Inside the Dak Prescott contract

Washington Redskins v Dallas Cowboys
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Dak Prescott‘s contract easily can be called the best contract ever signed (once it’s officially signed) by any player in league history. The relatively straightforward details of the contract are set forth below (per a source with knowledge of the contract), followed by some analysis of what it all means.

First, Prescott will receive a $66 million signing bonus. That’s the biggest signing bonus ever received by any player in league history.

Second, he’ll have a $9 million base salary in 2021, fully guaranteed. With the signing bonus paid out entirely in 2021, he’ll receive $75 million by the end of the 2021 regular season. That’s also a record one-year payout.

Third, Prescott’s 2022 salary is $20 million, fully guaranteed. That equates to $95 million fully guaranteed at signing, also a record.

Fourth, he’ll receive in 2023 a base salary of $31 million. It’s guaranteed for injury for now, and it becomes fully guaranteed on the fifth day of the 2022 league year. Thus, to avoid owing him $126 million fully guaranteed, the Cowboys will have to cut Prescott after one year, at $95 million.

Fifth, Prescott has a $5 million roster bonus due on the fifth day of the 2024 league year, along with a 2024 base salary of $29 million. Both payments are non-guaranteed.

The contract includes a pair of voidable years, aimed at giving the Cowboys the ability to cram cap space from the four-year, $160 million deal into 2025 and 2026.

Prescott eventually will have three different protections against the franchise tag in 2025. First, although a no-tag clause is not yet in the draft of the contract, it’s expected to be added. Second, Prescott and agent Todd France insisted on the second tag being applied this year. This makes it, as previously mentioned, difficult if not impossible to ever franchise-tag him again, since it would entail a 44-percent increase over the cap number from the last year of his contract. Third, the final two years of the contract void the day before the start of the 2025 league year, after the franchise-tag deadline. Thus, if all else fails, he can’t be tagged in 2025 because his contract won’t expire until it’s too late to tag him.

At a minimum, Prescott has a three-year, $126 million deal. With no tag available in 2025, the Cowboys will surely try to convert the last year of the deal into a new contract. If not, he gets $160 million over the next four years. That’s $29.3 million more than Mahomes will make over the next four years, and he’ll still be under contract for seven years after that.

The deal also compares very favorably to the first four years of money paid to other top quarterbacks under their current deals. The $160 million payable to Prescott from 2021 through 2024 exceeds the first four years of Russell Wilson‘s current deal by $29 million. As to the first four years of Aaron Rodgers‘ current deal, it’s $35.5 million more. As to the first four years of Matt Ryan‘s current deal, it’s $42.5 million more. As to the first two years of Deshaun Watson‘s deal, it $49.2 million more. In comparison to the first four years of the Jared Goff contract, it’s $49.9 million more. As to the first four years of the Carson Wentz deal, it’s $56.1 million more. And as to the first four years of the Patrick Mahomes deal, the payout Prescott will receive exceeds the Mahomes contract by $56.4 million.

Prescott will be back in position to get another deal as soon as three years from now. At the latest, he’ll be on the open market in 2025, free and clear and subject to no tags. He’ll only be 31 at the time; for franchise quarterbacks, 31 is the new 21.

“How much is enough?” is a question that always gets asked of players, never gets asked of owners

Cowboys QB Dak Prescott playing carefree; Jerry Jones says he is worth top-tier money
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How much is enough? It’s a question that often arises when a millionaire player tries to maximize his earnings. It’s a question that rarely arises when a billionaire owner tries to maximize his.

Simms and I addressed that point on Monday’s PFT Live, within the context of Dak Prescott‘s contractual situation in Dallas. The Cowboys, by not promptly offering Prescott a significant contract extension when he became eligible for one after the conclusion of the 2018 regular season, activated a process that has them on the brink of applying a one-year, $37.68 million franchise tender to Prescott, to be followed in 2022 by a third franchise tender (at $54.25 million), a right-to-match-only transition tender ($45.21 million), or a shot at the open market.

As recently explained, Prescott should happily cling to that large bird in the hand unless the Cowboys offer him another bird of equal or greater size. It’s that simple. And it’s not about what any other quarterback has made or will make. It’s about getting Dak to trade in rights that have been shaped and fueled by the team’s inability to persuade him to accept prior long-term offers.

