Tom Brady's Legacy
Apologies in advance New York sports fans, but this next sentence may hurt. New England Patriots’ quarterback Tom Brady is the greatest player to ever throw on a NFL jersey and play at the position.
His six Super Bowl appearances are the most ever by a quarterback. His four championships tie him with Joe Montana and Terry Bradshaw for most all-time. He and Montana are the only players to have won three Super Bowl MVP awards. He has more passing touchdowns in the Super Bowl and the postseason than anyone in NFL history.
And those are just his postseason accolades. His 12 division titles are more than any other quarterback. He has amassed over 50,000 career passing yards, one of just six quarterbacks to do that. His 392 passing touchdowns are fifth most all-time Twice he has been named the regular season NFL MVP, one of just nine players to win the award multiple times.
Of course during his own era Brady has been overshadowed on the field by Peyton Manning. The five time regular season MVP has more touchdown passes than anyone else in history and his the second most passing yards, just over 2,000 yards away from moving into first in that category too.
But Manning has the habit of looking like a lost puppy dog when the playoffs role around. He has appeared in three Super Bowls, but only won one and in the other two he struggled. In Super Bowl 44 against the New Orleans Saints driving with three minutes to go he threw a pick-six and then in his Super Bowl 48 appearance against the Seahawks he managed to lead his team to just eight points.
Nine times Manning has lost in his first game of the playoffs. In comparison, Brady has made nine appearances in the AFC Championship game. Looking at the numbers, and just watching Manning play, it’s tough to argue anyone has ever been better in the regular season, but his lack of postseason success separates him from Montana, Brady and Bradshaw.
Brett Favre falls into the same category as Manning. Favre still has more passing yards than any other quarterback (for the time being) and he has the second most touchdown passes. But Favre appeared in just two Super Bowls and won just one. He was 13-11 in his overall playoff career, compare that to Brady’s 21-8 career playoff record.
And then there is Dan Marino. Just like Manning and Favre his regular season numbers rank among the greatest in NFL history. He had over 61,000 passing yards and 420 passing touchdowns. He was the first player to throw for over 5,000 yards in a single season and for 40 touchdowns in a single season.
But of course he comes the big but, Marino played in just one Super Bowl and he lost it to Montana of all people. He was 8-10 overall in the postseason. In 18 career postseason games he had 24 interceptions, Brady has that same amount in ten more games.
Manning, Favre and Marino have combined to play in six Super Bowls. They have combined to win just two. Brady on his own has played in six and won four.
It’s worth noting that Drew Brees has also thrown for more than 50,000 yards in his career and has four more passing touchdowns than Brady. The quarterback, who won his lone Super Bowl appearance, is just a step behind Manning, Favre and Marino. But he has just one appearance in the big game and is 6-5 overall in the playoffs.
With Super Bowl number four Brady joined an elite club with Montana and Bradshaw. Each of them however went undefeated in the big game, while Brady got beat by the New York Giants twice. What is it that still puts him ahead of those two?
Bradshaw’s regular season numbers are far from overly impressive for starters. He threw for 27,989 yards and 212 touchdowns. He also threw 210 interceptions, compare that to Brady’s 143 career interceptions. His erratic arm in the regular season leaves Bradshaw in the dust behind Brady and Montana.
Brady grew up in the Bay Area idolizing Montana, and now the two will forever be connected in NFL history in the debate of greatest quarterbacks in NFL history.
There is no doubt that Montana was the greatest when the lights shone the brightest. In those four Super Bowls he threw zero interceptions and overall in the postseason he was 16-7. Montana’s over 40,000 career passing yards and 273 passing touchdowns to 139 interceptions are very strong, but still lag a bit behind Brady.
Brady also has had his success with the teams around him constantly changing. Brady went 14 years between his first title and most latest, Montana just went eight years between his first and last. Brady’s top receiver has constantly changed going from Deion Branch and Troy Brown to Wes Welker and Randy Moss and now Rob Gronkowski and Julian Edelman.
Between the current ever changing state of modern NFL teams and Brady’s stronger regular season numbers, it pushes him just ahead of Montana. Of course Brady also has the twice extra appearances in the big game and while they keep him from having a perfect record in the Super Bowl he had his team in position to win both times.
In Super Bowl 42 Brady put the Patriots ahead at the two minute warning with a fourth quarter touchdown drive, but a miracle catch by David Tyree helped seal the win for the Giants. Then it was rinse, wash, repeat in the 46th addition of the Super Bowl. Once again he put the Patriots up at the two minute warning following a fourth quarter touchdown drive, but once the defense could not stop Eli Manning and the Giants.
Another name worth bringing up in the greatest quarterback in NFL history debate is John Elway. Elway is the only other quarterback besides Brady to appear in more than four Super Bowls. He amassed over 50,000 career passing yards and threw 300 touchdowns. But in five Super Bowls he only went 2-3 and threw 21 interceptions in 21 games started in the postseason.
Roger Staubach and Jim Kelly both started four Super Bowls, but Staubach only one two while Kelly never won the big game. Troy Aikman went 3-0 in the Super Bowl. But like others his regular season numbers fall short of Brady’s. He had 32,942 passing yards and threw 165 touchdowns compared to 141 interceptions.
It would be tough concluding an article about Brady’s legacy without including the fact that he was the 199th pick in the 2000 draft after barely getting an opportunity to play college ball. Aikman, both Mannings, Bradshaw and Elway were all first overall picks. Kelly and Marino both went in the first round. Brees was the 32nd overall pick, Favre was the 33rd while Montana went 82nd overall. Staubach lingered in the draft a bit, but ultimately went 129nd, still higher than Brady did.
When Brady first reported to the Patriots and ran into owner Robert Kraft, the unknown told Kraft he was “the best decision this organization has ever made.” 15 years later that statement rings pretty true and he is also the best quarterback the NFL has ever seen.