Alex George Pickering
The Legacy of Tom Brady
Updated: Jan 26, 2021
As legendary quarterback Tom Brady prepares to enter his 10th Super Bowl, no longer with the New England Patriots but as a member of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, what will his lasting legacy be? [Updated]
It was the fall of 2001. I had just arrived at Georgetown University for my freshman year of college, my first time living far away from what would later become known as “the City of Champions,” Boston, Massachusetts—a town that even now (as a resident of Los Angeles) feels like home to me. As a lifelong Boston sports fan, I had no special expectations for that autumn. The Red Sox fell just shy of making the MLB postseason, and for Celtics fans, the glory years of Bird, Parish and McHale were by then a distant memory, and one that was mostly before my time. As my dad always liked to tease me, “Do you remember the ’84 Celtics?” I would answer, “I was 1-years-old. What do you think?”
No, to 19-year-old me, conflating victory and Boston sports was an oxymoron. We were the city that breaks hearts, that gets you all the way to game six of the World Series only to have the ball roll right through your glove, or that nearly ties the score in the third quarter of the Super Bowl only to lose to a 99-yard touchdown.
So, when a young sixth round draft pick named Tom Brady took the field for veteran New England Patriots quarterback Drew Bledsoe following an injury, I wasn’t especially excited. The Pats would go on to lose that game to the Jets, and Brady would give a few more underwhelming performances over the next two games.
But then something shifted in Brady. He began connecting with his receivers, and his passer rating went through the roof. 18 touchdowns later, and he was suddenly a Pro Bowl-caliber player who was entering the 2001 postseason with a mission: to prove he was more than just a backup QB living off borrowed time, but rather the man deserving of that position period. And in Super Bowl XXXVI, he did just that, outplaying the heavily-favored Rams with the help of a strong defense and nail-biting kick from Adam Vinatieri in the final seconds of the game.
From then on, Brady became not only a great player, but a phenomenon, a force to be reckoned with nearly every postseason, winning three championships in his first four years alone. For the people of Boston, the birth of the Brady-Belichick dynasty wasn’t just about bragging rights—no, no. This was about redemption. The infamous “curse” that seemed to have plagued not only our MLB prospects but infected its way into every other sport seemed to have found its cure. In 2004, the Boston Red Sox would not only win their first World Championship in 86 years, but three more thereafter. Likewise, the Celtics finally rose to another NBA Championship for the first time in decades in 2008. Even the Bruins took home their first Stanley Cup in 39 years at the end of the 2010-11 season.
Sure, you could attribute this meteoric rise in success stories to a mere coincidence or—if you’re superstitious enough to believe in a curse to begin with—conclude that one man’s impact may have completely transformed the landscape of Boston sports, and his name is Tom Brady. Either way, something definitely changed after Brady’s wrecking ball arrival. His journey from backbencher to first year Super Bowl-winning starter injected a sense of hope and optimism in New England like never before, a belief in what was possible.
That Brady would go on to claim six Super Bowl rings and 17 division titles only cemented his legacy as the greatest quarterback of all time—reason enough for a Boston-bred fan like myself to rally behind him. But for me, it was about more than just that. It was the sheer joy of watching this man with a canon for an arm pull out all the stops week after week, often leaving much of the drama for the second half of postseason games when the Patriots were down and (almost) out. I remember watching the pivotal Patriots-Ravens playoff game back in January 2015 with friends and family for my east coast bachelor party, when Brady and company clawed their way back from a double-digit deficit to a narrow 35-31 win, and my brother exclaimed, “37-years-old!” If only that was the half of it. In the Super Bowl that same year, Brady and the Pats would make a similar fourth quarter comeback to beat the Seattle Seahawks 28-24. Two years later at Super Bowl LI, 39-year-old Brady would again make headlines overcoming a 28–3 deficit to win in overtime in what is widely considered to be one of the greatest comebacks in sports history.
In a way, the energy and momentum with which Brady delivered these last-ditch victories felt like a poetic reversal of the swift turnarounds of fortune that typically befell Boston teams in the decades prior. For the people of New England, Brady’s refusal to submit became our collective consciousness—a chorus of generations screaming, “Enough!” Enough with the late game blunders, the snatching away of something so tantalizingly close. What Brady achieved through these repeated movie-like comebacks is more than just the stuff of champions; it’s the medicine that mended the broken hearts of so many resilient fans. It’s the spirit of greatness that pervades us to this day.
Which is why it might not surprise you that my sense of gratitude towards Brady, now the 43-year-old quarterback of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, has only grown. Putting aside all the Belichick/Kraft grievances that may have contributed to Tom’s decision to leave New England, he more than earned the right to do so. (He even led the Pats to victory as recently as the 2019 Super Bowl rematch against the Rams—need I say more?)
Aside from their one and only Super Bowl victory in 2003, the Bucs were notorious for their perennial losing streaks prior to this season. Then, along came Tom Brady, a refurbished defense and a swath of incredible receivers, including long-time friend and tight end Rob Gronkowski, all of whom took a team that had missed the playoffs for the past 12 consecutive seasons all the way to an NFC Championship and a spot in the 2021 Super Bowl LV—as true a Cinderella story as there ever was.
Yes, as much as it may pain New England fans to see Tom Brady delivering results for another franchise, he is living up to that same legacy. He is taking the people of a city long overdue for a win on a journey of redemption, a path to victory. More so than all the Super Bowl rings you can fit on each hand, I believe Tom Brady will be remembered for this one quality—his ability to inspire, reinvigorate and, yes, bring hope to fans everywhere. He has done his part for New England in spades. While he works to beat the only record he hasn’t yet shattered (longevity), it’s time to let him do it for other fans too.
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