Tom Brady joined Peyton Manning, Dan Marino and Bret Favre as the only QBs in NFL history with 400 or more TD passes. (Illustration: Steve Hill) Three games into what might have been a four-game suspension, were it not for a judge in New York, Tom Brady seems determined to make the league pay for the Deflategate fiasco. It's been eight years since Brady, at age 30, blasted through the NFL record book to become the first quarterback with 50 touchdown passes in a season. At age 38, coming off a spring and summer of court appearances and embarrassing -- and ultimately, still unproven -- accusations by Commissioner Roger Goodell, Brady is wrecking dudes. A 51-17 victory Sunday against the Jaguars was no surprise, actually. As long as tight end Rob Gronkowski is upright, and as long as Brady's right arm stays limber, New England will post big, big offensive numbers against lesser opponents like Jacksonville. What is mildly surprising is that Brady has not been merely good, or even very good. Or even great. He has been just about perfect. Through three games, he has nine touchdown passes, a 72.2 completion percentage and 1,112 passing yards. Oh, and ZERO interceptions. And by the way, even as he tears through yet another early season, he's smashing all-time milestones. How's 400 touchdown passes? Not bad, especially when you consider his elite company: Dan Marino, Brett Favre, Peyton Manning. Now, he and the Patriots take a little breather with an early bye week before heading out for back-to-back road games against the Romo-less Cowboys and scuffling Colts. Frankly, the game we're waiting for is Nov. 29, Pats at Broncos, Tom at Peyton. That looks to be the only potential loss on New England's schedule, except for one detail: Brady is 11-5 lifetime against Peyton. We're looking at history here, folks. The Tom Brady Revenge Tour rolls on, and there seems to be very little the league can do to stop it.
[caption id="attachment_1078" align="alignright" width="200"] Ladies and gentlemen, your Super Bowl LX MVP ... Tom Brady. (Illustration: Aging Booth)[/caption] Tom Brady has said he wants to continue to cheat ... WE MEAN play in the NFL until he's 50. Of course, that's never been done. But nothing is impossible for Brady, right Pats fans? Anything George Blanda can do, Tom can do better. Blanda, you'll recall, was the oldest player in NFL history at age 48. Here's a list of every player to participate in the league in his 40s: Players in their 40s. It's not a big list. But listen ... this is Brady we're talking about. The rules don't apply. Clearly. Hold on, though. Now, Brady is saying maybe he WON'T play until he's 50. "That might be a little bit of a reach at this point, but hopefully it’s a lot more than what people would typically predict," Brady told reporters in New England on Wednesday. "A lot of it is … there’s a lot of luck involved. It’s a contact sport, but I try to do my best to take care of myself and put myself in a position where I can rebound from injuries and avoid them as best as possible. So, sometimes it’s hard to do. You get caught in some tough positions because, like I said, it’s a contact sport, but hopefully I can play for a long time." Ah, come on, Tom. Who are you kidding? You know he'll be out there 12 years from now, slinging the ball around to an ancient and gnarled (but still dominant) Gronk, finding new, creative ways to NOT cheat. He's only 38 now, so it's a comfort to know we can look forward to the many, many Patriots controversies in the years to come: Broken Hip-gate, Walker-gate, Geritol-gate, Early Bird Special-gate, I've-fallen-and-I-can't-get-up-gate ... oh, the possibilities. Who knows? Maybe he'll win rings for all 10 fingers before it's over. [caption id="attachment_1079" align="aligncenter" width="200"] Image: Giphy[/caption]
