In a Brady-less alternate timeline, Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers got to last year’s Super Bowl–but lost to the Kansas City Chiefs, giving the Chiefs three straight AFC titles and two Super Bowl wins.
But not a threepeat, because in 2018 the Chiefs lost to Sean McVay’s Los Angeles Rams. As The Greatest Show on Turf Rams won a second title under Mike Martz in 2001, the 2018 win gave the franchise their third title since 1999 (If Goff wins that Super Bowl, does he get traded for Matthew Stafford?).
Blake Bortles started a Super Bowl for the Jacksonville Jaguars. Philip Rivers won the ring his career certainly deserved. The Atlanta Falcons cashed in in 2016, beating the Pittsburgh Steelers*.
The Steelers, by the way, made three more Super Bowls and likely won one (Apologies to Donovan McNabb and Terrell Owens, who were surely expecting to win in a Bradyless 2004). Eli Manning lost one of his two Super Bowls to Joe Flacco, who assumed the “guy we all know was not that great but has two rings” place in Hall of Fame debates.
Eli’s brother Peyton makes and wins three Super Bowls, including 2003–averting a decade worth of overwrought narratives about whether he’s truly a winner, whether he’s better than Eli, and whether he’s as good as Brady (and, again, apologies to Jake Delhomme and the 2003 Carolina Panthers
). The post-Manning Colts also hung a better banner than that infamous “2014 AFC Finalist” one
, though the Seahawks still beat Andrew Luck & Co. that year.
There were also 15 Pro Bowls, three first-team All-Pro nods, and three Associated Press MVP awards that went to other players, as well as spots on the Pro Football Hall of Fame’s All-2000s Team and
All-2010s Team. Since those aren’t all public votes (and the 2010 MVP was unanimous), we can’t tell who won those honors in the Bradyless timeline. But for the record, Favre got the only non-Brady MVP vote in 2007
, Todd Gurley got the second-most votes, eight, in 2014, and judging by the numbers either Rivers or Drew Brees would likely have gotten the nod in 2010.
Brady won his first Super Bowl before the 2002 expansion and realignment; at that point he and Peyton were in the same division. Manning has more All-Pro nods (7) and MVP awards (5) than Brady, all earned during the 15 years they directly rivalled each other–but since Manning’s retirement, the one-year-younger Brady has played six more seasons, adding on 26,492 yards, 196 touchdowns, and three Super Bowl wins in four appearances.
Brady started out out-dueling quarterbacks who are already Hall of Famers: Manning, Favre, Kurt Warner. He beat out guys who will make the Hall anyway, like Roethlisberger and Brees. He weakened the resumes of much of the generation behind him, like Rodgers, Rivers, Flacco, and Matt Ryan. He’s even bullied the generation after that, from Allen to Mahomes. And unlike Manning or Favre, he never had an embarrassing final year where his skills had clearly left him.
If Brady entered the league as the scrappy, everyman rebel looking to topple the quarterback aristocracy, he left it as Ivan Drago: