By Michael Hurley, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) — It’s not. Supposed. To happen. Like this.
It’s just not.
The sport of football is not designed for one person to be in such complete control of one’s own destination. Getting to a single Super Bowl is a miracle in and of itself. Winning a Super Bowl, doubly so. A championship run is a mountain unto itself; only a select few manage to make it back a second time, let alone a third time.
And then … then there is Tom Brady. Tom freakin’ Brady.
With an out-of-this-world first-half performance in Green Bay on Sunday and an out-of-body disaster in the second half, Brady was not at his absolute best for 60 minutes on Sunday. But he is going to the Super Bowl.
For the 10th time.
FOR THE 10TH TIME!
There’s just no way to put that into perspective. That’s twice as many as the next-best guy (John Elway, 5). It’s a 150 percent increase in Super Bowl appearances over the quartet of QBs tied for third (Terry Bradshaw, Joe Montana, Roger Staubach, Peyton Manning, who have four apiece).
There’s never been anyone like this before, and there will never be another again. This is remarkable.
Consider this: Brady has been a starting quarterback for 19 full seasons. With 10 victories in the conference title game, he’s made it to the Super Bowl in more than half of those seasons. Ten out of 19 seasons ending in the Super Bowl.
And he’s already won six of them.
That’s not supposed to happen. None of it.
Yet, that’s where we all are: waiting to watch Tom Brady play in another Super Bowl. It’s ridiculous.
Consider this, as well: Brady just dispatched two of his contemporaries, Drew Brees and Aaron Rodgers. Brees and Rodgers will go down in history as two of the best passers in NFL history. They each have one Super Bowl win and one Super Bowl appearance apiece. Brady has six titles (and counting?) and 10 appearances.
On this most recent trip, expect to hear about how the defense carried him in Green Bay, how a late penalty flag cost the Packers, how the interceptions in the second half were unforgivable, plus this, that, or the other. It’s always the case. To some extent, some explanations are obviously true. Such is the nature of sports.
But so much of it often comes across as nothing more than sour resentment for those who refuse to see what’s taken place before their very eyes time and time and time again.
You don’t win 33 playoff games thanks to lucky breaks. (Montana ranks second in that category, with 16.)
You don’t throw 80 touchdowns in the playoffs thanks to the refs. (Montana ranks second, with 45.)
You don’t throw 12,248 yards in the playoffs because of your team’s defense. (Manning ranks second, with 7,339.)
And you don’t make 14 conference championships and 10 Super Bowls for any reason other than the fact that you are the greatest player at the most important position in team sports to ever take the field.
While individual moments can pointed out — the Tuck Rule, John Kasay’s kickoff out of bounds, Seattle’s play call, Green Bay allowing five sacks on Sunday, etc. — what’s often ignored is that those breaks go both ways. Surely, no team has reached a Super Bowl without a spell of good fortune. Catching breaks remains an equal opportunity phenomenon. Put another way: Every player has benefited from good luck in their careers. None of them have played in 10 Super Bowls,
Yes, in the case of Brady, there’s something else at play. It’s a drive to win that’s incomparable to anyone else. An obsession with improvement has allowed him to play at an age where almost every single quarterback in history has been long retired. An insatiable passion for winning has made it crystal clear that it is not a coincidence that the sport’s greatest winner will once again be playing in the season’s final game, with the whole world watching.
On the one hand, it’s incredible. On the other, it’s just stupid. Nobody should be able to do this.
It’s a run that could have rightfully ended after 2004 and still have sent Brady to the Hall of Fame. It looked like it could have been over in 2007, and then it seemed downright likely to be over after 2011. Yet since turning 37 years old, Brady has now made it to five additional Super Bowls — which would tie him for the most appearances anyone’s ever had in their entire career.
There’s nothing left to say about it. There’s nothing you can say about it, other than to say that this is just not supposed to happen. And it never will again.
You can find Michael Hurley on Twitter @michaelFhurley.