MINNEAPOLIS — On the night before Tom Brady seeks his sixth Super Bowl title as quarterback of the New England Patriots, he added to his legendary status by winning his third career NFL MVP award at age 40.
Brady’s MVP collection grew Saturday, as he added to the awards he won in the 2007 and 2010 seasons. He is also a four-time Super Bowl MVP, and he has put any debate about the best quarterback in the history of the league to rest. He plays in his eighth Super Bowl here Sunday as the Patriots face the Philadelphia Eagles.
This award is based on regular season considerations only, and Brady spent this season putting to rest any notion that his production would drop off once he reached the wrong side of 40. He played in all 16 games and threw for 4,577 yards while amassing 32 touchdown passes to go with only eight interceptions.
The Patriots are seeking their second straight Super Bowl victory and third in four years. They are one year removed from overcoming a 28-3 deficit to beat the Atlanta Falcons in overtime in a memorable Super Bowl in Houston.
“I haven’t thought much about the game last year and I haven’t thought about it much in a long time,” Brady said during the week. “I mean, that was a great win. But we’ve got another one coming up. That’s where my focus has been. I don’t think about legacy. I’ve never thought about that. I think my motivation just comes from me just trying to be the best I can be for this team. … And I know what my goals are. I know what our team’s goals are. And we’ve got to go out and try to figure out how to play our best game of the year if we’re going to win this game.”
It was 16 years ago that the Patriots beat the St. Louis Rams in New Orleans as shock-the-world underdogs for their first Super Bowl triumph. Then, Brady was not far removed from being a skinny sixth-round draft choice out of Michigan, although he disputed in recent days the lore that he’d told Patriots owner Robert Kraft at the time that selecting him would be the best decision the organization ever made.
“What I believe I said was, ‘You’ll never regret picking me,’ ” Brady said. “I think I was just excited to be a part of the Patriots. I didn’t know much about the franchise growing up in California, being a 49er fan, being in the NFC, being in the other part of the country. The Patriots didn’t have a great team so it’s not like they were on TV very often. I probably paid attention to the 49ers. That was all my time when I was a kid. But I just wanted to be a part of the team.
“I was part of a great team at Michigan. I felt like I could bring a lot of team spirit, enthusiasm to the Patriots. I was just hoping one day I’d get my opportunity, and unfortunately it came when Drew [Bledsoe] got hurt. But I just wanted to do the best I could do. I certainly didn’t want to let my teammates down then. I don’t want to let them down now. That part of me as a competitor has never really changed.”
He has become such a revered figure now that even young teammates are star-struck to meet him. Brady told during this Super Bowl buildup of greeting Patrick Chung after the Patriots drafted the safety in 2009.
“I remember when he got drafted by the team and he came to me, he was like, ‘Wow, Tom Brady,’ ” Brady said. “I was like, ‘Damn, Pat, I’m not that old’ at that time.”
Injured Patriots wide receiver Julian Edelman accepted the award on Brady’s behalf.
Elsewhere at the NFL Awards, it was a good night for the Los Angeles Rams with Sean McVay named coach of the year, defensive tackle Aaron Donald named defensive player of the year and running back Todd Gurley named offensive player of the year. The New Orleans Saints swept the rookie awards, as running back Alvin Kamara was named offensive rookie of the year and cornerback Marshon Lattimore was named defensive rookie of the year.