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Tom Brady: From Sixth-Rounder to Seven Rings (Chapter 3)

Jeff Pratt breaks down Tom Brady’s illustrious career in a three-part series.

 Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady (12) celebrates with the Vince Lombardi Trophy after beating the Kansas City Chiefs in Super Bowl LV at Raymond James Stadium. Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Brady and the Patriots entered the 2014 season in a nine-year Super Bowl drought. For most teams, their level of success over that post-2005 stretch would have been enough to satisfy fans.

Not in New England. After getting a taste of dominance in the early 2000s they wanted more, and Belichick and company made sure to oblige them.

The Patriots clinched yet another AFC East title in 2014, and Brady led his team to an incredible comeback victory in the Divisional Round against Baltimore.

New England went on to cruise in the AFC Championship, defeating the Colts 45-7. However, we all know the story doesn’t end there for that game.

Super Bowl XLIX was one for the ages. Brady threw for 328 yards, four touchdowns and two interceptions, leading his team to a 10-point 4th quarter comeback — which set the NFL record at the time — against Seattle. Malcolm Butler capped off the 28-24 victory with a goal line interception.

Brady clinched his fourth championship, tying him with Terry Bradshaw and Joe Montana for the most Super Bowl wins by a starting quarterback. He also won his third Super Bowl MVP, tying another record held by Montana.

The 2015 offseason arrived and Brady was at the center of controversy. A report published by the NFL on May 6 stated that he had played a significant role in the deflation of footballs used in New England’s AFC Championship domination against Indianapolis.

On May 11, Brady was suspended for the first four games of the 2015 season. NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell upheld the suspension when it was appealed, but the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York ultimately overturned the decision on Sept. 3.

After a tumultuous offseason, Brady was allowed to suit up for the entirety of the 2015 campaign. He continued his elite play, finishing the regular season with a league-leading 36 touchdown passes and just seven interceptions. Unfortunately, the Patriots would eventually fall to the Broncos and their stifling defense in the AFC Championship.

In the 2016 offseason, Brady and Deflategate were once again the center of attention, as the U.S. Court of Appeals reinstated his four game suspension. Brady finally accepted the terms and served the suspension at the beginning of the 2016 season.

When he returned in Week 5, it was with a vengeance.

Over that 12-game stretch, Brady threw for an incredible 28 touchdowns with just two interceptions, leading the Patriots to their eighth straight AFC East title. New England dominated the Texans and Steelers in their first two playoff matchups, setting up a face-off with the red-hot Atlanta Falcons.

I don’t even need to tell you what happened in this game. Down 28-3, the Patriots mounted the greatest comeback in NFL history. Brady completed 43 passes for 466 yards and two touchdowns, eventually defeating Atlanta 34-28 in overtime.

With this victory, Brady set the NFL records for most Super Bowl victories for any quarterback and most Super Bowl MVPs. But he wasn’t done there.

Not even close.

2017 began with slightly more controversy, as rumors swirled that Brady’s wife, Gisele Bundchen, wanted him to retire due to the amount of concussions the quarterback had sustained throughout his career.

After an extensive medical investigation, Brady was cleared to play in the 2017 season, and he continued his dominance. At 40 years of age, he became the oldest quarterback to lead the league in passing yards with 4,577. Earning 80% of the votes, he was named NFL MVP for the third time in his career.

New England put together another impressive postseason run before being upset by Nick Foles and the underdog Philadelphia Eagles in Super Bowl LII.

The Patriots bounced back once again in 2018, clinching the AFC East title for the 10th consecutive season. Brady was impressive per usual, finishing the year with 4,355 passing yards, 29 touchdowns and 11 interceptions.

Following offensive outbursts in the AFC Divisional and Championship rounds against the Chargers and Chiefs, many expected Super Bowl LIII to be an extremely high-scoring affair. After all, two of the league’s best offenses were matching up in the Patriots and Rams.

That’s not exactly what happened.

New England’s incredible defense, led by Defensive Player of the Year Stephon Gilmore, completely shut down Todd Gurley and the Rams. Brady made the necessary plays to set the Patriots up for victory, eventually winning 13-3.

It was the lowest-scoring Super Bowl in NFL history, but rings are rings, and Brady earned his sixth, becoming the only player ever to win that many championships.

2019 was a struggle. The Patriots were financially restricted, and Belichick was unable to offer Brady the extension he was looking for. Working with limited weapons, Tom was lights out to begin the season, leading New England to an 8-0 record.

Despite the impressive start to the year, Brady was clearly unhappy with the roster Belichick had constructed. Their lack of talent was apparent in the second half of the season, going 4-4 over the final eight-game stretch before eventually losing to Tennessee in the Wild Card round.

On March 17, 2020, Brady shocked the world by announcing that he would not re-sign with the Patriots, ending his 20-year stint in New England.

Many questioned if Brady had lost his touch after a disappointing final year with the Patriots. That being said, he had multiple suitors, and eventually signed with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, eager to prove the doubters wrong.

The Bucs put together a stacked team on both sides of the ball. After dealing with an aging Julian Edelman as his best receiver for the last few years, Brady was now throwing to Mike Evans, Chris Godwin, a refreshed Rob Gronkowski and eventually Antonio Brown.

The 43-year-old made sure not to squander this opportunity, showing everyone that he was not the problem in New England in 2019. Brady finished the 2020 campaign with 4,633 passing yards, 40 touchdowns and 12 interceptions. The playoff run that followed could have been ripped right out of a storybook.

Brady defeated Drew Brees, Aaron Rodgers, and finally Patrick Mahomes in three straight games to clinch his seventh championship in Super Bowl LV. With this victory, he became the oldest quarterback to start, play, win and receive the MVP in Super Bowl history.

After 21 years of dominance, Brady has cemented his place as the greatest quarterback of all time. From a sixth-round draft pick to seven rings, there will never be another like him.

And he’s not done yet.