OK. If I asked you this question three years ago, you would have punched me in the face. Then kicked me in the stomach. You'd probably then slash my tires, drag me to the middle of the desert and leave me for the vultures. And it all would have been fairly justified.
But things have changed since 2007. Once Jay Alford, Justin Tuck and all their bully friends had a grand old time slamming Tom Brady into the dirt in Super Bowl XLII, things went a little downhill for the quarterback.
So, with ESPN.com ranking Brady as the second-best quarterback in the NFL on Tuesday, it's worth asking … is he?
To be fair, it's way too early to jump off the Brady bandwagon. It wasn't long ago that he was staring Peyton Manning's records in the face and laughing at them, even hooking up his favorite wide receiver with his own spot in the record books. Manning is ranked No. 1 by ESPN, a fact that would have been debatable a few years ago but now seems to be almost universally accepted.
That left Brady in the company of Drew Brees, who just won the Super Bowl. But Brady's won three, and that was as big a reason as any that TB12 was ranked No. 2.
Yet it's now 2010. The year 2004 becomes further history with each passing day. In 2004, Freddy Adu was the next great name in soccer. In 2004, it was headline news when gas prices neared $2. In 2004, George W. Bush won a presidential election.
Now, Adu wouldn't get recognized anywhere in America, gas prices are closer to $3 than $2, and ol' Dubbya just doesn't have the support of the American public like he once did.
Then again, the former president didn't throw 50 touchdowns in 2007.
Brady, obviously, is one of the best. He threw for 4,398 yards last year, which is second only to the ridiculous '07 season. When he led that spectacular comeback against the Bills on Monday Night Football in Week 1, the knee injury that cost him all of the '08 season looked to be a thing of the past.
Yet that ability to kill it in crunch time escaped him for much of the year. He couldn't get the Pats more than nine points in a Week 2 loss to the Jets. He fumbled on the would-be winning drive in the fourth quarter in Denver. His interception in the end zone in Miami is one that still makes Patriots fans wonder who the heck was wearing the No. 12 jersey for the Patriots that day.
Those who aren't ready to end the Brady era will point out the fact that Brady had broken ribs, fingers and who-knows-what-else. He was also trying to find his bearings, because when Bernard Pollard absolutely destroys your knee, even Hercules would have trouble standing patiently in the pocket for a little while.
So yes, maybe Brady still is second-best in the league. Maybe he's even poised to play better than Mr. Manning in Indy. Maybe he's still the guy who went 10-0 to start his playoff career, winning three Super Bowls along the way and almost guaranteeing he'll be the winningest quarterback since Joe Montana.
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