First and foremost, Tom Brady is absolutely one of the greatest quarterbacks that ever played in the NFL. There’s no debate on that topic whatsoever! Until last years Super Bowl victory over the Falcons, there was plenty of talk as to whether Brady was the best QB of all time or one of the elite but not necessarily the undisputed champion of quarterbacks.
The names that constantly come up are Joe Montana – Brady’s boyhood idol, Peyton Manning, John Elway, Dan Marino, Aaron Rodgers and a few others.
The most important thing we need to realize about the great game of football is that it’s the ultimate team sport. I’ve used that phrase before because I believe it to be true. Hey, I only played football til High School but I’ll tell you this; I’ve learned more life lessons by playing football with my teammates and listening to my coaches than I learned in Social Studies class. The point is that in football and especially the National Football League, not one player can win you the game.
A great pitcher can shut out the opposing team, an elite hockey player can be the difference between a win or a loss and in the NBA we’ve seen players like LeBron James take over basketball games by himself to lead his team to victory. A quarterback can’t do any of those things without a supporting cast.
Aaron Rodgers is the consensus best quarterback in the game right now. I believe most people would agree Rodgers has been the top QB in the league over the past 4-5 seasons. But even he can’t win alone. The Packers haven’t won a title since 2010 despite having the best quarterback in the NFL. And don’t forget the process that goes into Brady, Rodgers or any QB playing ball has to go through. Even before a quarterback gets under center there are a thousand things happening that all eleven players on offense need to know.
The offensive coordinator/play-caller has to decide what play to run and then verbally instruct the quarterback through the wonderful technology of the QB audio helmet. Then the quarterback needs to relay that information to his 10 teammates in a language aliens couldn’t decipher. There are certain numbers and letters on a given play call that explain what each player needs to do on the upcoming down. After that, the coach needs to pray that the quarterback got the call correct and all 11 players are on the same page.
However, the quarterback may want to change the play calling due to the defensive alignment. In that case, he needs to yell out more numbers and letters so the team can hear the audible. All this going on while the play clock is running down from 40 seconds. Now the team needs to make sure they’re all lined up correctly to avoid a penalty. And we still haven’t got to the actual play on the field.
Once the team is set in their positions and the QB beats the play clock, he has to rely on the center to make a good snap. Let’s say that works out, now the play that was called must be executed. Whether it’s a run or a pass if the offensive line doesn’t do their job or even one lineman misses a block then they play can get blown up.
A quarterback needs good receivers who know how to run routes and catch the ball. How is a quarterback going to reach elite status if they can’t complete a pass? A quarterbacks two best friends are a solid running game and a great defense. Again, the QB needs to rely on others in order to become great.
Take Alex Smith for example. It wasn’t until the 49ers got him some great weapons especially on the ground and defensively to become an elite quarterback. Along with the tutelage of Jim Harbaugh, Smith began to live up to his #1 draft pick back in 2005. Vernon Davis was in the prime of his career, Michael Crabtree was making great improvements and Frank Gore was the ultimate workhorse. Now he’s in Kansas City, undefeated, coached by maybe the best play caller in the game (Andy Reid) and a pro bowl candidate.
Let’s look at Tom Brady for a moment to close out my point. As great of a quarterback as Brady is, if he didn’t have Bill Belichick, those top-tier defenses in the early 2,000’s and a slew of running backs to dump the ball off; then the Tom Brady we all know and respect could have been Dan Marino. Many people believe that Marino is better than Brady despite the erratic differences in their accomplishments. Just because guys like Trent Dilfer, Eli Manning, and Jim Plunkett have rings doesn’t put them in the same galaxy as Dan Marino in the QB hierarchy. They just had better teams around them. Read Tom Brady say it himself!
That’s what I see when I look at Brady’s Super Bowl rings. His first against the Rams in one of the biggest upsets in Super Bowl history was won by the Pats defense. The Rams were known as “The Greatest Show on Turf” with the best scoring offense in the league for 3 years running. Brady won the MVP throwing for 145 yards and one touchdown pass. Granted he led the game-winning drive but it was Kevin Faulk and Troy Brown doing the majority of the work. Incredibly Brady won the MVP even though New England’s defense put on one of the best performances I’ve seen by a defense especially only allowing the Rams high powered offense to score a measly 17 points.
Brady certainly improved in his younger years and became a leader on the field. But there’s no way the Patriots win 3 out of 4 championships without one of the best defenses in the league during that time. After their last Super Bowl victory in 2004, it took the Pats another decade to win their 4th title. Why you ask? Brady wasn’t surrounded by the same talent he had in his first 3 title runs. New England did, however, reach the big game in 2007 and 2011 only to lose to the Giants both times. Why you ask? The Giants had a much better defense, a significantly superior running game and an offense who made big plays in the biggest moments.
Brady now has a bunch of quarterback records, a never say die attitude and the respect of the entire league. He’s gotten better as he aged and learned how to be successful at the pro level. Numbers are inflated now and have been for the past 5 or 6 years. When Marino was throwing for 5,000 yards and 40+ touchdowns, the rules were different where the cornerback could have a fist fight with the receiver down the field. Now if the corner sneezes in the wrong direction it’s a penalty.
So I ask you: is Tom Brady the best quarterback of all time or is he in part a product of the system? People can say that about Terry Bradshaw, Joe Montana and John Elway. It took Elway 15 years to finally win the Super Bowl because when he was ripping up the AFC with his arm in the 1980’s he had no defense and no running game. That’s how great Elway was. He literally carried the Denver Broncos on his back to 3 title games losing all three championships to superior teams. The 49ers, Redskins, and Giants all had much better teams which is why Denver got blown out in each game. When Terrell Davis and the new Orange Crush defense arrived Elway finally got his 2 rings.
In conclusion, if you put Rodgers, Rivers, Big Ben, Matt Ryan or any other top-tier quarterback on the Patriots, I truly believe any one of them could have got the job done. I don’t know if they would have 5 Super Bowl rings but I’d bet each would have multiple especially in the early years.
So my football friends, who would you want as your starting quarterback regardless of the team around them? Montana, Elway, Peyton, Unitas, Kurt Warner, Marino etc. or would you take Brady based on the information I provided in this post. Take your time. Not an easy question and no wrong answers. Personally, I’d take John Elway every week and twice on Sunday!