The GOAT Chronicles: QB Edition

There is much debate over who the greatest QB of all time is, but the most common answer appears to be Tom Brady.  Well, since it’s that boring part of the NFL offseason, I will look at 7 QBs and their cases for and against being the greatest of all time, and then tell you in the end who I believe to be the GOAT.

Tom Brady- The Argument that he is the GOAT:

He has a 27-10 record in the playoffs.  If it wasn’t for a David Tyree helmet catch, a Wes Welker drop, and a Derek Barnett fumble recovery, we could be talking about a man with 8 Super Bowls who led a team to an undefeated season.  He has led the Patriots to an incredible 15 division titles.  One might argue that all these are team accomplishments, so how about this:  Brady led the 14-pt underdog Patriots on a game-winning drive in Super Bowl XXXVI.

John Madden said “kneel and go into overtime”.  They didn’t do that.  As you are probably aware, he led the Pats on a comeback from 25 points down in his most recent Super Bowl victory.  Brady puts everything into his game, which is why he’s still going strong entering his 40s.  He is 4th all-time in passing yards, and will likely be in the Top 3 when he retires.  He has made 12 pro bowls, is on the 2000s NFL all decade team, and will probably make the 2010s list as well.

The argument that he isn’t the GOAT:

The Pats are infamous for being involved in alleged cheating scandals.  The whole “Deflategate” saga pales in comparison to “Spygate”, where the Pats appeared to have taped many teams during the 2000s.  Many will point to the fact that Brady is a “system QB”, and that having a coach like Bill Belichick is the real reason the Pats have won so many rings.  In addition, having a dominant defense in the early 2000s Super Bowl runs certainly helped his ring collection as well.  Other than the wildcat 2008 Dolphins, and the 2009-10 Jets, Brady and the Pats have had notoriously poor competition in the division.

Peyton Manning- The Argument that he is the GOAT:

He has 71,940 passing yards, the most in NFL history.  Manning has won 5 MVP awards, also the most in NFL history.  This man practically saved the Colts franchise, a franchise that drafted QB Jeff George and DT Steve Emtman with #1 overall picks just a few years earlier (both were miserable busts).  He came back from a career threatening injury in 2012 to make the Broncos a Super Bowl contender.  In 2013, he led arguably the greatest offense in NFL History to the Super Bowl.  He passed for a league record 5,447 yards that season, and also set a record for most TDs (he had 55, the previous record was 50).

For 7 straight seasons (2003-09), he led the Colts to 12+ wins in the regular season.  He has the most 4,000 yard seasons in NFL history (14).  Manning has made it to 14 pro bowls, and was named 1st team all pro an incredible 7 times.  In comparison, Brady has been named 1st team all pro 3 times.  Nicknamed “The Sheriff” by Jon Gruden, Manning would often audible before the snap (Omaha!).  This is due to an incredibly high football IQ, as Manning was known for his countless hours of film study, which was called the “stuff of legend”.

The argument that he isn’t the GOAT:

His 14-13 playoff record (9-10 with the Colts) leaves a lot to be desired.  He had 7 one-and-done seasons with the Colts in the playoffs, practically the king of first round eliminations.  Looking back, he should’ve had three or four rings with Indy, not just one.  His contemporary competition in the AFC was of course Tom Brady.  What was his record against Brady?  A dismal 6-11 in the regular season (granted he was 3-2 against Brady in the playoffs).  Although he got to ride out into the sunset with a can of fresh Budweiser, it is well-known that Manning was carried to his 2nd Super Bowl by that Denver defense.  He threw 9 touchdowns to 17 interceptions that year, not exactly a great encore performance.

Joe Montana- The Argument that he is the GOAT:

The man is called Joe Cool for a reason.  He won 4 Super Bowls over the course of 9 seasons, and made the 80s 49ers one of the NFL’s great dynasties.  In his four Super Bowl appearances, Montana completed almost 70% of his passes for 1,142 yards and 11 TDs to no INTs.  Has there ever been a more clutch QB?  After all, Montana has had over 30 4th quarter comebacks during his career.  He is so known for leading the drive that led to “The Catch” that many people forget about his 92-yard march down the field to help the Niners win Super Bowl XXIII.

