Greatness defined

By Mark Paulette

Moments after winning his record-fifth Super Bowl title, Tom Brady collapsed to the ground overcome with emotion. Much like the game, it was a moment that words could not do justice to. A sea of reporters circled the quarterback, which depicted Brady almost as a divine figure. Like a crowd flocking to Superman, the media swelled around Brady attempting to get a glimpse of the man that just engineered the greatest comeback in Super Bowl history. It was an impossible task. One which took the greatest performance in a career that already resembled a Hollywood script more than reality. A performance that vindicated all that had transpired in the prior 18 months. One which propelled him to a different stratosphere from the other greats to ever play the game. But none of that mattered to Brady. For him, this win had an entirely different meaning.

In the week leading up to Super Bowl 51, Tom Brady revealed a different side to the public. He allowed the walls which he’s spent 16 years building to be penetrated. Whether it was being brought to tears by a 7-year-old who asked the G.O.A.T. who his hero was, or divulging the difficulty faced this year due to his mother’s illness, Brady shed a new light on his unparalleled drive for greatness. He’s just a guy trying to make those around him proud.

He made it clear that this game was dedicated to his mom. Doing so, it seemed Brady added extra pressure to himself and with the Patriots trailing 21-3 at the half, the 39-year-old looked his age for the first time this season. He was visibly shook, frustrated, and for lack of a better term, deflated on the sideline after picking himself off the turf following Robert Alford’s 82-yard pick-six. At halftime, as Lady Gaga rappelled from the roof of NRG Stadium, it was evident that pressure had finally gotten the better of the cool Californian who built a career off keeping calm under such circumstances.

The situation only got worse. After being gifted with starting field position near midfield, the Pats offense sputtered to a 3-&-out while Atlanta took the ball and effortlessly scored to make the game 28-3. At that point, Atlanta peaked with a 99.8% chance of victory, according to ESPN’s win model. Not even the sheer laws of physics allowed for a Patriots’ comeback. It’s here where we need to pause and marvel at not only Brady’s greatness, but his will to bend the laws of nature if that’s what it takes to respond to the adversity.

The average person, and for that case NFL player, can’t comprehend the mental fortitude needed to overcome what Brady did in the final 25 minutes of Super Bowl LI. Our own Mike DeVito confessed that in such circumstance, he wouldn’t be able to concede defeat in his mind. If it was as easy as Brady made it look Sunday night, everybody who ever laced ‘em up would be an all-time great. He not only shrugged off his struggles, but flipped ends of the spectrum to turn in a celestial performance down the stretch.

Tom Brady didn’t cement his legacy as the greatest quarterback to ever play with his fifth ring and fourth Super Bowl MVP award. He was already that before the game kicked off at 6:30 p.m. Aaron Rodgers is the most skilled QB, who can turn in highlight plays like no other. Peyton Manning has unmatched regular season stats and Dan Marino possessed an unrivaled arm. Only Joe Montana had a claim to the throne through his ability to win under pressure. To joke in the huddle while staring a 90-yard drive in the face with the season on the line. But only Brady can make his teammates believe a game isn’t out of reach when they have no right to do so. As long as he is on the field, impossible is nothing. And this past Sunday we all witnessed why the old hall which housed the NFL’s Iron Throne is no longer suitable for the likes of Mr. Brady. He’s in a class of his own. While many before him perfected their crafts like few could ever duplicate, only Brady has redefined what it is to be great.

Mark HeadshotMark Paulette is the Senior Producer on The Drive, weekdays 4pm to 6pm on 92.9fm The Ticket and streaming live at Follow us on twitter, @DriveShowMaine and “Like Us” on Facebook, Drive Show Maine.