So what will it take? With $37.68 million guaranteed for 2021 (unless they don’t tag him at all and let the market determine his value), what do the Cowboys need to offer in the form of a multi-year deal that, in most cases, is guaranteed for only two years with a team-held year-to-year option thereafter?

Prescott, given the $31.4 million he earned last year along with his off-field earnings, should be inclined to play it out. And if the Cowboys want to sign him next year, they’ll get to compete with other teams that may want to sign him, too. That’s not a bad thing; for a player, it’s a fair thing.

Open markets. That’s how Cowboys owner Jerry Jones made his money. Capitalism. Competition. Taking full advantage of every business opportunity that came his way. Jones reportedly “hit the jackpot” during a recent cold snap in Texas, thanks to his energy holdings. Does anyone think he’ll give any of that money back?

How much is enough? Everything isn’t enough. All of it isn’t enough. A $250 million yacht isn’t enough. That’s the attitude that has carried Jones his entire life, allowing him to buy an NFL team and to maximize that team’s earnings on and off the field (his $750 million lawsuit against the league from 1995 was aimed at getting more in advertising revenue).

Jones became an American oligarch by constantly taking calculated risks and manipulating the rules of the system to his advantage. When it comes to Prescott, the Cowboys have taken calculated risks and manipulated the rules of the system in a way that has kept Prescott off the open market. In turn, Prescott has taken calculated risks and manipulated the rules of the system to position himself for $37.68 million this year and, most likely, a clear shot at the open market in 2021.

No one should ask Prescott whether he’s being fair to Jones or to the team. No one should be asked Prescott how much is enough. For Jones, too much is never enough. Why should it be any different for Prescott or any other player?

FMIA: In This 2021 NFL Draft Primer, Uncertainty Is No. 1 Overall Prospect

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This is the kind of pre-draft season it’s been: There’s a first-round pass-rush prospect from the University of Miami named Gregory Rousseau. High school wideout/safety. College history, checkered. Year one: Played a few snaps as a freshman, got hurt, redshirted. Year two: ACC Defensive Rookie of the Year with 15.5 sacks. Year three: Opted out [more]

NFL will consider reverting to true sudden-death overtime

NFC Championship: Minnesota Vikings v New Orleans Saints
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When it comes to overtime, the NFL previously has decided not to let perfect be the enemy of good. Now, the league may be reverting to awful.

Buried at the bottom of an item on the league’s official website regarding the possible expansion of replay review to roughing the passer calls and non-calls is a bombshell that merits its own major headline: Overtime could revert to true sudden death.

The league adopted modified sudden-death overtime in 2010, after the Saints advanced to the Super Bowl with a decent kickoff return, a few first downs (two of which were sparked by questionable defensive penalties), and a walk-off field goal. Currently, a field goal on the first drive of overtime gives the other team a chance to match, with sudden death happening on the first drive only if a touchdown is scored. If anything, the league should consider allowing the team that lost the coin toss a chance to match any score (especially in the playoffs), given the manner in which the rules have become skewed toward offense.

So why would the league choose not to make overtime procedures more fair but to turn the clock back to the days when the toss of a coin had a gigantic impact on who won and who lost? Given that the league already has reduced overtime from 15 minutes to 10 minutes in the regular season in order to prevent a team from, for example, playing 75 minutes on Sunday and another 75 minutes four days later, the move to re-embrace true sudden-death overtime could (emphasis, could) be part of laying the foundation for more short-week games.

So why would there by more short-week games? Well, in order to maximize the revenue potential from in-game betting, which will explode once the technology eliminates all latency from the stadium to the living room, the NFL needs more stand-alone games. It will make tremendous sense when in-game betting arrive to get away from having eight or nine games at 1:00 p.m. ET and moving them into as many unique spots as possible.

For now, the windows consist of three on Sunday (a fourth could be added at 9:30 a.m. ET, for London games), one on Monday, and one on Thursday. Some expect that the next wave of TV deals will make more liberal use of doubleheaders on Monday nights, creating another stand-alone game.

