Call me crazy: I picked the Green Bay Packers to beat the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the NFC Championship Game because, more than anything, I thought they were “due.” You know, kind of the same way Krusty the Klown thought the Washington Generals were due when he bet them against the Harlem Globetrotters.
That has become the fallacy of picking against Tom Brady over the past two decades, regardless of what jersey he is wearing. Last Sunday, it appeared the Packers were finally poised to return to the big game. They were playing at home against a 43-year-old quarterback leading a 5th-seeded team that was seeking an improbable third straight playoff road win. Rodgers had lost three straight title games, and Brady had won three straight. This, finally, was the Packers’ time.
Take that theory and shove it, says Brady.
When you’re a six-time Super Bowl champion inventing new ways to make history every time he sets foot on the field, no “theory” is too sacred to destroy. This was again Brady’s narrative in sending a gut-punched Aaron Rodgers into a bewildered state of pondering his future in Wisconsin.
Remember when the Chiefs finally got to host an AFC championship game two years ago? The top-seeded Chiefs with the MVP quarterback ready to dethrone the king, set up to finally set the Patriots dynasty to rest? Take that theory and shove it, said Brady, as he led an overtime touchdown drive before young heir Patrick Mahomes could touch the football. Wait, wasn’t this Andy Reid’s time to finally clear the Brady hurdle that had kept him from being a Super Bowl champion 14 years earlier? To quote Brady’s former teammate Chad Ochocinco — “child, please.”
19 years ago, in his first Super Bowl as a plucky, 14-point underdog against the “Greatest Show on Turf” St. Louis Rams, want to know how nervous Brady was before that game? Brady yawned, nodded back in his chair, and proceeded to take a nap before winning Super Bowl MVP honors later that evening.
Three years and two more rings later, the Patriots cemented Part 1 of the Dynasty. In a stunning twist, however, the next nine years would see the trophy case at One Patriot Place still contain only three. This, of course, meant the Dynasty was done. Entering the 2014 season, Brady was 37 years old and in a dry spell of nearly a decade. It’s OVER, they said.
Take that theory and shove it.
Fast forward another two years, and the Atlanta Falcons were having their way and then some with the Pats. A 28-3 lead meant that surely, Brady was not getting ring No. 5 on this evening. His largest postseason deficit overcome to that point was 14, when he twice rallied the Pats against the Ravens in the 2014 divisional round. 28-3?!? No. Freaking. Way.
Take that theory and… you’re starting to get the idea.
Okay, so Nick Foles outdueled him in a Super Bowl LII shootout. No matter. A year later, the Patriots took the defensive route and enabled Brady to win a game in which he put up just 13 points by double-digits anyway.
Alright, but what about after he left New England, ending his storied career in Foxborough by throwing a pick-six to cement a 20-13 loss to the Titans and his good buddy, Mike Vrabel? Won’t he just be another sad Johnny-Unitas-on-the-Chargers or Emmitt Smith-on-the-Cardinals old dude just hanging on to past glory in Tampa?
You know what you can do with that theory, too.
So as we sit eight days away from the big game, Brady’s 10th (!) visit to this stage, we are faced with yet another moral dilemma. The Chiefs are the more potent offense. Mahomes, again and still, is the heir to the throne. The Chiefs are trying to do what the Seahawks failed to do at Brady’s expense, which is replace Brady and his 2004 Patriots as the most recent repeat champions of the NFL. Kansas City has already beaten Brady and his Bucs, 27-24 back in Week 12, and Mahomes also beat him last year in New England.
Against all odds, here is one more chance for Brady to tell you to take your theories and shove ’em.