Tom Brady was always going to be considered to be one of the greatest quarterbacks in the history of the National Football League, even before the night of Super Bowl XLIX. Then came the moment and the decision that will be discussed so long as professional football exists, what was an absolute gift to Brady and the New England Patriots from the Seattle Seahawks. That play helped Brady secure the fourth Super Bowl ring of his career, making him only the third quarterback in NFL history to win the Big Game on four occasions. He is also the first quarterback to start in six Super Bowl games.
Brady had a fine outing at Super Bowl XLIX. He tossed 50 total passes, 37 of which resulted in completions. Brady had four – count ’em – four touchdown passes in the winning effort. He finished the evening with a rating of 101.1. Quarterbacks win Most Valuable Player honors in the modern NFL, and thus it was hardly a surprise that Brady was presented that award following the contest. With that said, Brady was far from the consensus MVP for the game, and this was not the first time that he won the award when it understandably could have gone to one of his teammates.
There are certain boxes that have to be checked off for a quarterback to be called the greatest in football history. Is the best regular season quarterback of all-time? Is he the best Super Bowl quarterback in the history of the league? Would you immediately take Brady over any other quarterback to ever play the position if you were building a dream football team? The fact of the matter is that Brady fails to check off any of those. Brady has been a joy to watch, and his spot in Canton is already reserved. He is in the top-tier with the best quarterbacks of all time, but he will not come in at No. 1 on that list.
10. Not the greatest regular season quarterback of all time
Brady never dominated the regular season as has Peyton Manning throughout his illustrious career. Brett Favre would also have to be considered to be the better regular season quarterback if he was to be compared to Brady. Brady and head coach Bill Belichick helped make the Patriots the top franchise in the AFC East, the AFC and the NFL for a generation, and nobody can take that away from them. Brady’s regular season accomplishments are admirable, no question about it, but he falls to at least third on the list of QBs as it pertains to his play during the fall months of the year.
9. Not the greatest Super Bowl quarterback in history
It is ridiculous to even suggest that Brady is the greatest Super Bowl quarterback in history when there is a quarterback who has as many Super Bowl wins as Brady, and that man also happened to post a perfect Super Bowl record during his career. All-time great Joe Montana retired with a perfect 4-0 Super Bowl record. Brady is 4-2 on Super Bowl Sunday, and the reality of the situation is that he is lucky to have that mark (thanks, Pete Carroll). No disrespect meant to Brady, but I will happily take the guy who has the perfect Super Bowl record every day of the week and twice on Super Bowl Sunday.
8. Hardly “Big Game Tom”
Those who would look only at Brady’s four Super Bowl championships are forgetting or brushing off that he has been outplayed time and time again on big stages throughout his career. Mark Sanchez outperformed Brady in a playoff game that took place in New England. Joe Flacco can make the same claim, and Flacco was one mistake away from keeping the Patriots from even having an opportunity to play at Super Bowl XLIX. You can be sure that those two Super Bowl defeats to the New York Giants and to a certain Manning are going to be spotlighted later on in this piece.
7. Montana-Rice vs. Brady-Moss
I see your “but Joe Montana got to play with Jerry Rice” argument and raise it with “but Tom Brady got to play with Randy Moss when the duo put up historic numbers in the regular season.” How many times did Brady and Moss hoist the Vince Lombardi Trophy? Never once. Those of you quick to put Brady atop the list of quarterbacks to ever play the position have to ask yourselves one question: Do you honestly believe that Montana and Moss would not have won it all had the two played together at the same points of their careers that Brady and Moss were teammates?
6. Super Bowl XLVI
Yes, Wes Welker had a bad drop on a play that could have helped the Patriots put the Giants away at Super Bowl XLVI. That one moment does not erase that Eli Manning was, for the second time at a Super Bowl, the better man. The younger Manning brother has the so-called “clutch gene” that his older brother has seemingly failed to possess over the years. Would you really, with a championship on the line, start Brady over Eli if you were given the ability to choose between the two? History suggests that going with Brady would be a massive miscue.
5. About those 3 MVPs…
Both Brady and Montana possess three Super Bowl Most Valuable Player awards. Few question Montana’s awards, and the San Francisco 49ers legend easily could have been named MVP for Super Bowl XXIII. Brady, meanwhile, was named MVP for Super Bowl XXXVI more so because somebody had to win the award rather than because he was worthy of it. Julian Edelman, who was heroic for the Patriots and who may have finished the game with a concussion, had nine receptions for 109 yards and the game-winning touchdown at Super Bowl XLIX. These discussions wouldn’t be seeing the light of day had Montana and not Jerry Rice won MVP at Super Bowl XXIII.
4. Easier Era
We will never be able to know if Brady could have won the Super Bowl on four occasions decades before he was in the NFL, but nobody can dispute that life for pro quarterbacks is easier now than it was during the days of Montana. Defenses were allowed to actually, you know, play defense when Montana was in his prime. Roughing the quarterback was not called when a defensive player touched the helmet of a QB during the 1980s, and defensive backs were not flagged for pass interference whenever they made the slightest contact with a wide receiver as is the case today.
3. Never No. 1
Brady has never been the undisputed best offensive player in the NFL. Ever. Even in 2007 when Brady and the Patriots won 18 straight games, one could have made the claim that Randy Moss and not Brady was the MVP of that offense. This is not a knock on Brady, who has had to play in a league that also had Peyton Manning, Drew Brees, Adrian Peterson, Moss and recently Aaron Rodgers. One can, however, point to times during their careers when Montana, Manning and now Rodgers would be the first player picked by general managers if those team builders were able to select their ideal rosters.
2. Super Bowl XLII
Brady and the Patriots put up video game numbers during the 2007 regular season, but he shrunk at Super Bowl XLII when facing the pass rush of the New York Giants. He could then do nothing but watch as Eli Manning and David Tyree came together to make one of the greatest plays in the history of the NFL, and Manning hit Plaxico Burress for the score that helped lead New York to one of the biggest upsets to ever occur at a Super Bowl. That was the first time that Manning outplayed Brady at a Super Bowl, and it was the first major hit to Brady’s career resume.
Fans of the New England Patriots may find it unfair, but they are living in denial if they do not understand that the “Spygate” and “Deflate-gate” scandals are marks against the Brady-Belichick era. To this day, there are smart football people who would, off the record, say that the Patriots had an illegal advantage over the St. Louis Rams at Super Bowl XXXVI. Brady will never be able to escape those scandals, and those stories could keep Brady from being seen as the best quarterback of all time even if he manages to win the Super Bowl one more time before retiring.