Typically, we don't get to see a player take 10 different paths to the Super Bowl. Tom Brady is the exception to that rule, and after Sunday's upset win over the Packers, the Bucs quarterback is on his way to Super Bowl No. 10. No other player has appeared in more than six, so the former Patriots star is on an island unto himself here. And while there are a lot of reasons Brady might find this most recent trip satisfying, something stood out to me: This path to the Super Bowl might have been the toughest of the bunch.
For one, Brady has had to travel to get to this championship game. While the Bucs will be the first team in league history to play a Super Bowl at home, coach Bruce Arians & Co. have had to win three road tilts to make it to the title game. That's not unprecedented -- four other teams have won three road games to make it to the Super Bowl -- but it's something new for Brady. Across his first nine trips to the Super Bowl, he needed to win a total of only three games on the road. Fifteen of the 18 AFC playoff games during those Super Bowl runs were in Foxborough.
This is also the first time Brady has had to win three games to make it to the Super Bowl, as the Patriots had a bye in each of his nine other runs through the playoffs. You might snicker and joke that Taylor Heinicke and the 7-9 Washington Football Team weren't much competition, but the Bucs still had a better chance of losing to Washington than a typical Pats team did of losing on the bye.
The quarterbacks Brady had to face were what really stood out to me. Leave Heinicke aside and consider who will be standing across from Brady in two weeks, and you're looking at a pretty devastating group of opponents. That got me thinking and researching.
I went back through Brady's 10 Super Bowl seasons and where this run to a possible Super Bowl victory might stand in terms of difficulty. I'll start with the easiest path, work my way to the toughest, and see where it might compare to some of the most difficult Super Bowl paths ever: