There are some supposedly intelligent people writing and talking about how “deflategate” may somehow adversely affect the legacy of Tom Brady’s football career. Those that believe this embrace in some form a misguided concept that all current events will have a place in the history books alongside the main events. It just doesn’t work that way and Tom Brady will always be referred to as one of the greatest quarterbacks of all time and most likely as the greatest of all time in a few decades. Understanding the words of Chris Collingsworth can explain the first part of the proposition while a common sense understanding of time and viewing technology handles the latter.
In the closing seconds of Superbowl (XXX) after the 4th replay of Malcolm Butler’s interception and just before Brady’s final kneel down Chris Collingsworth said, “There’s no question this 4th Superbowl Win firmly puts Tom Brady into the greatest of all time debate”. I thought it ironic that Brady was able to go from being a good quarterback to perhaps the greatest of all time while sitting on the bench during Butler’s game saving interception but Collingsworth is correct. Butler’s interception has no more effect on who the quarterback of the winning team was than Vinitari’s field goals and we are all about remembering the winner.
What we choose to remember in the greatest of all time debates is only the player’s record and statistics so they can be sorted in placed into neat comparison charts supporting the argument of the day. Nobody wants to argue John was better than Robert because Robert wasn’t very good anyway or that some off field behavior has to be taken into consideration because it also diminishes the status of your favorite.
So if it’s Tom Brady’s legacy you want to see taken down a little bit you might as well start talking about his poor dance skills. By the time he’s done playing there’s not going to be any serious discussion combining his playing statistics with deflated footballs. You don’t talk about John Elway’s Superbowl Wins and the Bronco’s salary cap violations in those years or about Brett Favre’s longevity in the game and selfies of his junk at the same time. It will be the same with Tom Brady but while the event still has the benefit of “recency bias” feel free to pretend differently.
“Recency bias”? This is a word pairing I came across in Brad Oremland’s Best QBs in History: 6-10 . Basically, “Recency bias” is the perception that a player with the more recent accomplishments will be ranked higher than a player with similar accomplishments in an earlier period. The NFL helps this along dividing its history into the pre-modern, modern, and post-merger eras. The Browns may have the most championships and the Bears the most wins but who cares about anything pre-modern it’s simply not recent. Recency bias is the reason most top 5 quarterback lists consist of Joe Montana and either Johhny Unitas and 3 QB’s playing after Montana or Joe Montana and 4 QB’s playing after him. It’s easier and more comfortable to evaluate players that you have actually seen play the game. Expanding on this seeing the player in live action and combining it with recency bias will combine to increase Tom Brady’s legacy as time goes on until he’s really the only Quarterback future greats will be compared to.
Viewing technology in the Brady era has made it possible for all fans to see Tom Brady in action for every game he has played and big games highlights multiple times. He’s been on your tv, your dvr, phone, ipad, and laptop and will remain available on demand for your lifetime. Joe Montana? Fax machines were invented in his playing days.
We are still early in this millennium so the events of the late 1900’s still have relevance but this will start to fade by 2025 and by 2040 Joe Montana and all the pre-Brady players will fall into the last century abyss. With Brady retiring around 2020 his legacy likely peaks between 2025 and 2050 getting a big boost from the “Salary Cap Era” replacing the “Post Merger Era” as the repository of meaningful team and player records. This assumes another candidate for the Greatest of the Era as yet unknown to us comes into the spotlight, if not we could see Tom Brady’s legacy become that of “Greatest Player of your Lifetime”. What a comforting thought !