Robert Kraft recently stated that he thought, with all due respect to Joe Montana, that Tom Brady might already be the greatest QB of all-time. In part, I agree with him, Tom Brady is better than Joe Montana. And it’s really not even close.
One of the common arguments on Denver Sports Chat has revolved around two guys, Manning and Brady. Arguing the merits of these two future HOF quarterbacks has been by far one of our most discussed subjects. And with the constant banter, I have found that some of my opinions have recently changed. I used to think without a doubt that Joe Montana was the best ever. That has changed.
One of the reasons I’ve started to change my opinion is due in large part to the Manning/Brady argument. See, J Simp argues that playoff accomplishments carry more value than regular season accomplishments and therefore, Brady is better than Manning. I on the other hand believe that both playoffs and regular season can carry the same value depending on the team, era, and individual accomplishments. The problem lies in the fact that both arguments create a conundrum.
This is because both opinions still place X amount of value on the playoffs and X amount of value on the regular season. Therefore, when I think of 4-0 Super Bowl champions like Montana and Bradshaw, I think of stellar playoff careers with 4 Super Bowls each. And when I imagine either without 4 Super Bowls, there are new questions. What accomplishments do either QBs bring to the best ever argument? Is Montana really that much better than Bradshaw when you consider just regular season stats? Would Montana be as good in Bradshaw’s era as he was in his own? (the rules and offensive styles were a lot different) Is Montana really that much better than, Elway, Marino, and Favre? It’s just not as clear to me anymore.
Thus, these questions have led me to ten reasons why I don’t think that Joe Montana is the greatest ever anymore.
#10. Terry Bradshaw:
So one of the main reasons Montana is considered the best ever is because of his 4 Super Bowl wins. The problem with this is that Terry Bradshaw is also 4-0 in Super Bowl appearances. So why the difference? Well, the Pittsburgh Steelers of the 70’s were regarded as a defensive team. In the 70’s defenses were what won championships. The rules were such that today’s type of spread offenses wouldn’t be as effective. Because a defender was able to abuse a receiver, a guy like Bradshaw wasn’t able to really show off his talent very much. I highly doubt that Montana would have had the success that Bradshaw had, had he played in the same era, under the same rules.
So what was more important, the Steel Curtain for Bradshaw, or the Walsh West Coast for Montana?
#9. The West Coast Offense:
Just because you’re one of the first guys to master a new style of offense doesn’t automatically mean you’re the best ever. Just think for a moment… What if Aaron Rodgers was the first guy to run that style of offense? How about Drew Brees? Or better yet, what if Bill Walsh had a guy like RG3 to run that offense in its infancy? I know this is speculation, but I find it hard to believe that any of these guys would have trouble running Bill Walsh’s offense in the 80’s. Can you imagine RG3 to Rice for 80 yards?
#8. Jerry Rice:
It doesn’t suck having this guy to throw to.
#7. John Elway:
John Elway had 5 Super Bowl appearances to Montana’s 4. Under Dan Reeves, John Elway would lose three Super Bowls with teams that shouldn’t have even been in the Super Bowl. Elway being the only reason they were in the big game. See, Reeves was schooled in the old way to run an NFL offense. Run Sammy Winder up the middle on first down. Run Sammy Winder around the right side on second down. Throw the ball on third a twelve. Therefore, Elway had only one down to show his stuff during the 80’s. Under Mike Shanahan and a Walsh inspired west coast style, John Elway went 50-18, including the playoffs, and won two Super Bowls. He finished his career with more wins, more Super Bowl appearances, more yards, more TD passes, and more comebacks than Joe Montana.
Does two more Super Bowls wins with Walsh, Seifert, Rice, Taylor, and Lott make Joe Montana a better QB than John Elway?
#6. Joe Montana’s career stats:
He is not ranked higher than 10th in any of the major career passing stats. I know that the rules have changed a lot over the years, but have you ever heard of any of Joe Montana’s records being broken? That’s because he hasn’t set any. Recently Johnny Unitas had his record of 47 consecutive games with a TD pass broken by Drew Brees. That is a record that stood for 52 years! Dan Marino’s record of 5084 yards passing stood for 27 years. I don’t think Montana has ever held a major passing record. If he did, it wasn’t for very long.
Can you name one record that Joe Montana owns?
#5. Brett Favre:
Uhh… He has every record in the record book when it comes to major career passing stats. He also has two Super Bowl appearances and one Super Bowl championship. He won one with a Bill Walsh pupil by the name of Mike Holmgren. Under a similar system to the one Montana was in, Favre tore up the record books! He also has one more playoff appearance than Joe Montana and he is simply one of the most durable players to ever play in the NFL.
So was Bill Walsh better than Mike Holmgren, or was Joe Montana better than Brett Favre?
#4. Bill Walsh:
The west coast style spread that Bill Walsh developed in the 70’s changed the NFL. He had the single biggest impact on offensive philosophy in NFL history. Before Walsh, most teams would run in order to establish the pass. With the West Coast the pass establishes the run. This is a staple in today’s NFL type spread offenses. The Walsh coaching tree includes guys like Holmgren, Seifert, and Shanahan. Three guys that all won Super Bowls.
So who made who? Did Walsh make Montana or did Montana make Walsh?
#3. Johnny Unitas:
You are really, really, really good if you set an NFL passing record that stands for 52 years. In addition, you can add to that fact that the passing game was much more difficult during the time you played. In addition to that, you are a two time NFL champion and a one time Super Bowl champion.
Montana vs Unitas is one that can be argued only as long as it takes to put all of the accomplishments of each player on the table. If the NFL championship had not been renamed the Super Bowl, the Vince Lombardi trophy would be named the Unitas trophy!
#1-2 Tie – Peyton Manning and Tom Brady:
This is real simple… When these guys are done with their careers one of them will be considered the best ever. The other will be considered the second best ever! They both already have more wins, yards, touchdowns, and completions than Montana. They both have broken incredible single season passing records. Brady has five Super Bowl appearances with three wins. Manning has only two Super Bowl appearances with one win but is the only 4 time NFL MVP. Brady was the fastest QB in history to win 100 games where as Manning is the fastest to throw 400 career touchdowns. Manning owns the record for most 4th quarter come backs whereas Brady has passed for over 5000 yards in a season. Manning has 11 seasons over 4000 yards passing whereas Brady has the most single season touchdowns with 50. For comparison, Montana never threw for 4000 yards in a season. And the most touchdowns he ever threw in single season was 31.
So tell me why Joe Montana is better than Peyton Manning or Tom Brady? Is the only reason you can come up with 4 Super Bowls?
I’m not saying that Joe Montana doesn’t belong in the top 5. But it is hard for me to say anymore that he is the best ever just because of 4 Super Bowl victories. Just take a look at what the quarterbacks of today are doing in similar pass first offenses. The record book is constantly being assaulted by the likes of Brady, Manning, Brees, and Rodgers. Montana’s regular season stats just don’t support the best ever argument anymore. I hate to say it but Brady probably has the slight edge in the best ever argument right now. With that said, the 2012 NFL playoffs could totally change that assessment again. We will just have to sit back, enjoy, and watch NFL history as it unfolds.
By Robbie Dean
And one last note… In case you haven’t noticed, Drew Brees is re-writing the record book at a pace that is faster than any other QB in NFL history. This year alone he is already on pace to break his own single season passing record. More on that later…