By: Jonathan Munshaw, Editor-in-Chief
I’ve always hated trying to do rankings in sports. It’s all subjective. There’s no way we could come up with a definitive list of the 15 best quarterbacks of all time, or the 10 best games ever played.
Everyone is going to have a different opinion, and all of these rankings are done through the eyes of that particular person and their experience.
For example, I was only 13 when the 2006 Rose Bowl between USC and Texas was played. I hardly remember that game, and certainly wasn’t old enough to truly appreciate what I was watching. For someone about 10 years older than me, though, that game is one of their all-time favorites in any sport.
The same goes for quarterback rankings.
Now that I’ve explained to you why I hate ranking quarterbacks, I’m going to make this following statement anyway: Tom Brady is unquestionably one of the three best quarterbacks of all time.
I wasn’t even alive to see Joe Montana play, and my only memory of Dan Marino is using him in the very first “Backyard Football” game. (Unfortunately, Hocus Pocus is not an acceptable play call in the real NFL, I think.)
So, for my money and using my experience, the three best quarterbacks of all time are Montana, Peyton Manning and Tom Brady. I know I just said I wasn’t around to see Montana, but I also wasn’t even close to being alive to see Bill Russell alive, and I’m fully convinced he’s the third best basketball player ever. Deal with it.
(Also, there’s a 99.9 percent chance that in two years, I’m willing to bump Montana for Aaron Rodgers, and there’s a 50 percent chance that in 10 years, I’ll bump one of them for Andrew Luck.)
But, if you’ll think back to my columns last year, I love to use the “End of the World Games” example. If humans had to assemble a football team and beat a race of aliens in a game in order to ensure the earth’s survival, I’m making sure Touchdown Tom is my quarterback. Here’s why.
All of these numbers are from Pro-Football-Reference.com, unless otherwise noted.
Brady’s 2011 season ranks third all time in passing yards per game in a single season. He’s currently fifth all time in career passer rating, and still probably has at least two more seasons to go. He’s third all time in game-winning drives (46) behind only Marino and Manning and tied for third all time in fourth-quarter comebacks.
Brady is also one of only six quarterbacks to throw for over 50,000 yards in his career, and his 2007 campaign (please come back, Randy Moss) ranks fourth all time for passer rating in a season (oddly enough, Nick Foles’ 2013 is third best).
And, not to be “that” guy, but Brady does have four Super Bowl rings.
Statistically speaking, Manning is the better regular season quarterback, there’s no doubt. But going back to the alien scenario, I’m putting 2007 Brady in there over 1980s Montana and 2013 Manning.
Brady has done a bit of everything in his career. While he’s not first in any of those statistical categories, he is one of the most well-rounded passers of all time and ranks in the top 10 in almost any quarterback category you can come up with (except interceptions).
Even though Brady has won more Super Bowls and playoff games than Manning, Brady goes out there every game (regular or postseason) and plays with an intensity that my end-of-the-world team wouldn’t get from anyone else (except maybe Tim Tebow, but I don’t like the human race’s chances in that scenario).
But this is why sports are crazy. There’s a number of things that broke right for Brady that catapulted him into this position, but there’s a number of things that worked against him that prevented everyone’s favorite quarterback to hate from having six Super Bowl rings.
In Brady’s two Super Bowl losses to the New York Giants, the Patriots took a lead into the final five minutes of a game, but the defense couldn’t hold up their end of the deal. In last weekend’s Super Bowl, they did.
When the Giants won in 2012, they needed a crazy catch from Mario Manningham and another improbable Eli Manning comeback. Brady still finished that game with 276 yards, two touchdowns, one interception and a passer rating of 91.1.
The even more crushing “Helmet Catch” loss in 2008 saw Brady throw for 266 yards and a touchdown with no picks.
But, to be fair to my readers, it easily could have swung the other way.
The Carolina Panthers tied Super Bowl XXXVIII in 2004 with about four minutes to go in the game, when John Kasay kicked the ball out of bounds on a kickoff, setting Brady, who was already on fire that day, up on his own 40-yard line. The Patriots, as we all know, won that game on an Adam Vinatieri field goal.
Speaking of Vinatieri, Brady also needed him to kick a crazy 40-plus-yard field goal in the snow against the Oakland Raiders “tuck rule” game that to this day is the most impressive field goal I’ve ever seen kicked.
I also don’t need to remind Ravens fans about the Lee Evans catch.
My good friend Ray Lewis would say that the tuck rule is the only reason we know of Brady, but that’s very far off from the truth. Even without that game, the man would have appeared in five Super Bowls and won at least three.
Everyone is going to have their own opinion about who the best quarterback of all time in. And then they’ll start throwing in qualifiers such as “regular season quarterback” or “quarterback in crunch time.” And since the term “greatness” is so strange, and relies on small events that literally happen in seconds (i.e. the helmet catch) the debate will never be settled.
Just be sure to never count out Touchdown Tom Brady.