Although Fridays and Saturdays are off limits from Labor Day through mid-December as part of the broadcast antitrust exemption (don’t be shocked if the NFL eventually tries to make that go away), Tuesdays and Wednesdays remain available, and were used in 2020 due to the pandemic. It becomes impossible, however, to give every team seven days between games on a regular basis if the schedule hopscotches around from Sunday to Monday to Tuesday to Wednesday to Thursday. Ultimately, there could be a five-day gap or two to go along with the four-day short week that most teams currently endure once per year. Six-day gaps would become much more common, too, if a team plays on (for example) a Wednesday and then a Tuesday (and then a Monday and then a Sunday).

While a full embrace of what would be nine windows per week may be several years away, there’s no better way to clear the deck for any impediments to more short-week games than to adopt now a set of overtime procedures that would lead to shorter games.

Is it fair? Nope. Will it matter if the objective is to maximize revenue arising directly from enhanced gambling opportunities? Nope. Given the money to be made from in-game betting, it’s impossible to rule out a return to the days when, if the game was tied after 60 minutes, they’ll just call it a tie and move on.

NFL to consider making roughing the passer subject to replay review

NFL: DEC 16 Seahawks at 49ers
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Good news: Roughing the pass could become subject to replay review.

Bad news: Roughing the pass could become subject to replay review.

According to Judy Battista of NFL Media, owners could vote to make roughing the passer subject to replay review. On one hand, it’s necessary. On the other hand, pass interference calls and non-calls were subject to replay review for a year, and it was a disaster.

Given the way the rules are written, the replay process would entail scanning on a frame-by-frame basis any and all available angles for any and all potential instances of roughing based on broad, literal application of the rule. It would become, from a coach’s challenge perspective, a potential emergency option to extend a key drive. And for every interception, which makes the replay process automatic, part of the second look will entail checking to see whether any potential roughing the passer happened.

In support of the possibility of making roughing the passer subject to review, the item at NFL.com points to a horrendous roughing call that helped the Vikings beat the Lions in a Week 17 game to which no one paid any attention. Without replay review, the seemingly phantom call could not be reverse.

Still, while it’s a good idea in theory, the league potentially would be stepping on another rake given the manner in which the rule would be applied. It also could result in the same kind of shifting standard for what does and doesn’t result in a reversal of a ruling on the field, in the same way the bar for interference seemed to move up and down in 2019.

So what’s the best way to prevent a truly egregious blunder? Sky judge. That’s the answer. Specifically, the NFL should add an extra member of the officiating crew who sits in a booth and watches all available angles and communicates with the referee, the same as any on-field official. That’s the way to properly allow for a truly obvious blunder to be quickly fixed, without relying on a replay process that tends to excessively micromanage and overofficiate and, ultimately, render rulings on judgment-type calls with all the reliability of a Magic 8 Ball.

FMIA: New Insight On NFL’s 17-Game Schedule. Plus The Story Of One QB’s Quick (Door) Dash To Top 5 Prospect

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On many weekends late last spring and early summer, with his football future very much in doubt, Brigham Young quarterback Zach Wilson pulled his Mazda 6 onto an I-15 on-ramp in Provo, Utah. It would be a Friday, mid-afternoon, and Wilson would be road-tripping to see his quarterback tutor, John Beck, in southern California. On [more]

Art Michalik, whose hit led Otto Graham to wear a facemask, dies at 91

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Art Michalik, an NFL linebacker who also had a noteworthy post-football career as a professional wrestler, has died at the age of 91.

The son of a Chicago cop, Michalik grew up in Chicago and then went on to play college football and wrestle at St. Ambrose in Iowa. There he gained recognition both from NFL teams and from wrestling coaches who wanted him to try out for the 1952 Olympic team.

Ultimately Michalik would enlist in the U.S. Marines after college before signing with the 49ers, where he was an All-Pro as a rookie in 1953. And it was during that rookie season when Michalik inadvertently made his biggest contribution to professional football by popularizing the facemask.

