The New England Patriots just played their typical “this is anybody’s game” type Super Bowl. It was another classic, and this time the Pats fell short. You’re sick of Tom Brady winning? I can appreciate that. You took joy in him losing Super Bowl 52? Most have your back. The amount of shade being put in Brady’s direction is over the top. Rob Parker shouted, “this clearly takes away his greatest of all time label.” Shannon Sharpe claims “this loss was 75 percent Brady’s fault.”
Trying to re adjust where this QB ranks historically is a bad look. I think he came out of this game, a greater player. Tom threw some bad balls, sure. He also dropped an overthrown pass that will bother him for the rest of his life. The crucial fumble at the end? That was a product of the game. The Eagles made an incredible play. That was zero percent on Brady.
This performance was about heavy lifting. His defense gave him very little help. No player ever had 500 plus yards, three scores, with zero picks and lost ANY game. Tom carried his team to simply having a chance.
You do realize the greatest quarterback debate is over right? I can buy that you prefer someone else. It’s true others have played the game as well, and several close to as well. Brady doesn’t have Elway’s arm and leg strength. He doesn’t have Marino’s release or Aaron Rodgers fluid skills.
Joe Montana played football just as good as Tom does. Joe was equally as surgical, and moved like a ballerina. Brady has been Montana like, for much longer. In the impossible world of ranking players, I moved Tom past Joe as the “GOAT” Thanksgiving day 2015.
In review, number 12 was just the MVP of the NFL at the age of 40. He was down 10 in the fourth quarter of the championship game to the best defense in the AFC. The result was his 27th playoff win. Perspective? Over a combined 32 seasons, legit Hall of Famer’s Dan Fouts and Warren Moon combined for six post season victories.
The year ends with Tom’s eighth Super Bowl appearance. I’d guess his performance was a record-breaking, disappointing “9.3”. Once the Patriots took the lead, you were sure they would win. Hail Mary on the last play? You were scared to death! We have seen Brady pull off clutch gems on the biggest stage so often, it’s become a habit to think he will come through. He lost? I know.
How does the loss affect his legacy? He’s on a different level. Tom Brady can now be considered the greatest football player of all time. I understand the game is diverse. Brady did not dominate in the way Jim Brown did. Tom will never be the best player ever at two positions like Deion Sanders. Jerry Rice was perfect. Larry Allen could bench press over 700 lbs. and played like it. How good were Ronnie Lott, Reggie White, and Lawrence Taylor at football? Walter Payton was elusive, powerful, and maybe the best running back ever. He could also block, kick, catch, return kicks, tackle and throw. I understand the game is diverse.
Tom Brady is as good as all of them. His resume is better. He plays the most important position in the ultimate team sport. His job is to win football games. In an era of player movement and parity, this guy kind of owns the league. He’s not Michael Jordan, but he sits at the same table. You thought Sunday hurt Brady’s legacy? Sorry.
The old saying has often been “too many guy’s get into the Hall of Fame”. The new truth is, not enough players are getting that call. We have so much more information about today’s athletes and the history of the NFL than ever before. An average of six men per year have been inducted over the past 20 seasons. That comes across as a reasonable number. If you look behind the curtain, a log jam is taking place. Looking at the category of receiver only, I think this group of retired players all have a compelling case to be in.
RETIRED RECEIVERS THAT DESERVE TO BE IN THE HALL:
RANDY MOSS: “Freak”. Legend. His go up and get it, and ball skills were a ten. Many fans would say Moss is the most talented wide receiver they have ever seen.
TERRELL OWENS: His initial power off the line of scrimmage was intense. It’s obvious T. O. is a Hall of Famer( just ask him)! Owens work ethic, skill, and level of dominance attained are all top shelf historically.
CALVIN JOHNSON: Johnson was the ultimate specimen to ever play wide receiver. I remember a few late game situations where “Megatron” was triple covered by Cowboys players. Each time the ball was in the air, it felt like the odds were 60 percent in his favor…. Calvin caught all three of them.
DREW PEARSON: Pearson was the NFC’s best receiver in the 1970’s. He is widely considered one of the greatest clutch players in football history.
