So many details of Tom Brady’s career seem fanciful enough to sound apocryphal.
In 20 full seasons as a starter, he led his team to the Super Bowl 10 times. He started as many Super Bowls (three) in his 40s as he did in his 20s, when he crammed three triumphs into four seasons, his first at age 24. His seven Super Bowl titles are more than any franchise has won. He was selected as the Super Bowl M.V.P. five times; only one other quarterback, John Elway of Denver, even started five Super Bowls. Only once has Brady missed the playoffs as a starter — in 2002, the season after winning his first Super Bowl, the championship that began the Patriots’ dynasty.
Brady’s stardom in New England incubated for years in ideal circumstances after springing from a fluke event on Sept. 23, 2001. Jets linebacker Mo Lewis knocked out Drew Bledsoe, who sheared a blood vessel in his chest, thrusting Brady into the game.
Brady formed, with Bill Belichick, the greatest quarterback-coach partnership in N.F.L. history, capitalizing on the organization’s stable infrastructure, the league’s short-passing boom and his own durability — the only games he missed because of injury came in 2008, after he tore a knee ligament in the season opener. He reveled in New England’s “Do Your Job” ethos, stifling his charismatic personality to emerge as a pocket passer extraordinaire, winning six championships and 17 division titles with the Patriots.
But even his playoff defeats were memorable. He was twice foiled in the Super Bowl by the Giants. The first time, in February 2008, thwarted New England’s bid for an unbeaten season. The second, in February 2012, prompted Bündchen, incensed by several dropped passes, to scoff afterward that her husband couldn’t throw and catch at the same time. Then, against Philadelphia six years later, Brady torched the Eagles for 505 passing yards — one of his many postseason records — but lost, 41-33, after being stripped of the ball with about two minutes remaining.