In a game against the Cleveland Browns, Michalik drilled the great Browns quarterback Otto Graham with a hit that left blood streaming down Graham’s face. Graham was taken to the locker room, and when he returned the equipment staff had attached a makeshift plexiglass face protector to Graham’s helmet. It wasn’t the first time a football player had worn a facemask, but it was that incident that made facemasks go from a rare and unusual sight on the football field to a quickly adopted standard piece of equipment.

Michalik was a hard hitter, but he and Graham agreed that there was no ill intent in the shot to Graham’s face.

“I made a dive for Graham and hit him with my elbow. I hope he’s all right. I certainly didn’t mean to hurt him,” Michalik said.

Graham said, “I don’t think he did it on purpose. Anything can happen in a game like that.”

The next year Michalik suffered a serious knee injury in a game against the Rams that left the 49ers decrying the Rams’ “dirty play,” and Michalik never played for the 49ers again. But Michalik did make it back on the football field, playing two more years with the Steelers.

After retiring from the NFL, Michalik took up professional wrestling and was a National Wrestling Alliance tag team champion. After that he became a high school teacher and longtime high school coach.

But it was that hit on Graham that will be Michalik’s lasting legacy. Many noses, jaws and orbital bones have been saved over the years because Michalik showed that football should not be played without face protection.

FMIA: Want To Trade For Deshaun Watson? Here’s What It Might Take

Tennessee Titans v Houston Texans
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What an interesting time for quarterbacks in the NFL. The last month: Jan. 20: Philip Rivers retires, opening the Indianapolis quarterback position—again. Jan. 30: Rams trade Jared Goff and three picks to Detroit for Matthew Stafford. Feb. 7: Tom Brady wins his seventh Super Bowl. Feb. 12: Quarterback and presumptive first overall pick Trevor Lawrence [more]

The Jared Goff, Carson Wentz contracts become a cautionary tale

Los Angeles Rams v Seattle Seahawks
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In 2015, the Buccaneers and Titans made quarterbacks Jameis Winston and Marcus Mariota the first and second overall picks, respectively, in the NFL draft. Both finished their four-year rookie deals, stayed for a fifth season under the team-held options, and exited as free agents.

In 2016, the Rams and Eagles made quarterbacks Jared Goff and Carson Wentz the first and second overall picks, respectively, in the NFL draft. Both got second contracts at market value after their third NFL seasons. Both will be traded after their fifth NFL seasons.

Goff’s performance (especially in Super Bowl LIII) prompted many to suggest that the Rams should wait. If they had, they wouldn’t have had to throw a first-round pick into the one-and-a-three package for Matthew Stafford to get the Lions to take on Goff’s deal.

Wentz’s problems were less about his play and more about his injury history. After the 2018 season, many suggested that the Eagles should keep quarterback Nick Foles, the Super Bowl LII MVP. The Eagles let Foles go, and then signed Wentz to a massive contract.

The deterioration of Goff and Wentz after getting their second contracts should prompt other teams with first-round quarterbacks on rookie deals to reassess their plans for offering second contracts. Currently, 2018 first-rounders Baker Mayfield, Josh Allen, and Lamar Jackson seem poised to extend their stays with the Browns, Bills, and Ravens, respectively. Any of those three teams, if they do long-term deals now, could find themselves regretting it within two years.

The importance of prudence is balanced by the significance of urgency. The sooner a young quarterback gets his second contract, the cheaper it will be to re-sign him. Even if the quarterback market evolves, as it should, away from the next-guy-becomes-the-highest-paid model and toward a tiered system, quarterback dollars keep rising, not falling.

So if Mayfield, Allen, and/or Jackson don’t get second contracts this year and keep playing well, it will become more expensive to sign them in 2022 or 2023. (Indeed, the Cowboys bungled their relationship with quarterback Dak Prescott by not signing him to an extension the moment as he became eligible for a second deal.)

Each team has to make the decision regarding whether to extend now or later. And no one knows their quarterbacks better than their current teams. The Rams and Eagles have learned the hard way that a quarterback who performs well through three seasons isn’t guaranteed to continue to do so. With the benefit of 2019 and 2020, both teams surely wish they’d done what the Buccaneers and Titans did — let the five years play out, and then let the quarterbacks walk away as free agents.

