College football finds itself in a perilous position on the eve of the 2020 season.
One hundred and ninety-nine. To NFL fans, particularly from Boston, this number is as synonymous as Sir Donald Bradman’s 99.94 batting average is to cricket lovers.
Tom Brady was pick 199 in the 2000 NFL Draft, the seventh quarterback taken overall. Yesterday Brady concluded his seventh Super Bowl appearance by capturing his fifth, and unquestionably most spectacular, championship.
To go with this, he now has four Super Bowl MVP awards, the latest coming after a record-breaking 466-yard effort against the Atlanta Falcons – not bad for the seventh best quarterback in his draft class.
Initially, Brady appeared more chump than champ in Houston, letting his New England Patriots fall behind 28-3, including a fatal pick six.
Brady was a shell of his great self; missing open receivers and holding the ball much too long against a surprisingly aggressive Atlanta defence.
The speed and ferocity in which the Falcons defended with was magnificent, and completely unexpected. Coming into the game the narrative surrounded Matt Ryan’s potent offence but it was the opposite side of the ball paving the way.
There were no missed tackles and Atlanta’s front piled tremendous pressure on Brady at the line of scrimmage.
It wasn’t until midway through the third quarter when the tide started to shift, behind the rousing play of Trey Flowers and Don’t’a Hightower, who produced a match-defining strip sack to put New England in excellent field position. Brady and the Patriots converted this Atlanta mistake into points, but then Brady really went to work.
Trailing 28-20, Brady wrote the finest chapter in his already breath-taking magnum opus. With just 3.20 remaining on American sport’s biggest stage, Brady went 6/9 for 90 yards and a successful two-point conversion to Danny Amendola to tie the game, erasing a seemingly insurmountable 25-point deficit.
He wasn’t done yet. Brady would complete the biggest comeback in Super Bowl history by going 6/7 for 60 yards, leaving James White to run in a touchdown from the one-yard line in the first ever Super Bowl decided in overtime.
All this at the age of 39. Was the best performance from an elder statesman in the history of sport?
Granted this Super Bowl came against Atlanta’s lowly ranked defence (27th total opposition points per game and total opposition yards per game), but they played much better than those rankings suggest, at least for a half.
The speed the Falcons possessed troubled the Patriots, but that tempo wasn’t sustainable for 60 minutes. Atlanta’s young defence wilted, unable to rest as New England ran twice as many offensive plays (93-46) – an incredible disparity in the NFL.
Sure Atlanta’s questionable play-calling played into the Patriots hands, the occasion got to Ryan and the sporting Gods decided to square-up the David Tyree helmet catch in Super Bowl XLII when Julian Edelman reeled in an impossible bumbling ball among three Falcon defensive backs.
However, the facts are the facts. Brady threw for a Super Bowl-record 466 yards, he completed the biggest Super Bowl comeback of all time (25 points) and he surpassed Joe Montana for most Super Bowl MVPs (four).
This was unequivocally Brady’s finest hour.
The number 199 will forever follow Brady like a shadow, and in many ways, defines his supreme legacy. But after yesterday’s gallant performance the number that seems most appropriate for Brady is one – and that’s where he sits on the list of all-time NFL quarterbacks.