Tony Romo made waves last week when he insinuated that Super Bowl LV was the most important game in Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes‘ career. Why does he believe this? Romo contends that if Tom Brady defeats Mahomes in this matchup to end all matchups, acquiring his seventh championship, that Mahomes will be unable to catch him as the greatest of all time.
Whether or not this is actually true is difficult to debate. If Romo simply means that Mahomes will have a difficult time catching Brady in overall championships, it’s possible, but we simply won’t know that until his career is over. Unfortunately, I don’t know anyone who happens to have a crystal ball.
Even if Mahomes didn’t catch Brady, he could still conceivably take the mantle as the greatest of all time. Bill Russell won 11 championships with the Boston Celtics in the early days of the NBA, the most of any individual player. Maybe there are those who think he’s the greatest of all time, but that group is at least small and likely non-existent.
Romo’s thoughts did get me thinking about one thing: Can we flip this line of reasoning on its head? If Mahomes and the Chiefs beat Brady and the Buccaneers in Super Bowl LV, is that sufficient to propel Mahomes into the conversation of greatest of all-time only four years into his career?
Mahomes would have to continue a comparable level of production to his current performance and the Chiefs would have to keep winning to make this a reality. Yet, the idea that beating Brady on this stage would be a signature championship for Mahomes career isn’t diminished by the fact that Brady is at the ripe old age of 43.
The Buccaneers are one of Brady’s greatest teams
There’s an argument to be made that while Brady played for some juggernauts in his time with the New England Patriots, taking home six Lombardi Trophies along the way, the 2020 Tampa Bay Buccaneers as they are currently playing are one of the best team’s he has ever played for.
In the context of the current season, for those who follow Football Outsiders DVOA formulation, this Buccaneers team ended the season second to the New Orleans Saints by only the slimmest of margins. For additional context, the defending Super Bowl champions ended the season all the way down at the sixth spot with only slightly over half the Buccaneers DVOA percentage.
The point here is there was wide consensus that the 2020 Buccaneers, though they’d had their hiccups here and there, were one of if not the best team in the NFL. With Tom Brady at the helm in the playoffs, they had significant advantages over the other teams in the NFC and exploited those on their way to the franchise’s second Super Bowl appearance and first since 2002.
In the context of Brady’s career there are two ways to look at this. The first is to take the Buccaneers full season, major hiccups like getting pummelled by the Saints and all, and compare their basic statistical production to that of Brady’s 19 other Patriots teams. They stack up rather well:
- Points Scored – 5th, 30.75
- Points Allowed – 20th, 22.19
- Point Differential – 13th, 8.56
- League Rank – Off Pts – 3rd
- League Rank – Off Yards – 7th
- League Rank – Def Pts – 12th
- League Rank – Def Yards – 6th
For the entire season, without considering their competition, the offensive and defensive units ranked in the top 10 of Brady’s squads through the years in every category except for points allowed and point differential.
Let’s be honest though, this team struggled to start the season for one major reason that the Patriots juggernauts did not. Brady needed time to get settled. Most suggest the learning curve was rounded after the bye week, so let’s take a look at how the Buccaneers last seven games stack up in a few areas:
- Points Scored – 3rd, 34.125
- Points Allowed – 15th, 20.5625
- Point Differential – 3rd, 13.75
The major distinction is again points, but when you consider how the professional game has changed in Brady’s 20 years it’s no surprise some of his early teams allowed far less. This isn’t Brady’s best team but it’s hard to argue based off DVOA and basic statistics that it doesn’t fall at or near his top five.