(Photo courtesy of the New England Patriots)
By Clark Judge
Talk of Fame Network
GLENDALE, Ariz. – Now the question: Tom Brady or Joe Montana?
With Sunday’s 28-24 come-from-behind victory Brady did more than join Montana and Terry Bradshaw as the only quarterbacks to win four Super Bowls. He launched an argument that will go on for years.
Brady or Montana?
They share the same rarefied air now. Brady has more Super Bowl touchdowns (13), more yards and more Super Bowl appearances (6). Plus, his all-time winning percentage (regular and post-season games) is second only to Otto Graham. Brady and Montana are tied with three Super Bowl MVPs, but Brady has more Super Bowl interceptions -- including two Sunday -- and Super Bowl losses.
So who’s it going to be: Tom or Joe?
It’s almost too close to call, but if you want a photo-finish winner … if you're dissecting the smallest of margins ... then make it Brady. He’s done more with less than any modern-era quarterback other than John Elway, and Sunday was his coronation.
I know that won’t go down easily in San Francisco, and I understand. I covered the 49ers, and I marveled at Montana. He never lost a Super Bowl, and he never threw an interception in one. You can look it up: 11 TDs, no picks and four rings. Plus, he authored one of the greatest drives in Super Bowl history when he led the 49ers on a 92-yard march in the last three minutes of Super Bowl XXIII to beat Cincinnati.
Montana is the gold standard against whom all other Super Bowl-era quarterbacks are measured … until now, that is. Because now we have Tom Brady, a guy who’s been to a league-record six Super Bowls; a guy who’s been to a league-record nine conference championship games and a guy who has a league-record 21-8 playoff record.
And now ... well, now he's won a Super Bowl at the age of 37. Montana won his last one at 33.
“I’ve been fortunate enough to play on four really great teams,” Brady said, “so I’m blessed.”
Brady grew up in San Mateo, Cal., idolizing Montana. Now he’s in the same stratosphere. Except he just soared a little bit higher – and he did it by overcoming a 10-point fourth-quarter deficit to not only defeat the defending Super Bowl champions but to reduce the Legion of Boom to Gloom.
That wasn’t supposed to happen. In eight previous games, including the playoffs, Seattle allowed one fourth-quarter touchdown – a meaningless score by Carolina – yet Brady solved the Seahawks by shredding them for 328 yards and four touchdowns in his finest Super Bowl performance ever. It wasn't just that he overcame the league's best defense; it's that he solved it when it mattered most ... and when Seattle plays its best.
Montana supporters are right to point out that their guy was dead-solid perfect in his four Super Bowl victories. He was. Brady’s been to six, but while he’s 4-2, check out what happened in those two losses: When he left the field with four minutes to go he had the lead. New England didn't lose because of Brady; it lost because of a defense that couldn’t hold down Eli Manning and David Tyree … or was that Mario Manningham?
Then there’s this: Montana had a raft of talent around him, with Hall-of-Famers like Ronnie Lott, Charles Haley and Jerry Rice; a backfield of Roger Craig and Tom Rathman; a marvelous offensive line that featured luminaries like Jesse Sapolu, Harris Barton, Steve Wallace and Guy McIntyre and a defense that in his four Super-Bowl seasons ranked in the top 10 every year, the top five three times and led the league in scoring defense once and was second twice.
In short, there were luminaries almost everywhere.
And Brady? Well, tell me what Hall of Famers surrounded him? Randy Moss? He lasted …. what? Three-and-a-quarter seasons. Plus, the Patriots didn’t win a Super Bowl with him. Junior Seau? Yep, he’s in the Hall of Fame, but he’s in based on his career in San Diego. Not New England. Cornerback Ty Law? Maybe. But he missed the cut as a Hall-of-Fame finalist in his first year of eligibility.
How about Gronk? Well, he’s damned good, he’s young, and he’s injury prone. If he can stay healthy … maybe. Safety Rodney Harrison? Nope. Wide receiver Wes Welker? No again. Defensive lineman Richard Seymour? Please.
The point is: While the New England Patriots have been a dominant franchise for the last 14 years – winning 12 division titles and four Super Bowls in that period – there have been two constants: Brady and coach Bill Belichick. And this just in: Belichick has a losing record without Brady.
A year ago, some know-it-alls were telling us that Peyton Manning was the greatest quarterback ever, but it’s hard to be the best when you’re 11-13 in the playoffs, including nine one-and-dones, and 5-11 vs. Brady. That’s not a knock on Manning. He is one of the game's best quarterbacks; he’s just not the best of his generation.
Tom Brady is. And now … well, now you can argue he’s the best in the 49 years of the Super Bowl.
“Tom Brady is the best ever,” said wide receiver Julian Edelman. “I’m a big Joe Montana fan. I love him to death. I thought he was the best and everything. He won four. Joe’s undefeated in four. But they didn’t have a salary cap back then. He had some great players around him. He had some great defenses and all that. Tom Brady came out here. He’s been to six Super Bowls. He’s won four with the salary cap. It’s hard to argue against that.”