For most of the decade, the debate was simple. If you wanted stats, Peyton Manning was the best quarterback in the biz. If you preferred wins, especially of the postseason variety, Tom Brady was the clear-cut choice. That debate is no longer needed.
For most of the decade, the debate was simple.
If you wanted stats, Peyton Manning was the best quarterback in the biz. If you preferred wins, especially of the postseason variety, Tom Brady was the clear-cut choice.
That debate is no longer needed. After breaking Manning’s single-season touchdown mark by throwing for 50 scores this season, to go along with 4,806 yards, a 69-percent completion rate, a 117.4 QB rating and just eight interceptions, Brady now has the edge in both records and rings.
“You could go on and on all day,” said Baltimore cornerback Samari Rolle when asked what made Brady so good. “He’s cool off the field. He’s in control. I used to think Peyton was better than everybody, but Brady’s making it tough. He doesn’t get rattled; he knows where to go with the ball and throws it perfectly. He’s in the zone right now.”
Brady moved ahead of Manning among the current crop of signal-callers, but has he eclipsed the all-time greats to become the best ever?
“He’s as an efficient, as smooth an operating quarterback as I’ve seen in a long time,” said former Baltimore coach Brian Billick. “He’s got great fundamental mechanics. He knows exactly what it is he wants to do and when he wants to do it. He’s a joy to watch as a coach.”
Hall-of-Fame coach Joe Gibbs, who retired from his second stint with the Redskins last month, has seen even more quarterbacks in his day. He even won Super Bowls with three different starting QBs. But Gibbs finds it hard to conceive of a total package better than Brady.
“I don’t think you can say much more about than the fact that this guy is probably on pace to break every record,” Gibbs said. “When I always talk about football players character is first, then you look at football intelligence. To me, he’s extremely tough mentally and physically. When you look at that, it’s hard to draw one up better than that.”
On pace is the key variable here. With three Super Bowl titles and this season’s record-setting stats, Brady has already accomplished enough to earn a permanent spot in the discussion for best ever. But he’ll have to keep up this level of success a while longer to truly supplant the likes of Joe Montana, Johnny Unitas, John Elway, et al.
Don’t bet against him doing it.
“Well, I think it's pretty simple,” said Brady of his drive to succeed. “There's a sign when we walk in the door (to the Patriots’ locker room) and right at the top of the sign, it's, ‘What's expected of you’ and No. 1 is ‘do your job.’ And every time you walk in and you see that, you understand that you've got to show up and put whatever else is going on in your life to the side and focus, and you have a responsibility to your teammates to do what you need to do.”
That focus and leadership has made quite an impression on his teammates, who have no doubts they’re playing with one of the best ever.
“I don’t know, perfect?” said wide receiver Wes Welker when asked to describe Brady. “In everything he does, it’s to perfection and he kind of holds everybody else to that standard just by the way he works hard and the way he goes and prepares for games. He makes sure that everybody else is pulling their own weight and he does a great job of pulling everybody together and making sure we’re all doing the right things out there.”
Brady’s made sure the Pats end up on the right end of the score more often than not as well. With 86 wins in 110 regular-season starts, he has the best winning percentage (.782) of any quarterback in the Super Bowl era, well ahead of second-place Roger Staubach (.746) and Joe Montana (.713). With a 14-2 playoff record, he’s already at 100 overall wins in just seven seasons as a starter.
He does that by elevating the play of everyone around him, which is the truest measure of greatness.
“The most important thing is that he’s a competitor and he makes the people around him better,” said Patriots tight end Benjamin Watson. “So it’s not just about him being the best quarterback ever. You can’t really make that judgment because there’s been so many great quarterbacks in this league. But the main thing is he makes all of us better.”
He just might be doing that while establishing himself as the best ever at the same time.
“Tom’s playing as good football as anybody that’s played,” said Philadelphia coach Andy Reid. “It’s a tribute to him because he works so stinking hard at it. He didn’t rest on his laurels at all. He continues to try to get better every year.”
If Brady continues that, there won’t be anything left to debate by the time he’s done.