On Sunday the Denver Broncos beat the New England Patriots 26-16 in the AFC Championship Game. The Patriots were outplayed in every facet of the game, including Denver QB Peyton Manning being much better than New England QB Tom Brady. It makes me unhappy to say that, but I’m a big boy–I can admit Manning was better on Sunday.
I think Sunday’s game helped Manning’s legacy and it will be further enhanced if the Broncos win the Super Bowl and he plays well. He still won’t be the greatest of all time in my mind, but Sunday’s game pushed him a little bit closer. What I want to address is whether or not Sunday’s game had any effect on Brady’s legacy.
It did and it didn’t. Let me explain.
First, let me say I don’t like comparing players of different eras in any sport because there is no easy way to do it. There are rule changes, opposing players become bigger and faster, etc., and it is incredibly difficult to make a direct comparison. That being said, I’m forced to evaluate all quarterbacks if I want to discuss any of their legacies.
I believe Joe Montana (four Super Bowl wins in four appearances) is the greatest QB of all time. The rest of my top five looks like this:
2. Brady (3-2 in Super Bowls)
3.Terry Bradshaw (4-0 in Super Bowls)
4. John Elway (2-3 in Super Bowls)
5. Bart Starr (2-0 in Super Bowls, but also 3-1 in NFL Championship games before the NFL and AFL met in the first Super Bowl.)
Nothing changed for me after Sunday. Brady didn’t slip in my rankings because of a poor performance and a loss. However, a win on Sunday, followed by a fourth Super Bowl victory, may have moved him to No. 1 on my all time list.
Brady’s body of work speaks for itself.
18-8 in playoff games. Yes I know he started 10-0 and since then has gone 8-8, but that’s still the most wins all time.
Five Super Bowl appearances. Tied for most all time with John Elway.
Three Super Bowl wins. Only Montana and Bradshaw have more (four each). Troy Aikman has three.
Eight conference championship appearances. The most all time.
Brady was awful on Sunday. There is no way to sugarcoat it. Even though the offensive line could not keep the Broncos defense from getting to Brady, he overthrew receivers way too many times. Brady didn’t look like Brady on Sunday.
That being said, has there ever been a QB that has done more with less throughout their career? It’s not like Brady has had the opportunity to play with a lot of future Hall of Fame wide receivers. He’s made play makers out of receivers who probably wouldn’t have amounted to anything anywhere else.
He did make the most of his time with Randy Moss and set the single season TD record in 2007, which Peyton broke this season, but who else has Brady had?
Yes, he has had TE Rob Gronkowski, but Gronkowski is hurt way too often and has never been healthy and rarely is even available for the playoffs. I love Gronklowski, but he needs to be healthy for an entire season, including the playoffs.
Brady had TE Aaron Hernandez for a short time, but now Hernandez is in jail. Brady also had Wes Welker who turned out to be a fantastic receiver while with the Patriots. That’s it.
That’s the list of the great pass catchers Brady has played with in his career. Just this season Peyton had Eric Decker, Demaryius Thomas, Welker and Julius Thomas.
And yes, I can admit that Peyton also makes the players around him better. He doesn’t have great arm strength, but his preparation and intelligence make up for that. That being said, Peyton has certainly had the more talented teammates.
It has been incredibly fun as a Patriots fan and a fan of football to watch Brady throughout his career. I don’t know how much longer Brady will continue to play in the NFL, but I do know that no matter what he does from here on out he cannot hurt his legacy–he can only enhance it.