CLIFF BRANCH: An elegant yards per catch guy, Branch is the only Raider to play on all three title teams. At the time of his retirement he ranked number one in total post season catches and yardage.
HINES WARD: His Pittsburgh Steelers team records speak volumes. Ward has two rings and a Super Bowl MVP. His niche of being an all time great blocker helps get him in.
ISAAC BRUCE: His 80 yard TD grab was the go ahead score in Super Bowl 34. Bruce does not have near the name he should for how awesome he was. He’s like his generations Art Monk.
STERLING SHARPE: Sharpe did not miss a game in his seven years. His career ended after a serious neck injury following a season where he scored 18 times. At his best, Sharpe was in the same class as Irvin, Carter, Reed, and Tim Brown.
TORRY HOLT: His routes were precise and his hands were like football magnets. From 2000-2009 Holt’s 868 receptions and 12, 594 yards are the highest totals, for any decade in league history.
REGGIE WAYNE: Reggie was a steady pro who likely left a HOF resume on the field. He played in 21 post season games. At the time of his retirement, no player had more receiving yardage versus Bill Belichick led teams.
ANQUAN BOLDIN: I watched every snap of his first pro game at Detroit. He had 217 beast like yards. Boldin was eventually the go to guy on a world champion. He played a month after having seven plates and 40 screws put in his face.
STEVE SMITH: Nobody wore that chip on the shoulder better than Steve Smith. He was so fierce, and was one of the top playmakers of his generation. He’d catch it, pivot the other direction and it would look like he was part of the field.
ANDRE JOHNSON: Some guys should simply be awarded in the category of “what was your level while you played”? Johnson was elite at his job. Three times he had 1, 500 plus yard seasons.
RECEIVERS THAT STILL DESERVE A LOOK:
Larry Fitzgerald will be a first ballot guy when he’s done. Guys like Antonio Brown can think ahead to how the yellow jacket may fit them. The game will continue to be full of volume passing totals. More receivers are getting in this long line to be recognized. Who else deserves to be on my list?
The New York Giants (2-9) have benched Eli Manning for the rest of the year to look at younger players. This has caused quite a stir, and a reason for everyone to judge Manning’s career. As a Dallas Cowboys fan, my job is to “hate” Eli. I truly have thought of his interceptions to put myself to sleep a few times. I can picture each pick, like cute little sheep.
From a family of football royalty, it comes across like Eli has always been fighting through shadows. He doesn’t have the skills his father had. The only time he has ever been better at football than his brother Peyton, is right now.
Who has ever thought of him as top three QB at any point? Top five? Bueller? This guy is very hard to rank among the best that ever played.
Manning has three seasons of disgusting interception totals (20, 25, and 27). He would turn the ball over and have this mopey expression that would annoy Giants fans to no end. I can see him unsnapping his chin strap to a chorus of New York boo birds as he walked to the sideline. Tiki Barber said he would follow a young Manning off the field yelling “posture matters”!
Eli is very good. He is tough, durable, smart, and above all clutch. Some will claim “Eli threw a couple lucky passes to win his two Super Bowls.” That’s garbage!
In the 2007 post season, he beat a Cowboys squad with 13 Pro Bowlers on the road. Number ten then out clutched Brett Favre in extreme temperature in Green Bay.
Manning then played a huge role in the biggest NFL upset of my lifetime. That Patriots team came in 18-0, and WOULD HAVE been considered the best single season team of all time.
Eli won a second ring and Super Bowl MVP a few years later. Let’s not under do that his teams beat Bill Belichick and Tom Brady TWICE when it mattered most.
This guy is a class act. He will end up in the Pro Football Hall of Fame someday. First ballot? Probably not…Eli Manning a weird level of greatness.
Tony Romo leaves the game of football as one of its most polarizing characters. He was all time talented, and highly criticized. Some of the heat was fair because he and his teams did not win enough big games. He also could melt down with the best of them over his first seven seasons. Truth is, Romo’s overrated Cowboys teams helped him become the most underrated quarterback of his generation. While he had a handful of star level seasons, 2014 was his finest work. This was the best offensive team he ever played on. This effort was more than just Romo’s remarkable peak. You’ll soon agree it was one of the most efficient, clutch seasons in the 97 year history of the National Football League.
