Long live the GOAT
By John Miller
Without hesitation, I can safely say Tom Brady is the best quarterback to ever play professional football.
Analysts have been debating for years if Brady is the greatest quarterback in NFL history. Now more than ever, after his incredible comeback victory in Super Bowl LI, there should be no doubt in anyone’s mind that Brady is the best.
If for some reason you were not tuned in for Super Bowl LI on Sunday, Feb. 5, the New England Patriots had a slow start and were down to the Atlanta Falcons 21-3 at halftime. Brady and the Patriots surged back in the second half and ended up beating the Falcons 34-28 in overtime.
In the game, Brady broke several Super Bowl records. He now holds the record for number of pass attempts (62), pass completions (43) and passing yards (466). He is also the first quarterback with three Super Bowl fourth-quarter comebacks, and his ten game-winning drives in the postseason are the most of all time.
After the Patriots’ 2015 Super Bowl XLIX victory over the Seattle Seahawks, Brady earned his fourth title, tying him with Terry Bradshaw and Joe Montana among quarterbacks with the most championships. Brady now possesses five Super Bowl rings, tying with former San Francisco 49ers and Dallas Cowboys linebacker Charles Haley for the most by any player.
Brady’s greatness extends beyond just the number of championships; his strength is in how he leads his team to victory. This year in particular was one of the most impressive of his career.
He missed the first four games of the season due to a questionable suspension over “Deflategate.” In the 12 regular season games Brady played, he threw for 28 touchdowns, two interceptions and more than 3,500 yards. Those are good numbers for a quarterback who plays the entire 16-game season.
Brady also posted those numbers without his best receiver, Rob Gronkowski, for half of the season. Without Gronkowski, Brady’s receivers included Julian Edelman, Danny Amendola, Chris Hogan and Martellus Bennett. Edelman and Bennett are solid options, but they are certainly not superstars.
Players are constantly cycling in and out of the Patriots’ receiving core, making it challenging for Brady to build relationships with his receivers. The last time Brady had a star wide receiver to build chemistry with was with Randy Moss from 2007-2009, but Brady missed the entire 2008 season due to injury.
Gronkowski is the best tight end in the NFL when healthy. However, he’s had trouble staying on the field at times in his career. Last season he missed eight regular season games and the entirety of the playoffs.
The lack of star-power on the Patriots’ offense makes Brady’s title run even more impressive, especially when compared to the Atlanta Falcons’ offense. It contains two good running backs and one of the best receiving cores in the NFL, including Julio Jones, the best wide receiver in the league.
Quarterbacks often compared with Brady, such as Montana, had great wide receivers by their side for much of their career. Montana had Jerry Rice, one of the greatest receivers of all time, alongside him for three of his four Super Bowl titles.
Statistically, former NFL quarterbacks Peyton Manning and Brett Favre rank higher than Brady in some categories. Manning, with 71,940, and Favre, with 71,838, have the highest and second-highest number of passing yards in NFL history. Brady sits fourth on the list with 61,582 career-passing yards (pro-footballreference.com).
Manning and Favre also have more career passing touchdowns than Brady. Manning has the most career passing touchdowns with 539, Favre is second with 508, New Orleans Saints’ quarterback Drew Brees is third with 465 and Brady is fourth with 456 (pro-footballreference.com).
Regular season stats are nice, but they lose relevance if players do not play their best in the postseason. Part of Brady’s legacy is how incredibly he plays in important games like the playoffs. He is the career leader in playoff passing yards (9,094) and playoff wins (25).
Manning won just two career Super Bowls, one with Indianapolis in 2006 and one with Denver in 2016. Favre won only one with the Packers in 1996.
Brady is third all-time in postseason passing touchdowns with 43, trailing Montana at first with 45, and Favre at second with 44. Assuming Brady returns next season and is healthy, he could become the leader in career postseason touchdown passes.
Numbers do not lie. Yes, Brady is outdone in some regular season statistical categories, but he owns the postseason.
If I’m a coach and my team is down by 10 points in the fourth quarter of the Super Bowl and I get to choose one player to win the game for me, without hesitation I choose Brady. Who wouldn’t choose the GOAT to step onto the field?