By Rich Levine
Standing Room Only
We love to talk about Mount Rushmores in sports. But when it comes to Boston in this era of dominance, Mount Rushmore has only one face.
Thats no disrespect to the other legends of this past decade. Pedro did things weve never seen before (or will again). Papis had so many moments that well never forget. Thomas was invincible, Manny was Manny, Pierce was, and still is, so remarkably reliable. Garnett, Schilling and Pedroia. Vinatieri, Brown and Bruschi. Theyre all greats, and were forever indebted to each and every one. In 10 years, they took this insane asylum of a sports city and upgraded us to . . . I dont know? What the hell is this? I still feel like that drugged up kid coming home from the dentist:
Is this real life?!
But if were talking about Boston legends if were talking legendary none of the guys I just mentioned belong in the same sentence as Tom Brady. (In this case, not even the same paragraph.) When alls said and done, hes the only one well discuss among Williams, Russell, Orr and Bird.
Hes the only guaranteed statue.
Thirty years from now, youll take your son or grandson to Robert Kraft Stadium, presented by Gillette, make your way through the stores, museums and newly-opened theme park, and a bronze Tom Brady will greet you at the gates. Without a doubt. Can you say that for sure about any athlete from these last seven titles?
I guess Papis a possibility, depending on what happens this postseason (and offseason). Pedro was one of a kind, and I dont think anyone would argue with the honor, but is six years of service enough for a statue?
Bradys the only sure thing. Hes in a league of his own.
And for the most part, hes treated as such.
We like to joke about the off-the-field activities (mostly because theyre funny) and pretend to be embarrassed and offended by the quirkiergirlier aspects of his personality, but deep down no one really cares. To be honest, a picture could surface tomorrow of Brady rollerblading through Central Park wearing a pink t-shirt and spandex with a copy of Are you there, Vodka? Its me, Chelsea under his arm, and it wouldnt change a thing. At 31 years old (two and a half years younger than Brady), I can say that his career is (and will be) my most historically significant experience as a sports fan. Hes Larry Bird. Hes Bobby Orr. Hes Bill Russell and Ted Williams. And like I said, I think we all know that, and dont need to be reminded of how good we have it.
But sometimes were reminded, anyway.
When we think of Brady, we always think about the rings. Why? Because theyre all that matter. But also because as a result of the Patriots team philosophy, Bradys slow development as a big-number QB and the fact that his generational counterpart is perhaps the biggest statistical freak in football history Bradys career stats just never get that much attention.
But how about this:
Tom Bradys thrown 261 career touchdown passes which ties him (with Dave Krieg) for 10th on the all-time list.
If he throws 30 touchdowns this season (a very manageable number), hell pass Krieg along with Joe Montana (273), Vinny Testaverde (whaaat?) and Johnny Unitas (290) to move into a tie with Warren Moon (291) for sixth.
If Brady throws 40 touchdowns this season, not likely but certainly not out of the question, hell leapfrog John Elway (300) and claim sole possession of 5th on the NFLs all-time touchdown list.
And then theres this: The 10 quarterbacks with whom Brady shares the Top 10 in touchdowns have thrown an average of 233 career interceptions. Seven of the 10 have thrown more than 200 INTs. Krieg threw 199, Mannings thrown 198 and Montana threw 160.
Bradys thrown 102.
Just like that, his numbers have caught up to the rings.
Of course, thats also part of the problem. Or at least adds context to the only real question that still surrounds the most legendary figure in this era of legendary figures.
How many more rings will there be?
Its a little premature to call Brady old, but seeing that hes about to start his 12th season, and is on the doorstep of some seriously exclusive statistical company, hes undoubtedly getting older.
Hes five years older than Drew Bledsoe was when he took his last snap in New England. Hes old enough to have shared a locker room with Bruce Armstrong. When Brady won his first Super Bowl, he was 24. On that day, 24 was also the combined age of his two current tight ends.
But at the same time, you cant talk about Bradys increasing age without recognizing that it hasnt affected him in the slightest. In fact, hes never been better. He was never a quarterback who relied on speed and athleticism, so as he gets older and his body wears down, hell have less to lose. Then again, his body really hasnt shown signs of breaking down Im sure that has a lot to do with work ethic. It probably has a lot to do with the fact that while this will be his 12th season, Bradys really only taken (thanks to the first year apprenticeship and the eight minutes of 2008 action) nine seasons worth of pounding. But whatever the reason, I dont care Im just happy with the reality.
Bradys already established himself as the greatest athlete of this era, and just about every other. He could do absolutely nothing between now and the day he walks away (for the record, a day I fear more than my first kidney stone) and still own Bostons Mount Rushmore.
But somehow, at this point, no one including Brady will be satisfied with that. We want more. He wants more.
Most importantly, hes still capable of so much more.
Hell take his next step on Monday night.