Greg Cote

Brady, Patriots unfazed (for now) as Dolphins, rest of AFC East make QB strides | Opinion

The real Captain America, New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady, was a guest Thursday night on ABC’s “Jimmy Kimmel Live,” and it was the Bradyest thing ever.

He was introduced to a rousing, lengthy standing ovation from a studio audience in Los Angeles, three months after he had beaten that city’s Rams in the Super Bowl to win his record sixth NFL championship ring.

“And if for some reason we lose power tonight, if the lights go out, don’t panic,” Kimmel had told the crowd before Brady came on. “Just bathe in the glow of Tom’s perfectly white teeth and beautiful blue eyes. He will get us through it.”

Kimmel asked Brady why he isn’t the league’s highest-paid player and why he isn’t bothered by that. (In fact his $14 million salary this coming season will rank only 17th). Tom dimple-smiled and noted, “My wife makes a lot of money.” That would be international supermodel Gisele Bundchen, of course.

The interview fawned on, Brady oozing perfectness. Kimmel coaxed Brady to admit that some fans when meeting him are so overcome with emotion that they cry.

Kimmel then said: “Some people just cannot get over the fact you exist.”

Mostly, those people would be the Miami Dolphins, New York Jets, Buffalo Bills and their fans.

Brady is 41. He has talked of playing until he’s 50. And didn’t sound like he was kidding.

Is his throwing arm as strong as ever?

“Yeah!” Brady said.

There are famous roadblocks in sports. How many major wins was Phil Mickelson denied because of Tiger Woods’ greatness. How many more majors might Maria Sharapova have in tennis had she not been born into the same career timeline as Serena Williams?

For us, in the history of South Florida sports, there has been no greater, more enduring roadblock to success than Brady has been to the Dolphins. Well, include Bell Belichick, too, of course.

Think about it. The Dolphins’ glamor and winning end with Dan Marino’s retirement, and just as Miami is trying to navigate its way back, division rival New England is setting out behind the single greatest coach and single greatest quarterback ... ever. And becoming one of the biggest and longest-lasting dynasties in football history.

Brady’s first Patriots career start was Sept. 23, 2001. He had been a sixth-round draft pick, 199th overall. It was only 12 days after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, meaning the start of what would be an epic career came deep in the shadows and surrounded by grief.

The Dolphins have not won a playoff game since. And played in only three. Miami’s lone AFC East title in the Brady era came on a tiebreaker in 2008. Came with an asterisk, too. It was the only season Brady missed after being injured in the opener.

Contrasting New England’s otherwise-relentless stability under Brady, Miami has had 18 different starting quarterbacks during the Pats’ Brady era. As the 2019 season begins Josh Rosen or Ryan Fitzpatrick — and why on earth wouldn’t it be Rosen?—- will be the 19th different Dolphins starter of the Brady era, and the 20th post-Marino.

There might never be another Brady, but the Fins have spent two decades searching for a credible facsimile.

The search continues with Rosen, the 2018 first-round draft pick of Arizona acquired by trade in this year’s draft.

It will continue again next April — Miami dearly hopes—- with Alabama’s Tua Tagovailoa as the overall No. 1 draft pick. The Dolphins have spent most of 20 years managing to not be good enough. Now let’s see if they can spend one season managing to be bad enough to draft Tua.

The rest of the AFC East might finally be gaining on the Patriots in the arms race.

The Jets think they hit big with Sam Darnold in last year’s draft. The Bills love their new guy Josh Allen. The Dolphins, with Rosen and with the grand prize Tagovailoa in sight, might finally be close to having their first true franchise quarterback since Marino.

Unfortunately, the Patriots’ No. 12, as good as ever and defying time, ain’t going anywhere any time soon. A division power shift might be coming, but it isn’t here yet.

Postscript: In a skit on the Kimmel show Thursday, they asked Brady to throw a football through a second-floor window of actor Matt Damon’s house.

The pass was perfect.

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