By Tony Massarotti, 98.5 The Sports Hub
The brilliance of Tom Brady, as is the case with most greats, rests in the consistency.
Brady is 230-71 in his regular season career, a winning percentage of .764. He is 33-11 in the playoffs, a winning percentage of precisely .750. In the regular season, he possesses a losing record against only one NFL franchise, the Seattle Seahawks, though that ignores the fact that Brady was victorious against them in arguably the greatest Super Bowl ever played.
As such, calling anyone or anything Brady’s nemesis is foolish.
But 5-foot-7 Steve Spagnuolo, a native of Whitinsville, Mass., might be the closest thing there is.
For all the legitimate hype surrounding Brady’s meeting with Patrick Mahomes and the Kansas City Chiefs this weekend, the purer matchup on the field will take place between Brady and Spagnuolo, the Kansas City Chiefs defensive coordinator who has successfully thwarted Brady throughout his career.
Brady has faced a Spagnuolo defense five times in his career – the most notable coming in Super Bowl XLII, when Brady’s undefeated Patriots lost to Spagnuolo and the Giants in the Super Bowl – and the bottom line is that Brady has lost (three times) more than he’s won (twice).
Yes, it’s a small sample spread out over the last 15 years, beginning with the Patriots’ Week 17 victory over the Giants on Dec. 29, 2007. In that game, Brady went 32-of-42 for 356 yards and two touchdowns, a 116.8 quarterback rating that capped the most impressive regular season by any team in history.
But that only makes what has happened since all the more noteworthy.
Try to look at it in these terms: since losing to Brady in their first matchup – a learning experience, perhaps? – Spagnuolo is 3-1 against the greatest player in NFL history. Maybe that means something … and maybe it doesn’t. But Brady’s only victory during that span was a 27-26 win over the Giants during the 2015 regular season, a Patriots win that required a 54-yard field goal by Patriots kicker Stephen Gostkowski with one second left in the game.
The other meetings: the famed 2007 Super Bowl in which the Giants upset the Patriots, 17-14, and sacked Brady five times; a meeting between the Patriots and Chiefs last season at Gillette Stadium, a 23-16 Kansas City win in which Brady went a mere 19-of-36 (52.8 percent) for 169 yards, one touchdown, one interception and three sacks for a rating of 63.3; and this year’s Week 12 meeting between the Chiefs and Brady’s Buccaneers, when Brady went 27-of-41 for 345 yards, three touchdowns, two interceptions and one sack – a rating of 96.1.
Add those four games together and here’s what you end up with for the greatest quarterback of all-time: a 1-3 record, a 60.5 completion percentage, an average of 278.5 yards passing, seven touchdowns, four interceptions, two fumbles, 12 sacks and a combined passer rating of 83.7.
Is that awful? No.
But it is well below the standard Brady has set for himself over the remainder of his career – anywhere and against anyone.
There are, as always, caveats. In the Super Bowl against Giants, Brady played on a sprained ankle he suffered in the AFC Championship; in his Patriots loss to the Chiefs, the Patriots were robbed of points thanks to a missed call on what should have been a touchdown by N’Keal Harry. But as any Brady supporter knows, Brady’s history of success is littered with plays that similarly benefited him, from the Tuck Rule in early 2002 to Malcolm Butler’s historic interception against the Seahawks in early 2015.
In the end, to borrow a phrase, it all is what it is.
Brady is 2-3 against Spagnuolo defenses, just 1-3 in the last four meetings.
On Sunday, they will meet for a sixth time.
And depending on how you look at it – weighing the trends of Brady’s long career versus the smaller sample of his matchups with Spagnuolo – the odds could be overwhelmingly in Brady’s favor.
Or, perhaps, they might just be against him.