Joe Montana Vs. Tom Brady
If you had to pick one to quarterback your championship squad, who would it be?
We recently brought the argument out of the barbershop and into our Madison Avenue offices. Shadow League All-Stars J.R. Gamble and Alejandro Danois make their arguments and debate who'd get the nod if they could only have one of these amazing players on their team.
Alejandro Danois’ Pick – Tom Brady
"This is a tough one, because I love Joe Montana. My colleague J.R. Gamble breaks down the supreme magnificence of the 49’er legend who is widely regarded as the greatest and most clutch quarterback ever in his argument below.
And I agree with 99% of everything he says, except for his final point.
He makes a very compelling case for Montana, but leaves out one significant detail.
Joe Cool played with not only the NFL’s greatest receiver, but the best player period in league history. And it was not simply Jerry Rice that he had in his weaponry. Montana played with 12 offensive Pro Bowlers during his four Super Bowl championship runs.
And before you start talking about how atrocious the Pro Bowl is, the event held much more prestige and meaning during San Francisco’s reign atop the NFL hierarchy.
Tom Brady, on the other hand, played with a total of two Pro Bowlers on his title teams, in a day and age where the Pro Bowl is wacker than Shelly Duvall’s acting in The Shining. Let me repeat, Terrific Tom played with two Pro Bowlers that helped him hoist a Lombardi Trophy. As in one plus one! Dos! Deuces!!! You get the idea.
The Patriots quarterback gets the nod in my book as the best ever because he could take a squad of Mexican cab drivers to the Super Bowl!
The lone true all-time offensive great that Brady has played with during his championships is Rob Gronkowski, and that’s it.
Anybody that can make Wes Welker, Julian Edelman, Troy Brown, Deoin Branch, Christian Fauria, David Givens, Danny Amendola, Reche Caldwell, David Patten and Danny Woodhead look like Dwight Clark and John Taylor is the best quarterback ever, bottom line!
People want to say that Brady lost two Super Bowls while Montana was undefeated. That’s sillier than Sarah Palin debating foreign policy.
Nobody mentions the playoff games that Montana lost against the Redskins, the Vikings and the numerous playoff defeats to the Giants, specifically that 1986 Massacre in the Meadowlands where he threw for 98 yards and two interceptions. People don’t mention his 2-5 record as a starter during his second season, nor do they mention his 3-6 record during the strike-shortened ’82 season after the first Super Bowl win in ’81.
Let’s look at how many conference championship games he played in. Montana took San Francisco to six NFC title games, which is incredibly impressive. Brady, on the other hand, led New England to a remarkable ten, including an unbelievable five straight. The last team to go to five straight AFC championships was the fearsome Oakland Raiders squads of the mid-to-late ‘70s.
In addition to Montana’s weapons of mass destruction in the passing game, he also enjoyed much stronger support for years in the running game thanks to the criminally underappreciated Roger Craig.
Brady’s best tailback was Corey Dillon, but he also got busy with the likes of Kevin Faulk, J.R. Redman, Antowain Smith, Mike Cloud, Rabih Abdullah and Cedric Cobbs.
You can talk about how much Brady’s stats are inflated by an era in which the passing game is emphasized due to rule changes that limit downfield contact with receivers, but let’s simply take a look at this past season, which offers the definitive proof that Brady is the best quarterback to ever play the position.
(Photo Credit: USA Today)
The four-time Super Bowl champ, three-time Super Bowl MVP and two-time NFL MVP obviously didn’t take the Pats to what would have been his fifth ring, but to even get them to the AFC Championship, where they lost to the Denver Broncos in Peyton Manning’s swan song, was beyond incredible in and of itself.
At the age of 38, he still looked to be in his prime as he led New England to a 10-0 start. Decimated by injuries, the Patriots started three different players at right tackle and four separate bozos at the ever-important left tackle position, which protects Brady’s blind side. He was also without his top wide receiver Julian Edelman for the seven games leading up to the Denver game.
Oh, and there’s also the five separate players that started at running back for them as well. And in the midst of all of that chaos and the Patriots suiting dudes up off the street, Brady threw for 4,770 yards, completed a franchise record 402 passes and led the NFL with 36 touchdown passes against a mere seven interceptions. He looked every bit the inimitable talent that scorched the league during the Patriots 16-0 regular season in 2007.
To accomplish what he did this year is mind-boggling, when you consider that he didn’t know, from game to game, who his offensive linemen, receivers or running backs would be. Do you have any idea how difficult it is to win in the NFL under those circumstances, scheming to move the ball and score touchdowns against some of the league’s better defenses?
No quarterback in the history of the game has more playoff wins, and no signal caller, not even the great Joe Montana, did as much with less than Tom Brady has done.
And to sustain that incredible standard in the salary cap era is nearly impossible.
Again, as a true fan who appreciates the bizarre excellence of Montana, it’s tough for me to say it, but there’s power in the truth. And Tom Brady is not only the truth, he’s the best quarterback that ever did it."
