It was meant to be Tom Brady versus Patrick Mahomes. In the end, we just had further proof that the greatest player in American football history has no equal. Not in his sport, and maybe not in any other.
His seventh Super Bowl ring might be the most compelling evidence yet that what Brady has done in the NFL is something close to superhuman. After collecting six titles under legendary coach Bill Belichick at the New England Patriots, he arrived at the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 2020 bidding to prove that he was an instigator of the Pats’ incredible era rather than merely its most famous beneficiary.
And on Sunday night, on the biggest night of the US sporting calendar, it was again Brady who had the big-game temperament as the Bucs hammered the Kansas City Chiefs 31-9 in Super Bowl LV. He might have been a 43-year-old playing in his 10th Super Bowl, but he's probably never looked in such perfect shape.
At 43, most men do well to walk down the stairs without a sore knee or a creaking ankle reminding them that their bodies are not what they were. But Brady looks like he could go on forever. And with the Buccaneers playing like this, seven might not be the quarterback’s final total.
Backed up by a Bucs defence which smothered Mahomes at every opportunity, Brady made it look like the two offences were playing different sports. Mahomes struggled for time and space, and the Chiefs spurned a number of great chances to score timely touchdowns. Conversely, when the Bucs had the ball Brady looked like he could be playing in a dinner jacket, forever keeping the Chiefs guessing and finding time and space for himself to deliver the killer passes.
The closest the Chiefs got to Brady was when Tyrann Mathieu aggressively approached him shortly after Antonio Brown’s touchdown in a misguided attempt to get under his skin. Brady chased Mathieu down and squared up to him, intent on taking as many backward steps with the clock stopped as he and the Bucs did with the ball in hand.
At this point it is a pointless conversation asking whether any American football player has ever come close to touching what Brady has achieved. The only question is whether any other sportsperson in history comes close.
Basketball had Jordan, soccer has Messi, Tiger has taken golf to new levels, there’s Lewis Hamilton in Formula One and tennis has seen immense feats from Federer, Nadal and Serena Williams. But it is arguable that what Brady has done trumps every last one of them.
This guy dominated an era with the Patriots and has now turned a failing franchise into a winner. Before Brady, the Buccaneers had the lowest win percentage in NFL history. Now they are champs, and few would bet against them returning to the big occasion next year with a 44-year-old Brady coming back for more.
And what’s to stop him going on and on for as long as he keeps performing at this level? His relentless competitiveness is simply unfathomable. He has four rings since turning 37 and has won titles in three different decades. And while the Patriots and the Pittsburgh Steelers top the list of Super Bowl-winning teams with six each, Brady has seven.
No single player has ever known such dominance over a sport, and there is no telling where the Tom Brady story will end.