After Brady’s stellar performance in Tampa Bay week 14, where his team, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, thrashed the Buffalo Bills, floodgates opened for debates on whether Brady has surpassed fellow Hall of Famer Joe Montana. Tom Brady has almost universally been regarded as the greatest quarterback in NFL history, having surpassed Joe Montana. And the explanation is obvious: Brady has seven Super Bowl triumphs to Montana’s four. Brady now has an opportunity to win even more games. He’s 44 years old, has just won a Super Bowl, and plays for the #1 team in the National Football Conference (NFC). Without a doubt, he has the most unique professional history of all time, and it’s not even close to over.
But, would Brady’s résumé have been the same if he had played during Montana’s tenure? Football was not quite the same in the 1980s. Defenses could and did often tee off on quarterbacks. There was no such thing as a “strike zone” when it came to striking, and defensive players could hit quarterbacks anywhere and however hard they wished.
Furthermore, since defenders could contain wide receivers all the way down the field in the 1980s, quarterbacks were forced to keep the ball for longer periods of time and were subjected to more abuse.
Brady vs. Joe Montana
Montana had a significant back injury as a result of the beating. So, he couldn’t play into his forties, and no one else could either. Injuries forced players to miss games. Terry Bradshaw won four Super Bowls before being injured and retiring at the age of 35. Brady would have most certainly met a similar fate as Wells at the time. Brady was 31 years old when he suffered a devastating knee injury. Following that, the NFL changed its rules to better protect quarterbacks while they are in the offense’s pocket. The NFL made no changes to its rules in order to safeguard Montana. It’s possible that if Brady had played in the 1980s, he would have won the three Super Bowls he won in his early years. He would also, however, have had a knee injury and would have faded away in the same way that most quarterbacks in their 30s did at the time.
The Comeback King
Joe Montana, chosen in the third round of the 1979 National Football League Draft by the San Francisco 49ers, went on to have a storied career with the 49ers and the Kansas City Chiefs. Montana was a master of late-game comebacks, guiding his teams to 31 fourth-quarter comeback wins over his illustrious career, including a 92-yard drive in the waning seconds of Super Bowl XXIII. His incredible ability to revive a team from the verge of defeat became so well-known that it was simply dubbed “Montana Magic.” Montana was a true student of the game in both 1987 and 1989, and he was the NFL’s top passer in both seasons. He was the NFC’s top passer five times in total (1981, 1984, 1985, 1987, and 1989).
He threw for more than 300 yards in a game 39 times, including seven games in which he tossed for more than 400 yards. His six 300-yard passing games in the playoffs established a new NFL record for the most in a single season. Furthermore, he holds the playoff marks for passing attempts, completions, touchdowns, and yards gained via the air. The New Eagle, the Pennsylvania native, has led his team to the playoffs eleven times. He has nine division championships and four Super Bowls to his credit, the most recent of which he won with the New England Patriots in 2003. His outstanding play in Super Bowls XVI, XIX, and XXIV earned him the honor of being named the game’s Most Valuable Player in each of those contests.
Montana was named to the Pro Bowl eight times, a league record for a quarterback at the time. Despite missing 31 consecutive games due to a throwing arm injury in 1992, Montana had a miraculous comeback the following season. Montana worked his old magic against the Detroit Lions on Monday Night Football, completing 15 of 21 passes for 126 yards and two scores as the 49ers defeated the Lions 24-6 in the regular-season finale. Montana threw for 126 yards and two touchdowns on 15 of 21 attempts. Montana threw for more than 40,000 yards in his career in 1994, he was the fourth-highest career quarterback in terms of passing yardage (40,551 yards), attempts (5,391), and passing touchdowns at the time of his retirement (273). His 3,409 completions ranked him third of all-time, while his career passer rating of 92.3 ranked him second.
How Can You Decide?
If you ask five different NFL fans who the greatest quarterback of all time is, you will likely get five different replies. It’s a contentious topic that often pits supporters against one another. According to some, the possession of Super Bowl rings is the most essential measure of a quarterback’s legacy. A quarterback will not be regarded as one of the “best quarterbacks of all time” until he has one (or more). This strategy benefits players like Joe Montana and Tom Brady. Others would argue that Super Bowl rings aren’t a reliable sign of a quarterback’s brilliance since football is a team sport in which a quarterback cannot win independently.
The answer might be somewhere in the center. You cannot dismiss team triumphs when judging the best quarterbacks of all time, but there’s no doubt that the talents of a signal-statistical caller should be considered too.
Montana did highlight the achievements of quarterbacks who participated before the NFL-AFL merger, noting that Cleveland Browns quarterback Otto Graham won seven titles in ten seasons with the organization before the merger. But, in the end, Montana conceded that Brady’s achievements are unsurpassed in football history. Brady’s professional background is unparalleled in business. In his 19 seasons as a starter, he has appeared in 10 Super Bowls and is the all-time leader in career touchdown passes. Only Drew Brees has more passing yards than Brady, but Brady will almost certainly overtake the soon-to-retire quarterback. Based on his career statistics, Montana might be ranked second all-time among quarterbacks. If it weren’t for Brady, Montana might still be considered the best in history.