J.R. Gamble’s Pick – Joe Montana
"When you compare the careers of Joe Montana and Tom Brady, these guys are almost carbon copies of each other. It’s like Jordan and Kobe. Both have won four Super Bowls and are considered the incomparable winners of their generation.
Brady grew up in northern California idolizing Montana. He absorbed Montana’s blue print as Kobe did MJ, and brought it into the millennium in an era that was conducive to players putting points on the board.
They both were QBs for elite colleges and dropped a bit in the draft based on different circumstances. Montana fell to the 3rd round of the 1979 draft. Brady wasn’t selected until the sixth round. Both carried a chip on their shoulder and dedicated their careers to dismissing the haters and making the non-believers wallow in regret.
Both were fortunate enough to be guided by the NFL’s greatest tactician and the dopest coach in the game. Montana had “The Genius” Bill Walsh and Brady had “The Hoodie” Bill Belichick. There was a Yoda-Luke Skywalker flow with both of these tandems, as they dominated the league in dynasty fashion.
Naturally, Brady and Belichick’s streak of success lasted longer than Walsh and Montana's. The game has changed. Quarterbacks are lasting longer and it’s always easier to surpass a feat when someone has already cracked the code of success.
In 14 full seasons as a starter, Brady has led New England to the playoffs 13 times. With Montana starting for San Francisco from 1981-1990, the 49ers missed the postseason once, reaching four Super Bowls and six conference championships. Those numbers are about even, and they are team stats anyway.
Brady has the edge in longevity and sustaining peak performance past his prime, but that can be attributed to the rule changes that have been implemented over the years. Montana played in a head-hunting era, where QBs were coveted prey for malicious defenders. He played less than 16 games 11 of his 15 years. And from 1984 to the end of his 15-year career in 1994, Montana never started more than 15 games in a season. Getting pummeled sometimes was par for the course back then. There are few if any LT, Reggie White, Bruce Smith or Mark Gastineau types wrecking shop on Sundays.
Brady has enjoyed a comfortable career, shielded by a “don’t breathe on the QB” attitude that has infested the NFL’s business philosophy. Since 2002, he has started every game for the Pats with the exception of 2008, when he was injured. They still went 11-5 that season without him.
Because the game has transformed so significantly, Brady’s numbers are far superior to Montana’s on the surface. The Patriots quarterback has thrown for over 4,000 yards eight times and registered at least 25 touchdown passes in 10 different years.
Montana never surpassed the 4,000-yard mark, but he threw for more than 3,500 yards and 25 touchdowns or more six times. If you factor in the way the sport has evolved, a 3,500-yard passing season in the ‘80s and ‘90s is the equivalent of a 5,000-yard passing season in this era. A solid running game was still the foundation of any legit NFL offense back then and Montana wasn’t throwing 55 times a game, like Brady sometimes does. Joe only had 500 passing attempts in a season twice. Brady has had five seasons of 600 or more passing attempts.
Honestly, 4,000-yard passing seasons mean squat these days. The rule changes have handcuffed defensive players as seventeen NFL QBs threw for more than 3,900 yards this season. It has become an average stat.
Those 49ers teams were well-balanced, so Joe didn’t have to go aerial as much. At that time, only Dan Marino with the Dolphins was posting those kinds of stats and similar to the recent trend in New England, Marino’s passing game was Miami’s running game.
(Photo Credit: USA Today)
Montana does have an edge in a statistic that isn’t affected by era. When it comes to accuracy, Joe led the NFL in completion percentage five times. Brady only accomplished that feat once. Their interception rates aren’t much different either.
At their peaks, both quarterbacks had legit rivals for top dawg status. Peyton Manning and Marino are the reasons why Brady has only led the NFL in TD passes four times and Montana only led the NFL in that category twice.
As far as pure passing talent goes, Marino and Manning take the cake. Marino’s stats were off the chain, but he lost to Montana in the only Super Bowl XIX he ever got to.
While Manning leads Brady by more than 23,000 career passing yards, Brady has the four Super Bowl wins in six appearances. Manning has one Lombardi in three tries.
Championships are a team award that individual players are given too much credit for because sports debate is a cultural phenomenon and cats bring up anything to win an argument. However, when it comes to comparing iconic QBs of different eras, championships can be used as a deciding factor.
Cool Joe Montana is the original clutch QB. He went to four Super Bowls and never needed a do-over to get it right. His 127.83 Super Bowl passer rating makes him the best big-game quarterback in NFL history. In six Super Bowls, Brady doesn’t rank in the top 10 in that category.
Eli Manning took Brady’s heart and outplayed him on the world’s biggest stag -- twice. No opposing QB or coach could ever outsmart Bill & Joe.
So being that comparing these guys is like choosing between Nas and J Cole, I’ll go with the guy who wrote the book and lived it first.
Montana’s flawless body of playoff work is second to none. Even the great Tom Brady."