He passed for 273 touchdowns to 139 interceptions, during an era where NFL rules were a lot less nice to QBs.  In comparison, the 70s dynasty leader Terry Bradshaw had 212 touchdowns to 210 interceptions in his career.  He won 3 MVPs, and was 3 times a 1st team All Pro in an era with some great QBs (Marino, Elway, Kelly…)  Not to mention, he competed in a stacked NFC with the Giants, Redskins, and Bears all being great teams in the 80s.  And Montana still made it to four Super Bowls.

The argument that he isn’t the GOAT:

What QB has exactly 5,682 more passing yards in his career than Montana?  Take a guess.  If you guessed journeyman QB Vinny Testaverde, you’re correct!  And if you thought Brady was a system QB, Montana was fortunate enough to have the genius who created the revolutionary West Coast offense as his head coach.  People will also point out that Montana played during the pre-salary cap era.  Having players like Jerry Rice and Ronnie Lott on your team for most of your career sure does help.  What also helped was his #1 receiver Jerry Rice using stickum to become Montana’s #1 target.

Johnny Unitas- The Argument that he is the GOAT:

A man that is often forgotten in the GOAT debate, Johnny Unitas doesn’t get the credit he deserves for revolutionizing the QB position.  In an era where teams would run the ball much more than they’d pass it, Unitas threw for at least 1 TD pass in 47 consecutive games.  He held that record for over 50 years until Drew Brees broke it (we’ll get to him later).  Unitas led the NFL’s first “two minute drill” in the 1958 NFL Championship, allowing the Colts to tie the game and send it to OT.  In this overtime game, he led the Colts on yet another drive to win what is often considered the greatest football game ever played.

It truly led to a surge in popularity for the NFL, and Unitas is the reason why.  The QB known as “The Golden Arm” threw for 290 TDs to 253 INTs.  In comparison, here are some stats from other hall of fame QBs of his era.  Joe Namath: 173 TDs to 220 INTs.  George Blanda: 236 TDs to 277 INTs.  Bobby Layne: 196 TDs to 243 INTs.  Have I made my point?  Unitas was in a league of his own during his career, and his 3 MVPs and 5 first team All Pro awards are a testament to that.

The argument that he isn’t the GOAT:

Simply put, what competition did he have?  There was less than 15 teams in the NFL for much of his career.  QBs like Brady and Montana were in a league with many more teams, and won more championships anyway.  While the famous 1958 NFL Championship game was the first NFL game to be nationally televised, it just doesn’t hold the same weight as playing in a Super Bowl.  If you thought Peyton Manning had a rocky end to his career, look at what Unitas did.  In the 1971 AFC Championship, he threw 3 picks in a 21-0 Colts loss.  He then went on to to awkwardly end his career with the Chargers in 1973.  During his last 6 seasons, he passed for 38 TDs to 64 INTs.

Drew Brees- The Argument that he is the GOAT:

A 5,000 yard passing season has happened 9 times in NFL history.  Only one QB has had such a season more than once.  That’s Drew Brees, and he’s done it FIVE times!  That should certainly throw him into the GOAT debate.  One could argue that Brees playing in only 11 playoff games is a big reason why he shouldn’t be thrown in the GOAT debate, but his defense clearly has let him down in many seasons.  Give Drew Brees a solid defense, and he’ll give you a shot at a Super Bowl (he proved that in 2009).

He broke Unitas’s legendary record for most consecutive games with a TD pass, having tossed a TD in an incredible 54 straight games.  The greatest Saint of all time is 3rd all time in passing yards, and can certainly close in at #1 if he plays 2 more seasons.  He overcame a horrible shoulder injury to become the Saints franchise QB that essentially kept them in New Orleans.  The Saints had a losing culture before Brees arrived, and had just suffered from Hurricane Katrina.  He led New Orleans to the NFC Championship the year he got there, and of course a few years later they won the Lombardi trophy.  Brees has made it to 10 pro bowls and has led the NFL in passing yards 7 times.  His 478 TD to 224 INT ratio is simply incredible.

