From the Bleachers: An Ode to the GOAT

Baily Deeter pays tribute to Tom Brady and previews this weekend’s NFL Divisional Round playoff games in this week’s “From the Bleachers.”

by Baily Deeter | 1/21/22 2:00am

by Sophie Bailey / The Dartmouth Senior Staff

As the loyal readers of this column may know, my name is Baily Deeter, and I am a senior here at Dartmouth. I was born on March 27, 2000, making me 21 years old. I am old enough to vote, buy a lottery ticket and drink alcohol legally (although I’m still not able to rent a car).  

The first 19 days of my life were relatively unremarkable. I couldn’t talk (which didn’t change for a few years, apparently), I couldn’t read and I couldn’t write. So I didn’t do much — some things never changed. But what happened on days 20 and 21, otherwise known as April 15 and 16, 2000, would alter the trajectory of my life forever. Was it because this was the weekend of my mom’s birthday, you ask? No, this is much more important. Tax Day? No, this impacted many more people.

On day 21, otherwise known as day two of the 2000 NFL draft, the New England Patriots drafted Thomas Edward Patrick Brady Jr. Since the third week of my life, Tom Brady has been an NFL quarterback. And now that he’s finally beaten Jalen Hurts in the playoffs, it’s about time I give him the praise he has deserved in this column for quite some time. These next 700 words are for you, Tom. 

Nothing Tampa Bay did in Sunday’s 31-15 win over the Philadelphia Eagles was out of the ordinary. Brady threw for 271 yards and two touchdowns while completing 78% of his passes. But it marks playoff win number 35 for TB12, with the last five coming as a Buccaneer.  

Only four NFL teams have won more postseason games than Brady, and one of them is the Boston-area team Brady spent 20 years playing for. If the Buccaneers win the Super Bowl this year, Brady would have more lifetime playoff wins — 38 — than any team in the league. He already has more championships than any other NFL team. Never mind that the Packers, Cowboys, Patriots and Steelers, the top four in this category, have been around since the 1960s. Tom Brady has been around since I was born. Nothing important happened before that, anyways.  

When Brady left the comfort of his Foxborough, Massachusetts home in March 2020, I had my doubts about whether the soon-to-be 43-year-old had any chance of success in Florida. I thought the Bucs had a chance to contend for a playoff spot and improve upon their 7-9 record with Jameis Winston, but I never saw them winning a Super Bowl. New quarterbacks generally take at least one year to acclimate to their new home, and Brady was too old. Not to mention that he won the majority of his playoff games at the friendly confines of Gillette Stadium. Surely, Brady wasn’t ready to be a road warrior as a wild card team. 

But if I’ve learned one lesson in my 21st year, it’s to never bet against the GOAT. As we know, the Bucs went on to win Super Bowl LV for Brady’s seventh ring, his fifth Super Bowl MVP, and his first Lombardi Trophy completion. Now, the only thing left for No. 12 to accomplish is to win an eighth ring so that he can buy a pet octopus and put a ring on every tentacle. 

I watched in awe as Brady took a mediocre franchise to the NFL’s summit in a matter of 11 months and then followed it up with an even better 2021 season. Then, I watched “Man in the Arena,” the 10-part documentary series on Brady’s 10 Super Bowl appearances. Since watching, I’ve become obsessed with No. 12’s greatness and continue to make my girlfriend watch with me so she can 1) learn what a first down is and 2) appreciate greatness. I then started reading “The TB12 Method: How to Achieve Sustained Peak Performance,” where Brady provided a glimpse into his training and nutrition regimen. I’m currently in contact with Dartmouth Dining Services trying to get Brady’s famous avocado ice cream served at all college cafeterias. Next, I’d like to get a look at the sixth round of this April’s draft so that I can model my next 22 years after Tom’s last 22 years. 

In all seriousness, Brady’s career has been, and still is, nothing short of ridiculous. Next up is a home matchup against the Los Angeles Rams. Rams quarterback Matthew Stafford and his top target this year, Cooper Kupp, have wreaked havoc on opposing defenses en route to an NFC West championship, and they beat the Bucs earlier this season. But Brady has 35 career playoff wins, and Stafford just won his first playoff game last weekend. I’m not going to forget what I learned last year: I believe in the Bucs to win this week. 

Now, I still stand by my bold Packers-Bills Super Bowl proclamation from last week’s column. I feel confident about the AFC side, especially after Josh Allen pitched a perfect game in Orchard Park last weekend that allowed me not to delete my Twitter account. Kansas City’s offense turned it on at the right time to send Ben Roethlisberger, who probably doesn’t eat as much avocado ice cream as TB12, into retirement. But the Bills dominated the Chiefs in Kansas City earlier this year, and they are still underdogs. I like that recipe for Buffalo. It’s not the Super Bowl yet, so the Bills are a safe pick. 

The other AFC clash between the Cincinnati Bengals and Tennessee Titans seems like the type of game that would end in a Music City Miracle II. Ryan Tannehill and Tennessee are looking to punch a ticket to their second AFC Championship Game in three years, with Derrick Henry likely to return to action. But Joe Burrow and the Bengals, fresh off their first playoff win in my lifetime and beyond (31 years), are looking for more. Burrow has been absolutely money in big games throughout his high school and college career, and I see no reason why Saturday should be any different. I’m taking Cincinnati in a nailbiter. 

I am excited to watch those three games on TV, but what I’m most looking forward to is spending Saturday night in the Lambeau Field bleachers. The trip requires two flights, 12 hours of driving and three hours of snowshoeing. But it will be worth it because I’m expecting a classic game. Green Bay hasn’t been able to stop the run all season, and San Francisco has one of the league’s best offenses and an excellent postseason history against the cheeseheads. I’m going to stick with my Super Bowl pick and take the Packers. But I’m expecting a nailbiter on Saturday night — that is, if my nails are warm enough to bite in the single-digit temperatures. 

Last weekend had its moments, but all in all, it was a dud. This weekend promises to be more exciting, perhaps even providing us with a classic Divisional Round moment like the Minneapolis Miracle, the Vernon Davis catch or the Joe Flacco Hail Mary. I hope Green Bay has Wi-Fi so that I can follow along.