1/15/17 8:00 AM
It’s mind-boggling, really. Fans north of 30 years old remember when it was an accomplishment for the Patriots to merely reach the playoffs. Championship dynasties were reserved for the likes Aikman, Montana, Bradshaw and Starr.
In 1998, the Patriots limped into the playoffs clinging to a Wildcard berth, marking the first time in team history that it had made three consecutive postseason appearances. Then came 8-8 and 5-11 and hope seemed to dissipate as it typically did after any successful stint.
Enter Tom Brady, a gangly sixth-round pick out of northern California by way of Michigan. No expectations beyond his own. Sixteen seasons later, he has confirmed what he told Robert Kraft back in 2000 when he was drafted – that he was the best decision the organization ever made.
No NFL quarterback has equaled Brady’s success. Zero. No quarterback has won more Division titles, Conference championships or Super Bowls as a starter than Tom Brady (Joe Montana, Terry Bradshaw and Brady all won four Super Bowls).
In fact, the frequency with which Brady plays in Super Bowls is unmatched. Removing the 2008 season because Brady missed it with a knee injury, he has never gone more than two seasons without playing in the final game. He started Super Bowls in 2001, 2003, 2004, 2007, 2011 and 2014 and, therefore, missed out in 2002, 2005, 2006, 2009, 2010, 2012, 2013 and 2015.
It remains to be seen if he will be back this season.
He also has the most wins as a starting quarterback (206), is fourth on the all-time passing yards list (61,582), fourth in touchdowns (456) and has fifty game-winning drives in the fourth quarter or overtime.
And after eliminating the Texans Saturday night at Gillette Stadium, Brady and the Patriots are headed to their NFL-record sixth consecutive AFC Championship Game while having qualified for the playoffs in eight straight seasons and 13 of the last 14.
Brady and his head coach, Bill Belichick, have won 23 postseason games together, nine more than Chuck Noll and Terry Bradshaw (14) and more than twice that of Tom Landry and Roger Staubach (11).
In fact, Brady’s postseason numbers are gaudy. He is first all-time in playoff touchdowns (58), passing yards (8,244), completions (756) and wins (23). He also sits atop the Super Bowl record list for passing touchdowns (13) and yards (1,605). In addition to sitting tied with Bradshaw and Montana for most Super Bowls wins, he also is tied with Montana for most Super Bowl MVP awards (3).
Brady has guided the Patriots to the conference championship game a record 11 times. Think about that. The Patriots went to the playoffs just eight times in the team’s first 41 years, but since Brady arrived, it has played in the final four 11 times in 16 seasons.
So it’s on to the AFC Championship once again thanks to a difficult win over the Texans in which Brady hardly played his best postseason game. Houston’s defense, guided by former Patriots defensive coordinator Romeo Crennel along with Brady’s former teammate, Mike Vrabel, gave New England all it could handle with its top-ranked defense. Perhaps their familiarity with Brady and the offense, along with a nothing-to-lose underdog attitude were factors in the game.
But when the dust settled, and Brady had picked himself up off the turf, the Patriots were moving through the Divisional round once again. New England’s youth knows nothing but success. Perhaps a history lesson (at The Hall?) is in order.
To help, here is a list of the Patriots playoff seasons and results: