February 2, 2008

THERE'S NOT REALLY ANYONE ELSE IN THE CONVERSATION:

Is Brady the best quarterback who ever played? (John Powers, 2/01/08, The Boston Globe)

Even now, after three rings and a season that is one victory shy of unprecedented perfection, the man shakes his head when you put him alongside Joe Montana, Terry Bradshaw and the other immortals in the signal-calling pantheon. "Those guys, as far as I'm concerned, are in a league of their own," Tom Brady said.

And yet, if the New England Patriots beat the New York Giants in Super Bowl XLII on Sunday night, their quarterback will join Montana and Bradshaw as the only four-time winners of football's ultimate game. And since a victory also would cap a flawless season, Brady could well be considered the best who has ever played.

"If Tom wins this game and is part of a team which went undefeated in 19 games, then it strengthens his argument," said the former Dallas Cowboys quarterback Troy Aikman, who won three Super Bowls and who lists Montana as his No. 1.

Comparing quarterbacks from different eras is an inexact science. Bradshaw and the Pittsburgh Steelers won their four titles in the 1970s, Montana and the San Francisco 49ers in the '80s. Since then, the NFL has added expansion teams, gone to free agency, adopted a salary cap and changed its scheduling to promote parity. Its players are bigger, stronger, and faster than ever.


The thing that sets Tom Brady apart from nearly everyone else in his profession is his field vision and then the speed with which he checks off receivers. Dan Fouts--who was, unfortunately, limited by knee injuries--may be the only quarterback in NFL history who could cycle through his options as rapidly. Consider that Vinnie Testaverde, who has played for twenty years now and is 6th all-time in passing yardage, was so incapable of the same task that when Bill Belichick had him in Cleveland they limited him to only considering one half of the field on any given play. Trying to process an entire field's worth of information was beyond his mental capacity. You can basically be in the NFL's historic elite at the position without being particularly good at what you do.

Posted by Orrin Judd at February 2, 2008 12:03 PM
Comments

Testeverde will never be regarded as among the elite. He had enough talent to be a starter and enough durability to last long enough to have passed for a lot of yards, but he will never be mentioned in the discussion of great QBs. QB is the most difficult position in sports and greatness isn't captured by a stat like career passing yards.

Posted by: Patrick H at February 2, 2008 1:29 PM

QB is, indeed, difficult, which is why there are so few good ones at any given moment. For instance, today you have: Brady, Peyton, Kurt Warner (maybe), and perhaps Carson Palmer? Everyone else is as likely to hurt you as help.

Posted by: oj at February 2, 2008 4:21 PM

David Gerrard looks like he may end up joining that group. It's early in his career, but he has played quite well.

Posted by: Patrick H at February 2, 2008 5:07 PM

Interesting cross currents in this discussion.

Regarding checking off receivers, nobody was better or faster than Bernie Kosar who during his prime (multi-year period), completed passes to wide outs without any visual identification at all. He transcended scanning the field. As a corner, if he was looking at your guy, you likely were in the clear - as the pass was going where he was not looking.

Of course, Belicheck cut him in favor of Testeverde when his (this) skill "diminished".

Testaverde was the polar opposite of Kosar, a physical superman who when on, delivered laser like completions with robotic consistency but who really couldn't pick up a barn in a field scan.

Brady is a nice amalgame of these two.

Posted by: Perry at February 2, 2008 7:20 PM

Too fat--he's going to get hurt a lot.

Posted by: oj at February 2, 2008 8:32 PM

Vinnie story:

When he played for Tampa Bay and TB was in the same division as the Bears, the Bucs would have to come north for a winter date. Happened to watch one of these in the late 80s. It was miserably cold outside and it turned out to be a close game. Bears are up in the final moments by only a few points, and the Bucs are driving. It's fourth down, Vinnie steps back to pass but gets flushed, and starts to run down the field towards the right sideline.

And here comes Otis Wilson, one of the really good linebackers of the day, and he has a bead on Vinnie as he heads for the first down marker.

It's simple: Vinnie can get the first down but only if he takes a lick from Otis. He can avoid the lick, but it's fourth down, and if he doesn't get the first the game is over.

So what did Vinnie do?

...

...

...

...

Stepped out of bounds. No first down. Game over.

Told me everything I ever wanted to know about Vinnie right there. Great quarterback? Naaaaah.

Posted by: Steve White at February 2, 2008 8:57 PM

A Vinnie story:

When he played for Tampa Bay and TB was in the same division as the Bears, the Bucs would have to come north for a winter date. Happened to watch one of these in the late 80s. It was miserably cold outside and it turned out to be a close game. Bears are up in the final moments by only a few points, and the Bucs are driving. It's fourth down, Vinnie steps back to pass but gets flushed, and starts to run down the field towards the right sideline.

And here comes Otis Wilson, one of the really good linebackers of the day, and he has a bead on Vinnie's earhole as he heads for the first down marker.

It's simple: Vinnie can get the first down but only if he takes a lick from Otis. He can avoid the lick, but it's fourth down, and if he doesn't get the first the game is over.

So what did Vinnie do?

...

...

...

...

Stepped out of bounds. No first down. Game over.

Told me everything I ever wanted to know about Vinnie right there. Great quarterback? Naaaaah.

Posted by: Steve White at February 2, 2008 9:18 PM

Carson Palmer? He's gone 8-8 the last two years, and that is with one of two or three best receiving corps in the league. Admittedly, the Bengal defense is perenially weak, but he's not in the same class as Brady. Or even Big Ben.

Posted by: jim hamlen at February 3, 2008 12:33 AM

Joe Montana was every bit as good (or better) than Brady. And if the Pats lose tonight...well,...what then?

Posted by: Bartman at February 3, 2008 8:27 AM

Montana could process like Brady and run. Steve Young could process but preferred to run -- and was a great runner; he had to stop running to let his vast IQ take-over.

The greatest quarterback who never played was Magic Johnson, the greatest decision-processing genius since Bobby Fisher.

Posted by: Palmcroft at February 3, 2008 8:46 AM
« LOVE THE ONE YOU'RE WITH: | Main | BET EVEN MITT'S DOG HATES HIM: »