Photo: Jared Wickerham/Getty Images
If there’s one key take away from this weekend’s football, it’s this: Tom Brady isn’t nearly as great as everyone thinks.Coming into the Ravens game, the narrative of Brady as the greatest of all time was being pre-written. He was going to beat Baltimore, roll into the Super Bowl, win, and then take his place as the greatest ever.
With four Super Bowls in six appearances, it would be hard to argue against that narrative.
But a funny thing happened to Brady. He laid an egg. The Patriots put up 13 points, zero of which came in the second half of the game.
This isn’t a total shock. Brady has struggled in the biggest games in the last few years. Because he is excellent in the regular season, and he was excellent when he was younger, most people tend to overlook his bad games lately.
If you were to skip Brady’s early career, you would conclude he was a choker. After leading his team to a perfect season he comes up short in the Super Bowl against the Giants, failing to get the ball down the field. Then, in his next Super Bowl appearance, with a chance to end the game he makes a bad throw to Wes Welker.
In between those Super Bowls, he’s lost home playoff games. In 2009, the 10-6 Patriots lost to the 9-7 Ravens. In 2010, the Pats went 14-2 in the regular season but lost to the lowly Jets in the divisional round.
But, because of his early track record we tend not to look at these missteps. We don’t lump Brady in with Matt Ryan and Peyton Manning. And that’s fair, but people need to start couching their praise by noting he’s not the guy he once was. (Update: After I posted, a reader noted that Bill Barnwell at Grantland said the exact same thing. I hadn’t seen his post. He is very much smarter about football than me, so it’s good to see he’s somewhat in agreement.)
As great as Brady is, and there’s no denying he’s great, I believe it’s over for him. I believe the Patriots, as talented as they are, and as well coached as they are, will not win another Super Bowl with Brady at the helm.
This shouldn’t be controversial since Brady is going to be 36 next season. There aren’t a lot of great 36 year-old quarterbacks. But because he plays so well during the regular season, we all want to believe he can take his team to the top of the mountain.
The problem, in my opinion, is that Brady is wound too tight. He wants to win so badly that it screws him up. When he was younger, it all came easily because he was talented and he didn’t feel mental pressure to win. He had a long career ahead of him. It’s the same reason he can win in the regular season. He has 16 games to get the job done.
In the playoffs, he hears the clock on his career ticking. He knows it’s now or never. The window is closing for him and Belichick.
It’s similar to golf. When golfers are young they nail putts like it’s nothing. As they get older, the scars of missed putts start adding up and suddenly putting is a lot harder. (See: Tiger Woods).
Brady is in a similar situation. It all used to just work for him. But after a few bad games, he realises he’s not invincible. And after a few seasons watching the Super Bowl instead of playing in it, he realises his time is short.
Until he gets his head right he’s not going to win. He has the physical attributes to win. It’s the mental part that’s holding him back and will continue to hold him back.
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