FMIA: Deconstructing Super Bowl LV And The 5 Bucs Plays That Shaped It

Super Bowl LV
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Where to begin? Let’s do the state of football, in a boldface way: Two great ones lost: Terez Paylor (journalism) and Marty Schottenheimer (coaching). I am heartbroken for the future of our business; Paylor, 37, was going to be a giant, and for a long time. Tom Brady, talking to the Bucs in the locker room before [more]

Russell Wilson displays unprecedented public quarterback candor

Wild Card Round - Los Angeles Rams v Seattle Seahawks
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The NFL’s evolution toward the NBA is becoming a revolution. Once the transformation is complete, we’ll look back on Tuesday, February 9 as one of the most significant moments in the process.

Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson‘s appearance on The Dan Patrick Show featured rare and raw candor. Franchise quarterbacks, overcome by the company-man vibe and the basic fear of alienating the fan base, typically say all the right things at all the right times, never showing anything other than complete and total loyalty to the team, to the cause, to the fans.

Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson has claimed top priority in the NFL news cycle by privately requesting a trade. He has yet to say publicly that he wants out, but his silence — and the alterations to his social-media pages — speak volumes.

Still, no franchise quarterback has made a calm, reasoned, public case for that which Wilson wants: Direct say in decisions made regarding the construction of the team that will surround him.

Some would say (as Simms did today on PFT Live) that any quarterback who seeks such influence should start grinding film like any other scout. Wilson surely is looking for something less involved, but nevertheless still impactful. His legacy on the line, Wilson wants to know that the other 10 players on offense and the 11 members of the starting defense will complement, not complicate, his desire to win more Super Bowls.

With Tom Brady hogging seven of them since 2001, there simply aren’t enough championships to go around for the other championship-caliber quarterbacks. Ben Roethlisberger has won two. Eli Manning won two. Peyton Manning won two. Since 1999, it’s otherwise been one-time-only winners: Kurt Warner, Trent Dilfer, Brad Johnson, Drew Brees, Aaron Rodgers, Joe Flacco, Russell Wilson, Nick Foles, Patrick Mahomes.

Wilson needs to get to two, obviously, before he can get to three or four or more. Rodgers keeps coming up short of two. Mahomes has had two great seasons that ended without Super Bowl wins, thanks to Brady.

Frankly, Rodgers has far more reason to speak out than Wilson. The Packers chronically have failed to put enough talent around him. Rodgers, however, prefers to send messages with subtle and indirect phrasing. He resents when members of the media spot the messages and amplify them, because he’s not ready to risk the years of rancor that Brett Favre endured — and all he did was want out at a time when the Packers made it clear they didn’t want him anymore. (It didn’t help that Favre was hellbent on playing for the Vikings.)

Wilson has the ability, and the credibility, to speak out about wanting to be involved in personnel decisions. About being frustrated. About teams calling to inquire about a trade. About potentially being available in a trade.

It’s likely no coincidence that Wilson’s decision to launch an elaborate media strategy, including leaks to reporters and comments on the record and messages to a former player with a platform in Brandon Marshall, came immediately after Brady left New England after two decades of “do your f–king job” and did the job in Tampa of helping the team put together a championship franchise. Brady attracted Rob Gronkowski. Brady wanted, and got, Antonio Brown. (Wilson wanted, but didn’t get, Brown.) Brady attracted Leonard Fournette. Brady will attract even more veterans who want to chase a championship in 2021, including Adrian Peterson.

Wilson and Rodgers could, too. Their teams have yet to allow them. Wilson’s comments represent the most aggressive effort yet by a franchise quarterback to shed the “company man” image and to become the company, man.

It will work or it won’t. If it doesn’t, the expiration date on Wilson’s time in Seattle will become shorter than anyone realizes.

2021 NFL draft order

2007 NFL Draft - April 28, 2007
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The order for the 2021 NFL draft is now set, with the Buccaneers drafting last as Super Bowl champions.

