Jan 13, 2013; Foxboro, MA, USA; New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady (12) warms up before the AFC divisional round playoff game against the Houston Texans at Gillette Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY Sports

NFL Playoffs: Stars Nearly Alligned for Tom Brady to Ride Off Into the Sunset

There are few competitors in any sport as intense as Tom Brady. Winning is what drives him. It seems to be the only thing that drives him.

That, however, is only what we can see on the surface.

I have a feeling that if you were to peel back the layers of Brady’s persona and surgeon-like focus, you’d see a man who is also driven by the legacy he’ll leave behind. Like Peyton Manning, Brady is a student of the game’s history. He is well aware of the meaning and historical impact of every record he breaks.

The record he broke on Sunday means a lot to him.

With New England’s win over Houston, Brady broke Joe Montana’s all-time playoff win mark. That record is significant on its own, but made even more so due to the fact that Brady grew up rooting for the San Francisco 49ers and idolizing Joe Montana. Not many people who walk this earth get to eclipse their idol in any way.

There is another mark Montana owns, along with Terry Bradshaw, that Brady would love to equal — Super Bowl wins. Brady has three, they have four.

A Super Bowl appearance by Brady would put him No. 1 all-time in that category. A win would put him side by side with his childhood idol in the most prestigious category in professional football. He’d have the most playoff wins, most Super Bowl appearances and be tied for the most Super Bowl wins of all-time. None of that takes into account that should all of that occur, there is currently a 50 percent chance it would be done against, of all teams, the San Francisco 49ers.

You can’t write a storybook ending any better than that. Yes — I said ending.

In the years since Brady’s last Super Bowl win; he has admitted how difficult it is just to win one, let alone four. A fourth title on top of all of his other accomplishments might be enough to make Brady think about how he wants to be remembered. He’ll be 36 years old if he plays next season, the same age Peyton Manning was this year. Manning turned in the second best season of his career with arguably the best defense he’s ever had as his security blanket. He still fell short of a championship.

Brady saw that. It had to resonate with him.

Other than Manning, no NFL player is more financially stable and marketable in life after football as Tom Brady. He has turned his name into an empire. His wife has done the same. He could sit on boards of major companies, run for political office, act, model, commentate, coach or even as his idol Joe Montana has done, disappear from the public eye altogether. Basically, the world is his whenever he wants it. What better way to walk away from one life or career and into a second one on top as you pass the man and beat the team that inspired this incredible journey? I can’t think of one.

The problem, and in reality, the only thing that makes me second guess my theory is that Brady probably can.

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