I want to document something before people start talking, and then use short-term-memory-malfunctions to justify stupidity. And while attacking that one major issue, I also want to provide some additional details on the GOAT.

For two decades I watched people critique Tom Brady and the Patriots based on the idea that the AFC East was somehow an inferior conference. That they faced an easy schedule free of challenges, which in turn led them to undeserved heights. And now…

Next season, the NFC South will consist of the following for Tampa to overcome in their quest to return to the playoffs and defend a title: (1) A New Orleans team that enters the offseason with massive salary cap issues and, in all probability, Drew Brees riding into retirement. (2) A Carolina team that’s spunky, but appears ready to bring in a new starting quarterback. (3) An Atlanta team that, while possessing talented players, often can’t get out of its own way and seems ready to shed some of those talents as aging veterans on a club that likely will be watching the salary cap (and rebuilding for the future may be the plan).

In short, I’m waiting for the haters to come out, bring on the old and tired and way-off-the-mark arguments, and say the Buccaneers don’t have to play anyone good.

Do you have any idea what you just watched in the past four weeks? Tom Brady and the Bucs defeated Drew Brees and the Saints… in New Orleans. Tom Brady and the Bucs defeated Aaron Rodgers and the Packers… in Green Bay. Tom Brady and the Bucs defeated Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs… knocking off the defending Super Bowl champions, and the most talented quarterback currently playing in the league, in a blowout that wasn’t as close as the final score indicated.

Brees, Rodgers and Mahomes, beaten one after the other. Three almost certainly Hall of Fame inductees in waiting. The current season’s MVP. A tremendously solid run. It capped off a season where Brady changed teams and, thanks to world events, had less time than usual and far more restrictions in place when it came to practicing and preparation.

So, let’s put it out there. Are we really getting ready to see people again blame the quality of opponents? Are people going to complain that Brady has had it easy? I’m going to bet they will, since they’re already saying the officiating was in his back pocket.

Let’s put a few things in place to cool the waters of these hot accusations.

The way the NFL sets up scheduling, a division winner has what should be one of the toughest conference schedules year-after-year. The rotation sets it up so they have to play the three division winners from the previous season in their conference.

Beyond that, the Patriots and their success added numerous hurdles to things. Lower draft picks in each round. More games played. (In fact, funny truth, Tom Brady and New England played the rough equivalent of more than two-and-half seasons worth of playoff games under his leadership. And he’s now started 45 playoff games in his career.) Do you think the next-season playoff hangover examinations that seemed to be applicable to every team except the Patriots while he was in their uniform did (and do) apply because New England was playing Miami, Buffalo and New York (Jets)? (Sorry… nope.)

Plus, it is truly a team game. This isn’t a sport that plays out in a way such as when a great pitcher can dominate a playoff series. Over time, things are supposed to level out. (As New England began to see this past season.)

But then again, this is the GOAT. And so here we are…

Patrick Mahomes, in a brilliant and still incredibly young career, has lost two playoff games. The opposing quarterbacks in those games? Tom Brady and… go ahead, guess… yeah, and Tom Brady.

Tom Brady is the most recent quarterback to win back-to-back titles. The most recent teams to make a run at it? Russell Wilson leading Seattle and Mahomes with Kansas City. They were both defeated in the Super Bowl by teams quarterbacked by Brady. (And yes, Tom Brady lost in an attempt to win back-to-back titles when Philadelphia won Super Bowl LII. Maybe you’d like to also notice that the Patriots played for the title four times in five years around that loss, including three Super Bowls in a row, while winning three times. They did not play the Seahawks, Falcons, Rams or Eagles multiple times over those four years.)

Oh yeah, and the record book. Brady has played in ten Super Bowls and won seven. Only one other player has five Super Bowl rings as a player. Brady has five Super Bowl MVP awards. We’re closing in on the annual Super Bowl awards being the Lombardi championship trophy and Brady MVP trophy.

You don’t reach Super Bowls… conference championship games… year after year because you’re an ok team in a horrible division. Doesn’t work that way. Too many other elements and obstacles involved.

But eventually you have to stop looking for excuses and tip your cap. We are well beyond Tom Brady proving himself as the greatest of all time. And while I’d like to say we’re being treated to some incredible encores, it’s more than that.

Chances are good that Tampa Bay will return to the playoffs next season. I don’t know the full roster, opponents that might be in place, and circumstance. Several teams in the NFC look to be really powerful. Championship teams often lose some players to free agency. Predicting what will happen as far as records and outcomes, especially right now, is a bit foolish. I do know Brady and the team will have more history together than they did entering this season. And I would guess that in what is appearing to be an interesting offseason, his presence may make Tampa Bay a very attractive destination for free agents.

Hopefully, we can all enjoy his remaining time as much as he seems to be enjoying it, because it is beyond unlikely we will ever see this level of performance again.

And… yet… those wonderful critics with short-term-memory-malfunctions are going to make attempts at justifying their stupidity when it comes to Brady and how he manages to stay on top and be successful. I am waiting for them to point at scheduling as the reason Brady once again wins. They will. And they’ll be wrong.


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