The quarterback is the most influential position in team sport. No team can win a Super Bowl with a subpar quarterback.
The greatest of all-time in American football inevitably focuses on the signal callers. It might seem unfair to the other positions, but the quarterback is the player with the most influence on a game.
Focusing the discussion on the quarterback spot isn’t a disservice to Randy Moss, Rob Gronkowski or Lawrence Taylor. Comparing position with position in any sport can be tricky, and it’s a particular challenge in American football.
How can Moss’ achievements be pitted against Peyton Manning’s? Or how can Gronkowski’s influence be contrasted with Joe Montana’s?
Working on the premise that quarterback is the most important position in this, and any team, sport, it narrows the greatest ever debate to a handful of names.
Montana and Manning feature, as do Brett Favre, Dan Marino and modern greats Drew Brees and Aaron Rodgers. One name, though, has stood out like no other: Tom Brady.
Brady was at the centre of an infamous NFL controversy in the form of Deflategate. He divides opinion – like many all-time greats do – and his diet and lifestyle choices have been criticised.
The ascent to superstardom, the Super Bowl rings and NFL records, has seen Brady become one of the most famous people in America, appearing in the Simpsons, Family Guy and Ted 2.
Defying The Odds
His route to Hall of Famer and Super Bowl champion wasn’t always clear. Brady wasn’t a college stud like Kyler Murray or Baker Mayfield – he was selected 199th overall by the New England Patriots.
Even in his earlier years at Michigan, Brady wasn’t highly regarded. He spent his first two seasons as a backup, as low as seventh on their depth chart.
Once he broke through in 1998, battling Drew Henson for the starting spot, Brady seized his opportunity.
It was an example of his ability to succeed under pressure, as he racked up the touchdowns and passing yards over those two seasons on his way to a 20-5 record.
His time in the NFL saw him on the sidelines again. A Drew Bledsoe injury in his second campaign gave him his chance, and he took it better than even the most loyal Patriots fan could have hoped.
The season ended with his first Super Bowl ring and a Super Bowl MVP. He has defied the NFL odds throughout his career, he’s an athlete who is well practiced in fighting against expectations.
Weight Of Success
That first glorious run was just the start. Brady has gone on to compile a list of records unmatched by any other quarterback in the history of the league. The Patriots are – thanks to Brady and Bill Belichick – the greatest dynasty in NFL history.
He has more playoff winning drives than anyone else, including six in Super Bowls. He has the most wins of any quarterback. He has every quarterback Super Bowl record imaginable.
Playing 19 seasons will see a player rack up numbers, but Brady has done far more than collect stats. The Patriots have never had a losing season since he took over as starter, winning the division 16 times and playing in 13 AFC Championship games.
The Brady and Belichick duo is the greatest quarterback-coach pairing in NFL history, and the role of Belichick is the main critique of Brady’s claim to be considered the greatest player ever.
Evaluating a player’s legacy on team success might not seem fair. Perhaps Rodgers has Brady’s CV if he was with Belichick. Maybe they’re even better.
We can’t judge that (though those sort of hypotheticals are always fun) – what we do know is that Brady has been the ultimate clutch quarterback.
There is a sense of inevitability when Brady gets the ball in the fourth quarter. The most famous came in Super Bowl LI as he dismantled the Atlanta Falcons to recover from a 25-point deficit and win in overtime.
Super Bowl LII wasn’t quite as dramatic, but Brady delivered in the fourth quarter once again to break a 3-3 tie with the Rams, winning his sixth Super Bowl.
There is a long list of Brady game-winning drives, and regardless of Belichick’s mastery as coach, that calmness, and poise to execute in the big moments, is all Brady.
As long as Brady is playing in Patriots blue, New England will be a common feature in NFL betting tips. No player has as strong a case for the GOAT title.
*Credit for the main photo belongs to David J. Phillip / AP Photo*