If any other quarterback had accomplished what Tom Brady has accomplished over his 14 years as the starting quarterback of the New England Patriots, they would be in a conversation for greatest quarterback of all time, alongside the likes of Joe Montana, Peyton Manning, John Elway, Brett Farve, among other Hall of Famers. He will be the first quarterback in history to start in six Super Bowls, is only the second player in history to win the NFL Most Valuable Player Award and a Super Bowl MVP multiple times along with Montana, was the first quarterback to throw over 50 touchdowns in a season, and has thrown for more passing yards and touchdowns than any other quarterback in league history. But Brady’s resume as a postseason warrior has long been in question due to the revelations and allegations that came from Spygate, and have now continued with the Deflate-gate scandal, and as a result even if the Patriots were to beat the Seattle Seahawks in Super Bowl XLIX, it will be under a similar cloud due to how they may have gotten there this season.

On the surface, Brady would merely be considered among the winningest quarterbacks in league history. No player has won as many playoff games (20) or lead his team to as many division titles (12). He was apart of a team that had the longest consecutive game winning streak in league history (21 straight between the 2003 and 2004 seasons), set another record with 10 consecutive playoff wins, and went undefeated over the course of the 2007 regular season (losing to the New York Giants in the Super Bowl). But his first three championships came under a cloud of scrutiny that hasn’t gone away, after the Spygate investigation brought a light on the Patriots’ having assistants illegally film defensive practices of previous teams, including the infamous tapes from before Super Bowl XXXVI of the Rams’ practices, and the subsequent destruction of the evidence that might have included other Super Bowls. While this didn’t necessarily taint his three victories or the seasons that came after, the fact that the Patriots lost both Super Bowl appearances since this investigation has done little to prove the Patriots legit; though at times, Brady has played better as a quarterback over the last three seasons (with Rob Gronkowski banged up for two of them and a thin receiving core to replace him) then he played on the championship teams, and on par with seasons when he had Randy Moss and Wes Welker at his disposal.

This season and this Super Bowl appearance, coming after many thought the end was near after a 2-2 start and an embarrassing Monday night loss to the Chiefs, should have cemented Brady’s legacy and ensured his candidacy as a first-ballot Hall of Famer. Then the NFL discovered that 11 of the 12 game balls Brady used during the first half of the AFC Championship game were under-inflated and he gave a “play dumb”-like response at his press conference last Thursday, and the cloud has returned to at least make one wonder about how the Patriots made it back. New England went 10-2 after the Chiefs game, and Brady threw 29 touchdowns and only seven interceptions, with five games of over 300 passing yards and nine games with multiple touchdowns, while not passing the 300 yard mark or throwing more than one touchdown in the first four games. He has also thrown three touchdowns over the Patriots two playoff wins. One can’t help but ask if it’s a coincidence.

As a result of Spygate, and now Deflategate the career of Tom Brady will always have black marks on it, and his success will always be called into question. As a result of this scandal, Super Bowl XLIX is a no-win situation for Brady and the Patriots– if they lose, most will point to the extra ball security expected during Super Bowl week. Even if no evidence is found of foul play on the part of Brady or head coach Bill Belichick, a Patriots win will be looked at sideways and will always have an unofficial asterisk next to it, ensuring that Brady’s place as the winningest quarterback in league history will still be just out of reach.

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