After 29 years of professional sports journalism, we have seen a thing or seven. Even before that, we ate up sports as kids in the late 1970s and early 1980s, when our moms would make us order a real book for every sports book we wanted from the Scholastic Books sales form.
That being said, our first post on this side gig/blog was about Tom Brady. That was over three years ago, and nothing has changed: He is still nowhere near being the “greatest of all time”—and it’s really time sport media organizations stop slobbering over the biggest cheater in the history of the NFL.
Let’s look at the facts:
- Brady is not the highest-rated QB in any significant classification. Aaron Rodgers holds the single-season record for QB rating, set in 2011. Brady’s best single-season effort was 2007, when his team was busted by the NFL for cheating, and that season ranks just fifth all time. Rodgers is also the career leader in this category, and Brady is fifth again—and sinking as he gets older. Heck, Brady is even behind Tony Romo on this list. Furthermore, Brady appears nowhere in the Top 25 all-time, single postseason performances for quarterbacks, either, despite his alleged postseason prowess. And Brady ranks just 15th in all-time postseason QB rating for a career. None of these facts scream “GOAT” at all.
- There are three significant cheating scandals associated with Brady that leave an asterisk next to all his accomplishments. As CBS Sports noted a few years ago, “The duo of head coach Bill Belichick and QB Tom Brady always will incur criticism and doubt because of the Spygate and Deflategate controversies that surrounded the team’s successes over 17 seasons …” Yet there is also the issue of Brady’s personal trainer, Alex Guerrero, who was eventually banned by the Patriots. He worked with Julian Edelman, too: Edelman has a PED suspension on his record. Oh, and Guerrero, according to USA TODAY, has “been in trouble with the FTC over making false claims about his medical qualifications—and selling nutritional supplements that claimed to work magic on everything from AIDS to multiple sclerosis.” If that guy sounds legit to anyone, let us know. Throw in the fact Brady went to the same high school as Barry Bonds, and it’s pretty damning that Brady has found a way to cheat the system in chemical and physical ways, too. Like Bonds, Brady has played way past the expected prime for a player in his position/sport, due to suspect methods. That’s a lot of damning evidence, albeit circumstantial. It piles up, folks.
- Yes, we know Brady has started a record nine Super Bowls and won a record six of them, but considering all the proven cheating—and even the extensive circumstantial evidence that points toward more cheating—does that really matter? His performance in those Super Bowls has been underwhelming for someone both cheating and considered to be the “best ever”: Look at the QB ratings for the individual games. In order, Brady has posted Super Bowl QB ratings of 86.2 (2001), 100.5 (2003), 110.2 (2004), 82.5 (2007), 91.1 (2011), 101.1 (2014), 95.2 (2016), 115.4 (2017), and 71.4 (2018). Since his regular-season career rating is 97.0, that means five of his Super Bowl starts were worse than his career average. The majority of the time, Brady was worse in the Super Bowl than he has been throughout his entire career. That doesn’t define greatness to us … not even close!
- Lastly, there is the issue of other QBs were better and dominated their eras more thoroughly (and also without cheating, too). Look at Rodgers, who holds the single-season QB rating record and the career QB rating record, for example. He gets criticized for making it to only one Super Bowl in his career, though, despite a career postseason QB rating that is higher than Brady’s mark by over 10 points! Basically, Rodgers has been a better playoff QB than Brady, but for whatever reason—cheating, coaching, teammate quality, luck—Rodgers hasn’t played in the big game more than once. Then there is a guy like Joe Montana: He’s 10th all-time in career postseason QB rating, but he went 4-0 in Super Bowls without ever even throwing an interception in the big game (Brady’s thrown six!). His 1989 playoff run is the greatest in NFL history, as Montana posted a 146.4 rating in three playoff wins. He also posted the 20th-best single postseason rating in 1988, whereas none of Brady’s postseasons even make the Top 25 as noted above. Montana is just 15th all-time in regular-season career QB rating, but the elevation in his game from regular season (92.3) to postseason (95.6) is more impressive than Brady’s decline from regular season (97.0) to postseason (89.8). How can a GOAT get worse in the playoffs?
It’s clear to see we can label Rodgers as the best regular-season QB of all time, even though his postseason QB rating is fifth all-time (100.0) and still much higher than Brady’s mark (89.8). And it’s hard to argue that any QB in history has been better in the postseason than Montana, unless you go with the quantity over quality argument. Throw in the blatant pattern of cheating, and all the “quantity” Brady has achieved is basically fraudulent.
One final thought: Despite the cheating and the underwhelming postseasons rating out to be significantly inferior to his regular-season level production, Brady’s only won one Super Bowl by a double-digit margin—and it was in a game where he played terribly with a 71.4 QB rating. His first three title-game wins came by a combined nine points, and then the Patriots lost twice to the New York Giants by a combined 10 points. Then the next two wins were by a combined 10 points, and both were games his team should have lost, won via luck, really.
Meanwhile, Montana won four Super Bowls by an average of 19 points, including the biggest blowout in Super Bowl history, one epic come-from-behind win, and a QB duel against one of the other all-time greats (Dan Marino). That is the Super Bowl log of the best ever, and Montana did it without ever tossing an interception.
Think about that for a moment: Montana didn’t cheat, and he dominated the competition consistently while improving his production and level of play from regular season to postseason. Brady can make none of these claims.
But sure, let the modern hype machine keep running, folks. Don’t mind the facts. We know they’re bothersome when you’re trying to sell an idea to the simple people.