Thursday, February 9, 2017

The Brady Versus Montana Argument Now Heating Up

11. Joe Montana

A couple of years ago, I wrote a blog entry about the debate that was then heating up, questioning who was the greatest quarterback of all time, Tom Brady or Joe Montana.

Now, in the light of the most unbelievable Super Bowl ever, this debate has heated up once again, and more people than ever before seem to be coming around to view Tom Brady as the greatest quarterback ever, or the Greatest Of All Time (GOAT).

So, in response to yet another unbelievable game and championship comeback - the most dramatic one yet! - it seemed like a good idea to enter this debate again myself here, as well as to republish that original blog entry from a couple of years ago.

Here's the argument that Montana fans are making to defend their position: Joe Montana is untouchable when it comes to the Super Bowl. Nobody handled the intensity and the enormity of the game better, especially in the clutch.

Now, here are the facts, when it comes to Super Bowls. Tom Brady has played in seven of them, and compiled a record of 5-2. Montana played in four of them, compiling a record of 4-0. Brady threw 15 touchdowns, with five interceptions in those games, while Montana threw an incredible 11 touchdowns with zero interceptions. Brady completed 67 percent of his passes in an era that was more friendly to quarterbacks, while Montana completed 68 percent of his passes in the biggest game. Tom Brady's overall quarterback rating in those Super Bowl appearances was 95.3, while Montana's cumulative rating was an off the charts 127.8. And some will point out that the Patriots won their five Super Bowl under Brady by a total margin of 19 points, not including the 7 points you would have to subtract if you include the two losses to the Giants. These critics will point out that Montana's 49ers won their four Super Bowls by a total combined margin of 76 points.

If you look at those statistics, then Montana's Super Bowl history indeed has some decisive advantages over that of Brady. I think it is fair to say that Montana was better on average in his Super Bowl appearances than Brady was in his. If you look at just the Super Bowls, you would have to say that Montana seemed to rise to the occasion in the Super Bowl particularly than Brady did.

That said, here are some counter arguments. The most obvious one is this: Brady won more Super Bowls. He just earned his fifth Super Bowl championship ring. In order to earn this, he orchestrated one of the greatest comeback victories in NFL history, and he did it in the biggest game, no less! He has shown incredible poise and leadership at those clutch moments when the game is riding on how he handles it, and he handled it well against the Rams, the Panthers, the Eagles, the Seahawks, and the Falcons.

So, the Super Bowl argument could go either way, really. The next important level would be playoffs, so let's take a look at how each man fared there. Brady played in 34 postseason games and won 25 of them (both records), throwing for 9,094 yards and 63 touchdowns, with 31 interceptions in the process (so far). Brady led his team in 10 game-winning drives in those games. Montana played in 23 postseason games, winning 16 of them, and he threw for 5,772 yards, with 45 touchdowns and 21 interceptions in those games. Brady's passer rating in the playoffs was 89.0, while Montana's was 956. Montana had five game-winning drives in the playoffs.

In the regular season, Brady boasts a record of 183-52, while Montana has a 117-47 record. Brady has thrown for 61,582 yards and 456 career touchdowns, with 152 interceptions. Montana has thrown for 40,551 yards and 273 touchdowns, with 139 interceptions. Brady's career completion percentage in the regular season is 63.8, while Montana's is 63.2. Brady's career passer rating in the regular season is 97.2, while Montana's is 92.3. Brady had 48 game-winning drives, while Montana had 33.

Now, let's look at what the teams accomplished while at the helm for their respective teams. Tom Brady has been on the Patriots since he was drafted in the sixth round of the 2000 draft, and became the starting quarterback for the Patriots in 2001, remaining the starter for every season with the exception of the 2008 season, when he was injured for the season in week one. Joe Montana was drafted by the 49ers in the third round of the 1979 draft, and became the starting quarterback for the San Francisco midway into the 1980 season. Brady led the Patriots to the playoffs 14 times, and they winning the division title during each of those playoff appearances. Montana led the 49ers to the playoffs nine times, with eight division titles, and he led the Chiefs to the playoffs twice, with one division title. Once in the playoffs, Brady's Patriots reached the divisional round of the playoffs 13 times. Montana reached at least the divisional round of the playoffs eight times with the 49ers, and once with Kansas City (he lost the Wildcard Game twice - once with San Francisco, and once with Kansas City). Brady was quarterback for 11 AFC title game appearances, compiling a 7-4 record in those games. Montana was quarterback for 6 NFC title games as well as an AFC title game with Kansas City, compiling a 4-3 record in those games. And, as already mentioned, Brady won five titles in seven Super Bowl appearances, while Montana won all four of his appearances.