Here’s the order, including three teams that have traded their first-round draft picks:

1. Jaguars

2. Jets

3. Texans (traded first-round pick to Dolphins)

4. Falcons

5. Bengals

6. Eagles

7. Lions

8. Panthers

9. Broncos

10. Cowboys

11. Giants

12. 49ers

13. Chargers

14. Vikings

15. Patriots

16. Cardinals

17. Raiders

18. Dolphins

19. Washington Football Team

20. Bears

21. Colts

22. Titans

23. Seahawks (traded first-round pick to Jets)

24. Steelers

25. Rams (traded first round pick to Jaguars)

26. Browns

27. Ravens

28. Saints

29. Packers

30. Bills

31. Chiefs

32. Buccaneers

In addition to three traded first-round picks, two picks have been traded in the second round: The Texans traded their second-round pick to the Dolphins, and the Vikings traded their second-round pick to the Jaguars. In the third round, the 49ers traded their pick to Washington, the Patriots forfeited their pick for illegal taping by their in-house TV crew, the Seahawks traded their pick to the Jets, the Ravens traded their pick to the Vikings and the Saints traded their pick to the Browns.

The full draft order will be known once compensatory picks are announced.

FMIA Super Bowl LV: Strange Season, Normal Result—Tom Brady Wins His Seventh Title, Leads Bucs Over Chiefs

NFL: FEB 07 Super Bowl LV - Chiefs v Buccaneers
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TAMPA, Fla. — “Hey dude,” Bruce Arians said to Tom Brady as confetti fell on their world champion heads Sunday night. “You remember our first conversation?” “Vividly,” Brady said. “Me too,” Arians said. “ ‘You come, and we’ll win the Super Bowl.’ “ He came, he saw, he conquered . . . even though so [more]

Tom Brady’s Super Bowl records

Super Bowl LV
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Tom Brady already owned a slew of Super Bowl records, and he set even more in Super Bowl LV, when he won for the first time with the Buccaneers. Here’s a list of all of Brady’s Super Bowl records:

Games played: Super Bowl LV was Brady’s 10th Super Bowl, by far the most in NFL history. Two other players have played in six Super Bowls, former Bills and Broncos defensive lineman Mike Lodish, and Brady’s old teammate Stephen Gostkowski. John Elway is the only quarterback other than Brady to play in even five Super Bowls.

Games won: Brady has now won seven Super Bowls. Former 49ers and Cowboys linebacker Charles Haley is the only other player with five Super Bowl rings.

Super Bowl MVPs: Brady won his fifth MVP at Super Bowl LV. No one else even has four, and the only other player with three Super Bowl MVPs is Joe Montana. Bart Starr, Terry Bradshaw and Eli Manning each won two Super Bowl MVPs, and no one else has more than one.

Oldest player in a Super Bowl: At age 43, Brady became the oldest player ever to play in a Super Bowl at Super Bowl LV. The previous oldest was Colts kicker Matt Stover, who had just turned 42 when he played in Super Bowl XLIV.

Pass attempts: Brady has thrown 421 passes in Super Bowls. Peyton Manning has thrown the second-most, with 155.

Pass attempts in one game: Brady threw a Super Bowl-record 62 passes in the Patriots’ overtime win over the Falcons in Super Bowl LI.

Completions: Brady has completed 277 passes in Super Bowls. Peyton Manning has the next most, with 103 completions.

Completions in one game: Brady has the record with 43 completions against the Falcons. He also has the second-most completions in any Super Bowl, with 37 against the Seahawks in Super Bowl XLIX.

Consecutive completions: Brady completed 16 straight passes against the Giants in Super Bowl XLVI, a Super Bowl record.

Passing yards: Brady has thrown for 3,039 yards in Super Bowls, by far the most ever. Kurt Warner has thrown for the second-most yards in Super Bowls, with 1,156.

Yards gained in one game: Brady owns the single-game record with 505 passing yards in Super Bowl LII against the Eagles. He also has the second-most in a game, throwing for 466 yards in Super Bowl LI against the Falcons.

Touchdown passes: Brady owns the record with 21 touchdown passes in Super Bowls. Joe Montana is next, with 11.

Most attempts without an interception: Brady threw 48 passes against both the Giants in Super Bowl XLII and the Eagles in Super Bowl LII without an interception. That’s the most passes without an interception in Super Bowl history.

