I knew it was coming. The minute I turned on the radio Monday morning I knew I’d hear the talking heads going on about how Tom Brady is the greatest quarterback of all time. It’s what we do here in America. Everything happening now is the greatest of all time. Forget about whatever happened in the past. What’s now is best.
They are wrong.
Sure. Tom Brady has won more Super Bowls than any other quarterback. That’s a wonderful accomplishment. Contrary to popular belief, there’s a lot more to football than the final game of the season. There are players that took the field long before Sunday night that are just as important as the last ones we saw.
Numbers never lie. And the numbers tell us that Tom Brady comes up short. Brady is fourth all time in passing yards. He is fourth all time in touchdowns. He is fourth all time in completions. So the numbers tell us that Tom Brady is the fourth best quarterback of all time, behind Peyton Manning, Brett Favre, and Drew Brees.
Tom Brady passed Joe Montana in Super Bowls won last night. But there’s a big difference between Montana and Brady. Every Super Bowl, Brady has had his head coach Bill Belichick to rely on. Montana had the great Bill Walsh for the first three. Offensive genius. Walsh retired after number three. He wasn’t there anymore to hold Joe’s hand and help him find his binky. George Seifert, Walsh’s replacement, was a defense guy. Montana had to carry the load on offense all by himself, and he did to get one last ring. Tom Brady’s never not had Bill Belichick there to find his binky. What would happen without his babysitter there to help him?
We mentioned Peyton Manning earlier as being statistically superior to Brady. Patriots fans & Brady blowhards will constantly remind you of Brady’s 11-6 record against Peyton. What they choose to ignore is Peyton’s 3-1 record against Tom in AFC Championship Games. Peyton consistently won the most important games he & Tom Brady played against each other. Most of Brady’s wins came early in the rivalry, before Peyton & the Colts took it to the next level. Once they did, things were different, and not in a good way for Tom Brady.
Tom Brady has won the most Super Bowls. But he’s still only tied for the most NFL Championship wins by a quarterback. Most of you know that Bart Starr was the quarterback of the Super Bowl I & II winning Green Bay Packers. But you might not remember that Starr’s Packers won 3 NFL Championships before the whole NFL vs. AFL thing started happening. Also, Starr won all five championships within a seven-year period. The Packers won the NFL Championship in the 1961, 1962 & 1965 seasons before wrapping up the 1966 & 1967 seasons with Super Bowl Championships. That’s a repeat and a three-peat in a seven year period. Unheard of before and since. Brady has one repeat, but no three-peats, and it took him a time period of sixteen years to get his five championships. When it comes to championship dominance, Tom Brady can’t compare to Bart Starr.
Speaking of championship dominance, let me come back to Montana & his fellow four-time Super Bowl winner, Terry Bradshaw. Brady has passed them in title game victories. However, Montana & Bradshaw only needed four Super Bowl appearances to get their four rings. Brady dropped a couple of Super Bowls to the New York Giants, both times doing so after holding a lead at halftime & blowing it in the fourth quarter. You never saw Joe Montana or Terry Bradshaw come up short when it was all on the line.
Another important thing to keep in mind: Life has never been easier for an NFL quarterback. Football is a passing game more than it’s ever been, thanks to NFL rules designed to protect the quarterback & promote scoring. Brady is the posterchild for this movement: defenders can’t so much as breathe on the guy, his receivers or even his linemen without getting called for a penalty. Back when Johnny Unitas was playing for the Baltimore Colts and setting ridiculous records for that time, quarterbacks didn’t get that kind of treatment. Coaches were more likely to call the “three yards and a cloud of dust” play than anything else. QBs would get sacked into next week and there wouldn’t be a penalty for roughing the passer unless there was blood oozing out of his helmet. I often wonder how Unitas would have fared in an NFL like this one, where passing is encouraged & quarterbacks are given more protection than a world leader.
You have to give Brady credit for one thing though: At the age of 39, he’s as good as he ever was. His completion percentage was the highest it’s been since 2007, as were his QBR & traditional quarterback rating. He threw less interceptions in one season than he ever has. He’s been selected for the Pro Bowl every year since 2009. Most athletes don’t perform at the highest level at the age of 39. It just doesn’t happen. Unless…
See that guy in the top corner? Yeah, he kept his performance level at a high level in his late 30s and early 40s. We know how he did it. Do we really think Tom Brady is above cheating? We know he isn’t! DeflateGate. SpyGate. All the Gates the Patriots have been involved in. I think they were involved in WaterGate too, I’m not sure though. I do honestly believe that the Patriots cheat at the same level as the 31 other NFL teams. They’re all looking for an edge. But as they say in the Southeastern Conference, it ain’t cheating unless you get caught. And the Patriots get caught more than anybody else.
Is Tom Brady a great football player? No doubt about it. But pump the brakes before you breathlessly add “greatest quarterback of all time” to the end of his name every time you say it. There’s a lot of competition for that title, and they don’t deserve to be forgotten and cast aside for the recency bias engendered by one really good comeback.