The argument about the greatest quarterback in NFL history takes different forms, depending on what people prefer.
Some want numbers, others rely on championships, others like to use the eye test. Many believe in talent, claiming that someone like Dan Marino or John Elway would have been even better than someone like Joe Montana if they had changed teams.
Whatever criteria you use, two of the undisputed greatest quarterbacks of all time will face off for the first time in the playoffs on Sunday, with a Super Bowl LV berth on the line. Tom Brady’s Tampa Bay Buccaneers will face Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers on Sunday for the NFC Championship, a game that can be streamed live on the Yahoo Sports app.
It’s hard to dispute Brady’s incredible accomplishments, especially since he had a big season after leaving the New England Patriots. For those who think Rodgers’ talent is transcendent, a victory on Sunday would strengthen their argument.
Tom Brady’s success might never be surpassed
It’s strange that Brady isn’t universally regarded as the best quarterback ever.
Brady has won six Super Bowls and played in three more, setting NFL records. Sunday will be his 14th conference championship game, and no other quarterback has appeared in more than seven. He’s a three-time MVP. He’s the first of all-time passing touchdowns and second of all-time passing yards, and he’ll likely pass Drew Brees (if Brees retires) next season. If we judge a player solely on their CV, Brady is the GOAT. Many would agree.
Others grow back. Maybe it’s Brady’s humble beginnings as the 199th pick in the 2000 Draft, and the misconception that he’s not as talented as other great quarterbacks. Most of the contenders as the all-time best in other sports – Michael Jordan, LeBron James, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Serena Williams, Tiger Woods, Jack Nicklaus, Mike Trout, Barry Bonds, Wayne Gretzky, Mario Lemieux – were superstars before turning pro. They had precocious talent and were up to it. We love that our greatest athletes fit into this box. Because Brady wasn’t drafted until the sixth round, there is a lingering idea that he was won by the Patriots system. His great season at 43 with the Buccaneers should eliminate that thought, not that it was valid in the first place. But there’s a lot of contempt for the Patriots’ success over the years. Some will never give Brady his due.
A seventh Super Bowl ring, at 43 with a franchise that has very few success stories, would be one of the most notable accomplishments in sports history. To get the chance, he has to go through Rodgers first.
Aaron Rodgers is a special talent
When people compare the most accomplished quarterback to the best quarterback they’ve seen, it opens the door for players like Rodgers.
Rodgers can’t match Brady’s Championships, but he has better numbers than Brady, especially in terms of efficiency. He’s had better completion percentage, touchdown percentage, interception percentage and quarterback rating throughout his career. Rodgers has spent most of his career with Mike McCarthy, no one to replace Bill Belichick. He’s set to equal Brady with his third MVP award. He made ridiculously athletic throws that very few other quarterbacks in NFL history could.
Rodgers’ best games are more physically impressive than Brady’s best games. Even Brady’s supporters would have a hard time opposing it. That’s why some prefer Rodgers – or Elway, Montana, Marino, Johnny Unitas or Peyton Manning – to Brady. Even Rodgers himself thinks it’s hard to limit the conversation to one player.
“When you talk about the top players… there are way too many people qualifying GOAT, or this guy is the GOAT of this or this guy is the GOAT of that. The greatest of all time used to be a person, right? Rodgers said on “The Pat McAfee Show” in December. “But now, because there are way too many GOATs, I think you have to break it down into specific categories. Best winner ever. Person who has won the most championships. Best player, which involves talent and ability and what you did with it. Most talented player. Best pitcher in football. There are different ways to break it. When it comes to those? With most people, I am in the conversation.
The argument can sometimes be unfair. For Rodgers, having just one Super Bowl is a blow to him. He may change that conversation in the coming weeks. Brady can take his legacy to an even higher level by the end of his playoffs. Whichever quarterback you prefer, we’ll see two of the greatest of all time with a Super Bowl spot on the line on Sunday. It will be a game for the history books.
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