Let us now assess Tom Bradys legacy in light of Sundays 21-17 loss to the New York Giants in Super Bowl XLVI.
In fact, lets agree that that answer also suffices for Bill Belichick, Eli Manning and Tom Coughlin too. All the way down to Chris Snee and Sterling Moore, if you must.
And heres why: Legacies are not for the active player. They are also not for the active sportswriter, even though that seems to be the new staple of the craft -- What does the thing I just saw So-and-so do affect how we think of him in 20 years?
And therein lies the one truly dissatisfying theme from the Super Bowl and yes, that includes M.I.A. trying to become some social provocateur by using an everyday gesture to shock people who can no longer be shocked by anything.
Brady has now lost two Super Bowls by a total of eight points, David Tyree and Mario Manningham. He must stink. Belichick too, for letting his defense go to seed instead of being the smartest man in the universe.
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And Manning now has as many Super Bowl rings as Jim Plunkett and two years out of eight where his quarterback rating has resided over 90. And Coughlin has as many rings as Tom Flores and George Seifert, neither of whom is in the Hall of Fame but has the advantage of being fired every other week in the media.
In other words, the legacy topic is a fraud. You cannot make a legacy while someone is still crafting it. A legacy is not like a gauge that moves back and forth every time you step on the gas.
And while were at it, a legacy isnt even made by the athlete or coach in question. It is one of those eye-of-the-beholder things. Brady was going to be Joe Montana if he had won Sunday -- except to the people who prefer Joe Montana, or Johnny Unitas, or John Elway, or Otto Graham, or Sid Luckman. A players career is now simply a rolling argument, to be kicked up and down the bar floor by whomever happens to be playing at the time.
In short, when you hear the word legacy, youre on safe ground only if a player has retired and promises not to commit some heinous crime (O.J. Simpson), or decides to become an owner (Mario Lemieux), do charitable works (Quintin Dailey), become a famous broadcaster (John Madden), or die (too numerous to mention).
In fact, when you get down to it, even dying isnt that safe an option if the famous figure has done something that nobody knew about until the will was read.
So what we have here when we do the How it affects his legacy nonsense is an entirely subjective, always changing, potentially erroneous and cheap media device designed to get people arguing until the show ends, the end of the paper is reached, or closing time. It means exactly nothing.
Oh, and one other thing -- any legacy discussion is heavily weighted toward the thing someone just did, which is why Brady failed, Belichick is only a good coach, Coughlin is a genius, and Eli is the Manningest Manning of them all. Today.
If truth be told, Brady is still one of the finest quarterbacks of all time, Belichick is the dominant coach of the modern era, Coughlin is underrated but no longer underappreciated, and Manning is an impressive late bloomer. Those things wont change unless and until they do something either spectacular or horrific or just plain bizarre in the future.
And anything is possible.
So argue legacies all you want if you must, but you must know that Sundays game didnt really destroy any. It bent and misdirected a paragraph here and there, but legacies . . . no. The legacy hook is merely a way to waste everyones time with an hoary old story construct that has no lasting merit even while it is being typed, spoken or mimed.
Although if Rob Gronkowski could have reached the ball that Kenny Phillips batted away on the last play of the game . . .
Ray Ratto is a columnist for CSNBayArea.com.