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Felger & Mazz

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By Tony Massarotti, 98.5 The Sports Hub

Tom Brady’s accomplishments don’t fit on the page anymore, and they read like a list of ingredients on building the perfect quarterback. Nine Super Bowl appearances. Five Super Bowl wins (and counting). Thirteen AFC Championship games. Three league MVPs. Four Super Bowl MVPs. Three-time All-Pro.

And yet, here is perhaps the most amazing thing that we rarely talk about:

The NFL now is not the same as it was in 2000, when Brady entered the league. The rules are completely different. Offenses and defenses have changed. The competition has completely turned over.

And Brady still wins.

A lot.

Think about that for a minute. From 2001-04, when the Patriots won three Super Bowl in four years, there were 27 NFL quarterbacks who threw at least 1,000 passes over those four seasons. Brady ranked first in wins, 11th in passer rating, fourth in touchdown passes, 11th in completion percentage. It was harder to throw in that NFL, and Brady was right there with the best quarterbacks in the game – or at least close enough – in tandem with the coach who has been standing over him his entire career.

So let’s not leave that part out. Bill Belichick had to coach the Patriots differently when Brady was younger, more inexperienced, less explosive. Brady was different. The league was different. And the list of aggregate passers looked like this:

Pro Football Reference (click to enlarge)

Now here we are, basically 15 years later, and the Patriots are preparing to play their third straight Super Bowl, fourth in five years. Their run through the NFL has extended for so long that they have dynasties within their dynasty, another mini-burst of Super Bowl appearances that is even longer than the one they had in the early years. And you know where Brady ranks in this stretch? Second among 33 qualifying quarterbacks in passer rating, eighth in completion percentage, first in touchdown passes, first in wins.

Sorted by passer rating again, here is the list now:

Pro Football Reference (click to enlarge)

So what is the point, you ask? For all the accomplishments we celebrate about Brady, here is the one we subtly miss: the game is different now. The league has changed. The rules are different for goodness sake, and the competition has changed, too. There has been innovation on offense and restriction on defense, and even the stadiums has changed. The turf has changed.

And yet, Brady, Belichick and the Patriots are still here, which speaks to more than their ability to play or coach football.

It speaks to their ability to adapt.

And to continue learning.

You can hear Tony Massarotti weekdays from 2-6 p.m. EST on the Felger & Massarotti program. Follow him on Twitter @TonyMassarotti.