I try not to sip on that ‘hatorade’. I try not to let my heart cloud my mind, especially in the realm of sports where it is so easy to let emotion get the best of you and to ignore sound reason and logic. But when I hear football fans spout nonsense about Tom Patrick Edward Brady being the greatest quarterback of all time, I simply lose it. And after the recent debacle in the desert, I know it’s going to be a long off-season as the Brady bandwagon continues to take on more passengers at every stop. Perhaps, though, it’s time to deflate the tires on that bandwagon.
This isn’t simply the ranting and raving of a bitter fan. Hall of Famer Charles Haley recently compared Joe Montana and Brady, stating, “Joe didn’t have to cheat. I’ve lost all respect [Brady]. When your integrity is challenged in the game of football, to me, all his Super Bowls are tainted. You have to say this just didn’t happen overnight. Who wants that shadow over them? I could be wrong. If the league doesn’t come down on this guy … everybody is talking about it. Nobody believes it was by accident. It is what it is.”
Haley is just one of many current and former players to question Brady and the Patriots’ integrity, whether in public or in private.
From horrible calls to just horrendous play calls, great coaching to breaking the rules; Brady has had luck and the benefit of the doubt on his side throughout his career. He does not get the benefit of the doubt on being called the greatest of all time. He will have to earn that title and he hasn’t yet, particularly with the recent scandals that won’t be going away in the off-season.
Let me know if Brady gets to five and perhaps I’ll reconsider, but, for now, Brady is merely part of the conversation.
10. Tucking Up
New England was incredibly fortunate to have this fateful call goes its way. With the Patriots trailing 13-10 and two minutes remaining, Raiders CB Charles Woodson had a clear strip-sack of Pats QB Tom Brady. The play was ruled a fumble on the field, though was eventually reversed upon review and New England would go on to win in overtime. If the play is ruled a fumble, then Oakland recovers the ball, wins the game and the Patriots do not win the Super Bowl that year.
Who knows what happens to Brady, who becomes one of the main contributing factors in the hypothetical Pats’ loss? Could he have been traded away? We’ll never know and while it’s impossible to accurately speculate, this was undoubtedly one of the most significant calls in the history of modern football and it altered the paths of both franchises. The Pats would win four Super Bowls and Oakland has yet to play a single playoff game since Super Bowl XXXVII.
9. Padded Stats
Tom Brady’s career stats have been dramatically inflated after the 2007 season when the classless Patriots ran up the score against pitiful teams. During that year, the Pats put up 56 against the rival Bills, 52 against the woeful Redskins and 49 against the Dolphins. Many of the games throughout that season were over by the end of the first half, and yet the Pats kept dialing up those big yardage plays long after the defense had thrown in the towel. Twice that year against the Bills, the Pats went for it on fourth down long after the game was out of reach.
Writing for The New York Times Fifth Down Blog, Toni Monkovic wrote, “It just isn’t done. No N.F.L. team has ever “run up the score” the way the Patriots have this season. (If anyone can dispute this, please name the team). And there’s something unhinged about it. In many ways, unwritten rules bind us and govern us more than the written ones. The breaking of a social compact — you can defeat me, but you will not humiliate me — can be quite disruptive. Bill Belichick, have you no decency, sir?” The Pats have proven over and over again they have no decency.
8. The Worst Play Call in Super Bowl History
Brady won his fourth ring after having benefitted from the worst play call in the history of the Super Bowl. With Seattle on the verge of sealing victory and Brady heading to a 3-3 Super Bowl record, head coach Pete Carroll dialed up an inexcusably bad call. Twenty seconds remaining and instead of handing the ball off to one of the greatest short yardage backs in NFL history, he opted to put the ball in the air, into traffic, consequently into the hands of the Patriots.
I sympathize with Carroll’s reasoning of not wanting to be forced to throw on third down if they were stopped on second down, but Brady and Belichick should have lost that game right there. The Patriots did not win that game; Seattle lost it and handed it to them on a silver platter. Bruce Irvin probably put it best: “We beat ’em, bro. We beat ’em. … I’m speechless. Best back in the league, and the 1-yard-line? It wasn’t even the 1 — it was like half a yard. I will never understand that, bro. I will never understand it. I will never understand.” Nor will many of us.
7. Offense moves the sticks, but Defense wins Championships
Brady wasn’t the main reason for his first three Super Bowls; they were gifted to him by legendary Pats defenses that were able to hold the “greatest show on turf” to a measly 17 points and hold Donovan McNabb’s high flying Eagles to a mere 21 points. The Patriots defense from 2001 through 2004 was stacked with current and future Hall of Famers, including linebackers Tedy Bruschi and Mike Vrabel; strong safety Lawyer Milloy and cornerbacks Ty Law and Otis Smith. Brady and the Patriots do not win those Super Bowls without an elite, Belichick-coached defense. In fact, the Patriots don’t even make it to the playoffs in 2001 without epic defensive performances in the final six weeks of the season, when they held their opponents to an average of under 13 points per game, including a 12-9 overtime field goal competition win in Buffalo in Week 14.
