sharesShare this on Facebook Share this on Twitter Share this on Google+ Share this on Tumblr Flip into Flipboard Share this on Reddit Share via SMS Share via Email
Blasphemy. Kick him off the website. Who does this guy think he is? Heck, who is he?
But 49er fans, whether you want to admit it or not, or want to kill me for even saying those words, we were 35 seconds away from having to seriously enter that debate.
Thank you, Eli Manning.
After 25 years of being certain of three things: Death, taxes and Joe Montana as the greatest quarterback of all time, even I was entertaining the possibility that the latter may no longer be so certain.
Let's look at the stats. Tom Brady has played eight years in the league. Through eight seasons he has 197 touchdown passes. Joe Montana had 141. Tom Brady has three Super Bowl rings, Joe Montana had two through eight seasons. Brady threw 50 touchdown passes this year, admittedly in large part to Randy Moss. But Montana had Jerry Rice, and never eclipsed 31, which was done the same year Rice caught 23 touchdown passes, the record until Moss broke it this year. Tom Brady earned the NFL MVP award this year, Montana didn't receive his two until his eleventh and twelfth years in the league. Statistically, the argument was fair.
But Brady was a product of the Belichick system you say? How could he not win with all that talent (and videotape) around him? Joe can't separate himself here either, Bill Walsh's genius is to blame for that.
The argument about who is the greatest quarterback of all-time is not a new one, but never had there been such a legitimate threat to Montana's throne since he retired in 1994. Troy Aikman made a couple writers, mainly in the Dallas area, throw his name into the ring in the mid-90's, but Jimmy Johnson and Norv Turner's departure coupled with nagging injuries closed the door on that argument. Brett Favre showed other worldly physical skills, which ultimately led to his demise in the great debate. Peyton Manning has video game type statistics and intelligence that rivals few in the game, but until last year never could win the big one. This Brady kid though, the local boy who grew up idolizing Joe and wanting to be just like him, well, we just couldn't find that definitive argument to say no.
The argument has grown so intense lately, ESPN asked Marv Levy, Art Rooney Jr., Zeke Bratkowski, Ken Meyer, Larry Kennan, James Harris and Dick Haley to debate the topic. See story here. And guess what? Neither Brady nor Montana were number one. That's what you get for bringing in old fogies who yearn for yester year to debate the topic.
Either way, Brady has brought the debate to the table.
There were only three arguments that I could hang my hat on that I felt left Joe at the top. The first, was the level of competition during their eras. During the 80's there were many teams that I consider to have had a chance to win the Super Bowl each year: Bears, Broncos, Browns, Dolphins, Giants, Redskins and if you're feeling lucky, maybe even the Rams on a good year. Maybe not. But during the 00's, only the Patriots and Colts seem to have a legitimate chance each year to win the Super Bowl. Every other team in the 00's to win the Super Bowl (Ravens, Bucs, Steelers) has been a moderate surprise, with the Bucs possibly the lone exception.
The second was the "magic" Joe Montana had in the way he won games. No game was ever lost when there was time on the clock and Joe Montana under center. The Catch, The Drive and the Saints. Joe has all of those legendary moments. But how can you fault Brady for rarely having to come from behind? And if you look back at all of the Super Bowls he has been in, he has led last minute game winning drives. None capped with a touchdown, but a victory nonetheless.
So there I sat on my weight bench on Saturday, admitting to my father what I would have punched someone in the face for saying a year earlier: Maybe Montana isn't alone. Yes, the kid who wore his Montana jersey to 12 consecutive Halloweens, who licked his fingers before going under center of every snap he ever took, who still does not understand why June 11 is not a national holiday, was admitting the unthinkable.
Then, with 35 seconds left, it happened.
Brady may be the greatest spread offense quarterback of all time. He could break every significant quarterback record and rattle off ten Super Bowl wins in the next ten years and blow the argument out of the water. But one fact will always remain.
Joe Montana never lost the Super Bowl.