The argument that he isn’t the GOAT:

For making the postseason only 7 times in his NFL career (once in San Diego), Brees will always seem to be overshadowed by Manning and Brady.  Despite his collection of 5,000 yard seasons, Brees has never won an NFL MVP award.  That’s got to be pretty crushing if you want to make a case that you’re the GOAT.  Brees has only been named first team All Pro once in his career.  Brees has very few signature games, he mostly just impresses you with stats.  The GOAT of a sport should have more memorable moments than Brees has had.  However, with the way the Saints are playing now, Brees might be able to lead another Super Bowl run.

Dan Marino- The Argument that he is the GOAT:

You have to stretch a bit to consider Marino as the GOAT, but in 1984 he had by far the greatest season the NFL had seen at the QB position at the time.  He passed for 5,084 yards, a record that stood for almost 30 years (Drew Brees broke the record, of course).  Marino essentially carried the Phins to playoff contention, as he didn’t have that great of a supporting cast throughout his career.  Not to mention, he played in a tough AFC East where the Bills and occasionally the Pats were good during his playing time.

It’s been argued that Marino in his prime would dominate in today’s NFL, and that’s pretty hard to disagree with.  When teams went up against Marino, they knew the Dolphins would primarily pass the ball… and they couldn’t stop him anyway.  His release was very quick and he had great pocket awareness, Marino was simply talented.  He is 5th all time in passing yards at 61,361, by far the most of the 80s/90s QB era (John Elway would be next with almost 10,000 less yards).  Marino led the NFL in passing yards in 5 seasons, a feat Joe Montana never accomplished once.

The argument that he isn’t the GOAT:

When you think about Marino, you think about what could’ve been.  This man ended his NFL career with a 62-7 loss to the Jaguars in the playoffs.  Anyway, Marino will forever be known for not winning the big one.  In his lone Super Bowl appearance, he threw 2 interceptions.  This was of course from his legendary 1984 season, but he never made it back to the big game.  Marino was 8-10 in the playoffs, which just isn’t clutch enough to be considered a top GOAT contender.

Aaron Rodgers- The Argument that he is the GOAT:

Okay, so you really have to stretch to consider Rodgers the GOAT.  Most people who do I would presume live in Wisconsin.  However, his career 104.1 passer rating is an NFL record among qualifying QBs.  So is his 4.13:1 TD to INT ratio (he’s thrown for 310 TDs and 75 INTs… just think about that).  From 2014-16, he threw for 109 TDs to 20 INTs, so it’s obvious he’s only getting better as his career progresses.

He’s a 2 time NFL MVP, and is a 6-time Pro Bowler (he probably would’ve made the Pro Bowl in 2013 and this year if it wasn’t for his injuries).  From 2009 onwards, he has led the Pack to 8 straight playoff appearances including 5 division titles.  Rodgers has incredible pocket presence, and he has become famous for his ability to throw the Hail Mary.  He won Super Bowl XLV, and might just have more trophies under his belt if his defense would stop choking in the playoffs.

The argument that he isn’t the GOAT:

He’s only 33 years old and still has a lot more to prove in the NFL.  He still has less passing yards than QBs like Kerry Collins, Drew Bledsoe, and Vinny Testaverde.  As long as Rodgers stays healthy in the upcoming seasons, to me he has a legitimate shot at becoming the GOAT.

So, who is the GOAT?

To me it’s Tom Brady.  If you asked me this question a few years ago, I probably would’ve said Peyton Manning.  However, Brady is still going strong at 40 and appears to have a legitimate shot at breaking all of Peyton’s passing yards and touchdown records, while also having far more championships than Peyton.  You can bring up the cheating scandals all you want, but to me every team in the NFL cheats to some degree.  Brady does everything he can to make sure he can still play football in prime form, to the point where his age 39 season was probably his best (14:1 TD to INT ratio!)

The Top 10 QBs of All Time (in my opinion)

1.) Tom Brady

2.) Peyton Manning

3.) Joe Montana

4.) Johnny Unitas

5.) Drew Brees

6.) Dan Marino

7.) Aaron Rodgers

8.) Otto Graham

9.) John Elway

10.) Brett Favre

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