The Saga of Tom Brady

Whitney Critchfield, Sentry Reporter

Tom Brady is one of the most accomplished professional athletes of all time. With a career spanning 21 years, the National Football League (NFL) quarterback has earned a long list of awards and wins, including his most recent victory at Super Bowl LV. Brady may be one of the oldest players in the NFL, but he has stated he will return for the 2021 season and could, quite possibly, dominate professional football for years to come. 

Brady grew up in the Bay Area in San Mateo, California. As a child, he idolized star quarterback Joe Montana, and would frequently attend San Francisco 49ers games. Brady was an excellent football and baseball player in his youth, and he was even picked by the Montreal Expos for the 1995 Major League Baseball (MLB) draft. However, Brady turned down the offer and went on to become a quarterback at the University of Michigan. 

Brady played for the University of Michigan for his four years in Ann Arbor. Although he played backup quarterback for his first two seasons, Brady eventually rose in the ranks and earned the starting position. Senior year proved to be the most difficult, but Brady outplayed his rival quarterback, Drew Henson. After splitting time with Henson for the first few games of the season, Brady regained his spot by turning the tide of Michigan’s sixth game, after Henson’s play resulted in a 17 point deficit. He brought his team to victory several times, with his most impressive win being the 2000 Orange Bowl against the University of Alabama, with a final score of 35-34.

In 2000, Brady was selected to play for the New England Patriots in the sixth round of the NFL draft. Brady was one of the first draft picks that Bill Belichick made after becoming head coach of the Patriots. 

“Brady is a guy that has obviously played at a high level of competition in front of a lot of people and he’s been in a lot of pressure situations…. He’s a good, tough, competitive, smart quarterback that is a good value,” Belichick said in an interview discussing Brady’s selection.

Early in the 2001 season, Brady was made starting quarterback after Drew Bledsoe was injured. That season, Brady led the Patriots to a Super Bowl victory and he was named the most valuable player (MVP) for the game. While he was not considered the most athletic quarterback, Brady was praised for his consistency and superb leadership abilities. Super Bowl XXXVI served as a catalyst for Brady’s record-breaking 20 years with the Patriots. 

Brady helped the Patriots continue a strong winning streak into his second Super Bowl in 2004, which resulted in him winning MVP once again. The year after, Brady secured a win in Super Bowl XXXIX, which completed a rare pattern of three championship wins in four years. 

While he remained a strong player, Brady faced a few large defeats in 2006, 2007 and 2008. The Patriots suffered a loss at the hands of the Denver Broncos in the 2006 playoffs, and Brady’s success declined. The next year, after Brady was awarded the Associated Press Male Athlete of the Year Award, the New York Giants defeated the Patriots in the Super Bowl. After what had appeared to be two years of losses, many believed Brady’s “Golden Age” was over. To make matters worse, Brady was out for the 2008 season due to a severe knee injury at the start of the season. This rough time seemed to be Brady’s fall from glory, and many people questioned whether Brady could make a comeback. 

The 2009 season seemed to be exactly the fresh start Brady needed. After a fantastic season back on the field, Brady was named the Comeback Player of the Year. Brady helped his team regain strength in 2010, and by the end of the season, the Patriots had the best record in the American Football Conference (AFC). Brady himself ended the season with record breaking statistics, such as throwing 335 passes without a pick, and he was unanimously named the AFC MVP. 

Although Brady did not earn any Super Bowl wins in 2012 and 2013, the Patriots continued to dominate the AFC, playing in its Championship games both years. The 2012 season seemed to be another chance to win the Super Bowl, but the Patriots lost, once again, to the Giants.

The 2014 season presented another shot at the Super Bowl for Brady after the Patriots won their playoff game against the Indianapolis Colts, and the Patriots did win Super Bowl XLIX. However, the world questioned the validity of Brady’s performance in the AFC Championship after it was discovered that 11 out of the 12 footballs the Patriots used in the game were underinflated, which made them easier to catch. The scandal soon came to be called “Deflategate,” and it left a stain on not only Brady’s playoff win, but also his Super Bowl win of the 2014 season. Although the story was broken before Super Bowl XLIX, the NFL failed to take action on Deflategate until May of 2015. The league suspended Brady from four games for failing to cooperate in their investigation, but Brady and his legal team appealed the suspension, which resulted in a year long on-an-off legal battle involving Brady, the Patriots and the NFL. The initial suspension was overturned by a Federal Judge, and Brady played a successful, suspension-free 2015 season. However, Deflategate was not over. In April of 2016, The US Court of Appeals upheld the four game suspension, and Brady was suspended for the first four games of the season.

Brady did not let his suspension hinder his team, and he brought the Patriots to a victory at Super Bowl LI: a remarkable comeback game where Brady displayed his incredible leadership skills. This key game earned him an unheard of fifth super bowl win against the Atlanta Falcons. 2017 and 2018 proved to be two more extremely successful years after Brady won the AFC championship in the 2017 season, and the Super Bowl in the 2018 season. Brady’s win at Super Bowl LIII made him the oldest quarterback to win an NFL title. 

The 2019 season did not live up to the success of the two previous years, and Brady suffered one of his worst years, statistically. The Patriots lost their first postseason game, and any hope of another Super Bowl win. In the spring of 2020, after a frustrating all around season for Brady, he announced he would be leaving the Patriots and signing with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. 

Although many Patriots fans felt betrayed and critics thought Brady’s career was over, Brady brought the Buccaneers a Super Bowl win in his first year on the team. Super Bowl LV was the first NFL championship title for Tampa Bay since their only other win in 2003. The 2021 game was Brady’s tenth Super Bowl appearance, an NFL record, and his seventh victory, another record. Although the Kansas City Chiefs were the 2020 Super Bowl winners, they were no match for Brady and the Buccaneers. Brady has announced that he will be back for another season, and many predict he will not retire any time soon.

With his tremendous mark on both the Patriots and Buccaneers, record-breaking Super Bowl appearances and wins, Brady is by far the most accomplished NFL player of all time. Whether he is the Greatest of All Time (GOAT), is a contested issue, but most would agree that Brady is the greatest of his time, and his impact on football of the 2000s has been tremendous.