Consider the life of a very particular quarterback in the NFL. This quarterback led the exact life that was mapped out for him by birth: He was the son of an NFL lifer who had been the face of his own hapless team for over a decade. He was specifically taught to play the position and was given a full ride to one of the country’s most visible college football programs. Taken first overall and expected to lead his NFL team to a glory it has never known in its current location, this quarterback more than delivered. He built a strong reputation as a guy who rose up to everything thrown at him, posted video game numbers, and became arguably the greatest quarterback of all time. He became one of the faces of his sport and a visible presence as an ad man and a postseason quarterback.
That quarterback’s name was Peyton Manning, and by the account of everything good and true about America, we should hate his fucking guts. Really, go back and read that last paragraph again and tell me there’s anything remotely likable about the guy. So it says an awful lot that he’s considered the consensus good guy in a marquee NFL rivalry between his team, the Indianapolis Colts, and the New England Patriots and their glory boy, Tom Brady. Let’s be clear about this: Tom Brady is the greatest quarterback to ever pick up the pigskin. The only arguments left against him are pithy and pathetic. Yes, the NFL is much softer and friendlier toward passers now, but let’s run down a few bullet points: Brady has gotten more production out of less talent than anyone else. Manning was constantly surrounded by Hall of Fame talent playing at their best. Brady’s stints with Hall of Fame talents have been brief at best. Corey Dillon lasted two years, and Randy Moss didn’t even get THAT far. Brady was already a three-time champion when Gronk came on. Brady was the more reliable player of the two – he threw half as many interceptions at his worst than Manning at his best. Manning had to learn several new systems with coaching changes, but Brady has, more than once, CHANGED THE WAY HE PLAYED HIS POSITION. Maybe you’re a Joe Montana person rather than a Peyton Manning person, though. Well, people vouching for Montana are looking more like old men yelling at clouds by the day in the same fashion as people who are willing to acknowledge Michael Jordan’s greatness but still cling to the idea that he’ll never be as dominant as George Mikan. But what the fuck, I’ll humor them anyway. Montana was the beneficiary of consistent Hall of Fame talent and great coaching year in and year out. He had Jerry Rice, arguably the greatest football player of them all. Brady cheated? Maybe, but Montana was the beneficiary of cheating at the very least. Rice has copped to using stickum, and former football player Tim Green wrote that his offensive line played extremely dirty – they used illegal and physically devastating leg whips. Undefeated in the Super Bowl? So are Trent Dilfer and Brad Johnson. Won four? Brady won five out of eight, which means he still gets the edge because five is a higher number than four. The 4-0 record? I’m quite willing to bring Terry Bradshaw into this in response, and the only person stupid enough to think Terry Bradshaw is in Montana’s league is Terry Bradshaw. Coaching? Walsh’s coaching tree produced five Super Bowl winners. Belichick’s produced trash, so you can’t say Brady’s success came from a better coaching staff. Super Bowl competition? Brady beat the 2001 Rams, 2004 Eagles, and 2014 Seahawks – three of the greatest teams the league ever produced. In Montana’s day, the AFC was producing creampuffs. Montana won his last Super Bowl in the 1989 season. The AFC’s first 13-win team didn’t come along until the next year.
In any case, Brady has spent his career being that athletic ideal we all dream of being able to watch. He has always been a natural athlete, but he also started out being a legitimate underdog. He has been the singular keystone on the most dangerous and perfect machine in NFL history. He’s done just about everything he needed to do to prove his claim to the throne of the greatest quarterback in history. He won five Super Bowls, three league MVPs, won out in a single season, became only the third quarterback to play in three straight Super Bowls, and posted 11 wins in a BAD year. And that’s the thing – even when we learn to hate great teams, we always respect them. We respected San Francisco and Washington in the 80’s. We respected the Cowboys and Broncos in the 90’s. We respected the Rams when the millennium turned. Brady – and the rest of the Patriots – won’t be quite so fondly remembered. But why is that? Well, here are some real thoughts. Not the typical bullshit from a fan who’s fed up, but real points that I sat down and considered. (And since I’m a Bills fan, that’s no small matter.)
The Sportsmanship Facade
One of the reasons Tom Brady turned into a premier face of the NFL is because of his image. He was a sixth round Draft pick, which for a quarterback means they’re lucky to set foot on the field at all. A sixth round quarterback is signed to a contract which pays $500,000 for four years, mops up during preseason games, then goes into insurance. But it’s impossible to imagine Brady doing any of that now, because he’s cultivated a particular image. He’s the ideal leader and teammate, the selfless one, the one who will never say or do anything controversial. And for the first several years of his career, he really was that. Hell, flashes of that persona still show up from time to time – Yahoo News reported that, after beating the Chiefs in the AFC Championship, he went to the Chiefs locker room to offer their quarterback, Patrick Mahomes, some encouraging words. But this facade started breaking down around 2007, and now Brady has been coming off s whiny and entitled. He didn’t even shake Nick Foles’s hand after the Patriots lost their Super Bowl against the Eagles. He seems to get upset whenever things don’t go his way. He tried to pull privilege to avoid a suspension. He doesn’t own the rare moments where he screws up.
