It’s Tom Brady’s world and we’re all just living in it. Or at least that’s what it feels like as the quarterback is preparing for his 10th Super Bowl appearance—and potentially seventh victory—after guiding the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to Super Bowl LV on Sunday, February 7, against the defending champion Kansas City Chiefs.
Nate Burleson, a former NFL wide receiver and current analyst on NFL Network’s Good Morning Football and CBS Sports’ The NFL Today, called Brady’s departure from New England after 20 years and immediate Super Bowl appearance in his first year with Tampa without seemingly missing a beat “one of the greatest moves in all of sports.”
“He called his own shot and he’s creating literally the end of his story,” Burleson said. “All players want to write it this way.”
While Brady never proclaimed “I’m taking my talents to Tampa and we’re going to win the Super Bowl,” the thought may have crossed his mind once or twice. Certainly the 43-year-old wasn’t relocating to Florida to retire.
“If he pulls this off, this is the greatest move ever made in sports, to me. I don’t care what anybody says,” said Burleson, who played with the Vikings, Seahawks and Lions from 2003-13. “This is Michael Jordan with the (Washington) Wizards taking them to the NBA Finals and winning. Actually, this is like Michael Jordan leaving the Chicago Bulls, going to the Wizards, getting to the Finals and beating Kobe (Bryant) or something.
“It’s unreal that this is actually a possibility, and what’s wild is that it’s not far fetched.”
Brady’s decision to leave the Patriots, the team that selected him in the sixth round (No. 199 overall) of the 2000 NFL Draft, after two decades of storybook-like success left many scratching their heads. Was he looking for a new challenge? Was he looking to prove New England’s success was due to him and not head coach Bill Belichick or offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels? Did he simply want to trade in frigid Foxborough for temperate Tampa?
As he’s done his entire career, Brady proved doubters wrong even when they questioned if he was too old or lost his arm strength. Despite being the oldest player in the NFL this season, which was played amid the coronavirus pandemic, he threw for 4,633 yards (third in NFL) and 40 touchdowns (second), and hit his stride as he so often does down the stretch and into the playoffs.
Brady threw for 1,333 yards and 12 TDs in the final four games of the regular season—all wins—then proceeded to defeat the Washington Football Team in the wild-card round, future Hall of Fame QB Drew Brees and the New Orleans Saints in the divisional round, and then Aaron Rodgers, one of the top candidates for NFL MVP, and the Green Bay Packers in the NFC Championship, all on the road en route to Super Bowl LV at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Florida.
“It’s unbelievable because at 43 he’s not supposed to be doing what he’s doing,” said Burleson, who is working with Crown Royal to promote responsible drinking on game days. “If you watch the season, is there anything that tells you he should retire? There were moments you were watching Drew Brees or even Philip Rivers and you say to yourself, ‘We could be watching their last games,’ [Rivers announced his retirement on January 20] but with Tom, what does he have—one, two, three more years if he wants to?”
While Brady is striving to further cement his legacy as the greatest football player of all-time, Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes is rapidly building up his resume in the hopes of replicating Brady’s success.
Mahomes, whose 4,740 passing yards were second best in the NFL this season and his 38 TDs ranked fourth, guided Kansas City to Super Bowl LIV last season by rallying to win in the playoffs against the Houston Texans, Tennessee Titans and San Francisco 49ers.
Kansas City had a bit of an easier postseason run this season, beating the Cleveland Browns 22-17 and Buffalo Bills 38-24 following a first-round bye as the top seed in the AFC.
Burleson, who predicted the Chiefs and Buccaneers to meet in Super Bowl LV ahead of Week 1, compared Mahomes to WWE superstar Randy Orton. As he rose to prominence in WWE, Orton was known as “The Legend Killer,” calling out and defeating WWE Hall of Famers and iconic superstars including Shawn Michaels, Mick Foley, The Undertaker, Hulk Hogan, Sgt. Slaughter, Edge and Dusty Rhodes.
Mahomes is a young legend in the making, according to Burleson, but he has to defeat NFL legends in order to continue to write his legacy. While he defeated Andrew Luck, Ryan Tannehill, Lamar Jackson, Josh Allen and Jimmy Garoppolo, Mahomes fell short to “the one OG he did face,” losing 37-31 in overtime to Brady and the Patriots two seasons ago in the AFC Championship Game.
“In order for him to solidify himself as this legend, he’s going to have to do what Russell Wilson was hoping to do by winning back-to-back Super Bowls, but actually finish it off at the goal line,” Burleson said. “It’s right there for the taking, emphasis on ‘taking.’ Knowing anything about Tom Brady, he has the torch in his hands and he’ll either hold this torch for the next couple of years and give you a little bit of a light so you can shine individually while he’s still holding the brightest one, but if you want to establish yourself as a legend, you’re going to have to take that torch from his cold dead hands, and Tom Brady isn’t going to give it up that easy.”
Unlike an Orton RKO, though, a Chiefs and Mahomes victory won’t come out of nowhere.