This just in: Tom Brady has had an illustrious football career and — I’m not sure why no one’s talking about this! — has gone to many Super Bowls. You heard it here first.
At this point, the story of Brady’s incredible career and continued dominance at the age of 43 is about as old hat as you can get. To recap: He won a player record Super Bowls under Bill Belichick with the Patriots, and after leaving New England in free agency last summer made the title game in the first year at the helm of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, a team that didn’t even make the 2019 playoffs.
You know all this. And yet — and yet! — we’re still talking about it with Super Bowl LV just six days away because the numbers behind that story are mind boggling.
To get you primed, or just gas you up, here are a few of those numbers from Brady’s unheard-of Super Bowl career.
Sunday, Feb. 7 marks Brady’s 10th Super Bowl appearance. Put another way: Since his first start for the Patriots in 2001, a span that includes the season he missed almost entirely due to injury, Brady has appeared in half the Super Bowls. One out of every two title games for his entire career to date.
There is no comparable for this in the NFL, where Hall of Famers have gone entire careers without reaching the game (Philip Rivers may soon join that club). And even among legendary signal callers who did make the big game, Brady stands way ahead: Joe Montana appeared in four in the 16 seasons from his first start in 1979 (25 per cent). Peyton Manning appeared in four in the 18 years from his start (22 per cent). Dan Marino appeared in one in 17 (6 per cent).
It’s a feat not just of talent and impact on team success, but of durability over the long term.
Incredibly, Brady’s counterpart in Sunday’s game, Patrick Mahomes, will have also appeared in half the Super Bowls since his first start in 2017. All he’ll have to do to match Brady’s feat now is keep that up over the next 16 years.
Brady’s Super Bowl career started off with a 20-17 win over the "Greatest Show on Turf" St. Louis Rams, and he won MVP largely for limiting mistakes and engineering a 47-yard drive late in the fourth to set up the game-winning field goal. But his numbers hardly jump off the page — 16 completions on 27 attempts for one touchdown and just 145 yards.
That strong-but-silent-type effort has not been the story for the vast majority of his title games. From his second appearance onward, Brady has churned up yardage in bunches. He’s now accumulated 2,838 yards in total for an average of 315 per game.
That means, if Brady were to play a full regular season’s worth of Super Bowls — and who’s betting against him at this point? If he can get in six straight after this season (hey, it could happen!), he’ll be playing in his 16th at age 49 in Super Bowl LXI in 2027 — he’d be on pace for 5,045 yards.
That number would be good for the 12th best passing-yardage total in NFL regular-season history. And he’s done all that under the bright lights and increased pressure, when teams have had two full weeks to prepare to make him look like a fool.
Related to that last one: For his regular-season career, Brady has averaged 263 yards per game, which means he’s 52 yards per game better in the Super Bowl than on the average Sunday. That’s like being better at job interviews than talking to your friends.
This isn’t another yardage thing. (And, also, Brady’s 2,838 passing yards actually equals 1.6 miles.) No, this is a pseudo-statistical estimate of just how far ahead of everyone else Brady is in basically every career statistical passing category.
In almost every list of the top 10 Super Bowl producers in each category, you have a totally normal list featuring marginal gaps from 10 to 2, and then Brady WAY ahead of the pack in No. 1. Case in point:
CAREER PASS ATTEMPTS
5) Kurt Warner, 132
4) Jim Kelly, 145
3) John Elway, 152
2) Peyton Manning, 155
1) TOM BRADY, 392
Brady has 85 more passes than the next two guys on the list combined.
CAREER PASS COMPLETIONS
5) Jim Kelly, 81
T3) Joe Montana, 83
T3) Kurt Warner, 83
2) Peyton Manning, 103
1) TOM BRADY, 256
Pretty much what I said above. Here he’s just 13 completions from matching the combined total of the next three guys on the list, and he almost certainly will have done so by the end of the week.
CAREER PASSING TD
T5) Kurt Warner, 6
T5) Steve Young, 6
4) Roger Staubach, 8
3) Terry Bradshaw, 9
2) Joe Montana, 11
1) TOM BRADY, 18
Thanks to Montana absolutely lighting it up in four Super Bowls to the tune of almost three TDs per game, this one is relatively closer than the last two we looked at. But Brady still wins by … yup, a mile.
One of the only career lists Brady doesn’t top is interceptions. With six interceptions in nine games, he’s tied for fourth on the list with Fran Tarkenton, who came to that total in just three appearances. The pair sit behind John Elway, who had eight interceptions in five games; Craig Morton, who had seven in two games; and Jim Kelly, who had seven in four games.