There’s no definitive answer as to who is the best NFL quarterback of all time. Those who say otherwise are blinded by their allegiance or their ignorance.
The game has changed too much over the years to judge quarterbacks of different eras.
How can Otto Graham be compared to Joe Montana? Or Johnny Unitas to John Elway?
Case in point: Former Dallas Cowboys’ great Roger Staubach finished his career with an 83.4 passing rating. This season, thanks to the evolution of the passing game, 16 quarterbacks had a better rating, including Houston’s Sage Rosenfels.
“There are too many guys to choose from,” former Chicago Bears coach Mike Ditka said. “With all the changes in the game, I don’t think you can pick just one.”
One thing is for sure: If the New England Patriots beat the New York Giants Sunday, the conversation won’t last long before getting to Tom Brady.
“If Tom Brady wins his fourth title and is part of a team that went undefeated, then whoever wants to make that argument for him has a lot more ammunition,” FOX analyst and former Dallas Cowboys quarterback Troy Aikman said. “By any measure, Tom Brady would be a hard guy to argue against.”
Everyone has their criteria for judging a quarterback’s career. Here’s mine: Championships.
That’s why neither Dan Marino nor Dan Fouts, despite their ridiculous numbers, can be considered the greatest QB of all time. Nor can Peyton Manning or Brett Favre, with one Super Bowl victory apiece.
No, the short list is composed of just eight names:
Graham. Unitas. Elway. Montana. Aikman. Bart Starr. Terry Bradshaw. Brady.
You can make a good case for any of the eight.
Graham won the most championships. Unitas won three titles, threw for 40,239 yards in a era when offenses were built around the run, and still holds the NFL record with a touchdown pass in 47 consecutive games.
Starr was the winning quarterback in Super Bowls I and II for Green Bay, Elway won two Super Bowls and played in five, Montana and Bradshaw led their teams to four Super Bowl triumphs, and Aikman has three titles.
“I think he’s right there with Terry and Joe,” FOX analyst Howie Long said. “Terry said they’re going to start raising funds for a mini Mount Rushmore. They’re looking for a hillside they could carve Montana, Brady and Bradshaw into.”
Montana is considered the gold standard of quarterbacks because of his precision, intelligence, fourth-quarter comebacks and four Super Bowl victories.
But the same can be said of Brady. And if he wins Sunday, his postseason record will be 16-2.
That plays well in any era.
“He’s not just the best quarterback I’ve ever played with,” New England receiver Randy Moss said. “I think he’s the best quarterback that’s ever been in this league.”
Brady, as you might expect, wants no part of the debate. He was a Montana fan as a boy growing up in northern California, and to be compared to his idol is blasphemy.
“I’ve got a long way to go for that,” he said. “I’ve still got a lot of playing time left. I’m not done.”
That may be the best argument of all.
Montana was 33 when he won his fourth Super Bowl. Bradshaw was 31.
Brady turned 30 last August.