As a die-hard Packer fan, I’ve always been honest enough to admit that Walter Payton, he of the hated Chicago Bears, was the best running back, if not player, that I ever watched play the game. The man’s ability was just incredible, but his spirit and humility made him even more special. It didn’t matter how hard he was hit, he got up before the man that hit him and usually helped the hitter up. When he scored a touchdown, he ran the ball over and handed it to the referee – just a first-class act. Sadly, Walter didn’t get to play on too many winning teams, toiling away for one of the worst organizational owners in football, whose only concern was to fill seats. I’ve mentioned Walter often in any one of the 3,762 conversations I have had about football when I should have been working.
But…when it came to quarterbacks, I believed the Packers owned the “Holy Trinity”, with Starr, Favre, and now Rodgers donning the helm of the beloved green ‘n gold. Always been top three in my mind. And while there are people that would argue with that statement, it wouldn’t be with much conviction as they know deep down inside that those three are pretty darn special, and each one seems to be that much better than the previous one. Any self-respecting Bears fan would had loved to have any one of the three. Heck, Favre is 2nd all-time in touchdown passes and Rodgers, at only 33 years old is already 11th. Rodgers has only played full-time for 9 years, having expensively held a clipboard for the first three years of his career. If he plays seven more years and continues at just his current rate, he will jump into 5th place all time. And I don’t think anyone could realistically argue against the fact that he is one of the smartest QB’s in football. Sometimes his surrounding crew just isn’t that good, such as with other great QB’s like Montana or Manning.
But, sadly…and this really hurts to admit, after watching Super Bowl 51, I have to admit that Tom Brady has now reached the status level of Walter Payton. Right now, at this point in time, Tom Brady is the greatest QB to play the game. There, I said it. My tongue feels dirty, but the truth is supposed to set me free.
Just this past Sunday, it seemed like Brady just refused to be defeated during that Super Bowl game, even in the face of being 19 points down starting the 4th quarter, and scoring 25 straight points against the Falcons in that time. Nobody had ever done that before! I thought the Falcons would win before the game even started, and was absolutely confident in my forecast after three quarters. At the start of the fourth quarter, there was a 99% statistical chance that the Falcons would win. Even Marky Mark had left the stadium due to a “child being sick,” code for, "I gave up and left in disgust."
Yet, it seems Brady might just be getting better at 39 years old, a year past the “quarterback wall” when most of the “great ones” give out. In 12 games this year, having sat out 4 games for that silly “Deflate-gate” episode, he still threw 28 touchdowns with only 2 interceptions. That equates to 38 over a full season. I will say it again, he was 39 years old for crying out loud.
Brady never misses games, staying healthy playing in a league where he is nearly twice the age of some of his teammates. He now has, in addition to a super-model wife, five Super Bowl rings, two NFL MVP trophies, four Super Bowl MVP awards, two passing titles, and the highest winning percentage of any QB in history (.773). Think about that, he wins over 77% of the games he plays! And with a few exceptions, (and with all due respect to Julian Edelman and James White) one would be hard put to name any of his supporting staff for any of those years, as none are in the top leaders of all time. He led the Patriots to a perfect regular season in 2007, setting a passing touchdown record while doing it (which has since been eclipsed). Since becoming a starter, he’s missed the postseason once, in 2002. Tom Brady has taken his team to the AFC Championship game 11 times – that is nearly three times more years than most people play the game! Jim Brown only played 8 seasons; Barry Sanders played 9 years; and Frank Gifford played 10 – some of the greatest players to have donned a uniform in the NFL.
Brady’s stats have become mind-boggling, and I suppose, begrudgingly, it’s high time I admit it. A doff of the chapeau to you, Mr. Brady – you are, for what it’s worth, in my humble opinion, the greatest quarterback of all time.
By the way, going back to my commentary on my current favorite QB, Aaron Rodgers: If he does continue to play for 7 more years and keeps up with his statistical averages to become 5th place in history – he will be taking the 5th place spot of Tom Brady!