Following the biggest comeback in Super Bowl history, five-time champion Tom Brady has likely cemented his status as the greatest quarterback in the history of the NFL -- but could he eventually retire as the best athlete in team sports, supplanting Michael Jordan?
ESPN's Ian O'Connor floated the idea in an interview with Brady published Monday, in which Brady reiterated that he's not close to retiring. On Tuesday's episode of "Undisputed," Skip Bayless and Shannon Sharpe debated whether Brady has a chance to surpass Jordan.
Tom Brady's longevity gives him a chance
“Remember, Tom Brady didn’t say he’s chasing Michael Jordan the way LeBron always says he’s chasing that ghost, right? This wasn’t from Tom Brady, it was from Ian O’Connor, who wrote the piece. He just threw it out there. Brady had nothing but great things to say about Michael Jordan, and also, Brady would not even go so far as to say he was the greatest quarterback ever. So he was still playing ‘aw shucks, gee whiz,’ humble Tom Brady. Just for the record. It came across out of the headline that Brady was saying,‘Well there’s only one other person I have to chase, it’s Michael Jordan.’ He didn’t say that.
"Now, back to reality. You will not find a bigger Michael Jordan fan than this guy. I’m an even bigger Jordan fan than I am a Tom Brady fan. Not so much a New England fan, but I’ve always been a Brady fan. I don’t know how you can’t be, but that’s just me.
"But in the longest run -- and I think this Brady run is going to go for a lot longer than you think -- I do think he has a chance to catch and pass Michael Jordan.”
Mark J. RebilasMark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
If Tom Brady can stay healthy, he might play for another half-decade
“He said yesterday in this article, the one bold statement he made was, ‘Hey, not only do I want to play until I’m 45, but I might get to 45 and just say you know what, I feel pretty good. Why can’t I play at 46 and 47?’ He said ‘I might play until I’m 50.’
"You can’t wrap your head around that because your career ended at , and you took a beating, man. Your body said ‘I’m sorry, this is the best I can do for you.’
"So far, his body is not saying no. He’s got new methods, he’s got new training and diets, obviously. Nutrition.
"What if he does play until he’s 45?”
Kirby LeeKirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
Football is a tougher sport to dominate than basketball
“Let’s just do the hypothetical. They are prohibitive favorites to win next year’s Super Bowl. That doesn’t guarantee a thing, but let’s just say, being conservative, that he wins two more Super Bowls before he’s finished. That would get him to seven, and let’s just say he’d be the MVP of those two Super Bowls. He should have been the MVP of all the five he won. There’s a chance that he could have been MVP every time.
"Let’s say that he gets to seven, and that would make him 7-2 - and we know what happened in the first Eli Super Bowl. Again, Brady was magnificent late in that game.
"… My point is, let’s say he gets to seven. Do you realize how clutch Tom Brady has been on the biggest stage of all of sports again and again and again? In a game of pro football, which is much harder to dominate than the game of pro basketball is - because if you’re one man, you can dominate if you’re that good. You can just overwhelm your sport, but you can’t do it in pro football unless you’re Tom Brady.”
Greg M. CooperGreg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports
Brady has had more chances to be great in the clutch than Jordan
“And how clutch was he against the Seahawks late? That was the greatest fourth quarter I’ve ever seen, topped only by what he just did to the Atlanta Falcons in the fourth quarter and overtime. It’s clutch over a long period of time, game after game. He’s been clutch more often than Michael Jordan even had a chance to be clutch, because Brady has played so long. He’s now 39 going on 40.
"Again, the case could be made -- he needs a couple more, and a couple more MVPs -- where you’d have to sit back and give it up to Tom Brady.
"You might be jealous of him, you might resent him, you might say, ‘How can unathletic Tom Brady even be in the same sentence with Michael Jordan?’ I hear all that, I get it. But if you’re being objective, you’d have to at least give him a chance to eclipse the greatest player I’ve ever seen in any sport.”
No one questioned that Jordan was the best in the world during his career
“No. Brady has been dominant, there’s no question about that -- but as with anything when you’re dealing with sports, and sometimes in life,there’s different levels to this dominance.
"When you look at Tom Brady… you know Tom Brady, in 17 years, has only been first team All-Pro twice?
"Michael Jordan was All-NBA 10 times.
"Tom Brady did not win his first MVP until his eighth season in the league.
"Michael Jordan was a first-team All Pro after his third season. He won three MVPs by the time he reached 30.”
In his prime, Brady was never as dominant as Jordan
“Can I ask you a question, Skip? During Brady’s 17 years, in his absolute prime …
"So let’s be realistic, what we’re seeing him do now is an anomaly. This is not his prime.
"Was Brady always thought of as the best player in the league?
"Let me ask you a question: Was there a time at any point in his career that people thought Peyton Manning or Aaron Rodgers was a better player than Tom Brady?
"In Jordan’s apex, did anybody [question he was the best]?”