By Michael Hurley, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) — You know, there’s been a whole lot of Tom Brady coverage over the past month or so. It’s only increased over the past 10 days, and it really shot to the moon after the guy earned Super Bowl MVP honors.READ MORE: Two COVID Mass Vaccination Sites To Close This Week
It’s all justified, but it can become a bit much for any of it to really stand out.
As someone who may or may not have been responsible for a lot of that Brady coverage, I certainly get it. Whether it’s the historical perspective, or the matter of his age, or the sheer volume of accomplishments, it all sort of washes out at a certain point. It’s called “information overload,” and it’s understandable. Doubly so for those who dislike Brady for this reason or that.
Yet with some of the Super Bowl dust now firmly settled, there was one conclusion drawn by a quartet of editors at NFL.com which really stood out as something that crystallized just how insane Tom Brady’s age 43 season was for the Buccaneers.
The four editors — Ali Bhanpuri, Tom Blair, Gennaro Filice and Dan Parr — set out to rank the top 59 quarterbacks from the 2020 NFL season, taking consideration of both the regular season and playoffs.
“Past performances and future projections were NOT taken into account,” the story explained. “Rather, this list is meant to reflect where each QB stood in the 2020 campaign alone.”
So, while Brady is the best of all time, that mattered very little in these rankings. For this exercise, only the work from September through February could be considered.
And in those rankings, three of the four editors agreed that there was no debate as to which quarterback had the best 2020 season: Aaron Rodgers. Obviously. The man threw 53 touchdowns and six interceptions, completed over 70 percent of his passes, en route to winning 14 of 18 games and earning 44 of the 50 votes for NFL MVP. Rodgers was unbelievable.
Yet it’s in the No. 2 spot where the absurdity really hits home, because Tom Brady was slotted right behind Rodgers.
Bhanpuri actually had Brady at No. 1, better than Rodgers. Filice had him at No. 2, while Blair and Parr ranked him at No. 3. It averaged out to No. 2, with Brady ranking higher than Patrick Mahomes, Deshaun Watson, Josh Allen, Russell Wilson, and 2019 Lamar Jackson.
The age matter has obviously been covered six (thousand) ways from Sunday by now, but still: When Brady won his first Super Bowl, Mahomes and Watson were both 6 years old, while Allen and Jackson were 5 years old. For Brady to still exist as a viable NFL entity at this point is a miracle unto itself. That he’s outperforming all but one of his fellow quarterbacks is simply insane.
But, given the results … it’s also hard to argue that it’s not true.
“Tom Brady deftly navigated a stagnant franchise, coming off a 7-9 campaign and without a playoff win in 18 years, through the NFL’s most bizarre and challenging season en route to a Super Bowl title. In Year 1,” Bahnpuri wrote. “His arrival changed the entire ethos of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, transforming a downtrodden organization that had been relegated to afternoon programming into a confident free-agent hotspot worthy of prime-time, deserving of championships. Oh, and at 43, the undisputed G.O.A.T. finished with one of the best statistical seasons of his 21-year career.”
Indeed he did. Brady threw 40 touchdowns in the regular season, more than all but one of his previous 18 years as a starting quarterback in the NFL. Only in 2007 — when Brady was 30 years old, in his absolute prime, and had the two best receivers he had ever had — did Brady throw more touchdowns than he did in 2020. At age 43.READ MORE: Nurses' Strike At Saint Vincent Hospital Becomes 2nd-Longest In State History
And, as noted, the age aspect has been covered. You’ve heard 11 million times that he’s 43, just as you heard about it 11 million times when he was playing at age 42, and 41, and 40. The shock factor wore off long ago.
But it absolutely shouldn’t have. Because playing in the NFL at the age of 43 is not normal.
Doug Flutie was a backup at 43. He threw 10 passes. Then he retired. Vinny Testaverde threw three total passes at age 43. Same with Warren Moon. Three quarterbacks, 16 total passes.
George Blanda played at age 43, though he was primarily a kicker and punter at that point in his career. He did throw 55 passes at age 43, completing 52.7 of them for 378 yards with four touchdowns … and six interceptions.
Stepping onto the field as a 43-year-old NFL quarterback was borderline impossible prior to 2020. Actually succeeding? It wasn’t even worth discussing, because it was genuinely impossible.
Brady, obviously, didn’t believe that. He ranked second in the NFL in both completions (401) and attempts (610). He ranked third in passing yards (4,633). He was tied for second in touchdown passes. Most significantly, he started 16 games. In the playoffs, he started four more.
And he ended his age 43 season better than he started it. Over his final eight games, he completed 175 of his 274 passes (63.9 percent) for 2,394 yards (299 yards per game, 8.7 yards per attempt) with 22 touchdowns and four interceptions. All, apparently, with a barking knee.
The Bucs and Brady ended the year on an eight-game win streak. The last of those wins was obviously the Super Bowl, a game they had essentially wrapped up by halftime.
From a football history perspective, it’s all just astounding.
From a New England perspective, it figures to ignite varied emotions from fans and perhaps some pangs of regret down at 1 Patriot Place. (Cam Newton ranked 32nd on the list, if you were curious.) Maybe committing to Brady and continuing to build around him would have been a better strategy than letting the offense deteriorate for years before signing whichever veteran was available for short money in late June. With no clear path to having a championship-caliber quarterback on the roster in New England, it would certainly be challenging to think otherwise.
Now, the NFL.com ranking exercise is subjective. Four people don’t determine objective truths when it comes to evaluating the play of 59 quarterbacks across an entire season. History is not changed by an NFL.com ranking system. We know this.
Really, though, the whole thing is just kind of stunning. What Brady’s done after turning 40 — making three out of four Super Bowls and winning two of them, throwing 145 touchdowns to 46 interceptions, winning 56 of his 75 starts, refusing to succumb to the laws of nature that have governed every quarterback before him — is simply insane.
You knew that already. Obviously. Yet the more time we take to really reflect on what just took place, the more it sets in just how unfathomable the entire year was for the greatest quarterback to ever suit up on Sundays.MORE NEWS: Dorchester Church Joins National Father's Day Challenge, Calls For 'Summer Of Peace'