I’m not here to tell you that Tom Brady isn’t the greatest player to ever play the sport, but I am going to carefully point out that Patrick Mahomes is the first really tough opponent he’ll have to overcome in a Super Bowl.
Brady is now entering his tenth such match-up and while that’s been littered with high points, his own allure has sometimes distracted you from the fact that, actually, he’s never really faced someone better than him.
Sunday, 11.30pm: Kansas City Chiefs v Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Going back to his first appearance against the then-St. Louis Rams, they had a star-studded team who were favoured by 14 points but Kurt Warner is still to this day one of the stranger inductees into the Hall of Fame because of his lack of actual ability.
Jake Delhomme was up next and the less time spent talking about him the better. Donovan McNabb was a flash in the pan in a system that catered to him, and Eli Manning – whom he was beaten by twice (with a helping hand from current Chiefs defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo) – was the third-best quarterback in his draft class.
Russell Wilson is undoubtedly the best opposition quarterback he’s played against in a Super Bowl, but he was 26 and not fully refined just yet. And even more to the point – Brady threw two picks and should have lost that game.
Up next came Matt Ryan, who’s about as useful in a pressure situation as the Chuckle Brothers. Soon after, he’d fall to the mighty Nick Foles who’s recently been benched in place of Mitch Trubisky, and his last success came against Jared Goff – whose negative trade value has broken all sorts of records.
Look, Brady’s had moments, don’t get me wrong. He’s completed some outrageous passes and his mastery in two-minute drills is unrivalled. More so than anything else, he’s a calming presence for everyone around him on his own sideline – and he makes the opposite touchline nervous simply by being under centre.
But right now, it feels like all the advantages that Brady played with for years aren’t in his favour anymore. Now, he’s going to struggle to chew up clock because the Chiefs score in an instant and the pressure to go deeper, earlier, should cost them against Spagnuolo’s aggressive man coverage scheme.
The only reason Spagnuolo can utilise that high-risk strategy is because he knows Mahomes will get them out of any jam he needs to. He doesn’t have to sit back in zone and wait for Brady to pick them apart methodically. He can attack, force a turnover – and probably end the game if he needs to.
Mahomes is the polar opposite to Brady in that the less he thinks, he better he is. It’s his instincts that prevail, whereas Brady takes every second from the play clock to ensure he knows where to put the ball in lieu of arm strength.
When it comes to this Super Bowl, it’s the Buccaneers’ defensive coordinator Todd Bowles who’ll be having the nightmares, not Spagnuolo preparing for Brady – and that’s indicative of just how good the Texas Tech product is.
For the first time ever, it feels like Brady needs to keep up rather than be kept up with – and that’s indicative that he’s no longer the primary threat at the position.
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