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Tom Brady is the author of the NFL’s greatest resume. Many say he’s the greatest to ever play in the NFL. With six Super Bowl titles under his belt, it’s tough to argue.

On Tuesday, Brady, via social media, thanked fans, teammates, coaches, and owner Robert Kraft for his 20-year run with the New England Patriots. As of Tuesday, it’s unknown where Brady will play the final years of his NFL career. Brady has stressed retirement is not an option.

How Tom Brady built his legacy

Tom Brady burst onto the NFL scene in 2001 when New York Jets linebacker Mo Lewis knocked out Patriots starting quarterback Drew Bledsoe with a powerful hit near the sideline. New England turned to its sixth-round draft pick out of Michigan.

Brady finished out the regular season for New England and wound up making a name for himself when he was named Most Valuable Player of Super Bowl XXXVI for his game-winning drive that ended in an Adam Vinatieri field goal that gave New England a 20-17 win over the Rams, who entered the game as a two-touchdown favorite. That game was the birth of a team dynasty and the beginning of Brady’s unprecedented resume.

Under Brady, the Patriots went on to win six Super Bowls and make nine Super Bowl appearances. Brady has also been named the NFL’s MVP three times and he was also named Super Bowl MVP four times. Brady led the league in passing three years, led the NFL in touchdowns four times, and made the Pro Bowl 14 times.

Brady has also been one of the most durable quarterbacks in the league. Aside from tearing his ACL in the first game of the 2008 season that forced him to miss the year, Brady’s only other time missed since 2002 was a four-game suspension he received for not cooperating during the ‘deflategate’ investigation.

Tom Brady vs. Bill Belichick

The big question regarding Tom Brady has always been: would Brady have been so successful without head coach Bill Belichick?

As much as many believe Brady is the best football player of all time, the same can be said about Belichick as a coach. The two together have put together league’s most dominant run with those six Super Bowl titles and nine appearances.

The argument in support of Brady would be that Belichick had one winning season as a head coach prior to that 2001 season. In five years as head coach of the Cleveland Browns, Belichick went 11-5 during the 1994 season for that lone year above .500. In his other four seasons, his record was 25-39. He was also 5-11 in his first season as head coach of the Patriots in 2000.

The argument in support of Belichick would be that in the 2011 season when Brady tore his ACL, the Patriots replaced Brady with undrafted Matt Cassel. Cassel and the Patriots didn’t seem to skip a beat as the backup quarterback out of USC went on guide New England to an 11-5 record. Brady has never been the most athletic quarterback nor one with the strongest arm. Some have even argued he’s a product of Belichick’s system.

Could Brady’s legacy be tarnished?

Tom Brady’s legacy seems to be cemented in the NFL. Nobody can take away those six Super Bowls and four Super Bowl MVPs. But could a couple of bad seasons away from New England make people think otherwise?

We now know Brady and Belichick won’t be teaming up in the 2020 season. Although we don’t know exactly where Brady will be taking his next snaps, what if the soon-to-be 43-year-old quarterback struggles with his next team? Brady’s legacy wouldn’t be hurt simply because he is moving on from the Patriots. We have seen other legendary quarterbacks (Joe Montana, Brett Favre) switch teams in the twilight of their careers. 

What if Brady puts together an 8-8 season with his new team? Would that be chalked up to struggling in a foreign system? Would it be because age has finally caught up to him? The biggest threat to Brady’s legacy would be if he struggles with his new team and Belichick and the Patriots’ new quarterback, whether it be backup Jarrett Stidham or someone like Andy Dalton, team up to repeat New England’s 12-4 season of a year ago.