SETTING THE SCENE
Tony was coming into 2014 off his second back surgery in as many years. He was now 34 years old and his health was a major question mark for the first time in his career. He was held out of practice on Wednesday’s all year long. Dallas had the worst defense in the league the previous season. This Cowboys team was “expected” to win 7 games.
In the season opener at home I didn’t expect Romo to have his legs. He struggled to push the ball down the field. He threw three first half picks. The 49ers had their way with the Cowboys 28-17.
Week 2 at Tennessee. I thought Tony’s body looked stiff and his ball was coming out wobbly. He was like a shell of the young, spry athlete he once was. It went overlooked because Dallas won, number nine did not turn it over, and the ground game was elite.
Week 3 at St. Louis. After Romo throws a pick six late in the second quarter, It’s 21-3 Rams. In that moment, this season was looking very bleak for Tony and his team.
Week 8 vs the Redskins. Romo receives a knee in the back. The result was two fractured transverse process and a cracked rib. He comes back to play late in the game in an eventual Redskins victory. He misses the next week (28-17 loss to Arizona). He comes back 12 days later in a flak jacket.
(These are the three areas every QB is harshly judged in the ultimate team sport).
Romo was 12-3 as a starter. (League best winning percentage).
He was 8-0 on the road. (Fourth QB to accomplish this. Tom Brady, Kurt Warner, and Joe Montana did it twice).
With the NFC East crown at stake, the Colts were the Cowboys opponent. Romo was on fire, converting on 16 straight passes. He had 4 touchdown strikes in a 42-7 route. Tony finished 18-20. It was only the 24th time in NFL history a player completed 90 percent of his attempts.
Playoff game vs Detroit: The best defense in the league belonged to these Lions. They beat Tony down and sacked him six times. Detroit was up 20-7 with under three minutes left in the third quarter. Romo made multiple plays in crunch time and hit Terrance Williams for the game winner.
Playoff game at Green Bay: Tony goes 15-19 throwing the ball. With four plus minutes remaining, Dallas was down five points on the 33 yard line. The intense situation was fourth down and two. On an incredibly daring play, Romo threw a beautiful ball 35 yards down the field. He gave Dez Bryant the right opportunity. Things did not work out, and the Packers advanced to the NFC championship game.
The Cowboys faced a deficit in 13 of his 17 games.
Tony tied for a league high, five game winning drives.
He had a passer rating of 133.7 in December. The best mark of all time for the month.
His completion percentage in December was 74.8%, the second best mark ever for the month.
Over the last six games (4 reg season, 2 playoffs) his TD to pick ratio was 16/1.
When trailing, in the last four minutes of games…Romo was 11 of 15 passing. This included seven first downs, three touchdowns, and zero picks.
Look at where Romo finished in the following crucial categories:
Number one in passer rating (113.2). (Only six seasons have ever been better).
Number one in QBR (81.5).
Number one in completion percentage (69.9). (Only seven seasons have ever been better).
Number one in yards per attempt (8.5).
Number one in touchdown percentage. He threw a td pass on 7.8% of his throws.
Only player to ever have six games in a season with a rating over 135.0.
From week two of the season to the Cowboys second playoff game, Romo had 37 touchdown passes and 6 interceptions.
NFC Offensive Player of the Month for December
He was selected to his fourth Pro Bowl.
Named Second-Team All-Pro
Finished in third place for NFL Most Valuable Player (with teammate DeMarco Murray).
This was a competitive MVP race. Aaron Rodgers may be the most talented QB ever, and was a fine choice as the winner. JJ Watt was in his most dominant form. DeMarco was a beast, and helped muddy the voting waters. Tom Brady’s legend was also in the mix.
Tony didn’t sniff a Super Bowl ring. I think he will come up short of the Hall of Fame. He never got the credit for the heavy lifting he did for mostly average teams. He was a low-level star with issues, not the bum many painted him to be. There is a reason this QB himself, and his fans can be at peace. For an 18 game window in 2014, nobody on earth played professional football better than Tony Romo did. Respect that.
