruised through the playoffs, and pulled off the greatest comeback in Super Bowl history against the Atlanta Falcons (28-3, anyone?). Although it slowed down his quest for the all-time passing records, the Deflategate suspension couldn’t stop Brady’s team from lifting the Lombardi Trophy.
Playing the 2020 season with a torn MCL in his knee
A few years after Deflategate, Brady was traded to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. While the team was expected to perform well, they were a long shot to dethrone the defending Kansas City Chiefs. But the Bucs made it to the playoffs via a wild-card slot, shutting down the Chiefs’ powerful offense to win the Super Bowl 31-9.
What’s most interesting about the incredible run by 43-year-old Brady is that he apparently played the entire season with a partially torn MCL in his knee. After they won the Super Bowl, he finally had a much-needed surgery.
A feel-good story, sure. But teams are required to report player injuries to the NFL. After two decades of twisting the rules in New England, this feels like it could be the start of Tampa Bay using some of the same underhanded tactics. On the other hand, Brady took the field and threw 40 touchdown passes (a franchise record). He obviously wasn’t hurting too badly.
TB12’s PPP loan backlash
When COVID-19 hit the U.S. in 2020, the government did its best to help struggling businesses. The Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) made loans available to small businesses that were having trouble making payroll.
Brady, worth around $200,000,000 at the time, happily accepted a loan of nearly a million dollars. It’s clear that TB12 didn’t need it to stay afloat. Brady ended up with hundreds of thousands of angry petitioners calling for him to return the money. It’s yet another asterisk in the legend’s career.
How far is Brady from retirement?
TB12 electrolytes and healthy eating can only do so much to hold back Father Time. NFL fans know that every time Brady steps onto the field, it could be the last. He recently turned 44 years old and is only four years away from George Blanda’s record.
Blanda played the last decade of his career as a placekicker. Brady is still in the pocket on every play, taking rough hits multiple times a game. But that doesn’t mean Brady’s on his way out any time soon.
He clearly loves the game and competition, and he truly wants to be the undisputed GOAT. An eighth ring (or perhaps a ninth?) would go a long way toward bolstering that argument.
All statistics courtesy of Pro-Football-Reference.com.