This week, I was fortunate enough to speak with NFL journalist and author Gary Myers. Myers has covered the NFL since 1978 and is known for authoring the New York Times best-selling book, “Brady vs. Manning: The Untold Story of the Rivalry That Transformed the NFL.”
In 1989, Myers became a columnist for the New York Daily News. He covered both of the local NFL teams at that position for 29 years. In that time, his coverage of the New York Jets created an avenue to closely watch and cover former New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady. Myers was in attendance for the 2001 game when the 24-year-old Brady replaced an injured Drew Bledsoe, and his intrigue in the young signal-caller only grew as he rallied the Patriots to their first-ever Super Bowl championship later that season.
After witnessing Brady win five more Super Bowls and solidify himself as the greatest player in NFL history, Myers developed a podcast series called The GOAT: Tom Brady in which he details Brady’s career and legacy while also incorporating unheard interviews with Brady, former NFL quarterback Peyton Manning and Patriots owner Robert Kraft.
With the big matchup between Brady’s Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the Kansas City Chiefs coming up, Myers was kind enough to share his thoughts on the game and also break down the comparison between Brady and Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes.
After 20 seasons as a member of the Patriots, Brady shocked the world and signed with the Buccaneers prior to the 2020 season. He would be joining two incredible wide receivers in Chris Godwin and Mike Evans, he brought tight end Rob Gronkowski out of retirement, and even influenced the addition of former All-pro wide receiver Antonio Brown midway through the regular season.
All that considered, Myers doesn’t believe Brady’s been put in the greatest position to succeed in the fashion he’s used to.
“Tom just doesn’t appear to be the same player, and he’s 42 years old, for goodness sakes. Who expects him to be the same? But I think he’s playing in an offense that’s not suited for him. (Buccaneers head coach) Bruce Arians believes in this, ‘No risk it, no biscuit,’ which is just chucking it down the field and hoping the reward outweighs the risk. That’s not Tom’s game. He’s thrown so many interceptions this year that he’s never thrown in the past because he’s just throwing it up for grabs down the middle of the field, hoping his receivers can make a play and he’s been so way off on many of those throws. It appears that Tom is trying to adjust his game more to Arians than Arians is trying to adjust the offense, which is kind of [backward] if you think about it. You know what you’re getting in Brady — why would you want to change him after all these years?”
Myers would add that “it looks like Tom misses playing in (Patriots offensive coordinator) Josh McDaniels’ offense.”
Brady may not be performing like he wants to on the field, but Myers believes the re-location to Florida hasn’t been regretted.
“I think Tom has become more outspoken away from Belichick, almost like the handcuffs have come off, somewhat. I think he’s really happy living there. After 20 years in the New England winters and five years before that in the Michigan winters and being from California, wearing shorts year-round is probably pretty appealing to him.”
Incredibly, this will already be the fourth meeting between Brady and Patrick Mahomes; the young phenom has only started 46 games in his career — incorporating the postseason. Brady has won two of the three previous matchups, including a 37-31 overtime triumph in the 2018 AFC championship at Arrowhead Stadium.
It was reported that after the game, Brady sought out Mahomes outside of the locker room and gave him words of encouragement. Myers was not caught off-guard by the gesture from the veteran.
“I can’t say that I’m surprised he did that with Mahomes after that championship game… I think Tom does feel somewhat of an obligation to pay it forward. I don’t know any players that have ever said that he’s snubbed them, he’s arrogant, he doesn’t want anything to do with mentoring. I think he embraces that… I think he recognizes that Pat is the heir apparent to the throne to be the face of the league for many years like Brady’s been, and how can you not appreciate how Pat plays the game?”
The two’s post-game moment showed that Brady recognized the potential of Mahomes — even after only one season starting. One reason Brady may have felt so strongly is that some of his own attributes can be seen in Mahomes’ play, as Myers pointed out.