It was Sunday night, November 23rd 2014. The Dallas Cowboys had come to Metlife Stadium to take on their rival the New York Giants. Early in the second quarter Eli Manning threw a deep ball and what happened next was amazing. Beckham Jr. snagged the ball out of the air like Spider-Man. This 43 yard touchdown was better than spectacular. I remember appreciating it while being disgusted at the same time. It put the Giants up 14 to 3. This play is a big deal two years later. I think it deserves the hype, and remains one of the great catches I have ever seen in the NFL.
However, I’m a Cowboys fan.The Odell grab is so celebrated and replayed, It’s often used to mock Brandon Carr and the Dallas defense. Please remember how this contest ended. Tony Romo completed six straight passes on his teams final drive. Dez Bryant caught the go ahead score with a minute to play. Unbelievable catch Beckham. You are scary good. My biggest memory from that night was the final score. Cowboys 31 Giants 28.
This is an award always slanted towards offensive players that touch the ball. My 2015 NFL MVP’s:
#5- Antonio Brown (Pittsburgh Steelers)– Brown is a route improviser, and an elite special teams guy. He played over one quarter of the year without Roethlisberger, yet compiled 136 catches and 1,834 yards. The 5-10, 180 pound Brown has become the most productive, and maybe best receiver in the game.
#4- Carson Palmer (Arizona Cardinals)– Good for you Carson Palmer. Coming off an ACL tear at age 35, he answered with his best showing in the pros. He led everyone in total QBR (82.1) and yards per attempt (8.7). He played in all 16 games and won 13 of them. Palmer is now, arguably, one of the 30 best quarterbacks over the last three decades in the NFL.
#3- Russell Wilson (Seattle Seahawks)– Wilson has taken an already established game to another level. The knack for making the timely play remains and he’s showing off more skills in the passing game. He led the league with 110.1 passer rating and he casually rushed for 553 yards. He is a star whose all time status is on the rise. Russell’s leadership and play making spear head a scary as they come 10-6 team.
#2- Tom Brady (New England Patriots)– Brady spit on “deflategate” this season. His play over a large portion of the year was only a reminder he’s much closer to the greatest ever than a cheater. Tom rolls out of bed and goes 36 to 7 in touchdown to interception ratio, racks up 4,770 yards and gathers his 13th AFC East crown. He performed to this level with many injuries on the offensive side of the ball.
#1- Cam Newton (Carolina Panthers)– That annoying swagger he has when he is whipping your team, is the fuel that led to a league best 15-1 record. Cam used to be a little high and low throwing the ball, now he’s hitting third down and 23 with precision. His 35 touchdowns to 10 picks are nice. Factor in his 10 rushing scores and 14 straight victories, Cam Newton is the clear 2015 NFL Most Valuable Player.
I’m only rating the quarterbacks that I have seen play near or at their best in my time watching football. These will only be players from the mid 1980’s to 2015. I saw the great Dan Fouts for example (Jim Plunkett, Danny White, Joe Theismann), but will not include him in this ranking. I did not see him enough or at his best. Active players on this list remain in position to climb it. These are the 30 best quarterbacks I’ve watched play in the National Football League as of February 2015.
JUST MISSED THE CUT: (Bernie Kosar, Dave Krieg, Matt Hasselbeck)
#30– RUSSELL WILSON (Active) Three years ago I would not have guessed Wilson would have got my attention this early in his career. He has a knack for making plays at the right time. After throwing an interception to lose the Super Bowl, I would trust his attitude and self security to bounce back more than any player in pro football.
#29– MATTHEW STAFFORD (Active) Stafford has left me with some painful memories burning the Cowboys late in games. He gets rid of the ball at all kinds of odd angles. His banner season to date was 2011 where he passed for 5,038 yards and 41 scores.
#28– MATT RYAN (Active) His first pass a professional was a 62 yard touchdown. Ryan has been a star caliber player since and I don’t see that changing anytime soon. In only seven seasons he has 27 game winning drives.
#27– MARK BRUNELL (1994-2011) Mark was a mobile lefty who was sneaky good. He helped his Jaguars upset the Denver Broncos in the 1996 playoffs and was also part of a team that won a post season contest 62-7. Brunell played in three pro bowls.
