As I navigate through the beer-can-strewn parking lot to the press box at New Era Field Sunday morning, I’m sure I’ll encounter profane signs, T-shirts and chants mocking Tom Brady. The vitriol sprouts like dandelions on a spring lawn each time the hated New England Patriots quarterback is in town. The animus is understandable because as a generation of Buffalo fans have come to understand all too cruelly, Terry and Kim Pegula don’t own the Bills; Tom Brady does.
In reality, the winningest quarterback in NFL history “owns” plenty of teams. Heck, he’s won more games (216) and Super Bowls (five) than any signal-caller who’s ever played. But no team has been more tormented by him than the Bills, whose fans adamantly refuse to acknowledge he just might be the best there ever was, and instead focus on scandals such as “Deflategate” and “Spygate” while forever labeling him a cheater.
In seeking answers why Buffalo hasn’t been to the playoffs since Bill Clinton was in the White House, we cite how Sean McDermott is head coach No. 9 during the 17-year playoff famine. We point out that two weeks ago Nathan Peterman became the 15th different quarterback to start a game for the Bills in this wretched span. We lament all the draft busts, particularly first-round failures such as Aaron Maybin, Mike Williams and EJ Manuel.
But we also overlook the obvious. Had Bill Belichick and the Patriots not lucked out drafting Brady in the sixth round in 2001, the Bills would not have encountered such a long dry spell. Not only would they have made the playoffs, they might even have won a division title or two.
I recently undertook the masochistic chore of crunching the numbers to find out just how dominant Brady has been against Buffalo. As expected, the stats tell the story of an athlete who has tortured an opposing team more brutally than any player in history.
Brady vs. Bills has been the football equivalent of the Harlem Globetrotters vs. the old Washington Generals. The only difference is the Generals were paid to lose and play the foil to their basketball comedians. The Bills have been paid to beat Brady, which they’ve managed just three times in 29 tries. (And one of those wins deserves an asterisk because it was achieved when Brady played just a half and most of the Patriots starters didn’t even suit up because New England had already clinched the AFC East and homefield advantage.)
Against Buffalo, Brady has thrown 66 touchdown passes and just 18 interceptions. He has completed 63.8 percent of his passes. And the Patriots average margin of victory vs. the Bills during Tom the Terrible’s reign has been 17 points. Little wonder mere mention of his name elicits the same response in Buffalo as “Wide Right,” “No Goal,” and “Homerun Throwback.” Obscene words, all.
And what makes this even harder for Bills fans to stomach is that Brady comes to New Era Field Sunday as a 40-year-old refusing to act his age. Forget what his birth certificate says. He is as efficient as ever and in serious competition with Philadelphia Eagles wunderkind Carson Wentz for league MVP honors. Brady is completing 69 percent of his passes, has thrown for more yardage than anyone this season, and has an insane 26-3 touchdown-to-interception ratio. Oh, and he’s also helped the defending Super Bowl champions reel off seven consecutive wins. All signs point to the rich getting richer.
As if that isn’t enough misery for Bills fans to handle, Brady continues to talk about playing into his mid-40s. He recently published The TB12 Method: How to achieve a lifetime of sustained peak performance, a book in which he writes about his exercise routines and disciplined diet. I’m probably not going out on a limb here with my prediction that the book isn’t going to find its way under too many Christmas trees in Western New York.
If the Bills don’t secure a playoff berth, their next best gift would be a rare win against TB12 and his hoodie-wearing coach. The Bills first victory against Brady’s bunch occurred in the 2003 season opener. They picked supermodel Giselle Bundchen’s husband off four times in a 31-0 romp that landed rotund nose tackle Sam Adams on the cover of Sports Illustrated. Buffalo started that season 2-0 and everybody began chirping about the playoffs, but those hopes quickly vanished as the Bills dropped seven of their last nine. The last of those losses was 31-0 to the Patriots as Brady threw four touchdown passes and zero interceptions.
It would be eight years before Buffalo got Brady’s number again. The future first-ballot Hall of Famer had 378 passing yards and four touchdowns, but also was intercepted four times and was outdueled by Ryan Fitzpatrick in a 34-31 shoot-out. The win improved the Bills to 3-0 and everybody started talking about playoffs again, only to witness Buffalo losing eight of its last nine. The last of those losses was by 28 points to — you guessed it — the Patriots as Brady threw for 338 yards and three scores.
The good news is that Father Time is undefeated. He eventually sacks everybody, even quarterbacks peddling their versions of the Fountain of Youth. The bad news for Bills fans is that Brady doesn’t want to retire any time soon.
So, the misery will continue, along with the profane chants, signs and T-shirts that pop up every time the quarterback Buffalo loves to hate comes to town.
Best-selling author and nationally honored journalist Scott Pitoniak is the Rochester Business Journal sports columnist. Scott will be signing copies of his new children’s book, “Let’s Go Yankees! An Unforgettable Trip to the Ballpark” at the Barnes & Noble in Greece from 11-1 p.m., Dec. 2, and the Barnes & Noble in Pittsford from 11-1 p.m. on Dec. 9.