Many people will argue that the 49ers faced better teams. Yes, this is true, but the 49ers also had better teams. Remember, they played before the age of the salary cap and free agency which has brought about greater parity than ever before. Montana had Jerry Rice, the greatest wide receiver of all time. They had John Taylor as their second best wide receiver, and that's a pretty damn solid set of wide receivers already! They also had guys like Brent Jones, Dwight Clark, and some other players who really stood out. They had Roger Craig and Tom Rathman. They had a serious offensive line protecting that backfield offensive talent, too! And, of course, let us not forget the underrated defense. They were underrated at the time, and most people seem to have forgotten just how tough and physical that defense was! They had Charles Haley, who is the only other player to have won five Super Bowl rings. They had Michael Carter, who won an Olympic silver medal. They had Ronnie Lott and Eric Young in the secondary. Indeed, that was an incredible team! San Francisco had a great team all around.

And while the Patriots did not compete against teams that were on the level that the 49ers had to face (think of the Giants, Washington, or Chicago, who were among the big bullies of the time that the 49ers had to get through to reach the Super Bowl), Tom Brady and the Patriots did face the best teams of their era. The whole dynasty began with an improbable Super Bowl run that ended with a victory over the juggernaut St. Louis Rams, who were on the verge of emerging as a dynasty themselves. That Rams team of the late 1990's and early 2000's is still considered one of the best offensive teams in NFL history, but their legacy was obviously compromised when they were prohibitive favorites against New England, but still lost. The Atlanta Falcons this year were on that caliber of offense, and once again, the New England Patriots managed to beat such a team on the biggest stage of all, and with that incredible comeback, to boot! Plus, the Pats beat the best defensive team (and probably best team of the era) in the Seattle Seahawks just two years ago. Granted, the Seahawks have dropped a couple of rungs down the ladder, but that may have been in large part due to what New England managed to do to them in that Super Bowl. They just never seemed quite the same since.

Also, let us not forget that this is the era of parity in the NFL, due to free agency and the salary cap. That means that it is difficult to retain the talent on a team, especially a good team. As a result, these Brady-era Patriots did not have the kind of talent around them that the Montana-era 49ers enjoyed. Certainly not consistently. There were some big names on the Patriots during some of those championships. Randy Moss was there for one of the Super Bowls, although that was the one where the undefeated Pats lost the Super Bowl.

Really, let's face it: there just is no way to know for sure. The two played in very different eras. They never faced each other, because Montana retired after the 1994 season, while Brady only entered the NFL in 2000, when the salary cap and free agency had changed the face of the league completely. Not only could those Montana-era San Francisco 49ers not face the Brady-era New England Patriots, but it would be different criteria. The only way that we could know for sure is if Montana was on these New England Patriots facing the obstacles of parity, and/or Brady was on those San Francisco 49ers teams with Jerry Rice and that talented 49ers team, while facing teams like the '85 Bears or the '86 and '90 New York Giants. Obviously, that is not going to happen.

To my mind's eye, most likely the best way to tell is based on championship success, and indeed, you can make an argument that Montana was a more clutch performer once in the Super Bowl than Brady is or has been. However, they are both great, and you cannot take away Brady's record five Super Bowl rings as quarterback.

I used the following article, as well as Pro Football Reference, for the statistics that I used above (see the links to both below):

Who Is the GOAT? Joe Montana Versus Tom Brady | NBC Bay Area by Brendan Webber, February 6, 2017:

Pro Football Reference:

Note: I originally published this piece a couple of years ago, before Tom Brady and the Patriots even beat the Seahawks in that Super Bowl stunner, which will forever be remembered for the 2nd and 1 that wound up being intercepted. Just thought it would be interesting to republish it, in the light of yet another Super Bowl triumph by Brady's Patriots, and in an even more shocking manner than that Seattle game two years ago.

Brady Versus Montana

(originally published on February 1, 2015

The debate has raged these last few weeks like never before: will Tom Brady attain the same elite status as a quarterback as Joe Montana if the Patriots manage to win this Super Bowl?

Or, will his legacy be forever diminished because he would then be 4-2 in Super Bowls, and not 4-0, or better?

Ultimately, that is the unanswerable question. Unless, of course, Brady were to win both this Super Bowl, and follow it up with another title next season, as the Patriots begin to reach for a status that no team has ever gotten: consecutive "Team of the Decade" honors.

Even then, however, I get the feeling that some will always detract from Brady, because of "Deflate Gate", and because of the taping scandal, and because he lost Super Bowls, particularly the one in the undefeated season, and because he is accused of being a smug pretty boy that is generally not likable, and because he played in an era that favored quarterbacks and offenses more than when Montana played the game, and because he allegedly had a better supporting cast around him, and because Belichick is a genius, and Brady would not have succeeded to the degree that he did without him.

The point is this: you can pretty much craft these arguments as you like them, to support your point.

If I were to say, for example, that Brady's regular season statistics exceed, and perhaps even far exceed, those of Montana, than supporters of Montana will inevitably argue that it is unfair to make that comparison, because the league is more geared for offenses, and particularly for quarterbacks now, than it was in the past.

There are always arguments for undermining the accomplishments of more recent players - and that is particularly true when those players are members of the New England Patriots.

On the one hand, I think that this author, Killion, makes some valid points.

But one thing which I disagree with is what he considers his checkmate point: Brady's record in Super Bowls versus Montana's record in Super Bowls.

