Tom Brady is going back to the Super Bowl, which makes seven trips in 15 years. Excluding his rookie year, when Brady appeared in one game, and 2008, when he tore his ACL in the opener, Tom Brady has had a miraculous 15-year run, the greatest in modern team sports history.
Yes, it’s more impressive than Magic’s Lakers (nine Finals trips in 12 years), Bird’s Celtics (five Finals appearances in 12 years*), Jeter’s Yankees (seven World Series trips in 18 seasons**), Montana’s 49ers (four Super Bowl appearances in 11 seasons***), Gretzky’s career (five Stanley Cup trips in 21 seasons with four teams) and yes, Michael Jordan’s Chicago Bulls (six NBA Finals appearances in 10 years in the Windy City).
Remember, we’re talking about a 6th round draft pick. Brady has exceeded all expectations at the professional level. Magic, Bird, Jeter, Gretzky, Jordan – these guys were high draft picks who lived up to expectations. Magic and Bird were drafted into storied, stacked, franchises. You knew they’d be great. Montana was a 3rd round pick out of Notre Dame, but he was a legendary athlete in high school who went on to with a National title for the Irish.
Tom Brady started his career at Michigan as the 7th QB on the depth chart.
But yes, I’m aware Brady will forever be tied to Bill Belichick. This goes both ways; Bill couldn’t win anything in Cleveland without Brady. And who can forget that Michael Jordan will forever be linked to Phil Jackson. MJ couldn’t get to the Finals until Jackson came along, and then he went 6-0.
It’s difficult to compare the NBA and NFL for a multitude of reasons, among them, Jordan plays at both ends; Brady doesn’t play defense or special teams.
But the other reason I’m going Brady over Jordan is the era they did it in.
Jordan couldn’t get through Larry Bird and the Bad Boy Pistons as a young star in the 80s; he ascended to the top of the NBA when Bird’s back was busted and racked up five rings after Magic Johnson retired early. Jordan’s 6-year run of dominance in the Finals was built in the pre-Super Teams era. Yes, Reggie Miller and Karl Malone and Patrick Ewing are Hall of Famers, but compared to whom Brady competed against?
Brady’s career went head-to-head with a Top 5 QB of all-time (Peyton Manning), a QB who the stats guys might put in the Top 3. Ben Roethlisberger has won two Super Bowls. To show you how difficult it is to get to the Super Bowl, Aaron Rodgers is a brilliant QB, and on talent alone, he’s probably a Top 10 QB all-time already.
He’s been to one Super Bowl.
If the list is of the most dominant athletes in team sports in the modern era, I’d go:
Tom Brady’s Patriots: 4-2 in Super Bowl History
Michael Jordan’s Bulls: 6-0 in NBA Finals History
Magic Johnson’s Lakers: 5-4 in NBA Finals History
* I discounted Bird’s 1988-1989 season where he played six games
** I discounted Jeter’s rookie season and his 2013 season, where he appeared in just 15 games and 17 games, respectively
*** I didn’t count Montana’s rookie season (23 passes attempted) and his 1992 year when he threw 21 passes before getting hurt.