In the lead-up to Sunday night’s matchup between the New England Patriots and Green Bay Packers, NBC aired a promo narrated by NBA legend Michel Jordan. The premise was somewhat surprising as an impartial observer residing in New England.
Jordan starts by saying, “A lot of talking going on these days about who is the greatest ever.” You’re supposed to believe he’s talking about himself and LeBron James. But get this, he’s not. He’s talking about Patriots quarterback Tom Brady and Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers.
Wait, though: Does anyone outside the state of Wisconsin really think Rodgers is the greatest quarterback of all time? Is this really even a debate? Is there “a lot of talking going on these days” about this subject? Also, why does Jordan look like he’s about to cry at the beginning?
Rodgers is a supremely talented quarterback. He’s the all-time leader in passer rating and interception percentage. He’s a two-time MVP, two-time All-Pro and six-time Pro Bowl selection. He’s won a Super Bowl. On top of his arm strength and precision, he also can run. He averages 5.1 yards per carry and has 25 rushing touchdowns to his name.
But he’s not Tom Brady. Living in New England, you only ever hear about one GOAT. It’s Brady. You’re not really even made aware that there’s another side to this argument. Maybe there is.
You’ll occasionally hear San Francisco 49ers fans make the argument that Joe Montana going 4-0 in the Super Bowl is better than 5-3. And that’s a dumb take. You used to hear talk from Indianapolis Colts and Denver Broncos fans about Peyton Manning. Then Brady won another Super Bowl while coming back from a 28-3 deficit. And the debate stopped.
Brady is a three-time MVP, three-time All-Pro and 13-time Pro Bowl selection. He’s won five Super Bowls. His arm is not as strong, and he cannot run like Rodgers. But he gets the ball out quickly, accurately and uses mobility to move around the pocket and evade getting sacked. His sack percentage is 1.4 percentage points lower than Rodgers, and his interception rate is only .3 higher. No one makes better decisions than Brady before or after the snap.
Brady also only has missed games because of one injury, a torn ACL suffered in 2008, during his entire career. Rodgers is a little more fragile. He missed games in 2010 and 2011. He missed seven games in 2013. He missed nine more in 2017.
There’s a sentiment that Rodgers is the most talented quarterback of all time, while Brady is the most successful.
Sure, if that makes fans of Rodgers feel better, then that’s fine. But a lot of players are talented. Every player selected between No. 1 overall and No. 198 overall in every NFL draft is deemed more talented than Brady was in 2000. JaMarcus Russell was really talented. Sam Bradford was really talented. Andrew Luck is really talented. Rodgers can be the most talented.
But Brady isn’t just the most successful, he’s the greatest. Is Brady a benefactor of circumstance? Maybe. He has the greatest head coach in NFL history. But so did Drew Bledsoe, and it didn’t work out very well for him. It didn’t work out great for Bernie Kosar, Mike Tomczak or Vinny Testaverde with the Cleveland Browns, either. The 2008 Patriots won five fewer games with Matt Cassel at quarterback than Brady and the 2007 team won. Consider that going from 16-0 to 11-5 is the same as going from 12-4 to 7-9.
There’s still time for Rodgers to become the greatest of all time. This conversation isn’t over until both quarterbacks retire. But he needs to make about seven more Super Bowls and win four of them before anyone should take this debate seriously.
“He’s got five championships, so that ends most discussions, I think,” Rodgers told reporters this week.