Tom Brady, G.O.A.T.–if all-time is limited to the 21st Century (and even then maybe not)

For those who have been living under a rock the last 40 hours, Tom Brady won another Super Bowl Sunday. 

He engineered the largest comeback in Super Bowl history, with the Patriots turning a 28-3 deficit to the Falcons into a 34-28 overtime victory in the first Super Bowl to go into overtime. 

Brady won his fifth Super Bowl as the Patriots’ starting quarterback, breaking a tie with Terry Bradshaw and Joe Montana, who won four each with the Steelers and 49ers, repetitively. 

It did not take six seconds after James White scored the winning touchdown for people all over the Internet, both media and ordinary fans, to declare Thomas John Brady the greatest of all-time. Some not only said Brady was the greatest quarterback of all-time, but the greatest player to ever grace the Natoinal Football League, period. 

Brady has won more Super Bowls than any other starting quarterback. That fact is incontrovertible.

I do not worship at the altar of Tom Brady. No way. 

I refuse to call Brady the greatest of all-time. This has nothing to do with his role in Deflategate, the fact he abandoned a pregnant Bridget Moynihan so he could cavort with Gisele, the fact that Bill Belichick is a complete asshole.

The reason I refuse to call Brady the greatest of all time is because he plays in an NFL where the rules are heavily tilted towards the offense. 

American sports fans want scoring in their games. That’s why basketball is wildly popular in the United States, yet it lags far, far behind in many other countries, especially those in Europe and Africa. That’s why the version of football with the round ball–the one called soccer in the United States and Canada–has never fully caught on in the U.S. and Canada, despite the presence of Major League Soccer. 

In the first eight years of the 1970s, scoring in the NFL declined precipitously. Defenses were becoming more and more complex, with coaches rigging up zone defenses which were more than wiling to give up the underneath pass, but deny anything medium to long. Another rule which hindered the passing game was the bump and run, which allowed defenders to hit receivers anywhere on the field, just as long as it was from the front, and it did not occur while the pass was in the air. 

In 1978, the NFL rules makers decided to change the rules drastically to help the passing game. Bump and run coverage was limited to within 5 yards of the line of scrimmage. Pass interference was to be called if there was any contact beyond five yards. Offensive linemen were allowed to use open hands and extended arms to pass block, a far cry from the previous rule, which forced linemen to keep the arms close to their chest and use their head and other parts of their body. The head slap, which Deacon Jones made famous when he was part of the Rams’ Fearsome Foursome in the ’60s,  was outlawed.

Dan Fouts of the Chargers immediately began to take advantage, piloting “Air Coryell” to numerous NFL records, although San Diego never made it to the Super Bowl. Joe Montana came along and mastered Bill Walsh’s West Coast offense, leading the 49ers from 2-14 in 1978 and ’79 to the Super Bowl XVI championship in ’81. Dan Marino became the first quarterback to throw for 5,000 yards in 1984. John Elway used his mobility and strong arm to lead the Broncos to three AFC championships in the 1980s. 

More and more, the rules have been geared towards the passing game, and a team is said to have “balance” when they “only” throw the ball 55 to 60 percent of the time. The running game has been replaced by dink-and-dunk passes, passes Johnny Unitas, Joe Namath, Fran Tarkenton and other Hall of Fame quarterbacks would never have dreamed of using. 

There is my problem with Brady. 

The Patriots have never had a strong running game during his time in New England. Brady has substituted the short pass for the run, and rang up high completion percentages that way. 

I am not sure Brady would hold up if he had to play under the rules Unitas and his contemporaries had to deal with. I would like to see him throw to receivers who are being covered tighter than a glove. 

Another reason as to why Brady keeps getting called the greatest of all time is people have a very short memory. 

Read some books. Do some research. You’ll find there are many, many quarterbacks who measure up to Brady and then some. 

For my money, Brady might not even be the best QB of the 21st century. I’d have to put Peyton Manning right up there. 

I realize many people are going to hate me for this. Too bad. 

About David

I am a sportswriter for a group of weekly newspapers in small towns across northern Kansas. I grew up in New Orleans, went to college at LSU and wandered in the wilderness until Hurricane Katrina finally put me on the path to my current job.

Posted on February 7, 2017, in National Football League and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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