When it comes to polarization, the New England Patriots are the kings of the NFL.
The fact remains, fans of others teams either like and admire Bill Belichick, Tom Brady and the Patriots or absolutely loathe them. There is no middle ground.
And while I can understand why both sets of fans can feel that way, the one thing I will argue with until I am blue in the face is the statement that Brady is not the best quarterback ever, and the notion that both Joe Montana and Terry Bradshaw were better because “they never lost a Super Bowl.”
Tom Brady has missed a total of 19 starts since becoming the New England starter (missed all but one game in 2008 with an injury and was suspended four games for deflategate in 2016), During that time, he has recorded a .771 winning percentage as a starting quarterback in regular season and playoff games.
His 237 career quarterback wins are 37 more than second place Payton Manning. He is one of only three starters (100 or more starts) to record a winning percentage above .700. That .771 winning percentage is 40 points higher than second place Roger Staubach (95-35-0, .731) and 60 percentage points higher than third place Joe Montana (133-54-0, .711).
In 16 of 17 seasons (excluding injury year), Brady has led the Pats to a Division Title. In 17 years as a starter, Brady has led New England to nine Super Bowls and six World Championships. There has never been a quarterback alive, and I doubt we will see one in the future, who can say that they led their team to a World Championship game in half the seasons they started. Those numbers just dwarf the achievements of any previous greats.
But numbers alone do not explain Brady’s place as the Greatest of All Time. Unlike Bart Starr, Montana, Bradshaw or any great quarterback prior to 1993, Brady’s accomplishments were achieved post salary cap and post free agency.
To understand the significance of that, you need to understand that prior to 1993, a player was married to his original team for as long as that team wanted him. Prior to 1994, teams could also spend as much as they wanted (or as little as they wanted in the case of Tampa Bay Bucs owner Hugh Culverhouse) to keep their team together.
That essentially meant that great teams of the past had the ability to keep their best players together for a decade. Does Terry Bradshaw win four Super Bowls without Hall of Famers Mel Blount, Joe Greene, Jack Ham, Franco Harris, Jack Lambert, John Stallworth, Lynn Swann and Mike Webster playing alongside of him for most of those Super Bowls? I suspect that at least half of those players would have departed via free agency or salary cap issues during the Steeler dynasty if they were playing under today’s rules.
Bradshaw was an impressive 14-5 in 19 post-season games. But in five of those wins, he was 52 for 94 passing (54 percent) averaged 136 yards passing with four total touchdowns and seven interceptions. In the Super Bowl win over Minnesota, threw for 96 yards and one score. Those numbers suggest the greatest quarterback of all time.
A similar argument about playing with great Hall of Fame players could be made for Montana but not as strong. Still Montana played with the greatest wide receiver of all time in Jerry Rice and a defense that featured Hall of Famers Ronnie Lott, Fred Dean and Charles Haley.
And while Brady had Randy Moss and Charles Martin for a couple of years, he never has been surrounded with the Hall of Fame talent that Bradshaw and to a less extent Montana did.
The fact that Brady and Head Coach Bill Belichick continue to win the division title and advance deep into the playoffs year-after-year despite what seems like a 25-50 percent roster turnover every year, can partially be credited to a shrewd player personnel department, but most of the credit needs to go to Belichick and Brady.
When it comes to Brady, the record book shows he has the best regular season and post-season winning percentage, he has been to the most Super Bowls, he has won the most Super Bowls, he has the most combined regular and post-season wins, he has won the most division titles, and has won the most conference titles. He accomplished this with a constantly changing roster and few Hall of Fame players to help. He is the G.O.A.T. Period.