6. Matt Cassel’s 2008 Campaign
Matt Cassel proved in 2008 that many can flourish under the Bill Belichick system and that Brady has benefited from this throughout his career. Cassel is a mediocre quarterback at best and yet he was able to lead the Patriots to an impressive 11-5 record. This demonstrates that the Pats do not need and have never needed a stellar quarterback in order to win games. Cassel’s numbers that year were respectable with almost 3,700 yards, 21 touchdowns and 11 interceptions. The point is that even an average quarterback could have enjoyed great success within the Patriots organization over the past 15 years. We have to consider what a quarterback like Manning, Rodgers or even Romo could have done under Belichick.
5. 145 Yards & Playoff Losses
For his first three Super Bowls, Tom Brady rested on the laurels of New England’s illustrious defenses. During the 2001 post-season, Brady threw for 312 yards against Oakland, 115 yards against Pittsburgh and for just 145 yards in the Super Bowl against St. Louis that year. During the 2003 and 2004 playoffs, over a span of six games, Brady averaged just less than 230 yards per game. Brady was not the torch bearer, he was simply a game manager that was charged with throwing check-downs, handing off the ball and making sure he didn’t turn the ball over- hardly the formula for greatness.
Rarely throughout his first nine playoff games did Brady ever have to put the team on his back, with the exception of his games against Oakland (a game he should have lost) and Carolina in the Super Bowl (arguably his best performance). Having said that, Brady wouldn’t have won any rings without his defenses and running backs. Not to mention the fact that everyone likes to mention Brady’s Super Bowl wins and ignore his pathetic playoff losses, most notably in 2006, 2007, 2010 and 2013. In those games, Brady threw for a combined five touchdowns and eight interceptions.
4. John Elway & Terry Bradshaw
Elway and Bradshaw, along with Brady, are in the conversation for greatest of all time. Bradshaw was the first quarterback to win four Super Bowls and spent his career calling his own plays at the line of scrimmage. In four Super Bowl appearances, he completed 58% of his passes with nine touchdowns and four interceptions, three of which came in his final appearance. He helped create a dynasty in Pittsburgh over the span of eight short years. Elway is a less legitimate contender but still has an impressive resume, with five Super Bowl appearances and two rings. Both men have valid cases to be made for being better overall quarterbacks than Brady.
3. Belichick Advantage
Tom Brady is not the greatest quarterback of all time; but Belichick is perhaps the greatest coach of all time, if not the one who’s most willing to bend the rules. Belichick has led the Pats to only one losing season in his 15 years as head coach (his first season in 2000) and is currently one of three NFL head coaches to also possess the powers of a general manager (Pete Carroll and Chip Kelly are the other two). Belichick always gets the most out of his players, on both sides of the ball, whether it’s a superstar like Randy Moss or an unknown rookie like Malcolm Butler.
Belichick takes an ordinary player and makes them extraordinary. His game preparation and understanding of football are paramount. And while Bill Walsh and Joe Gibbs may have legitimate cases to be made for greatest coach of all time, it is undeniable that Brady and his teammates have been under the tutelage of the greatest contemporary coach.
2. Not Better Than Your Average Joe
After Seattle fell to New England, both Montana and Brady have four Super Bowls and three Super Bowl MVPs to their name, but these are where the similarities end and the differences are illuminated. Montana has always remained calm and cool under pressure, leading his team to 31 fourth quarter comebacks over the span of his career. His most famous came in Super Bowl XXIII, when Montana led his team 92 yards down the field in just two and a half minutes, capping off the drive with a 10-yard touchdown pass to John Taylor. Before the drive he calmed his teammates down by pointing to the crowd and saying, “Hey, isn’t that John Candy?”
In his four Super Bowl appearances, Montana completed 68% of his 122 passes for 1,142 yards with 11 touchdowns and no interceptions and had a passer rating of 127.8 (which is beyond astonishing). Compare that to Brady who completed 66% of his 247 passes for 1,605 yards with 13 touchdowns and four interceptions and had a passer rating of 95.3. While the numbers are similar, the interceptions tell the true tale. Complete calmness under pressure is the defining mark of a great quarterback, a measure in which Montana bests Brady. Tom Brady is not the greatest quarterback of all time because Joe Montana has earned that title.
1. ***Legacy of Spy-Gate & Deflate-Gate***
Sports are based on rules. When you play outside those rules, the integrity of your wins gets called into question. When you are a repeat offender, you lose the benefit of the doubt. The Patriots are repeat offenders and there are strong allegations made by Matt Walsh, a former Pats’ video assistant, and then-Pennsylvania Senator Arlen Spector that New England coaches had been spying on teams since Belichick became head coach in 2000.
The Patriots are not the only ones who have engaged in these tactics, but the advantage it may have given them over the ‘greatest show on turf’ in 2002 should give us pause. Former Rams QB Kurt Warner wondered whether that Pats had their signal calls and whether this created a “distinct advantage.” Now with the questions surrounding Brady’s use of deflated balls, we have to wonder what Brady and Belichick won’t do in order to win. Like no other dynasty in NFL history, the Pats rings are tainted and, thus, so is Brady’s legacy.
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