NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — Tom Brady is headed back to the Super Bowl for a record 10th time. This time the 43-year-old is leading the Buccaneers back home to Tampa Bay for football’s ultimate game against the Chiefs in two weeks.
Brady threw three touchdown passes in the Bucs’ 31-26 win over the Packers Sunday at Lambeau Field, furthering his case as not just the greatest football player of all-time, but maybe one of the greatest athletes of all-time right up there next to Michael Jordan and Wayne Gretzky.
That’s why Brady’s decision to leave New England last offseason after six Super Bowl titles was so notable. The greatest quarterback of all-time wanted to pick how he finished his career, and he wasn’t finished winning. Whatever debate was left about the value of Brady compared to his old coach Bill Belichick is now officially over.
At the time Brady initially made his decision to say goodbye to the Patriots, the Titans were the odds on favorite to land the three-time MVP. Ultimately, they decided to reward Ryan Tannehill for his terrific 2019 season with a four-year contract worth $118 million. Brady signed with the Buccaneers.
Hindsight is 20/20, but it is hard to ignore Brady’s impact as he directed the second-place finisher in the NFC South to three consecutive road playoff victories. The Bucs hadn’t been to the playoffs in 12 years but now will become the first team ever to play the Super Bowl in their home stadium.
Would the Titans have been better off to pin their hopes to the right arm of the G.O.A.T., even in a shorter contract, than going with Tannehill? It’s a hypothetical Jon Robinson and Mike Vrabel won’t lose much sleep over, but it’s a question Brady’s 2020 makes legitimate.
This is no knock on Tannehill, who threw for 3,819 yards and 33 touchdowns against just seven interceptions this season while leading the Titans to the no. 2 offense in football. Neither he or Brady could help the mess that was the Titans’ defense, a unit that regressed in pretty much every statistical category this season and had the worst third down defense in three decades. Tennessee’s biggest questions moving forward have to do with defensive scheme and personnel, not the QB spot.
But Brady’s presence is felt far beyond just the stat sheet. He sets the tone and demands a certain standard every single day. Tampa Bay had some talented pieces but had no winning culture until Brady signed on the dotted line.
He was able to recruit his old New England tight end Rob Gronkowski out of retirement, and his presence helped the Bucs sign tackle Joe Haeg and running back Leonard Fournette in free agency, and even re-sign a key defensive piece like Jason Pierre-Paul. He gathered teammates for player-led workouts when NFL offseason programs were limited to virtual activities only. He threw for 4,633 yards and 40 touchdowns in a new offense devised and then tweaked with Bruce Arians as the Bucs ran off four straight wins to finish 11-5 and make the postseason.
Brady threw for 580 yards and four touchdowns in road playoff wins at Washington and New Orleans, then threw for three more scores as Tampa jumped to a 28-10 lead Sunday at Green Bay. He looked mortal with three second half interceptions, but the Bucs defense slowed Aaron Rodgers and the Packers, giving Brady and the offense a chance to run out the clock after Matt LaFleur’s inexplicable decision to kick a field goal on fourth and goal with 2:05 left.
Just like he has done his entire career, Brady has won in Tampa home and away, against good opponents and bad. And in the playoffs, he always seems to find a way, even when he doesn’t play his best game. Put simply, he makes everyone around him better.
And after missing the AFC Championship game for the first time in nine years last season in New England, Brady moved on and took Tampa Bay to the NFC Championship. Now he’ll make his 10th Super Bowl appearance overall, five more than any other QB in history.
Would Brady have been able to help the Titans overcome their defensive struggles? Or better manage Derrick Henry’s off day in the playoffs? It’s impossible to know. There’s no question his presence has been the difference in getting the Bucs over the top and back to their first Super Bowl in 18 seasons.
Just one more line on the greatest resume in the history of the NFL.