By Michael Hurley, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) — As it has for most people, Facebook has essentially become a useless website for me in recent years. Aside from sharing pictures with family members, contacting some people through a horrific messenger application, and having my data mined by some devious company, the social media network that was revolutionary in my college days is now 99 percent useless.
But the 1 percent that still proves useful is the function for Facebook “memories.” It’s cool to see some old pictures and interactions, and it’s generally interesting when some sports story that I was particularly proud of years ago pops up. If I shared it on Facebook, I must have been feeling pretty good about myself and my work. Years removed, reading some of those old stories, it’s often comical to see exactly how wrong and/or stupid I was.
Such was the case this week, when this story reared its head and said hello to me on my feed: “With Brady’s Window Closing, Belichick Must Go Big Early In Draft.”
This story was written in … 2012.
The second part of the headline ended up being accurate. Bill Belichick was aggressive in that draft, moving up twice in order to draft Chandler Jones and Dont’a Hightower. Being the sage dispenser of football wisdom that I am, I implored Belichick in that story: “If ever there was a time to acquire game-changing, first-round talent, it is now.” Nice job, Mike. Way to go.
But the rrrrrest of the story? It’s rough. Some samplings:
“It’s a saying that’s become trite, but it is one that is nevertheless true. Tom Brady’s championship window is closing.”
“Brady will turn 35 years old this summer, and while he’s still one of the best active quarterbacks in the NFL, to expect him to improve as he enters his mid-30s is to expect a lot, considering the only athletes to do so in recent history were named Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens and may or may not have had some extra help in that endeavor.”
“The Patriots [will have] one or two more years of being not just a Super Bowl contender, but a Super Bowl favorite.”
“Belichick will turn 60 years old 10 days before this year’s draft. Brady will turn 35 during training camp. Their time atop the NFL is running out.”
So, yes, ha ha. Hilariously wrong. But is there any point in sharing this misfire, aside from welcoming in some gawking from the Old Takes Exposed crowd?
Yes, there is. That point is this: When I said that Brady might have two or maybe three years left of exceptional play in him, such a comment wasn’t even considered a “take” or even an “opinion.” It was just kind of an accepted reality. A near-fact. Tom Brady, coming off a Super Bowl loss against the Giants, was not going to improve in his late 30s, because nobody had ever improved in his late 30s. And the man certainly wouldn’t be playing when he’s 40. Not in this NFL. Who does that?
When you write a hot take, you tend to hear about it from people. They get pretty mad. But as I recall at that time, there were no die-hard Brady fans coming after me to tell me I was an idiot. Again, in the spring of 2012, six years ago, pretty much everyone understood and accepted that two or maybe three good years of Brady were left. After that, he’d either become terrible or retire. Or both.
So if you can get your brain space into that state of mind, and if you ignore the 2012 and 2013 seasons (when everyone believed Brady would still be performing at a high level), then it really puts into perspective how utterly unbelievable his performance has been since 2014.
Tom Brady, 2014-17 (Reg. Season & Postseason)
20,812 yards (7.62 Y/A)
57-14 W-L record
Two Super Bowl victories
Two Super Bowl MVPs
One NFL MVP
It is, quite clearly, an incredibly impressive set of accomplishments. For comparison, Kirk Cousins threw for 5,500 fewer yards, 65 fewer touchdowns, and threw 10 more interceptions than Brady in that time, and the soon-to-be-3o-year-old Cousins was just guaranteed $86 million from the Minnesota Vikings over the next three seasons. Aaron Rodgers, Cam Newton and Matt Ryan — the three MVPS from 2014-16 — have not come close to matching Brady’s production over that time.
Two years after Brady’s main competitor as greatest active quarterback — Peyton Manning — faded away with a 9 TD/17 INT final season (albeit, somehow, in Super Bowl-winning fashion), Brady earned 40 of a possible 50 votes for being the most valuable player in the whole league. He’d then go on to set a single-game record for passing yards in the Super Bowl. Had the Patriots’ defense been able to make one stop, Brady would have been the surefire MVP.
And the craziest part of it all is that we’re still talking about Tom Brady, the active football player. And we’re talking about Tom Brady continuing to be a football player for at least two more years, with the possibility of that career going even longer.
At this point, we’ve all obviously remarked upon the 40-year-old Tom Brady thousands of times. His age is no secret, and the topic has been well-covered.
But going back a bit, recalling what the mentality was six years ago, it really crystallizes the absurdity of what Brady has already accomplished as he approached and entered his fifth decade on the planet. Now, despite some wavering in his post-Super Bowl documentary episode, Brady’s made it clear that he has his sights set on maintaining his level of elite play well into his 40s.
Whether or not he can accomplish that is anybody’s guess. We simply cannot know. But we do know better than to assume he can’t or won’t do it. Because we know that Facebook is always watching, eager to remind you of your foolhardy prognostications years down the line.