PFT’s Super Bowl LV picks

NFL: FEB 02 Super Bowl LV Preview
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With one game left, we’re both 9-3 in the playoffs. Someone will claim the postseason crown, because MDS and I disagree on the outcome of Super Bowl LV.

Against the spread, the best I can hope for is a tie. MDS is 7-5, and I’m 6-6.

For our Super Bowl selections, keep read. (Or not; the page view already has registered.)

MDS’s take: Never in NFL history has there been a quarterback matchup better than this one: Tom Brady is polishing off the greatest résumé any NFL player has ever put together, while Patrick Mahomes is the one young quarterback who might plausibly surpass Brady one day. We’re lucky to get to see these two great players, one young and one old, face each other in the Super Bowl.

But it is, of course, about much more than just the quarterbacks. The Chiefs have Tyreek Hill and Travis Kelce going up against a Buccaneers secondary that’s young and may not be 100 percent healthy. Kansas City has the ability to create so many mismatches that I just can’t see the Bucs’ defense holding the Chiefs’ offense in check. The Buccaneers do have a good defensive line going up against a banged-up Chiefs offensive line, and that could put a lot of pressure on Mahomes. Bucs defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh, in particular, is a player I could see having a big game. But Mahomes is comfortable enough throwing on the run that even if he does face a lot of pressure, I think he’s due for another Super Bowl MVP performance.

Can Brady match that with another Super Bowl MVP performance of his own? I see him falling short. The Chiefs will bring pressure with Chris Jones and Frank Clark, and I see Tyrann Mathieu making some impact plays in the secondary. In the fourth quarter, the Chiefs’ offense will pull away while the Chiefs’ defense shuts down Brady’s final comeback attempt.

MDS’s pick: Chiefs 31, Buccaneers 21.

Florio’s take: I have a dilemma. Before the season began, I picked the Buccaneers to win the Super Bowl. As the Buccaneers prepare to play in the Super Bowl, I’m not so sure the Bucs will win. I predicted a Bucs-Pats matchup in Tampa, and I envisioned Tom Brady’s new team getting the better of his old team. Tampa Bay versus Kansas City presents a different analysis.

The Chiefs have played extremely well as the hunted. They play even better when they are also hunting. That’s why the postseason version of the Chiefs seems to be even better than the regular-season edition.

This year, the regular-season Chiefs were good enough to run up a 17-0 lead in Tampa and then hold on. While the Chiefs may not have similar luck right out of the gates, a more focused and locked-in Chiefs team easily could blow out the Buccaneers. From a pick-your-poison-and-then-be-fed-both-anyway offense featuring Tyreek Hill and Travis Kelce catching passing from Patrick Mahomes to a defense with the firepower up front to put maximum pressure on Tom Brady (especially with 2007 Giants defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo drawing up the K.C. defense) and the skill on the back end (led by Tyrann Mathieu) to slow down the Tampa receivers, the Chiefs seem loaded.

But the Buccaneers have Brady a great array of pass-catchers, a couple of very good ballcarriers, and an offensive line that has gotten better and better. The defense has, too, with high-end talent at every level.

Without the defense, the Bucs wouldn’t have gotten past the Saints. Without the defense, the Bucs wouldn’t have survived Brady’s three interceptions in three possessions in Green Bay. Without the defense, the Bucs would have no chance to outscore the Chiefs.

With the defense, the Bucs have a chance. With the defense, someone like Shaq Barrett, Devin White, or Antoine Winfield Jr. can provide the spark that flips the field and/or breaks serve, keeping the Chiefs from scoring and giving the Bucs more points.

In nine prior Super Bowls, Brady has always kept things close. Eight games ended within one score. Two years ago, the Patriots beat the Rams by 10, but the score remained 3-3 with fewer than eight minutes to play.

Although I can see the Chiefs winning, and winning easily, I can’t abandon the Bucs now. Brady, I believe, will keep it close. Brady, I believe, will make a big throw in a big spot. The defense, I believe, will make a big play in a big moment. The Buccaneers, I believe, will manage to look up at the scoreboard when the game is over and see, through the confetti, that they scored more points than the Buccaneers.

Florio’s pick: Buccaneers 30, Chiefs 27.