Three Tom Bradys?

A breakdown of a remarkable career that's not yet finished.

I wanted to call your attention to an interactive feature from the ESPN staff titled “Tom Brady’s Three Hall of Fame Careers.” While it’s probably not of much interest to non-sports fans, his accomplishments are truly remarkable.

They divide Brady’s 21 seasons into three 7-year careers. The graphic representation is a great summary of a much longer argument explored in the feature:

There’s little doubt that, even with only a 7-year career, Bradys 1 and 3 would be first-ballot Hall-of-Famers. Both are far more accomplished than Eli Manning, who will surely get in. Arguably, Brady 2—who didn’t win a Super Bowl but had enormous individual accolades—has the shakiest case and yet the best career.

Not in the piece but noteworthy: Brady has more Super Bowl wins than any franchise in the NFL. The Pittsburgh Steelers set the record at six and it was ultimately matched by Brady’s Pats, with all six coming with Brady under center. No other team has more than five. Brady added a seventh ring last year with the Buccaneers.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Sleeping Dog says:

    Brady? Brady who? Mac Jones is the man around here.

    Kidding aside, Brady has had a remarkable career and if he manages to win a few more championships and do so while coaching a team, he might fall into the same category as Bill Russell.

  2. Daryl and his brother Darryl says:

    I dislike the Patriots, and thus was never a Brady fan.
    But after last years Super Bowl win, with the Bucs, one cannot dismiss Brady’s talent.
    I always assumed it was Belichicks system. Turns out I was wrong.

  3. James Joyner says:

    @Sleeping Dog: It’s really difficult to compare across sports or across eras, let alone both. But I’ll say this for Brady: what he’s done is next to impossible in the era of free agency and salary caps. Russell played with the same core of players (in a much smaller league) for much of his remarkable run. Brady is the lone constant across these three eras.

    @Daryl and his brother Darryl: I think most of us where in that boat. It’s been obvious for some time that Brady is a special talent at the position but chalked a lot of it up to Belichick. Granting that he was able to cherry-pick a landing spot, like Peyton Manning when he went to a defense-loaded Broncos team a few years back, taking them to a Super Bowl win in his first go is pretty special.

  4. Kathy says:

    @Daryl and his brother Darryl:

    It’s tricky.

    When the Steelers won 4 championships in the mid-late 70s, was it Noll, Bradshaw, Swan, the Steel Curtain, or something else?

    IMO, it was a rare confluence of a good coach with a good offense (good running game and good passing game), and a great defense. So it may be with Bellchick and Brady.

  5. SKI says:

    Eli Manning, who will surely get in.

    I really hope not. He was…. not great.

  6. James Joyner says:

    @SKI: I agree but he’s a shoe-in. The only question is whether he’ll make it on the first ballot or have to wait.

    His overall record is mediocrity incarnate. But he has two Super Bowl rings and two Super Bowl MVP awards. Very few men have that and none who do and is eligible have been denied entry to the Hall.

    I think the Hall admits too few people every year given the size of NFL teams and rosters. But, simultaneously, it over-admits quarterbacks. I wouldn’t have Kurt Warner, for example, in the Hall considering that he was a journeyman.

    But it is as much a Hall of Fame as it is a Hall of Great. You really can’t tell the story of the NFL without Eli Manning. And his post-retirement activities, including the sensation that is the Manningcast, will further bolster his case. (Neither John Madden, Jimmy Johnson, nor Bill Cowher had enough sustained success as coaches to be in as coaches. But their coaching career combined with their announcing and other exploits made them essential adds.)

  7. Joe says:

    One other accolade for Tom Brady for whom I share the ambivalence of several here: after beating the Pats this season, he’s the only QB in the history of the NFL to beat every other team in the NFL as the starting QB.

  8. Kathy says:


    I think Brett Favre managed that first when he beat the Packers while wearing the Purple.

  9. Daryl and his brother Darryl says:

    But Brady going on to win with the Bucs in his first year, whilst Belichick flounders, shoots a hole in that theory.

  10. Michael Cain says:


    Also Drew Brees and Peyton Manning, but I don’t know if they beat them all when “as the starter” is a qualifier.

  11. Joe says:

    @Kathy and Michael Cain: I stand corrected: Peyton Manning, Drew Brees and Brett Favre have all also done this. According to, Joe Montana and Fran Tarkenton also beat all the teams in the league, but there were only 28 on their watch, not 32.

  12. Michael Cain says:


    Drew Brees and Brett Favre are also tied for the lead (with some others) in the category of “lost to the most teams” at 30. There are a couple of QBs that have a chance to get to 31 this year.

  13. Stormy Dragon says:

    Is “Tom Bradys” the proper plural? I kinda want it to be either “Toms Brady” or “Tom Bradii”

  14. OzarkHillbilly says:

    Brady has had a flat out otherworldly career. GOAT doesn’t begin to cover it.

    And oh yeah, I hate that SOB. 😉 (in a good way)

  15. Sleeping Dog says:


    Have you gotten over his first Superbowl yet?

  16. Franklin says:

    So when Michigan won (okay, shared) the national championship in 1997 with Brian Griese at the helm, they had a little parade in Ann Arbor. I chased down the team’s wagon and managed to get some random player sitting on the back to sign a newly bought t-shirt.

    Unfortunately the signature was apparently not done with an actual Sharpie, which I discovered after it disappeared in the wash. Too bad, because I would have come to value the autograph of that no-name backup QB.