Just about every time Tom Brady sets his cleats on a field, he seems to break another record.
When Brady takes the field Thursday to open the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' and the NFL's season against the Dallas Cowboys, he'll tie Drew Brees for the most quarterback starts in a season opener at 19, per NFL Research.
It's one more in an overwhelmingly long list of accomplishments on one of the most decorated resumes in sports history.
For the coach facing Brady on Thursday, it's TB12's ability to win season after season over a career entering its 21st season that's most impressive.
In the previous 20 seasons, Brady's been a part of just one losing season and it was his rookie year when he played in only one game for the Patriots.
"Well, I think, like anything – a lot of things, about his game – but longevity. It's difficult to win a championship in this league," Cowboys head coach Mike McCarthy told reporters Friday when asked what he appreciated most of Brady's game. "It's so difficult to win a Super Bowl and the fact that he's won seven is just unbelievable. But I think my personal belief, the biggest challenge in this league is to have continued success. To have success and to play at that level for such a long period of time, to me, I think that's a tremendous quality. And he's living it and he eats it every day. You can just see just the way he goes about it from what you know, from what you hear about, not only his approach and where he is today, but to be able to do it at such a high level for such a long time, that's what I'm impressed with."
At 44, Brady enters his 21st campaign as the reigning Super Bowl Most Valuable Player after captaining the Bucs to a championship win over the Chiefs in February.
Beyond the record-holding seven Super Bowl triumphs mentioned by McCarthy, Brady boasts a 230-69 record as a starter in the regular season. Those 230 wins are also tops in NFL history. He's recorded double-digit wins as a starter for 12-straight seasons – a streak that could realistically be at 18 years if not for Brady's 2008 campaign being cut to one game due to injury.
McCarthy has been to the mountaintop, having coached the Green Bay Packers to a Super Bowl win in the 2010 season. That was part of a string of eight consecutive winning seasons for McCarthy as a coach.
Currently, though, McCarthy is looking to turn the Cowboys around after a 6-10 2020 season that saw the head coach finish with a losing record for a third-straight campaign dating back to a pair of losing years that ended his Packers run.
When you win seven Super Bowls, annual success gets taken for granted and overlooked by most.
For McCarthy, it's not.
Brady's longevity and ability to maintain an elite level are no doubt impressive, but might well be intimidating for a rebuilding Cowboys defense that has some young and inexperienced players in spots.
McCarthy doesn't necessarily view it that way. He thinks facing a talent such as Brady, particularly early in the season, is a valuable experience for a defense that must drastically improve should the Cowboys return to the postseason.
"Frankly, I think it's awesome for our younger players to experience this right out the gate. When you have a chance to play against a championship quarterback; championship quarterbacks are different. They pose a whole different challenge to you," McCarthy said. "When you play the championship quarterbacks, you know that they're always going to be in the game, they're always going to be pressing your defense and they'll definitely factor in the end of the game. I think with that, just as much experience as you can have as a young defender will definitely pay dividends moving forward."