Tom Brady announced his retirement today, at the age of 44, after the Tampa Bay Buccaneers lost to the Los Angeles Rams last Sunday in the NFL playoffs. I wrote this piece as part of my longer Friday column on Patreon (patreon.com/mikecarlsonfmte) but given Brady’s announcement, I thought it would stand alone nicely if shared here.
There was an small avalanche of schadenfreude on the net when the Bucs’ defense allowed the Rams to drive downfield in the game’s final minute for the game-winning field goal which ruined a 27 point comeback by Tampa. Not to have done that would have allowed a potentially “deja vu all over again” situation reminiscent of the Pats’ comeback from 28–3 down in the Super Bowl to defeat the Atlanta Falcons.
On The Nat Coombs Show the week before, Gnat and I had discussed the concept of Brady and luck (not Oliver Luck nor Andrew Luck) and now the Luckiest Of All Time theory was burning up the internet, pins were being stuck gleefully into Brady’s reputation for winning, and the analytic types were explaining how it was Ram turnovers and not Brady that had propelled the Bucs back into contention. Many of these Knights of the Internet (to paraphrase Ted Williams) pointed out repeatedly the many times in the past when key break went Brady’s way (from the butt-fumble onward) and basically argued rather than being the Greatest Of All Time GOAT, Brady had done very little on his own to earn that reputation.
Which of course ignores a few points basic to football as we know it. First, many big games, and certainly all close ones, are determined by a few plays or a few tendentious penalty calls (or no calls) that might easily have gone a different way, and those who have skins in the game will understandably take the wrong way. It is easy enough to do an excercise (I know, because I have done it) showing how Brady might easily have wound up 3–7 in Super Bowls rather than 7–3; it would be just as easy to show how he could have gone 10–0. You can do the same with playoff games; he might have made it to more or fewer Super Bowls had Marlon McCree not been stripped of an interception; Rex Ryan not called a time out negating his team’s fourth down stop, or Reche Caldwell, Brady’s number one receiver that year, not made a ket drop). But you can follow that exercise in futility to infinity, repeating the point, many football games hinge on such what ifs.
That’s because, second point, football is a team game, and while the QB is the only guy we talk about winning…