Let’s start with the brutal facts. Joe Montana was the greatest quarterback in NFL history. He won a national championship in college and went 4-0 in Super Bowls. Most impressively Montana threw an impeccable 11 touchdowns to zero interceptions in four Super Bowls. Tom Brady has been great in Super bowls but he hasn’t measured up to Montana’s lofty standards. Tom Brady didn’t have the benefit of throwing to Jerry Rice for much of his career; but he was backed by an elite defense powered by the brain of Bill Belichick. In fact, Montana won two Super Bowls before Rice was drafted. If Montana had not suffered a serious back injury that led to Walsh acquiring Steve Young and having him look over Montana’s shoulder for six years, there’s no telling how far ahead Montana would be in the greatest ever competition.
However, Brady does still have a slim chance of making it a competition again. As he begins his march towards 40, Brady will be doing something Montana never did. Play into old age. If Brady can continue to play at this level and tack on another Super Bowl to his resume, that would give him six Super Bowl appearances and four wins. No other quarterback has ever accomplished that feat.
Meanwhile, Brady has gotten a lot of flack over his fourth quarter production. While he does deserve criticism for his poor decision to throw a jump ball downfield to a hobbled Rob Gronkowski. Let’s not get ahead of ourselves. He is a better quarterback than Eli Manning. Too often we compare quarterbacks in a vacuum. Eli out thrown Brady by 20 yards in the Super Bowl, however, Brady and Manning weren’t facing the same defenses.
Manning 296 yards came against the worst pass defense in the league. The Giants weren’t world-beaters but pass rushers Juan Pierre-Paul, Justin Tuck and Osi Umenyiora have had quarterbacks on the move all season. More specifically, the clutch ability ratings of Brady and Manning have been compared incessantly since Sunday night.
There is no degree of clutch ability. When the pressure mounts quarterbacks either sink or swim. Brady and Manning both made enough plays to win. However, football is a complex team sport sometimes assisted by a lucky hand.
Four years ago, Eli Manning benefitted from a dropped Asante Samuels interception on the finals drive. If little-known receiver David Tyree could pin a catch against his helmet with Rodney Harrison draped over him then Welker could make a routine leaping catch. In the box score, it goes down as a Brady incompletion but it’s obviously not that simple. It would be one thing if both teams had equally porous defenses. Brady also aggravated a shoulder injury after getting sacked by Justin Tuck. After the hit he went 7 for 17.
Both quarterbacks are unflappable but these aren’t the ancient days of platoon players. Eli didn’t torch Tom Brady in the secondary. However, head-to-head Eli has the Patriots number in much the same way Brady had his brother’s. Regardless, winning three out of five Super Bowls shouldn’t tarnish Brady’s legacy. Instead it simply bolsters Eli’s as the Giant-killer.