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The Myth Of Tom Brady, And How Another Playoff Loss Affects His Legacy

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For years now, the name Tom Brady has been synonymous with winning in a way that even his peers--Drew Brees, Peyton Manning, and Ben Roethlisberger--haven't been able to replicate.

Not because they haven't won plenty of games themselves, but because the mystique of Tom Brady just can't be matched by a mere mortal. How do you mimic a myth? The myth being that, while other quarterbacks might be just as talented, nobody comes through in the clutch quite like Tom Brady. He's dreamboat for a reason, damnit!

But after his third straight playoff loss and a game where the Jets neutered him with four quarters of relentless pressure and creative schemes, maybe it's time to re-think Brady's legacy as the personification of Everything We Want From A Quarterback.

Just look at the recent history. After starting his career with a flawless 10-0 record in the playoffs, Brady hasn't won a Super Bowl, going 4-5 in the years since New England's 2005 win, and losing his last three playoff games. His stats from those games (courtesy of USA Today):

  • 2007, Super Bowl XLII, 17-14 loss to Giants: Brady was 29-for-48 for 266 with one TD. But -- after throwing a record-setting 50 TDs in the regular season -- he was sacked five times and lost a fumble against a relentless Giants defense.
  • 2009, wild card, 33-14 loss to Ravens: Brady went 23-for-42 for 154 yards with two TDs and three INTs. He was sacked three times and lost a fumble in a rout.
  • 2010, divisional, 28-21 loss to Jets: Brady went 29-for-45 for 299 yards with two TDs and one INT -- his first in three months. He was sacked five times against a Jets defense that confused and battered him.

It's not that he's been terrible, just... He's not unstoppable anymore. Over at SB Nation's Colts blog, Stampede Blue, they say it's just proof that you can't judge quarterbacks on wins and losses:

...for the rest of the intelligent world, we don't need friggin playoff 'wins' to tell us which QB is good and which is bad. A QBs overall body of work, coupled with how he changed the game of football during his playing career, is enough to measure greatness.

Of course, that's a Colts fan talking. And for fans of Peyton Manning, it makes sense to pardon Brady's playoff woes stress the importance of an "overall body of work." After all, in that category, Peyton grades out better than anyone in history. But there's more nuance to grading quarterbacks.

Wins and losses do matter. If they didn't, then we'd all say Dan Marino was unquestionably the greatest quarterback of all time. At least until Peyton Manning breaks all his records, when we'd have a new gold standard. But that'd be idiotic.

Everything We Want From a QB has nothing to do with the best stats. No, we want the guy that doesn't always have the best stats, but laughs at pressure, leads his team down the field when they need a score, and always makes the big throw to win a game. For years, Brady personified that ideal. I mean, watching the Jets and Patriots game yesterday, weren't millions of Patriots fans watching and wondering, "When's Tom Brady going to turn into Tom Brady and carry us?"

It never happened on Sunday. But that doesn't mean the lesson of Brady and the Patriots is that "quarterbacks don't mean as much as we think." Did you watch Sunday? Brady means exactly as much as we think, and he was no match for the Jets defense on Sunday.

His QB rating after the first two quarters was 53.9 and 50.2, and the Patriots lost because over four quarters in the playoffs, Brady's offense never quite figured out the Jets defense.

If Sunday teaches us anything, it's that Tom Brady might not be Tom Brady anymore.

Or maybe it's this: Even though Brady lived it better than any NFL quarterback of our generation, the myth of the ideal quarterback is inherently unrealistic. And the last few years, Tom Brady has just become Tom Brady, one of the best quarterbacks in the league, and no different than Peyton Manning, Drew Brees, Ben Roethlisberger, and Aaron Rodgers. None of these guys are perfect.

But you know what? Even after Sunday, if we take Stampede Blue's suggestion and look at "the overall body of work, coupled with how he changed the game of football", Brady's still the best we've seen in years.