The Dallas Cowboys might be America’s Team.
But Tom Brady is Captain America.
He has it all. The up-from-the-bootstraps background. The leading-man looks straight out of Hollywood. The knockout Brazilian fashion model for a wife.
And three, perhaps soon-to-be four, Super Bowl rings.
Captain America couldn’t play for a more aptly named team: the Patriots. I’m not certain, but it looks like Brady is the guy in the logo on the Patriots’ helmet, like Jerry West is the guy in the NBA.
Deflategate hasn’t taken any air out of Brady’s legend. Spygate? Maybe a smidgen, but not enough to affect his stature as arguably the NFL’s greatest quarterback ever. Yes, there’s a principle involved in proper air pressure, but he still has to throw the ball into tight windows on time. No amount of ball scuffing or whatever could help, say, John Beck, replicate Brady’s achievements.
Kurt Warner had a more improbable tale, going from the Arena League and stocking supermarket shelves to the NFL and stuffing record books. But Brady isn’t far behind, selected in the sixth (next-to-last) round of the 2000 draft. No one knows what might have happened if Drew Bledsoe wasn’t injured in the second game of the 2001 season, clearing the way for Brady to emerge and lead New England to a Super Bowl victory against Warner’s St. Louis Rams.
Bledsoe started every game over the next four seasons (three with Buffalo and one with Dallas), and might’ve blocked Brady if not for New York Jets linebacker Mo Lewis, whose main claim to fame is his crushing hit on Bledsoe.
Without that fateful play, we migh’ve never been introduced to Captain America, who has guided the Patriots to an incredible 12 consecutive seasons with double-digit wins. (No, he doesn’t get credit for 2008, when he suffered a season-ending injury in the season-opener, but you get the point.)
And think about where he’d rank if not for two of the most ridiculous catches we’ve ever seen, in a Super Bowl or any game. Both were courtesy of the New York Giants.
First there was David Tyree pinning the ball to his helmet with 58 seconds left during the game-winning drive that ended the Pats’ perfect season in Super Bowl XLII. Four years later it was Mario Manningham, hauling in a sideline pass and miraculously keeping his feet inbounds while falling to the ground (and completing the process). New York scored the go-ahead touchdown seven plays later with 1:04 left in the game.
Brady might be be 5-for-5 in Super Bowls without those incredible plays. Not that he’s complaining about being 3-2.
“I never imagined this in my wildest dreams,” Brady told reporters Tuesday. “I loved playing sports growing up. I loved having a chance as a kid to go out there and play with my friends, so to play football in the street with the older boys was fun.
“To get a chance to play in the Super Bowl, I never thought I’d play in one. So it’s pretty unbelievable to be able to play in six.”
His is an unusual adventure, because while every super hero needs a villain, the bad guy is never on the same team. That’s not the case with Captain America, who takes marching orders from Doctor Doom, aka New England coach Bill Belichick.
Fate smiled on Brady when Bledsoe was injured. But the good fortune extends to having Belichick arrive in Foxborough the same year Brady was drafted. That has helped in a couple of ways.
Belichick has mastered all sorts of dark arts in becoming arguably the NFL’s best coach ever, allowing Brady to reap the benefits. Perhaps more importantly, though, Brady never had to line up against a Belichick defense.
Peyton Manning can attest to the unpleasant nature of such assignments.
I’ve always found hard to root against Brady … until considering the hooded gnome who patrols the sidelines. It’s Belichick who makes hating the Patriots so much fun, not the quarterback with a pair of league MVP trophies to match his pair of Super Bowl MVPs.
Joe Montana fans scoff at the notion that Brady will pull even – or surpass – the 49ers’ legend with another Super Bowl win on Sunday. That would tie them at four apiece. Montana was undefeated in the big game and played before the modern era morphed from pass-happy to pass-friendly to pass-freely.
Montana was Joe Cool and Brady isn’t about to get into comparisons. “It’s flattering anytime you’re mentioned with great players and guys I idolized growing up,” he said. “I don’t ever see myself on that level.”
He can see it any way he wants. That doesn’t change a thing.
He’s still Captain America, second to none.