Enabling the Worst Fans on Earth
This is probably Brady’s worst crime. Now, You may take this cynically because I’m a Yankees fan, but if you’ve been reading Every Team Ever, you might have noticed that I said adopting the Patriots is a bad idea because of the enmity you’ll face. The great thing about being a Yankees fan is that you’re grandfathered into a smug culture. We’ve embraced the black hat. When the Boston Red Sox called us the Evil Empire, we wholeheartedly embraced the image and said yes, yes we are. We know what we are and we own it. The Patriots have been on a very Yankee-like stretch of excellence, but backing this machine still isn’t enough for their fans. Despite the Patriots being favored to win every game they play, their fans continue to cling to the image of the scrappy underdog rising up and punching the big bully in the mouth. When that happens in sports, fans of the scrappy underdog are allowed to be insufferable for awhile. But the Patriots’ sustained excellence means this has been ongoing. They continue to brag, they continue to whine whenever the scrappy underdog image is challenged, they continue to focus on refball even when there’s no longer any need. Yankees fans say their team is the best, and any team good enough to beat them deserves to win. Patriots fans still haven’t shut the fuck up about the Tyree and Manningham catches.
Not Retiring Gracefully
One of the unwritten rules of sports is that after an unquestionable legend has accomplished everything they can possibly accomplish, they take off their jersey, wave to the crowd one last time, and thank their supporters and team. Then they go off into the sunset. This is the reason everyone started turning against Brett Favre when he got up there in years. Favre had some good reasons for sticking it out, but we all got sick of him because he had already established himself, and it was time for him to move on. Brady has also accomplished everything there is. Hell, he’s accomplished a lot that will never even be done again. He posted a 16-0 record in 2007. The upcoming Super Bowl will be Brady’s third straight appearance in the Big Game. The only two other quarterbacks who have done that are Bob Griese and Jim Kelly. It will be his ninth overall appearance in the Super Bowl, and when it’s over, he’ll either be 5-4 or 6-3. No one else has ever come close to that. He won five Super Bowls. Only defensive lineman Charles Haley can say the same, and Haley won his five rings between two teams. He ranks fourth, third, and fourth in passing yards, touchdown passes, and passer rating respectively. He has three MVP awards and four Super Bowl MVP awards. He is also the oldest player to have ever won either of those. The fact that he’s sticking around – he hasn’t even mouthed about considering retirement – means he’s just sticking around as a middle finger. He would have been the greatest quarterback in history had he retired a few years ago. Now there’s no point whatsoever for him to be playing anymore, although he may have an unsaid reason for it…
The Common Dumb Celebrity
Brady has the ability to see a football field in much the same way Wayne Gretzky saw a hockey rink. And in his early years, he had an off-field persona which made him the same sort of inconsequential non grata as the Yankees’ Derek Jeter. He provided short clips which were predictable and interchangeable. He avoided giving out personal details, which meant it was easy for us to superimpose characteristics onto him to make him into anything we wanted. That turned him into a hero, but you know that saying about heroes – either you die a hero or you live long enough to see yourself become the villain. Brady definitely went the latter way. In doing so, he’s proving that he utterly lacks the capacity to function anywhere off a gridiron. He went public with the beliefs that drinking lots of water prevents sunburns. He sleeps in “recovery pajamas.” He differentiates between about six different KINDS of water. In the meantime, he went public wearing a MAGA hat when Donald Trump ran for President, saying it would be great if his buddy Trump became President. Then he backtracked when Trump won, saying he didn’t know much about world events. Well, no shit, Tom. He teamed up with a known quack to sell the techniques he uses to keep in shape. And this has sportswriters eating out of his hand – one Sports Illustrated writer used Brady’s fitness plan, lost weight in three weeks, and started raving about it. Again, this is a no shit call. Tom’s fitness plan is basically exercise hard, eat healthy food, and control your portions. I know because I use that same variation of a fitness routine myself, except…
Tom Brady, Scam Artist
I didn’t pay $20 every month for a fucking app! Here are some of the scams Tom Brady is running: $15 for a 12-ounce bottle of “electrolytes.” This is known commonly as Gatorade or Powerade, or just pickle juice if you want to get cheap. $40 will get you a 12-pack of his protein bars. $160 for a foam roller. Men’s Health reviewed the app and says that it has some good information and workouts, but for what a customer can get out of it, it’s not worth what TB12 is asking of it. In fairness, I can’t confirm whether or not the app is worthwhile because I’ve had a ton of success on my own fitness routine and won’t be throwing $20 at an app every month.
The MAGA Connection
This is something that goes for the entire team, but its become one of the faces of MAGA. Now, this doesn’t make any sense at all. The Patriots are a team that is careful, meticulous, and calculated in everything they do. Donald Trump is careless and wings it without regard for anything other than getting a reaction. In any case, Brady, Belichick, and Robert Kraft have all endorsed Donald Trump, and when things went awry, none of them bothered to denounce him. Even after prominent white supremacists cuddled up to the Patriots because of their support for Trump, the team sort of shrugged its collective shoulders and said, “Yeah, we get fans of all kinds!”