Last Sunday, Tom Brady completed yet another fourth-quarter comeback to help the New England Patriots reach their record eighth Super Bowl with coach Bill Belichick. Could he be the greatest player to ever play in the four major sports?
Any argument about whether Tom Brady is the greatest quarterback in the history of the NFL is moot at this point. He is. Bar none.
The next discussion we need to have is this: Could Brady, historically, be the greatest player of all-time in any of the four major sports? In case you need to be reminded of his greatness, here are some reasons why I am making that suggestion.
Brady led the Patriots from 10 points down in the fourth quarter last Sunday against the Jacksonville Jaguars in the AFC Championship Game. That mirrored his very first postseason win against the Oakland Raiders in the 2001 AFC Divisional Round, where he also rallied the Patriots from 10 points down in the fourth quarter.
There have been 11 postseason games in NFL history in which the winning team trailed by double digits in the last 10 minutes of the game. Four of those were Patriot wins in the Brady-Belichick era, and the last three included a Brady-to-Danny Amendola touchdown pass during the rally. The other was the aforementioned “Tuck Rule” game against Oakland which started this crazy ride.
Overall the Patriots are now 3-4 when trailing by 10 points in the fourth quarter of postseason games with Brady and Belichick in the last 10 seasons. The rest of the NFL has a record of 3-71 in such circumstances.
|Rest of NFL||.429||.410|
Sunday’s AFC Championship Game was the 11th time in his playoff career that Brady completed a fourth quarter-or-overtime comeback. Next on that list is John Elway, with six.
Brady won his 27th playoff game Sunday. Only three teams in the Super Bowl era have more playoff wins than he does: the Pittsburgh Steelers (36), Dallas Cowboys (34) and San Francisco 49ers (30). He has 11 more wins than the next quarterback on that list, Joe Montana. That isn’t just being better—that’s complete domination.
Brady has gone 196-55 during the regular season, good enough for a .777 winning percentage. That’s nearly 100 points higher than No. 2 on the list, Peyton Manning, who went 200-92 (.685 winning percentage).
What about players in other sports? Who can we compare to Brady in that conversation? Here are a few names.
Jordan is at the top of everyone’s list when it comes to the greatest ever. His six NBA titles, six NBA Finals MVPs, scoring records and legendary playoff performances are well known. However, Jordan did take nearly two seasons off in his prime that prevented him from possibly winning two more NBA titles. When he came back to the NBA the second time with the Washington Wizards at age 38, he was clearly a different player.
Jordan averaged 21.2 PPG and shot 43 percent from the field with the Wizards from 2001-03 at age 38 and 39. From 1991-98, he averaged 30.3 PPG and shot 50 percent from the field.
|Jordan ERA||PPG||RPG||APG||FG %|
Brady has won five Super Bowl titles and trying for his sixth in Super Bowl 52. His production has not slowed down. In one season, he tied Brett Favre for most wins by any quarterback since the merger at the age of 40 or older. Favre won 13 games total in his 40s. Brady won 13 games in one season at the age of 40. Brady led the NFL in passing yards this season with 4,577, becoming the oldest QB in NFL history to accomplish the feat.
Brady won his first Super Bowl in 2001 at age 24. His last Super Bowl victory came last season at 39 and has a chance to win another one this season at 40. Jordan won his NBA titles over an eight-year span, starting at age 27 in 1991 and ending at 34 in 1998.
Yes, Jordan could have won two more NBA titles if he didn’t leave the NBA to play baseball. But he did. Should’ve and could’ve doesn’t matter.
“The Great One” joined the NHL in 1979 and destroyed every conceivable scoring record there is. By himself, Gretzky finished with four seasons of over 200 points. No other player in NHL history has done that once. Gretzky is the all-time leader in points, goals, assists, short-handed goals and hat tricks. He has 936 more points than anyone else in NHL history.
Gretzky won four Stanley Cups in his NHL career, but none after leaving the Edmonton Oilers. He won his first cup at age 23 and his last one at age 27. Despite his dominance, Gretzky clearly started to decline at age 34. After averaging 54 goals and 164 points per season from 1979-94 (ages 19-33), he averaged just 18 goals and 80 points per season the last five years of his career (ages 34-39).
I’m going to avoid a comparison to anyone in baseball because of the differences between pitchers and hitters. However, anyone that could be thrown into this conversation would still have a very hard time equaling the resume of Brady.
My argument for Brady revolves around the consistency in which he has played. Starting with his first season in 2001 going through this season, he has stayed at a very high level.
|Brady Era||Winning Percentage||TD Passes||INT||Super Bowl Wins|
Judging from the chart, Brady has clearly gotten better with age, unlike Jordan and Gretzky, who both slowed down significantly as they aged. Brady has yet to see that decline, which is remarkable. Along with his play staying dominant, Brady has also continued winning titles. Gretzky won his last title at 27, Jordan at 34.
Considering all those factors, Brady is historically the greatest player to play any of the four major sports.