The Debate is Over: Tom Brady is the Greatest Quarterback in NFL History
Sean Glennon has written a well-organized, cogent argument why Tom Brady is the best quarterback in NFL History. He does this by comparing the statistics, both regular season and post-season, as well as the long term success of other candidates’ respective teams versus Tom Brady. He also uses more subjective measures such as talent around the quarterback and championship wins. He uses all of this data and more to show that Tom Brady stacks up as the best ever.
The chapters a broken down comparing Tom Brady to other great quarterbacks, interspersed with breakdowns of each of Brady’s seasons and his team’s accomplishments.
What this book doesn’t do is trash the achievements of other quarterbacks. All the quarterbacks presented in this book are rightfully considered the greatest that ever played the game. You don’t hear the author trashing the achievements of Peyton Manning, for example. In fact, the author lauds the achievements of the other great quarterbacks to which he compares Brady.
Glennon does such a great job of making his arguments I won’t rehash them here, but I will make a few points on a couple of items in the book.
Tom Brady v Payton Manning is the first chapter of the book that directly compares Brady to another great quarterback, and Joe Montana v Tom Brady is the last one. That was brilliant placement of those two chapters as Manning would be the current day quarterback to most likely get some strong arguments in his favor, and Joe Montana, of course, many incorrectly consider the best ever.
The Peyton Manning chapter is very similar to some of the arguments I have made to why Tom Brady really is a better quarterback than Manning and I’ll just throw in a few comments here to say that I agree. First, championships do and should matter in this evaluation. It’s not the only thing, but it is one thing that should be looked at. At least the player’s and his team’s accomplishments in post-season play should be strongly considered. And despite all the great talent the Colts have had, for whatever reason, they really slump in the playoffs and Manning doesn’t always perform that well when he gets there.
Second, Manning has had the luxury of a strong running game (Marshall Faulk and Edgerrin James) most of his career, and a Hall of Fame bound receiver in Marvin Harrison and an elite receiver in Reggie Wayne. His entire career has been spent with superior offensive talent.
Brady, on the other hand, has taken average receivers and offensive talent and led them to three Super Bowls. But for a dropped pass that would have undoubtedly been a game winning touchdown by the woebegone Reche Caldwell, Brady would have lead a group of below average receivers to a Super Bowl.
And what happens when Brady gets an elite receiving corps? 19-0, 50 touchdown passes and a bevy of other offensive records. Granted the Patriots lost in the Super Bowl that year, but the achievement is one that is still phenomenal. This was followed by another Super Bowl appearance after the 2011 season.
Glennon does a nice job of making these points, and more.
I think the chapter on Joe Montana is the one that really brings to light how Brady is better than Joe Montana. Yes, the one thing Montana has over Brady is four Super Bowl wins, and 4-0 at that, while Brady is 3-2. But I have never heard anyone argue that Terry Bradshaw is the equal of Joe Montana and he is 4-0 in Super Bowls too.
But when one looks over the long-term success of the Montana’s teams and many of the statistics, Montana clearly doesn’t stack up to Brady. And Montana had what some consider the best receiver ever to play the game in Jerry Rice most of his career, a strong running game, and a stout defense that usually ranked at the top of the league. Being one of the most talent laden teams of that era the 49’ers probably should have made it to more than four Super Bowls, but they didn’t.
Now in the current salary cap era, no offense to a lot of Brady’s former teammates, the Patriots have never assembled great offensive talent around Brady for much of his tenure at quarterback. When they have the results speak for themselves (now they just need to fix the defense).
Big Ben is not given his own chapter but I hear a lot of people try to make the claim that Roethlisberger is a Hall of Fame quarterback. He probably is based just on his team having won two Super Bowls but they have also failed to make the playoffs frequently as well. And Roethlisberger played poorly in two of the three Super Bowl appearances (a win against the Seahawks and a loss against Green Bay).
The Steelers won Super Bowl XL despite Roethlisberger’s poor play. He has the distinction of being the quarterback on a winning Super Bowl team with the worst passer rating, an abysmal 22.6. He threw two interceptions, one on a terrible pass that set up the Seahawks for an easy touchdown. I suspect the poor play of Big Ben is the reason the Steelers finally went to a trick play and had former college quarterback Antwaan Randle-El throw a touchdown pass to Hines Ward.
I’m not pointing this out to denigrate the accomplishments of Big Ben, but he is no Tom Brady.
Now I will quote from the last words of the book. This is not a spoiler because you already know the book’s conclusion:
“And the reality is the greatest quarterback in NFL history is not Peyton Manning, not Bart Starr, not John Elway nor Dan Marino. It’s not Sammy Baugh or Otto Graham. And no, it’s not even Joe Montana.”
When you sit down and honestly and fairly review and compare the careers of the best who ever played, you can only reach one conclusion: The greatest quarterback in the history of the NFL is Tom Brady. Pure and simple.”
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Sean Glennon is a sportswriter and football historian who has contributed to the Boston Globe, the Boston Phoenix, and Salon. He is the author of Game Changers: New England Patriots; The Good, the Bad & the Ugly New England Patriots; and This Pats Year: A Trek Through a Season as a Football Fan. He is a member of the Professional Football Researchers Association and the Gridiron Club of Greater Boston. He lives in Florence, Massachusetts. Pat Kirwan, one of the nation's most well-respected and popular NFL analysts, is the cohost of Movin' the Chains on Sirius NFL Radio and a featured columnist on NFL.com. Since 2003 he has been an editorial contributor to the NFL Today on CBS and makes frequent appearances on TV and radio programs across the country, including ESPN, the NFL Network, and Sporting News Radio. He lives in New York City.