[caption id="attachment_853" align="alignright" width="300"] You actually can't win an argument against a Patriots fan, because they no longer have a firm grasp on reality.[/caption] (Note: This is part of a recurring series that launched with the Yankees last week. This week, it's New England's turn in the Smack Zone. We still love you, Pats fans!) First, let's be clear: There is no way to win an argument with a New England Patriots fan. The arrogance runs too deep. True minions of Brady and Belichick no longer are capable of humility or rational thought -- of any kind. They are as intractable as a field of volcanic rock, as aloof and unapproachable as an Apple store employee five minutes away from a smoke break. Patriots fans simply can't be wrong. For evidence of their innate superiority, they unveil four compelling exhibits: Super Bowl XXXVI. Super Bowl XXXVIII. Super Bowl XXXIX. Super Bowl XLIX. OK. Championship caliber franchise. Got it. No one is saying New England hasn't gotten extremely proficient over the years at acquiring hardware. [caption id="attachment_1038" align="alignleft" width="300"] Played memes are played, but sometimes the only way to get through to myopic Patriots fans is to say it as slowly and simply as possible. Small words, y'all.[/caption] Yet, their very success reveals their weakness. How? Two main things to remember when attempting to take a Patriots fan down a notch. One: They cheated. Two: Their fans respond to success with all the grace of a pack of hyenas, bellowing with frustration that the world is against them. By the way: They're right about that. The world IS against them. There's a history here, of course. Patriots fans are what Red Sox fans become during the long, cold New England winters. Take all those years of Fenway bitterness, add an unhealthy dose of sub-freezing and ice-encased fury, toss in years of obviously tainted victory and voila: Patriots fan. All right. We've established that they are insufferable and deluded. They don't care what you think. Still, even the most rabid Patriots fan has no comeback for these two bits of unassailable history: One: The Patriots are Eli Manning's Super Bowl squeak toy. Two: Aaron Hernandez murdered a dude while he was an active, productive and well-loved member of the New England Patriots family. To expound a bit on Eli: If the younger Manning brother ever joins brother Peyton in the hallowed halls of Canton one day, it will be as a direct result of his and the Giants' mastery of the Patriots in not one, but two Super Bowls. Without the Patriots, Eli Manning would be in the career neighborhood of Dave Krieg and (hey!) Drew Bledsoe. Good QBs in their day, but hardly Canton fodder. Thanks to the Patriots, Eli is a virtual lock for the Hall of Fame. (Yes, we're aware that you have to get to the Super Bowl to lose in the Super Bowl, but Patriots fans are the first to define themselves in terms of championships. Runner-up is FIRST LOSER.) As for Hernandez ... well, to their credit, even though they knew Hernandez had issues, at least the Patriots didn't wait until he had been convicted before cutting ties. And owner Robert Kraft testified for the prosecution in Hernandez's trial. That said, YOUR TIGHT END MURDERED A DUDE IN COLD BLOOD. A guy Patriots fans cheered with all their collective heart on Sundays turned out to be a stone, cold killer. How's that taste, Pats fan? (Editors note: They still don't care.) Then there are the Twin Gates: Spy- and Deflate-. Look, we're not going to rehash those infamous instances of cheating here. Besides, Patriots fans are so deep in denial that many of them won't even acknowledge the wrongdoing by Bill Belichick and Tom Brady. Those who do acknowledge it are sitting in their easy chairs with their fingers in their ears saying, "LA LA LA LA LA LA! I can't hear you! LA LA LA LA LA LA! Brady is God! LA LA LA LA! Not listening! Not listening!" Sigh. OK. At this point, there is no shame in admitting defeat. Those four Super Bowl rings are tough to argue against -- legit or not. Winning an argument against a New England Patriots fan must be accomplished in small increments. As they bellow about Brady and Goodell and the God-awful Wells report; as they name their children after Tom Brady and their Great Danes after Gronk; as they wallow in their us-against-the-world self pity, go exercise a form of civil disobedience by sharing something funny from the Twitter account for Tom Brady's Ego. It's a parody account, but humor often reveals truth. And the truth is, perhaps the best way to win an argument with a New England Patriots fan is to ignore him. Case closed. Next week: How to win an argument with a Green Bay Packers fan.
