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Dan Bickley

Tom Brady isn’t the GOAT, but is the greatest quarterback in history

Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady (12) celebrates following the NFL Super Bowl 55 football game against the Kansas City Chiefs, Sunday, Feb. 7, 2021 in Tampa, Fla. Tampa Bay won 31-9. (Ben Liebenberg via AP)

Tom Brady isn’t the Greatest of All Time. Not among professional athletes. Not even among NFL players. That honor belongs to Walter Payton or Lawrence Taylor.

But he’s the greatest quarterback in history. That’s undebatable and undeniable. The proof is in the jewelry. And that’s no small feat.

Playing quarterback is the hardest job in sports. The position requires leadership, intelligence and emotional maturity. Someone who knows how to give the credit and take the blame. It requires total devotion and dedication to the craft, like the week that Bruce Arians asked Carson Palmer to learn 171 plays before a game against the lowly Bengals. It requires great ambition, arm strength and accuracy. It requires someone comfortable in the spotlight, someone who understands the power of media.

Brady does it better than anyone. As a 43-year-old underdog, Brady just beat Patrick Mahomes in the Super Bowl. That should cool the overzealous fans who thought Mahomes was ready to enter the Pro Football Hall of Fame after three years on the job. And it’s a reminder to every young quarterback in football, notably Arizona’s Kyler Murray:

Brady’s greatness isn’t found in his athleticism or his avocado milkshakes. In Tampa, he had six rushing yards in 16 games. But he remains nearly unbeatable in high-pressure situations, plowing through three road games and three MVPs along the way (Drew Brees, Aaron Rodgers, Mahomes). And that’s because nobody is more prepared than Brady.

That’s how you succeed under pressure, knowing you have left no stone unturned in pursuit of victory.

After Sunday’s triumph, Arians said Brady taught a young, talented team how to win. He also taught them how to work.

Brady showed up in Tampa immediately after signing a free agent contract. He was chided by the city’s mayor for breaking Covid-19 protocol, for training in a park that was closed during the pandemic. He famously walked into the wrong house because he was looking for his new offensive coordinator, Byron Leftwich.

The message was obvious. Brady didn’t come to Florida to retire. He came to work and it starts immediately.

Brady also showed great leadership. He decided not to unduly pressure one of his wide receivers, Chris Godwin, to relinquish the No. 12. Instead, Brady decided he’d wear No. 7 as a member of the Buccaneers, even though his brand is “TB12.”

Godwin gave Brady the jersey out of deference. But the delicate way Brady handled the situation fostered kinship and respect.

Shrewdly, the Buccaneers gave Brady everything he wanted, from players like Rob Gronkowski and Antonio Brown, to a huge stake in the game plan and easy access for his personal trainer. The results speak for themselves.

To reach the pinnacle of the quarterback profession, you have to dedicate your life to football, embracing the enormous parameters of the job. You have to love the grind, the work, the pressure. You carry the hopes and dreams of your city on your shoulders like a privilege. You don’t dare complain or ask anyone to lighten the load.

Anything less is a compromise, proof that you really don’t want it that badly. Not like Brady does.

Reach Bickley at dbickley@arizonasports.com. Listen to Bickley & Marotta weekdays from 10 a.m. – 2 p.m. on 98.7 FM Arizona’s Sports Station.


Bickley & Marotta

Dan Bickley bio
Dan Bickley is the most influential sports media member in Arizona sports history, having spent over 20 years as the award-winning lead sports columnist for The Arizona Republic and AZCentral.com and almost two decades as a Valley sports radio talk show host. In spring 2018, Bickley made the decision to leave the newspaper to join the Arizona Sports team as host of the entertaining and informative midday show Bickley and Marotta, as well as bring his opinionated and provocative column exclusively to ArizonaSports.com.
Bickley’s journalism career began in his hometown of Chicago, where he was part of a star-studded staff at the Chicago Sun-Times. He chronicled Michael Jordan’s six NBA championships; covered the Olympics in eight different countries and attended 14 Super Bowls; spent three weeks in an Indianapolis courthouse writing about Mike Tyson’s rape trial; and once left his laptop in an Edmonton bar after the Blackhawks reached the Stanley Cup Finals.
He has won multiple awards, written two books, formed a rock band, fathered three children, and once turned down an offer to work at the New York Times.  His passions include sports, music, the alphabet, good beer and great radio. After joining Arizona Sports 98.7 FM, he couldn’t be happier