By Michael Hurley, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) — Tom Brady, as you surely know, is 44 years old, still playing at an MVP level, hell-bent on winning another Super Bowl, with no desire at all to stop playing football.
It’s fascinating, then, to consider a reflection from Brady that he shares in the upcoming episode of his documentary series, “Man In The Arena.”
The fourth installment of the series goes deep on the Patriots’ 2007 season. That year, obviously, the Patriots made NFL history by going 16-0 in the regular season but fell short of completing the undefeated season by losing to the Giants in Super Bowl XLII.
While the episode of the series won’t debut until next week, NESN’s Zack Cox got an early look at the episode, and he shared a fascinating quote from Brady that creates an alternate universe where football history is completely rewritten.
Here’s what Brady said:
“Had we won that game, I don’t know, I’m not a big hypothetical guy, but maybe the desire is a little bit different, if you’re looking at a silver lining. Maybe the desire to reach that point, maybe I would have been fulfilled — not to stop playing at that time, but I don’t know. Maybe I’d play another seven or eight years, and maybe I’m fulfilled. Maybe not.”
That is, genuinely, a mind-boggling thing to ponder.
While it’s difficult to imagine the insatiable Brady feeling content with his achievements and happily walking away from the game in his late 30s, there is a lot to be said about reaching the top of the mountain. And certainly, going 19-0, authoring the greatest season ever, something unlikely to ever be matched? That would qualify as the top of the mountain.
And at that point, Brady would have been a perfect 4-for-4 in Super Bowls, matching his childhood idol, Joe Montana. At 30 years old, Brady would have accomplished all there is to accomplish.
While we don’t know what would have happened to Brady if the Patriots had won that Super Bowl, we do know what actually happened after he didn’t. His knee was ripped to shreds in Week 1 of the 2008 season, killing his chances of avenging that ’07 pain. The ’09 team was not very good. The ’10 team was one of the better regular-season teams ever … but lost its lone playoff game to the Jets. In ’11, another Super Bowl loss to the Giants — a game that looked like it might have been the final shot for the 34-year-old Brady. Back-to-back AFC Championship Game losses in ’12 and ’13 made that fate seem to be inevitable.
But then, obviously, Brady and the Patriots won in 2014, won again in 2016, and won again in 2018. Not satisfied with six Super Bowl victories, Brady moved his life to Florida and won No. 7 last year. Now he’s gunning for No. 8.
Given what we do know actually happened, it’s almost impossible to imagine a world where Brady loses his championship drive. Surely, when Peyton Manning broke Brady’s touchdown record in 2013, or when Patrick Mahomes entered the fray and immediately was tabbed as an all-time great, Brady would’ve been sucked back in to the fight. But according to the man himself, it’s possible that achieving the unachievable in February 2008 might have dampened that ambition in the years that followed.
That is possible. Or … maybe Brady — the world’s most relentless, borderline psychotic competitor — is still working through ways to make himself feel better about losing that game. Feels like a possibility there.