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Ho Hum. Tom Brady Cruises to Another Playoff Win, This Time Over a Seven Seed.

We are well past the point of taking the greatest quarterback ever's accomplishments on the field for granted.

Here’s the strange thing about greatness: It is, all at once, inspiring, instructive, motivating and galvanizing. We can study it, learn from it, use it to better ourselves, use it as an example for younger generations, and use it as a baseline with which to compare the past and project the future. We can admire it. Argue about it. Celebrate it and, obviously, use it to sell magazines.

It can also get terribly boring, and perhaps this is the greatest compliment we can pay Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady, whose assault on the NFL record books continued with a 31–15 win over the Eagles that was never close enough to raise an eyebrow. At the half, it was 17–0; after three quarters, it was 31–0. Surprisingly, a Buccaneers team with Rob Gronkowski and Mike Evans was still powerful enough without Antonio Brown to advance in the playoffs.

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Maybe we are a bit jaded by the lack of excitement brought by the No. 7 seeds in each conference, only one of which has been remotely competitive since the NFL expanded the playoffs last year. Maybe it was just a favorable matchup, even though the Eagles’ strengths seemed to align nicely with Tampa Bay’s weaknesses as a perimeter run defending team.

But if you were sitting there watching the Fox broadcast compare Brady at age 44 to various children on the field and how old they were when he took his first snap, or comparing his playoff win totals to the combined field of other quarterbacks in the NFL, or comparing the number of gray nose hairs he possesses against the number of hairs on Jalen Hurts’s head (get on it, NFL research) and you felt bored or tired, you weren’t the only one. There is simply nothing left for Brady to accomplish on the field that would change the general public’s opinion of him one way or the other. He has broken the NFL, molded it to fit his various strengths, made himself a pliable, warm-blooded vampire with no expiration date and is set to dominate again for the next half decade. Outside of Tampa Bay, this is not a terribly exciting story line.

One could imagine it’s similar to what fans of SEC schools have endured for the past decade, before Georgia won the national championship game this year. Nick Saban acquires five-star recruits like extra saltine packets at the diner, hoarding them in his pockets for a rainy day. He has made a career out of obsessively bettering himself and simultaneously manipulating the system to his advantage. We are probably not far from a day when 90% of the NFL draft’s first round is a deep pilfering of the Crimson Tide’s roster.

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What results reflects poorly on us, but also leaves us no choice. We either root against greatness, the very thing we should all aspire to be, or we become complacent with greatness after years of continually rooting for it. Believe it or not, there are Alabama fans who criticize Nick Saban. There are Buccaneers and Patriots fans who come to games and loudly groan when Brady skips a third-down pass a little short of the sticks.

Either way, it’s ridiculous behavior. But, to quote Gotham district attorney Harvey Dent: You either die a hero, or live long enough to see yourself become the villain. Brady has been the villain for so long that we often (somehow, miraculously) forget his humble roots as a picked-over sixth-round pick from Michigan, the very kind of unique American success story that should define us at our core.

It doesn’t feel quite right, but just as most of us watched the national championship game on Monday and gleefully scoreboard watched as the Bulldogs climbed toward an insurmountable lead, we kept checking in on the Buccaneers game hoping that Hurts and Nick Sirianni could make something happen (absent some kind of financial commitment to our betting app of choice).

The only solution, of course, is more greatness. Another Kirby Smart. More Aaron Rodgerses (Aarons Rodgers?). Several Patrick Mahomeses sustained over the course of a decade or two. Oddly, they would follow Brady’s blueprint. They would place football and their personal health above everything in their lives for our entertainment and diversify our weekend sports viewing experience. If that’s the case, we promise we won’t become complacent or adversarial again. We will enjoy the clean burn of greatness from start to finish and appreciate it for what it was. Right?

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