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Super Bowl 49: The Greatness of Tom Brady

While America focuses on “the interception,” the greatness of Tom Brady is lost.

Andrew Weber-USA TODAY Sports

How good is Tom Brady? Is he the "Greatest of All Time," when it comes to quarterbacks? Is he better than Joe Montana because they both won four Super Bowls, or is Montana better because he was 4-0 in the compared to Brady’s 4-2? Does Brady get more credit for getting to six even though he lost twice?

I always find the argument silly for many reasons; reasons we won’t get in to in this column, but Brady is certainly an all-timer for sure. The funny thing about Tom Brady and his New England Patriots is how much they’ve changed since their first Super Bowl title in 2001. That year, they were the underdog, an 11-5 team that lost starting quarterback Drew Bledsoe in week two to a sheared blood vessel in his chest. Enter Brady, who proceeded to lead the Pats into the Super Bowl against the heavily favored St. Louis Rams; a team that had won the 1999 NFL title was dubbed"The Greatest Show on Turf."

Much of America rooted for the young Brady, the underdog Brady and the coach, Bill Belichick, who was trying to go from top notch assistant to Super Bowl winning coach. The Pats were the underdogs and after leading the game most of the way, saw the Rams tie it at 17 with under a minute left.

Most thought the Pats would play for overtime; in fact analyst John Madden insisted upon it, but Brady showed poise, drove the Pats to the Ram 30 where Adam Vinatieri kicked a 47 yard game winning field go as time expired. The Pats had pulled off the upset and were the darlings of the United States, and in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks were aptly named, too.

As we know, the Pats would win and win a lot. Back-to-back titles in 2003 and 2004, and countless appearances in the AFC Championship Games and of course, the 2007 team that went undefeated only to lose to the New York Giants in the Super Bowl. Another loss to the Giants in 2011 would follow, but year after year, the Pats won and won at a dominating rate.

The more they won, the more they became hated. I guess that happens in American society. People start out as unknown underdogs, beloved by the masses. But the more they win or succeede the more people start to hate them. The Pats fell into this kind of trap. When they were the underdog, they were liked, but the more they won, the more hated they became.

They were accused and found guilty of filming practices of the New York Jets and surely, there were other teams that did this but didn’t get caught. Talker Mike Francesa might admire Belichick and Brady but says without hesitation that the "Pats take liberties." Of course, the Pats are the only team that takes liberties because you can’t win every year without cheating. I guess having great players; a great organization and great leadership don’t count anymore. The 4-12 New York Jets surely didn’t cheat or take liberties because if they did, they would have had a better record, right?

Brady went from likeable guy to hated guy. I always get a kick when people watch a sound clip or a post-game presser and say things like, "he seems arrogant," or "I don’t like him." I’m sure these people have their reasons, but I’m not sure what their reasons are. These people have never talked to Brady and never will, but because he acts a certain way, people judge him. Because he wins and knows he’s good, people judge him. Because he beats your team year in and year out, he is hated.

Sure, he has the model for a wife and three great kids. He has the looks, the money and let’s face it, a pretty cool life. It’s not really jealously because most people don’t want his life, they just don’t want him to have his life. And, when you’re on top, people look for ways to bring you down. Brady has a son with actress Bridget Moynahan. The two never married, and they broke up a few months into her pregnancy, so naturally, Brady was a bad guy for that. Moynahan admitted that Brady wasn’t holding her hand in the delivery room or yelling push during labor, but she does say that he’s been a good father and her, Brady and Gisele communicate regularly.

There are people who call Brady a snake for leaving Moynahan as if they know that he was to blame for the breakup. That’s another thing that puzzles me about following celebrities; the fact that we can gather all the information by watching Entertainment Tonight or reading People. We all thought highly of Robin Williams when in reality he was putting on an act in public, hiding deep and dark depression that sadly caused him to take his life.

The other thing people fail to do is give Brady his proper respect simply because they don’t like him. Even though he wins every year, there are those who say "he’s not that good," or "he’s overrated," and even when he rallies his team to an NFL title, will say "that he got lucky," or "Seattle gift wrapped the game for him." No matter, it is what it is. There are those who honestly believe that Brady—and the Pats—cheated in every game and that’s the sole reason for their success.

Brady has the looks and the titles, but Peyton Manning is more likeable. It is Manning who slings the ball on Sunday and also sells insurance, pizza and a myriad of other products. Manning is the everyman, the ordinary looking fellow who you can have a beer with and because of that, he’s better than Brady. Brady had better players and Manning had to do it all by himself to win games. No matter what numbers you put up, you’ll never convince these people that Brady was better than Manning, because Manning is "their guy," even though they’ve never met him.

The bottom line is this. Lucky or not, cheater or not, Tom Brady is a gifted—very gifted—quarterback. You would think that a sixth round draft pick would always be revered simply by bucking the system and becoming a star, but no, he’s the lucky, hated quarterback. In Super Bowl 49, the Seahawks had him on the ropes. Everybody will point to Pete Carroll’s decision to throw the slant rather than run Beast Mode Lynch from the New England 1, but the Seahawks lost that game to Brady in the fourth quarter. With 15 minutes left, Seattle, the defending champion was up 24-14. The Pats were on the ropes and another Seattle score would have sealed the deal, but what did Brady do? He took the Pats 68 yards to cut the lead to 24-21 and then got the ball back 65 yards from the go-ahead touchdown. Down three, most teams would settle for a field goal, but Brady (and Belichick) went for six and got it. Brady was 13 of 15 in the fourth quarter. The vaunted Seattle defense, when it had to step up during winning time, failed. They failed because they went up against the master and the master took Sherman and Company to school.

Brady’s fourth quarter heroics were more impressive because the Pats couldn’t run the ball effectively, and just about every play was going to be a pass. The Seahawks and the whole nation knew it, yet Brady carved up the Hawks like Uncle Jimmy carves up the turkey on the fourth Thursday in November. Most quarterbacks need balance to win the big game, but Brady didn’t; he won with a one dimensional unit on offense at game’s end.

As we know, Super Bowl 49 will be remembered for the interception, the gaffe or whatever words you wish to describe 2nd and goal from the one yard line, but I’ll remember it as a crowning achievement for one of the all-time greats, Tom Brady. You may hate him, but in 25 years, you’ll be telling the youth of 2040 just how great he was much like the 45 year olds tell today’s youth how great Joe Montana was.

Greatness is fascinating to see. As a young fan, I rooted against Joe Montana and his 49ers and I always wished that the Bengals, first with Ken Anderson and later with Boomer Esiason would have won one if not both of the Super Bowls contested between the two teams. But 30 years later, I’m glad Montana and his Niners won those games—and two others—because I can now tell a story of greatness. That’s the story I’ll be telling about Super Bowl 49. While most tell the story of Pete Carroll choking the game away, I’ll be there, reminding people that I saw greatness, the greatness of Tom Brady and the coach Bill Belichick. Players and coaches like these two don’t come around too often, so rather than hate, why not appreciate?