Super Bowl LI will put Tom Brady and the New England Patriots into a class all their own. What it will not do is make Brady the greatest of all time.
While many consider New England to be a “classless” organization there is zero doubt that they are one of the best teams ever. By “teams” you have to look at Tom Brady and Bill Belichick because the rest of the Patriots “team” has changed from Super Bowl to Super Bowl.
The argument for who is the greatest of all time or GOAT can get lengthy and is always debatable. To me there is no debate. Tom Brady is not the greatest quarterback of all time. In fact, I wouldn’t even put him in the top five.
Now to be fair, this author views the GOAT discussion a little different from most. To me it’s generational. You simply can’t compare different era’s to each other. For many the determining factor is statistics and Super Bowls and in the absence of Super Bowls it’s playoffs.
In the 1970’s there were the Fran Tarkenton’s, Terry Bradshaw’s, and Ken Stabler’s, and Roger Staubach’s. Each a member of the Pro-Football Hall of Fame and each with at least one Super Bowl ring. Even Bob Griese is in the HOF with two Super Bowl rings but that era of football was like a toddler in terms of the passing games.
By the time the 80’s rolled around the Don Coryell offense came to life and an explosion in the passing games around the NFL took place. Joe Montana, Jim Kelly, and others mixed the run with an open air game while players like Dan Fouts and Dan Marino obliterated the record books with all out assaults through the air.
Dan Marino was once called the best passer of all-time but in a time when the passing game of NFL offenses was moving into their pre-teen years.
As the NFL transitioned from the 80’s to the 90’s more quarterbacks stepped up but the NFL began to evolve by the time the 2000’s came around. Safety became an issue. Quarterbacks were now being protected more. In and out of the pocket.
The game was also changing down the field as well. Throughout NFL history wide-receivers were treated like runners. But the league evolved. In the 70’s it wasn’t uncommon for receivers to be hit before the ball arrived, in the 80’s and 90’s corners were more physical and were allowed to grab and pull. Then the rules changed over time. Cornerbacks could barely touch receivers beyond the five yard mark. Physical corners were being replaced by corners who possessed speed and “twitch”.
In return the NFL got higher scoring games and receivers began to destroy previous records for receptions and yardage. All the while quarterbacks like Peyton Manning and Brett Favre were breaking the records held by Dan Marino.
It’s much easier to debate who is the best of all time when the conversation remains locked in the decades a player played. Tom Brady is the greatest quarterback of this current era. Of his era. But could Brady have taken the kind of mauling hits that Marino, John Elway, and Jim Kelly took in the 80’s and 90’s? Could Marino, Elway, and Kelly have taken the hits that Griese, Tarkenton, Staubach, and Bradshaw took in the 70’s.
What if the rules were relaxed during the Marino/Elway/Kelly era to allow receivers more space and hits on the QB to be the way they are today? What if there was that “tuck-rule” in place?
The point is, it’s all what-if’s. On Sunday, Tom Brady may very well add yet another impressive exclamation mark on an already impressive if not storybook career but saying that he is better than any QB that came before him is a littl much. A little too much. I give credit where credit is due and it’s due to Tom Brady. Greatest quarterback of this era for sure. Just not all-time.
Who is the greatest of all-time? That’s the fun part, it’s debatable.