[caption id="attachment_973" align="aligncenter" width="474"] Illustration: Steve Hill[/caption] For better or worse, Jameis Winston and Marcus Mariota will be linked throughout their NFL careers. It’s an amazing quirk of the schedule that the No. 1 and No. 2 overall picks from the most recent draft will make their professional debuts together Sunday at Raymond James Stadium. Are we witnessing the birth of the next great NFL quarterback rivalry? Hard to predict. After all, the anticipated long-time rivalry between Tim Couch and Donovan McNabb (No. 1 and 2, Class of 1999) never quite materialized, did it? And the potential RGIII-Andrew Luck rivalry hasn’t exactly emerged, even though their careers began with such promise in 2012 and both are still young. What makes a great NFL QB rivalry? It requires individual greatness and superior achievement, certainly. It also requires something more. In order for a rivalry to develop, they must face each other frequently over the years, and the stakes must be high. People have to care. There has to be a buzz all week long. We all know it’s not really QB vs. QB in an NFL game. Intellectually, we know that the true competition is between the defensive coordinators and the great QBs. But history says something else. History says quarterbacks are measured not only by their team and individual achievements. They are measured by their success against one another. Fair or not, that’s how Winston and Mariota will ultimately be measured, too. And it all starts this weekend. Here is a quick look at some of the top QB rivalries in NFL history. Perhaps Winston-Mariota will join them one day: Tom Brady (Patriots)-Peyton Manning (Colts, Broncos) New England fans can argue that the 16 regular-season meetings between two of the game’s four or five all-time greatest passers have not constituted a rivalry. That’s because Brady’s teams have defeated Manning’s teams 11 of those 16 times. However, they are 2-2 in four postseason matchups, and Manning’s teams actually are 2-1 against Brady’s teams in AFC Championship Games. Still, Brady’s four championship rings trump Manning’s one pretty easily. The rivalry was stirred a bit this offseason when a less-than-complimentary email written by Brady about Manning surfaced during the Deflategate investigation. Brady apologized and Manning took the high road. They meet again Nov. 29 in Denver. Joe Namath (Jets)-Johnny Unitas (Colts) Their teams met in Super Bowl III (Unitas was sort of a bit player because of injury), then met again in 1972 when the Jets beat the Colts, 44-34. Namath passed for 496 yards and six TDs that day, which marked the official changing of the guard from the short-cropped Unitas Era to the shaggy-haired Namath Era in the NFL. Roger Staubach (Cowboys)-Terry Bradshaw (Steelers) A lot of NFL fans who grew up in the 1970s wanted to be Staubach, and just as many wanted to be Bradshaw. They both embodied bravado and charisma as much as any athletes of their generation. They met twice in the Super Bowl. Bradshaw won them both, but Staubach got two rings of his own against other teams. Dan Marino (Dolphins)-Joe Montana (49ers) They met in Super Bowl XIX, but not often after that. Still, their rivalry was more about historic production and statistics (Marino had the clear edge) versus simply winning (Montana might have been the best of all time at that). Troy Aikman (Cowboys)-Steve Young (49ers) They met three consecutive seasons (1992-94) in the NFC Championship Game. Aikman won the first two and Young won the third. Brett Favre was in the mix here, too, but Aikman-Young was the premier QB rivalry in the league for nearly half a decade. Andrew Luck (Colts)-Russell Wilson (Seahawks) This is one for the future. Both have out-shone fellow 2012 draftee RGIII, and Wilson has clearly staked his claim as the best young QB of this era. Luck, however, is poised to make a move this year and it would surprise no one if they led their teams to the Super Bowl. Sure, we know. We’ve left off a bunch. Otto Graham-Bobby Layne, John Elway-Jim Kelly, Marino-Kelly, Bradshaw-Ken Stabler, Dan Fouts-Jim Plunkett, and so many others. Where will Winston-Mariota end up on the list? It starts Sunday.