FOXBORO, MA - DECEMBER 24: Tom Brady #12 of the New England Patriots directs his players during the first quarter against the Miami Dolphins at Gillette Stadium on December 24, 2011 in Foxboro, Massachusetts. (Photo by Winslow Townson/Getty Images)
Sixth time's the charm. Patriots quarterback Tom Brady has been to the playoffs six times since winning his third Super Bowl ring eight years ago (seriously, eight years? I'm so old), and he's found that winning the fourth ring has been the trickiest task of all. There certainly hasn't been any lack of effort on Brady's part to tie Joe Montana and Terry Bradshaw for the most Super Bowl wins by a single quarterback. In fact, you could easily argue that Brady has played better since winning his third Super Bowl than he ever did during the Pats' string of titles back in the early 2000's.
Since 2004, Brady has won two league MVP trophies, two Offensive Player of the Year trophies, broken the league record for touchdowns thrown in a single season, topped 4,000 yards four times (he never topped 4,000 yards during his title seasons), and presided over the only 16-0 season in league history (albeit one that ended in hilarious fashion). Take away the 2008 season, which Brady missed due to injury, and he's strung together nine straight seasons with 20+ TD passes and 3,000 yards passing. Even Montana, great as he was, didn't have that kind of statistical run.
If Brady were to make the Super Bowl this season, he would tie John Elway for most starts in a Super Bowl (five). If he wins the Super Bowl, he'll also tie Montana and Bradshaw. Montana was able to win all his titles in the span of nine years. Bradshaw, six. Brady, on the other hand, will have taken eleven years to win his four titles, an incredible feat of longevity for any quarterback, even one working with the current NFL personal foul rules.
And the amazing thing is that these Patriots figure to get much better in the coming years. Their two dominant tight ends are young. Their defense should be getting reinforcements in the next two drafts thanks to stockpiled picks. Brady has already stated he wants to play until he's 40 years old. That gives him six more seasons on a team that's a perennial Super Bowl contender (Brady has taken the Pats to the postseason in all but one of his full seasons as a starter). If he wins the Super Bowl this season, he's arguably the greatest of all time. If he wins another, there's no doubt at all. He's the best ever. NO ONE WOULD DENY THIS.
Brady has been in the league for a while now. He's seen his chief rival (Peyton Manning) fade quickly into the twilight, and he's kept up with younger QBs aiming to take his crown (Drew Brees and Aaron Rodgers). And now here he is, at 34 years old, once again in prime position to win a championship. You may never see a run like this from any QB ever again. Even a hater's gotta tip his hat. Brady was already one of the best of all time. Soon, he may stand alone.