HOUSTON -- Tom Brady's career, at this point, is virtually unassailable. Even if the Patriots fail to win their fifth Lombardi Trophy on Sunday, Brady holds records for most playoff starts, most playoff completions, most Super Bowl appearances, and he's tied for the most Super Bowl titles as a quarterback.
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Those who once banged the drum that Bill Belichick has made Brady's career into what it is have to acknowledge that the 17-year veteran is among the two or three best of all time to play his position -- if not the best.
One of the the final flimsy attempts for those who insist on denigrating Brady is to call him a "system quarterback," but even that's worth little more than a dismissive chuckle. It implies that the scheme, the brainpower behind Brady's weekly offensive plans, is the sole reason for his success.
While that assumption ignores his individual skill set -- his accuracy, durability, ability to process information pre and post-snap, his unfailing effort throughout the calendar year to ensure that he's as prepared as humanly possible -- it also contradicts itself in its attempt to take away from Brady.
Why? Brady is as responsible for the Patriots system as anyone. It's his.
Over the course of his 16 seasons as a starter, the Patriots offense has been molded to him and he's had a say in the direction things have gone. Plays he likes, concepts he thinks will work, those stay. Others hit the cutting-room floor. After more than a decade-and-a-half, the offense is as much his own as anyone else's.
“I think I’ve been called a lot of things as a quarterback,” he said. “I think every quarterback has some type of system that they’re in and sometimes those systems change.
“So much about being successful as a team is doing the things that you do well. Our coaches, they know what I do well. They know the things I don’t do well. Every player has strengths and weaknesses and you’re not going to focus on the weaknesses and go out there and go, ‘Let’s run a bunch of these plays that will have a low level of success.’ "
Torry Holt competed against Brady as a member of the Rams and with him in 2010 for a few months before a knee injury ended his career. After seeing it up close, he reveres the system.
"It's just funny to me," Holt said, reacting to the notion of Brady as a system quarterback. "I think Brady's done a hell of a job of mastering their system. I think they bring guys in that fit their system, and there's nothing wrong with that. You could be a system game for 15 years as long as you're winning and you're getting your team to Super Bowls, I'm cool with that. I don't have a problem with that.
"The trust that they have within their offense, and it all starts with Tom. If he doesn't trust you, he doesn't [expletive] with you. You're not getting the ball. Those guys understand that so they go out, they prepare, they work hard, they're very studious.
"I had an opportunity to work with him, had a chance to sit in the film room with those guys and watch them watch tape, go through the game plan, prepare and get ready for practice. Everybody was taking notes. Everybody was asking questions. Everybody was very in tune with what they're doing offensively. I think that's a true testament to their squad. That's a true testament to Tom. If Tom's leading, if he's setting the tempo, then everybody else falls in place."
It's a system that any of the 31 other franchises in the NFL would kill for.