When the New England Patriots drafted Thomas Edward Patrick Brady with the 199th pick in the 2000 draft, few people could have imagined that he would evolve into the Canton-bound quarterback that he is today. After all, Brady had posted relatively mild statistics during his tenure at Ann Arbor and didn’t exactly possess any superior physical abilities.
However, Bill Belichick saw something special in Brady from the very beginning. According to a Sports Illustrated article, Belichick “found Brady to be a sponge” when it came to absorbing the playbook and believed “his arm was stronger than scouts had seen during the pre-draft process.”
What’s more important, perhaps, is the fact that the young, brash Brady was unshakably confident in his ability to succeed at football’s highest level.
“He looked me right in the eye,” Robert Kraft recalled, ”and said to me ‘Mr. Kraft, hi, I’m Tom Brady. I just wanted to tell you I’m the best decision your franchise has ever made.”
Brady’s first chance to justify his audacious comments came in Week 3 of the 2001 season. When starter Drew Bledsoe went down with a sheared blood vessel in his chest, Brady took his place under center and promptly led the Patriots on a highly improbable Super Bowl run that culminated in a 20-17 victory over the Kurt Warner-led St. Louis Rams (aka “The Greatest Show on Turf”). Brady, of course, has yet to relinquish the position.
Eleven years later and the unlikely superstar from San Mateo is on the verge of being ushered into some very elite company. With a victory tonight, he will join Joe Montana and Terry Bradshaw as the only quarterbacks in league history to capture four Super Bowl titles.
While his spot in Canton is all but guaranteed even if the Pats lose tonight’s contest, his opportunity to take a giant step toward being known as the Greatest Quarterback Ever hinges greatly on tonight’s outcome.
So, that brings us to the real point of this article: if Tom Brady exacts revenge on Eli and the Giants and snags his fourth Super Bowl ring, is he the greatest ever?
Some say the best process for determining a proper conclusion for a debate such as this is to trust one’s gut instinct. For what it’s worth, my gut instinct tells me that Brady, as a four-time Super Bowl champion, is indeed the greatest of all time.
But instinctual conclusions mean very little without a solid backbone of convincing evidence. Thankfully, there is plenty of evidence to support the case for Brady. Let’s take an honest look at the man’s career and see where it leads us.
First and foremost, we should look at possibly the most crucial statistic for judging a quarterback’s place in history: Super Bowl victories. Winning the Big Game multiple times has turned many mediocre careers into memorable ones.
Two points in case: Terry Bradshaw (who we’ll discuss later) and Phil Simms. From a statistical point of view, neither had an outstanding career (Simms’ passer rating was a modest 78.5, tied for 70th all-time with Aaron Brooks), yet they are placed on a higher plane than other quarterbacks, some of whom actually put up better numbers. Such is the mystical power that comes with owning multiple Super Bowl rings.
With a win tonight, Brady will of course have four titles, tying him with Montana and Bradshaw for most all time. And, if he puts on a particularly dominating performance and secures a Super Bowl MVP award, he will join Montana as the only player to receive the honor on three separate occasions.
But where Brady separates himself from Montana and Bradshaw is his career passing totals. To date, Brady has exactly 300 passing touchdowns, 115 interceptions, 39,979 passing yards and a quarterback rating of 96.4.
Compare those numbers to Montana’s (273 TD, 139 INT, 40,551 and 92.3) and Bradshaw's (212 TD, 210 INT, 27,989 and 70.9), and the argument for Brady being the greatest quarterback among the three seems quite valid—especially when one considers that Brady, at 34, still has three to five more productive years left in his career.
Brady has also received numerous awards during his illustrious career. Besides the two Super Bowl MVPs, he has also racked up the following honors:
- 2001: Pro Bowl
- 2004: Pro Bowl
- 2005: Pro Bowl
- 2007: Pro Bowl, AP MVP, PFWA MVP, Newspaper Ent. Assoc. MVP, Bert Bell Award (POY), AP Offensive Player of the Year
- 2009: Pro Bowl, AP Comeback Player of the Year
- 2010: Pro Bowl, AP MVP, PFWA MVP, AP Offensive Player of the Year
- 2011: Pro Bowl
And let us not forget that Brady’s 2007 campaign is arguably the greatest single-season performance in the history of the league. His touchdown-to-interception ratio was a mind-boggling 25:2(50 TD, 8 INT), and he threw for a staggering 4,806 yards. What’s more is he led the Patriots to the first undefeated regular season in the 16-game era, before, of course, falling unexpectedly to Eli and the Giants in Super Bowl XL, a game he and the Pats will be attempting to avenge this evening in Indianapolis.
There are other approaches to this argument, none of which I will explore here. I'll leave that job to the American media, should the Pats win tonight.
And there are certainly arguments to be made for other quarterbacks (Peyton Manning and Dan Marino instantly come to mind), but when it comes down to it, it's very difficult (for me, at least) to claim that a quarterback with (possibly) four Super Bowl rings, seven Pro Bowl appearances, two MVPs, two Super Bowl MVPs, gaudy career passing numbers and several good years left under his belt is anything less than the best ever.
You probably didn't hear it first, nor will this be the last place you hear about it.
Anyway, enjoy the game.