Truth be told, Tom Brady should be done by now. And maybe it would all be different had Pete Carroll elected to run the ball, or if Dan Quinn and Kyle Shanahan had just killed the clock, or if Doug Marrone and the Jacksonville Jaguars had completed the seemingly unimaginable in the winter darkness early last night at Gillette Stadium.
If, if, if.
Woulda, coulda, shoulda.
But what we are all left with now, frankly, is the longest, greatest 2-minute drill in the history of sports, one that continued – yet again – with Brady and the Patriots landing in a familiar place: the Super Bowl. Yesterday’s fourth-quarter comeback over the Jaguars sends Brady and the Patriots to Minneapolis for Super Bowl LII against the Philadelphia Eagles, his eighth appearance in the biggest game in sports – third in the last four years – and we’d call it a bookend to Brady’s astonishing career except that there is no real end in sight.
Actually, scratch that. There is an approaching end. There has been for some time. It’s just that Brady continues to defy it. Or ignore it. Or prevent it from getting any closer. He’s 40, for heaven’s sake. Bill Belichick started preparing for Brady’s end nearly four years ago now, when he drafted Jimmy Garoppolo. Now Garoppolo is gone and Brady surges on, showing up at the Super Bowl every year as if he were merely going to the company Christmas party.
Happy New Year, everyone.
The “injury” Brady played with yesterday? Please. It’s a nice little detail and it certainly made for a nice storyline, but Belichick himself noted that it wasn’t exactly “open-heart surgery.” Had Brady orchestrated yesterday’s comeback without anyone’s knowledge of the cut he suffered at the base of his right thumb during practice last week, it wouldn’t have mattered. He lost Julian Edelman months ago. He lost Rob Gronkowski in the second quarter. And as was the case in last year’s Super Bowl, he was up against a younger, faster team that had smothered him and his teammates for much of the day.
Instead, the Jaguars are left to wonder what hit them, just as the Seattle Seahawks (Super Bowl XLIX) and Atlanta Falcons (Super Bowl LI) were. And as the perpetrator of another postseason comeback, make no mistake: Brady happily has blood on his hands.
According to Elias, Brady now has 11 game-winning drives and/or fourth-quarterbacks in his playoff career. The quarterback with the next-highest total is Eli Manning, with five. And of course, Eli needed two of them to beat – you guessed it – Brady.
So how long will this go on? Hell if we know. Hell if we can even possibly venture a guess anymore. As sports fans and followers, we are often critical, cynical, skeptical – and not always because we choose to be. Often, it’s because we have to be. Winning is hard, especially in the NFL, and life invariably gets in the way for everyone. We mature, get married, have children. Priorities change. The competition gets younger and faster, and there comes a point – however reluctantly – where we move on.
Could this Super Bowl – again, his eighth – be the last for Brady? Of course. The same was true last year. And two years before that. The odds remain against him. In the last four NFL postseasons, Brady has orchestrated a 10-point, fourth-quarter comeback over the Seahawks, a 25-point, second-half comeback over the Falcons and a 10-point, fourth-quarter comeback over the Jaguars in some of the biggest games in sports. The clock never seems to run out on him, in the short-term or the long.
And so, once again, is the end coming? You bet it is.
But at this stage, it’s probably best to stop waiting.
Just let us know when it actually gets here.
— By Tony Massarotti, 98.5 The Sports Hub