“If you’re the defense, and you’re tied or have a one-score lead, you certainly don’t want the ball in either one of their hands…. What [Mahomes] did against the Raiders the other night was so effortless, the way he took the Chiefs down the field and the touchdown pass to [Travis] Kelce. It looked like he barely broke a sweat. Brady used to be like that too, and I’m not saying he can’t be again, but that’s the most important thing: being able to bring your team from behind in situations like that… The things you would compare are their competitiveness, leadership, their ability to perform under pressure. Those are the most important things for a quarterback.”
The clutch gene is apparent in both players, but each has also benefitted tremendously from great coaching in their careers. Patriots head coach Bill Belichick and Chiefs head coach Andy Reid are both regarded among the best head coaches in NFL history — and are now each in the top five for all-time combined wins as an NFL head coach.
However, their coaching styles obviously contrast. Myers believes that is one difference when comparing the situations of Brady and Mahomes.
“The difference between Reid and Mahomes versus Belichick and Brady: I think Andy’s is a lot more fun to play for, and I think Patrick is having a lot more fun winning than Tom ever did in New England. It came out a lot towards the end of Tom’s career in New England, that he was kind of worn out by Belichick.”
As for the Chiefs’ defense of last year’s championship title, Myers described the 9-1 start as impressive and held the Chiefs in the highest regard among AFC playoff teams.
“The hardest thing to do is to come off a Super Bowl championship and be able to sustain the same level of excitement. It’s easier to achieve the first time than it is to maintain... If I had to pick a team from the AFC to get to the Super Bowl right now, I’m definitely picking the Chiefs. I think they’re just better than the Steelers, pretty much because their quarterback right now is the by far best player in the league. It’s not like he has to do it all by himself — he has great players around him. I think it’s impressive that they’ve won nine out of 10 coming off of a championship, and with such a weird year, they haven’t had a letdown. There hasn’t been a repeat championship since the 2003-04 Patriots, and I think the Chiefs have a great chance to do it again.”
Myers also labeled Mahomes as the definite, current MVP frontrunner, saying that he would vote for Mahomes if he had a vote right now.
Mahomes will have another good opportunity against Tampa Bay to further distance himself in the MVP race lead. The Buccaneers have a good defense, strength in the trenches and hold a record of 7-4 entering the game. If Mahomes has another big game — against one of the best defenses he’s faced all season — it will really solidify his spot as the league MVP.
While that could happen, Myers reminded us that Brady does his best work when he’s doubted the most.
“I think the Chiefs can score on anybody, and the way they’ve been playing, the Buccaneers cannot score on anybody… If it becomes a high-scoring game, I just think don’t think the Bucs are quick-strike enough to keep up with the Chiefs, who can go 80 yards in two plays. As we sitting here right now, I think this is a game the Chiefs should win — but I’ve also learned from all these years covering Brady, when people get down on him, start to call him off, say he’s too old or his arm is shot, that’s when he comes up with one of his vintage performances. I know he’s going to be hearing and reading everything this week, people being so critical of the way he played against the Los Angeles Rams and wondering if he’s washed up, that he’s going to use that as tremendous motivation.”
To wrap up our conversation, I asked Myers if he anticipates Mahomes eventually surpassing Brady as the perceived G.O.A.T. (greatest of all time). He made a few very good points — even if his ultimate answer wasn’t what Chiefs fans were hoping to hear.
“The only reason I’m going to say no, is that he has such a long way to go. Tom played in nine super bowls and won six of them. No one has won more than four as a quarterback… and there’s a reason for that: it’s really hard to do. Because he’s so far away from achieving that, I’d have to say no. I’ll qualify that by saying if there was one quarterback in the game today that will be able to do it, it’s clearly him. There’s no one else that currently playing that can do that. He has the ability. Hopefully, he stays healthy and the team stays good around him, and he can make a run at it… He doesn’t necessarily have to equal or surpass Tom in rings, but he’s got to at least come close. When he does that, he has to put up amazing numbers… and it’s going to take a lot to overtake Brady, but if anyone can do it, it’s Patrick.”