Montana, of course, was 4-0 in Super Bowls. Brady is 3-2, with it pending on the outcome of this coming Super Bowl.

But Killion states that, even if Brady wins this Super Bowl, his imperfect record in the Super Bowl disqualifies him as the "best quarterback ever" because, according to Killion, Montana was the better quarterback in the biggest game.

I understand his point. But playoffs, I think we can agree, are pretty important games as well. And Brady won in his Championship Games more frequently than Montana did. That means that, in that regard, he is actually the more accomplished quarterback in terms of Super Bowl appearances and, if he wins, he would logically be the more accomplished quarterback. Unless, of course, you want to credit Joe Montana's losses in the championship games, since they possibly saved him from suffering any losses in the big game. It does not make sense to make that argument, but that is what you are essentially arguing when you look only at the Super Bowls.

Ultimately, however, each quarterback played their position as well as you could realistically ask while they were playing. Montana went from 1979 until 1994, with two teams. He won four Super Bowls with the 49ers, and played in an AFC Championship Game with the Chiefs. Brady has, so far, played his entire career with the New England Patriots, although his father predicted that he would have trouble from them within a few years, when they look for a younger quarterback. His legacy is still being written, and a major chapter will be written this Sunday. Either his winning in the big games shows diversity and elasticity with a win in his late-thirties, to go with the three titles that came in his twenties. Or, he loses another Super Bowl, and people begin to wonder why he and the Patriots cannot win anymore on the biggest stage.

I think it is safe to assume that Montana would be still considered the greatest quarterback when it comes to Super Bowls, at the very least. He always seems to have found ways to step up and stand out on the biggest stage, having won three Super Bowl MVP awards. He has thrown 11 touchdown passes, with no interceptions, in those four big games, and his overall rating in them was off the charts. Brady, when it comes strictly to Super Bowl play, simply cannot compare.

Yet, let us also not forget that there is a little bit of luck involved in some of these things. For example, Montana's finest moment in Super Bowl history came at the very end of XXIII, during the famous, game-winning drive against the Bengals. But moments before he hit John Taylor in the end zone for the championship winning score, he threw the ball right to Chauncy Billups of the Bengals, who could not quite hang onto it for what would have been an interception that iced the game. That surely would have affected how history viewed "Joe Cool", I would think. Similarly, Brady almost won the two Super Bowls against the Giants, and if not for a couple of miracle plays by the Giants offense, the Patriots could very well be 5-0, and not 3-2, during the Brady era, which would have made a world of difference as to how he is perceived, as well.

No matter what your stance on who the better quarterback is, however, I think it is fair to say that both of them were great - among the very best of all time! Most people like Joe Montana, and I never met anyone who disliked him. In fact, even though I hated, and still hate, the 49ers, I always liked Jo Montana, as well as Jerry Rice and Bill Walsh. Not entirely sure why, but there you go.

As for the Patriots, I understand why some people hate the Patriots, and perhaps particularly Brady and Belicheck. However, they are such an accomplished team in an age of free agency and parity that usually does not allow for enduring success, that you simply have to give them their accolades. They certainly rank among the greatest of all time.

But let us see what happens in the game later today, before we put Brady up there at the very top just yet.

Even if he wins 4th ring, Brady’s no Montana published by Killion, January 26, 2015:

As for "Deflate Gate", here was something that I thought was interesting: Boomer Esiason took exception to Richard Sherman's criticisms of the league, and how he felt that nobody on the Patriots was going to get punished, because Roger Goodell has warm personal relations with Patriots owner Robert Kraft. 

Here is some of what Esiason said:

"Should the NFL fine Richard Sherman for attacking the commissioner and the integrity of the league?" Esaison asked. "If I were the commissioner, I would. You can't have a player, who's one of the best players at his position and who has an open microphone and will continue to have an open microphone all this week, questioning your authority and your integrity.

"Richard Sherman seems to forget that Roger Goodell also works for his owner, Paul Allen ... and has many times sat down with Paul Allen, privately, in a friendly situation.

"So Richard Sherman fired a shot across the bow of the commissioner. Now, it's going to be up to the commissioner and the NFL to act accordingly. I think a heavy-duty fine is in order. Let's see if the commissioner has the guts to levy it," Esiason said.

Quotes taken from:

'Deflategate': Richard Sherman should be fined, Boomer Esiason says By AUSTIN KNOBLAUCH, January 27, 2015:

Few more articles on or related to Tom Brady:

Brett Favre: Tom Brady is the best QB in the league by In Depth Videos 1:39 mins

Tom Brady's 2008 knee injury gave perspective he needed ... on losing Eric Edholm By Eric Edholm 1 hour ago Shutdown Corner, January 27, 2015:

Top 20 Postseason Touchdown Leaders

Thought I would throw this in: prediction of the Super Bowl winner after 50,000 runs.

Simulator runs Super Bowl matchup 50,000 times, and winner is ... Kristian Dyer of Shutdown Corner, January 27, 2015:

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