On the heels of Tom Brady Appreciation Week, and in the midst of Tom Brady Adulation Offseason, the Patriots quarterback continues to be lauded, often rightly, as the greatest of all time. Or as one video game enterprise put it: the G.O.A.T.
But Brady doesn’t see it that way. Not even after completing the greatest comeback in Super Bowl, and arguably professional football, history.
In a wide-ranging interview with ESPN’s Ian O’Connor, Brady brushed off talk that he had surpassed his boyhood hero, former 49ers legend Joe Montana, as the greatest quarterback and football player in the game’s history.
“I don’t agree with that,” he told O’Connor, “and I’ll tell you why. I know myself as a player. I’m really a product of what I’ve been around, who I was coached by, what I played against, in the era I played in. I really believe if a lot of people were in my shoes they could accomplish the same kinds of things. So I’ve been very fortunate. … I don’t ever want to be the weak link.”
It’s quite a humble stance from a five-time Super Bowl champion, four-time Super Bowl MVP and two-time MVP who’s quarterbacked for a decade and a half the greatest football dynasty this league has ever known. But it’s one we’ve come to expect from Brady, who prefers to chase greatness, not profess it.
Instead, his eyes are now set on another legend of American sports: six-time NBA champion and brand master Michael Jordan.
“I was in awe of Michael Jordan,” Brady added, “and I still am in awe of what he was and what he meant. … He was such an effortless player. He put a lot of effort in, but there’s an art and a beauty to the way he played the game. That was a very inspiring thing.”
Numbers-wise, Brady, like LeBron James, is chasing Jordan’s six titles, a goal that, after New England’s impressive offseason, is expected to be reached sooner rather than later.
“The great part is the next one for me is No. 6,” Brady said, “and I’m not on No. 1. I’m trying to reach No. 6 and I’m on No. 5. If I got to No. 6, that would have great meaning to me. It’s not trying to keep up with my idols. It’s not Magic, Jeter, Mariano [Rivera], Kobe, Duncan, guys more my age who I always admired. I just want to win because I owe it to my teammates. I’m working this year like I have none, and hopefully it results in a magical season.”
There’s plenty more than a sixth championship for the Patriots quarterback to aspire to in reaching Jordan status.
The Bulls star is not only regarded as the greatest basketball player of all time, but arguably the preeminent American athlete of the past 40 years, a reputation he channeled into building one of the most successful athletic-wear brands in the world. Brady’s post-football plans are to build his TB12 health and training brand into the leading name in “peak performance,” revolutionizing training methods and eating habits to extend athletes’ careers into the nebula.
That is … if there ever is a “post-football” for this guy.
When asked how long he really wants to play — a favorite query for any and all sports writers looking for a hot pull quote — Brady delivered.
“I always said my mid-40s and naturally that means around 45,” Brady reiterated. “If I get there and I still feel like I do today, I don’t see why I wouldn’t want to continue.”
But what about 50, Tommy?
“That’s a great question. If you said 50, then you can say 60, too, then 70. I think 45 is a pretty good number for right now. I know the effort it takes to be 40. … My love for the sport will never go away. I don’t think at 45 it will go away. At some point, everybody moves on. Some people don’t do it on their terms. I feel I want it to be on my terms. I’ve got to make appropriate choices on how to do that, how to put myself in the best position to reach my long-term goals.”
God help the AFC East.