The other day, The Thread and myself were debating once again on Matt Ryan. They came to his defense with the excuses that normally are linked to Matt Ryan, which in his defense, all are justified. The Falcons have long struggled to establish a consistent running game, they have had a porous offensive line in the past (hopefully that changes this year) and annually wheel out a pretty unacceptable defense.
It made me think, people always make excuses for good quarterbacks that never seemed to achieve the greatness of Super Bowl glory. Justified or not, there is simply always an excuse. Dan Marino never had a running game, Jim Kelly was just unlucky whether it be from missed field goals or some of Thurman Thomas’s worst games of his career. The lack of a Super Bowl trophy haunts some quarterbacks, and sometimes, it was never their fault.
It’s the same the other way, too though, right? For every excuse you make for as to why a quarterback can’t win, can’t you do the same for the quarterbacks that have won. Couldn’t you make the case that Joe Montana is the most overrated quarterback ever? If Matt Ryan struggles because of the deficiencies around him, didn’t Joe Cool thrive because of the seemingly lack of any weakness in San Francisco? He had an offensive style no one had seen before devised by one of the most brilliant head coaches ever to play the game, added to a top five defense every season he won, with one of the most unheralded running backs to ever play the game and a wide receiver that years later made Rich Gannon an MVP (Go Blue Hens!).
Nomi said I was ridiculous. Does that mean that I think Montana is not a Top 10 quarterback? Of course not, but is Montana the GOAT that many thinks he is? Maybe not.
So, after Jimmy Garapollo defeated one of the NFL’s elite defenses in his first career start — a start that saw not only his top target, but arguably one of the NFL’s best targets, on the bench — it made me wonder… just how good is Tom Brady?
Now, calm down. The trolls — who probably stopped reading after the last sentence (who am I kidding, I’m lucky if they got past the title) — are going to go one of two directions here. Either Tom Brady is a cheater and has ruined the integrity of the game, or I’m blasphemous for suggesting that the NFL’s pretty boy is anything but the GOAT. I consider Tom Brady a top three quarterback — maybe even the best — but let’s not forget who he is. It took him two years to take the helms in Michigan (even having to split time with Drew Henson his senior year… DREW HENSON, PEOPLE!) and even then it wasn’t as if he became a Heisman candidate. He was pretty darn good, but not great, and that’s the precise reason he was a sixth ROUND draft pick and not a sixth overall.
I know, it’s happened before. Take Kurt Warner, for example. Here’s a guy who was in the Arena League and then packing groceries before getting a shot — much like Brady — only because of injury. Neither Warner nor Brady were handed the keys to the bus, they fell into it. Both have excelled. Both have becomes MVPs, both have even become Super Bowl MVPs.
You know what Kurt Warner did that Tom Brady hasn’t? He excelled in another system.
When Warner blew up with The Greatest Show on Turf, people said it was the system. Lightning fast receivers. The greatest running back of his era. It was the perfect job to fall into. But after a brief stop in New York (where let’s face it, he was only there to take a few hits until Eli Manning was ready) he went to the Cardinals. And at the age of 37, he led them to consecutive winning seasons and a Super Bowl. No elite running game. A defense that ranked in the lower third of the league. And at 38 years old, Warner threw for 377 yards and three touchdowns (four if you count James Harrison’s legendary interception return) in a Super Bowl that he was 35 seconds away from winning.
Here’s something else we know. Brady has missed significant time twice in his career. Once in 2008, not even a full game into the season when injury struck and Matt Cassel took over. And also, as we all know, now he is currently absent in 2016 on suspension (one of the most ridiculous suspensions of all time and an admittance that Roger Goodall has lost any sense of power he had). Matt Cassel — whom like Brady wasn’t much of a college quarterback, and rode the pine behind Carson Palmer and then Matt Leinart — threw for 3,693 yards and 21 touchdowns to just 11 interceptions in 2008 after making ZERO starts his first three years in the league. He of course turned that into a huge pay day only to prove that he really wasn’t that good, despite having one solid season in Kansas City.
This past Sunday, Jimmy Garopollo came out against one of the premier defenses in all of football — and a Super Bowl favorite at that — and looked as if he was a seasoned pro. It also needs to be noted that he did it without Rob Gronkowski. 24-for-33, 264 yards, one touchdown and 12 yards rushing. Was he perfect? Of course not. Was he better than advertised? I think so. A 106.1 QB rating (or a 73 QBR for those who still swear by ESPN stats) isn’t too shabby against a Cardinals defense that was Top 5 in yards allowed and Top 8 in points.
Again you have to take the argument being made in context. I’m not here to tell you that Brady isn’t one of the all-time greats, because he is. The only thing in question is whether or not he can be considered the greatest, which many think he is. The question thus should be, is Brady the best quarterback ever, or is Belichick’s system simply unstoppable?
When it comes down to the argument, most people immediately point to Montana and Brady, and we all know why. If football wasn’t about the rings, John Elway, Peyton Manning and Dan Marino would be the top three quarterbacks in football history without question. But the rings are what matters and it’s why Brady and Montana are always mentioned. I mean come on, Terry Bradshaw comes up in Top 10 conversations and that guy threw 212 career touchdowns to 210 career interceptions with a 70.9 rating and is 55th all time in yards. Why? Look at his hand, he was the most familiar face of one of football’s greatest dynasties.
There is absolutely no reason that Dan Marino shouldn’t be considered the GOAT. His numbers are comparable to the Mannings, Rodgers, Brees and Bradys in an era where numbers like that were unthinkable. But he has no rings. Honestly, go take a look at Drew Brees numbers. He’s passed for 25,637 yards in the last FIVE YEARS (which incidentally is about 2,000 yards less than Bradshaw’s entire career) and still trails Marino on the all-time list (albeit by the time you read this, it may not be the case, but you get the point).
I’m getting off track, because we have to keep to the point. Why do people think Brady is the GOAT? We all know that there are plenty of people that do. Is it the numbers? Is it the rings? Is it his charming smile and his smoking hot wife?
Or is it simply that he is a victim of circumstance? Does Tom Brady owe his life to Mo Lewis, because with the arm that Drew Bledsoe had and a second full season under Belichick, well the numbers seem unthinkable, especially after Brady’s 2007 record setting season, don’t you think? It’s not like Brady walked in and was an amazing quarterback right away. A good quarterback, yes, a winner, yes, an amazing quarterback, no. He didn’t even post a 90 rating until his fourth full season.
I think about Emmitt Smith. We all know he holds every statistical record in the running back business, but when people argue who is the best running back of all-time, what do people say? They usually say something like this:
Dude, bro, with Dallas’s offensive line in the 90s I could have run for 1,000 yards a year.
You’ve probably said that right? The trendy thing to do is always go right to Barry Sanders, then you usually say something like this:
Dude, bro, if Barry Sanders didn’t retire so early, he would have smashed every number in the world. He did it without an offensive line, you know how many yards he ran behind the line of scrimmage?
You’ve said it. Admit it.
The bottom line is that Brady still had to do it, and he has, and for the past decade and a half, you can argue that he has done better than anyone else has.
I guess what I’m telling you is that trying to pinpoint the GOAT is nearly impossible. Every quarterback has excuses, positive or negative, that will detract from their quest for the best, and probably no one will ever agree.
Ok, go ahead. Tell me in the comments how insane I am.