Tom Brady set an impossible standard for all QBs to come
I attended Tom Brady’s first Super Bowl. The Patriots beat Kurt Warner and the Rams. Maybe they cheated, maybe they didn’t. Nothing can detract from how preternaturally poised Brady appeared as he led New England on a game-winning drive.
Back then, the Patriots were America’s sweethearts, a we-first team that prevailed on preparation and discipline and their unheralded quarterback from Michigan.
I attended Tom Brady’s second Super Bowl in Houston, where he was overshadowed by Janet Jackson. I attended his third in Jacksonville, and by then, they all seemed the same, right down to the game-winning field goals from Adam Vinatieri.
For historical context, this was nearly 20 years ago. Outkast’s “Hey Ya!” was all the rage. And somewhere along the line, I wrote this about the Patriots quarterback:
Some athletes are cool. Tom Brady is ice cold.
We, the state of Arizona, hosted Brady’s first Super Bowl loss in 2008. The Patriots’ quest for perfection was spoiled by the Giants, an infamous helmet catch and a Hall-of-Fame performance from Eli Manning. It was a historic occasion and the perfect karma slap for an organization that was no longer celebrated by the masses.
By then, the Patriots had transformed from lucky (the Tuck Rule) to villainous (Spygate). They won too often, and they won without scruples. Everywhere they went, paranoia soon followed.
Brady’s closing act was stupendous, right down to the heartfelt message he posted on social media on Wednesday. He won the most recent Super Bowl in Arizona, when Russell Wilson’s Seahawks coughed up a championship on the goal line. He almost singlehandedly won one of the greatest Super Bowls ever, rallying his team from a 28-3 deficit to beat the Falcons in overtime. He won his seventh and final championship in his first season away from New England and the monotonous mania of the monotoned Bill Belichick, settling a barroom debate that had been raging for a decade.
Brady’s final season is tinged with sadness. He gave up his marriage for his mistress (football) and the last hurrah was anything but kind. Or maybe he was married to football all along. Either way, much respect to the man who was unbeatable under pressure; who had the hunger to play until age 45; who set an impossible standard for all quarterbacks to come, and who finally found an opponent he couldn’t beat.
The one that gets us all.
Reach Bickley at email@example.com. Listen to Bickley & Marotta mornings from 6–10 a.m. on Arizona Sports 98.7.