From the Press Box: Brady owes much of his legacy to others

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Opinion and Insight

New England quarterback Tom Brady is the GOAT, the Greatest Of All Time. So say Patriots fans and many observers of professional football, including a large contingent of former pro quarterbacks, who know whereof they speak.

For what is worth, I agree — by the numbers. But figures can lie and liars can figure, it can be said, and much of the glory attributed to Brady is a shine polished by others.

The list is a long one, but begins, to his credit, with his own incredible set of God-given skills. To this he has added a tremendous work ethic, unquestioned personal drive to succeed and a goodly smattering of simple good fortune, which any professional football players needs to have a sustained career.

Brady has received a leprechaun’s lifespan worth of lucky breaks, all coming — as these things do — at the penultimate moment, but deserves credit for then cashing in. If someone hands you a golden nugget, it is not their fault if you then drop it in the sewer. You have to cash it in to be rewarded, and Brady might just be the king of cashing in. Unlocked doors invite theft, and when a team, a ruling, a play, a fortunate occurrence — any of those — give Brady a chance, and he becomes the Sultan of Suffering for Patriots haters, ever ready to steal your cookies, kick your dog and deliberately over-feed your fish.

My mother is a tender soul, and now lives with my brother (not so tender) and his family outside Providence, R.I. Visits to Boston (an hour or so up the interstate) takes them past Gillette Stadium, home to the Patriots, the Most Hated Team in the NFL, in my opinion.

Mom doesn’t like hearing “hate” believing it un-Christian and a blemish on my Catholic soul when I say I “hate” this player, that team, this referee, etc. I have tried to explain it is simply an expression. I don’t truly “hate” Tom Brady — I wish the man no ill will, no misfortune, and would happily pray for his soul. I just don’t like the “agony” and “frustration” he has caused me throughout his career, dating back to his collegiate days.

But in the sports universe? You bet I “hate” Brady — almost as much as I do Scam Newton.

As for his legacy, I believe he owes a big piece of it to others, as I said before and now hope to convince the Observant Reader.

For starters, the Most Idiotic Officiating Moment of all time came on Jan. 19, 2002 in the divisional playoffs when Brady was stripped of the ball by Charles Woodson, with a fellow Raider recovering. Had the Agents of Darkness in the Sports Netherworld not intervened with a jackass rendering of the “tuck rule” the Raiders would have won, and the long Tom Brady-Bill Belichick Super Bowl train might never have left the station.

Copyright concerns prevent my publishing any photos of the play, but they are readily available online. Brady’s left hand is, without question, on the ball, showing he had already brought it back in (tucked) when Woodson hammered it free.

Thus begins the damning of Brady in the minds of millions upon millions of NFL fans. He is, without any serious debate, the most protected QB in the league. Any rough contact at all is flagged. The complete bull-haka Roughing the Passer call in the late going of Sunday’s AFC title game is a perfect example. Even the league officiating stooge in the CBS booth admitted as much.

As it was, the New England Snow Job of ’02 was capped against the Raiders not by Brady but by Adam “save your butt” Vinatieri, who made two clutch kicks — the first to force overtime and the second to win the game. His last-second kick in the Super Bowl three weeks later beat the St. Louis Rams, 20-17, and bailed Brady out again.

Vinatieri saved Brady’s bacon with a total of 18 game-winning kicks in the final minute of regulation or in overtime during his time in Boston (1996-2005). Those kicks include a Super Bowl XXXVIII winner (32-29) over Scam Newton’s Carolina Panthers.

The massive choke job pulled by Atlanta allowed Brady and Belichick (both found guilty by the NFL, it should be remembered, of cheating) to miraculously steal Super Bowl LI.

As if having Vinatieri were not blessing enough, Brady has had his replacement, Stephen Gostkowski, to pull his buns from the fire numerous times since 2006.

Now we are forced to endure another Brady/Belichick/Boston Stupor Bowl. In my personal experience and opinion, no fans are more insufferable than those rooting for any Boston team, in any sport, save LSU fans and those of the baseball Cardinals.

Any why is this? Because Kansas City linebacker Dee Ford committed a sixth-grade football sin and lined up offside. If he does not, Brady goes down as the loser in the game, having thrown a clutch-time interception.

Instead, given a chance to choke, the Chiefs did so, allowing Brady to complete passes of 3rd-and-10, 3rd-and-15 and 3rd-and-10. Nice. And no one — no one — had any doubt, once the Patriots won the overtime coin flip, that they would drive for a winning touchdown.

Again, credit must be given where due. Someone had to convert all those breaks, even the very many he did nothing to create.

Tom Brady deserves plaudits until the cows come home, even if some might have a rather unpleasant odor.

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