The Sports Guy considers the question posed by a reader:
“Two months from now, it’s very possible Tom Brady will have 3 NFL
MVPs, 6 Super Bowl appearances and 4 rings. Wouldn’t that clinch him as
the greatest QB of all time? It’s just as possible that two months from
now, Peyton Manning will have 5 NFL MVPs, 3 Super Bowl appearances, 2
rings (and may have even just beaten his brother in the long-awaited
Manning Bowl). That would pretty much lock Peyton up as the greatest QB
of all time, wouldn’t it? Has there ever been another season where the
Greatest of All Time title was up for grabs like this? For any position?
In any sport?”
For one thing, it’s neat that we’re even here after what Manning went through these past 18 months. When I wrote about the Manning-Brady rivalry in January of 2011,
right before the playoffs, their unofficial championship belt was
seemingly hinging on the events of that month … and within a year,
suddenly it seemed like Brady had a chance to grab the belt without any
resistance from Manning. Now it’s an argument again. I’d disagree with
Eric on one point: We’re not even close to resolving it. Quarterbacks
are like NBA players — we don’t have any idea how long their careers
will last anymore (especially now that all these rules are in place to
protect their safety). Could Brady play until he’s … 42? Forty-three?
Who knows? Could Kobe Bryant score 40,000 points? Who knows? I’m
prepared for anything this decade.
Anyway, I don’t think Brady or Manning can clinch anything yet other
than the “Who did the best job of antagonizing his loyal fans by wearing
hats of hated baseball teams and appearing in commercials that would
have earned real scorn had it been anyone else?” (Brady clinched this
years ago) and “Whose forehead can turn the reddest when he wears his
helmet too long?” battle (Manning clinched this during this first game).
As much as it pains me to say it, (because I loathed his team at the time), I don’t think either Brady or Manning is the greatest quarterback of all time. I don’t think it is even close. I think the title clearly belongs to Joe Montana, who would have easily picked up a fifth Super Bowl ring in 1994 had Steve Young not been awarded the starting job by virtue of being more mobile and five years younger. I’ve watched the game for more than 35 years now, and Montana is still the quarterback that I feared most as a Vikings fan.
Sure, having Jerry Rice helped, but what made Montana great was the way he always delivered the ball where Jerry Rice could continue running at full speed when he caught the ball. Watching Christian Ponder repeatedly deliver balls where Percy Harvin can’t keep running in stride should be enough to convince anyone that Montana aided Rice more than Rice aided Montana. (And yes, as a matter of fact, it is painful to watch Drew Brees and RG3 tear up the league while Ponder rolls out, can’t see anything if his first read is covered, and dumps the ball off to his outlet receiver for the 17th time in a row. Thank you for asking.)
Concerning who is the better quarterback, it depends upon whether you are focused on the athlete as an individual performer or an athlete as a member of the team. Peyton Manning is the superior individual performer, probably has a higher football IQ and modestly better physical talents, but Tom Brady is the better team leader and superior team player. Between the two of them, if I was to choose one of the two quarterbacks in his prime around whom to build a team, it would be Brady.