What defines the term GOAT?

In the wake of Tom Brady’s latest and seemingly final retirement announcement, sports pages around the world have been filled with lengthy tributes to the 45-year-old in which they declare the quarterback to be American football’s greatest of all time, or GOAT for short. Admittedly, it’s a term that is synonymous with Brady, and in many respects, it’s easy to see why.

The Super Bowl king 

In particular, Brady stands out as the greatest to have ever played in the NFL owing to his record of seven Super Bowl wins which is the most of any player in history. Significantly, this looks like a record that could stand for a considerable amount of time. Further evidence of this can be found in the latest NFL betting pages which shine a light on the two teams vying for their place in history, with Patrick Mahomes the favorite to be Super Bowl MVP at +120 as he looks to win his second ring and is arguably the biggest current danger to Brady’s record. However, the Philadelphia Eagles are the -120 favorites in the Super Bowl odds, with the Kansas City Chiefs priced at odds of evens.

Tellingly, neither of these teams has any players in their respective rosters that will get remotely near to Brady’s record should they win Super Bowl LVII. Naturally, even if there aren’t any current players set to compete in the big game at the State Farm Stadium in Glendale Arizona who will inch closer to Brady’s Super Bowl record, it should be said that it will at one stage or another, this number will be eclipsed. That is, after all, what records are there for. 

Whenever a player is able to eventually surpass it, they too will be spoken about as being the greatest that American football has ever seen. Why? Because being the greatest requires repetition of excellence, irrespective of age.

Time spent winning 

When trying to get to the bottom of what characteristics truly define a player who is called the greatest, there is, in fact, only one place to start: longevity and winning trophies. At least, what do Cristiano Ronaldo, Lionel Messi, Sir Lewis Hamilton, Serena Williams, and Novak Djokovic all have in common with Brady? They were all able to win trophies regularly throughout their long and distinguished careers. It’s worth saying that some on that list are still doing so as Messi showed when lifting the World Cup in Qatar in 2022. 

Similarly, Djokovic did the same when he won the Australian Open at the beginning of 2023. Crucially, both players are over 35.

With this in mind, we can observe that it is this phenomenal ability to produce a spellbinding display of excellence during the twilight of a career that separates the good from the great. Again, Brady was able to do this in 2021 when he became the oldest player to win a Super Bowl aged 43 years and 188 days old. 

The drive to be the best 

Undoubtedly, the drive to win and rewrite history when most players are comfortably retired provides more proof of an elite mindset and a will to be crowned the most successful in a certain sport. Needless to say, this frame of mind provides the foundation to enjoy an unrivaled career – without it, there can be no greatness.

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