Mark Knudson’s Three Strikes Blog: Strike Two
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STRIKE TWO: Following New England’s sixth Super Bowl win (in nine tries) during the Tom Brady – Bill Belichick Era, it’s pretty easy to make the argument that both men are the Greatest Of All Time at their respective positions.
Certainly Belichick’s run is unmatched. He’s accomplished more as a head coach in the NFL than even the late great Vince Lombardi, for whom the NFL’s championship trophy is named, did. Lombardi, who won seven titles (including the first two Super Bowls) didn’t have to deal with significant roster turnover and a salary cap issues every season, either.
There are absolutely grounds for renaming the trophy in Belichick’s honor when (if) he ever retires.
But what about Brady? Is he the GOAT of NFL quarterbacks?
Here’s where you get significantly more argument. Certainly having won six Super Bowls – and having done so with clutch late game performances each time – puts Brady among the best to ever play the game. That cannot be questioned.
But when you’re sitting back and trying to evaluate quarterbacks from different eras and trying to pick just one, each man having been asked to do different things within different offenses under different coaches, things start to get tricky.
Context matters A LOT when we’re trying to pick a GOAT.
For example, supporting cast matters…A LOT. Joe Montana, who was 4-0 in Super Bowls, is still regarded by many as the best quarterback of all time. Certainly the resume is there to validate that claim. However, Montana DID play for the great Bill Walsh, and alongside numerous other Hall of Famers during his career. His San Francisco 49er teams were among the best teams of all time regardless of the QB. So how much did Montana benefit from his surrounding cast?
Compare him with contemporaries John Elway and Dan Marino. Montana’s 49ers beat each in Super Bowls. Neither has quite the resume Montana has. But…
What if Marino had played on those 49er teams while Montana toiled in Miami with lesser personnel? Would he have been able to lead the Niners to four Super Bowl wins? Absolutely…and if you doubt that, you never watched Marino play. And Elway? Put him with Walsh and his career would have become lesser known for desperate late game comebacks and better known for passing stats that would probably never been equaled. No question that had Marino or Elway played for Walsh and those 49er teams, they could have each gone 4-0 in Super Bowls as well.
Which brings us back to Brady and the context in which he has accumulated his ring collection.
What if Peyton Manning – and not Brady – had been the QB of the Pats all these years? Would there have been a drop off? No freakin’ way. Manning would have at least four if not more championships on his ledger. And what if Brady had been the QB of the Colts? He wouldn’t have six…his career results would have been much more like the results Peyton had in Indy.
Circumstances. Head Coach. Surrounding cast. Era. Rules. All of these things have to be factored in.
Both Manning and Brady are among the best to ever play quarterback in the NFL. Had they worn different jerseys with different coaches, they’d very likely have different looking resumes right now.
Physically, it’s hard to imagine a QB with better skills than Elway had. He could be the GOAT in that regard. Mentally, both Manning and Brady have been unmatched in the way they process information and execute game plans. Then go back to the era when quarterbacks actually called their own plays! Yes, that really happened back in the day. Guys like Johnny Unitas had more on their plate and less pre-game info at their disposal and still did amazing things.
So who IS the GOAT of NFL quarterbacks? You can’t pick just one. You can’t really even have a short list if you’re trying to be objective. So many greats in so many different situations in many different eras. They were all sensational at what they did.
Now could we please find the next one and put him in predominantly orange for the next era?
Coming Friday: White Men Can’t Jump? Can they play RB or WR in college?