#26– MICHAEL VICK (Active) Vick is the most dynamic runner to have ever played QB in the NFL. It seemed like he could run for eight yards on accident. For a short period of time, I thought Michael was one of the 10 best players in the entire league.
#25– ANDREW LUCK (Active) Andrew was a lock for stardom from day one. He’s bright, hungry, and has powerful legs. It is obvious he can make every throw and is a team first guy.
#24– RICH GANNON (1987-2004) Rich was a solid QB before he exploded for 105 touchdown passes over four seasons as an Oakland Raider. He ran the west coast offense beautifully and is the only athlete to ever be the player of the game at the Pro Bowl in back to back seasons.
#23– JOEFLACCO(Active) Flacco is a nice deep ball thrower who has already proven his big game credentials with 10 playoff wins. In his 2012 world title run he tossed 11 touchdowns and zero interceptions.
#22– PHIL SIMMS (1979-1993) Phil was part role player part star. His 22-25 passing performance in Super Bowl 21 remains the standard for completion percentage. It seems forgotten he was 11-3 as a starter before getting hurt in 1990. He set the table for another New York Giants championship.
#21– BOOMER ESIASON (1984-1997) Boomer was the first guy to use the no huddle offense for consistent stretches. He had a cool play fake where he would crouch low. Esiason helped the 1988 Bengals win the American Football Conference and he was named the NFL Most Valuable Player.
#20– RANDALL CUNNINGHAM (1985-2001) Randall was one of the most exotic talents to step on a field. He was an MVP Caliber player as a dual threat at the end of the 1980’s and early 1990’s. Cunningham was at the top of his game as a pass first player a decade later leading the explosive Minnesota Vikings inches from an NFC crown.
#19– TONY ROMO (Active) Romo’s ability to escape defenders and extend plays is all time great. Tony was named “NFL Offensive Player of the Month” for December in 2009 and 2014. Even Romo’s biggest critics praise his toughness.
#18– PHILLIP RIVERS (Active) He annoys you if he’s against you, and you would love him if he was yours. Rivers is full of grit and competitive juice. Over his time in the NFL he has been the best of the second tier QB stars. He has quietly been building a resume that has a chance to become Hall of Fame worthy.
#17– DREW BLEDSOE (1993-2006) The Patriots had made the playoffs six times in 33 years before Bledsoe arrived. In his first five years they made the post season three times including a trip to Super Bowl 31. He stepped in for a hurt Tom Brady in the 2001 AFC Championship game to make help ensure his presence was felt in this modern New England dynasty.
#16– STEVE MCNAIR (1995-2007) Steve had a stout presence in the pocket and threw the ball with ease. He worked around lack of practice due to injuries better than anyone.
#15– DONOVAN MCNABB (1999-2011) McNabb rolling to the right on third and seven was a scary sight. He was an intelligent and crafty playmaker. He carried offensive units most of his career.
#14– ELI MANNING (Active) Manning was the most difficult player for me to rank. He is the owner of two of the sharpest post season runs in league history. Beating the 18-0 Patriots was the top upset of any NFL game in my lifetime. Eli is almost more clutch than he is good.
#13– WARREN MOON (1984-2000) Moon was not drafted by an NFL team so he tore up Canada instead. Even after losing years due to discrimination, Warren Moon lit up the National Football League. He was the smooth operator of the Houston Oilers run and shoot offense in the early 1990’s. He had a loud clear cadence and embarrassed those that doubted him by finding a permanent home in Canton Ohio.
#12– JIM KELLY (1986-1996) Jim played in the K-Gun offense in which he called his own plays. He was linebacker tough. Losing in four consecutive Super Bowls is an amazing, under respected achievement by his Buffalo Bills teams.
#11– KURT WARNER (1998-2009) Kurt was 1-2 in Super Bowls but owns the three highest passing yard efforts in the games history. Getting the Arizona Cardinals within a couple of minutes of a world title ensured his prominent place among passers.
#10– BEN ROETHLISBERGER (Active) Fans tend to mention that Ben played poorly in his first Super Bowl victory. They forget that he led the Steelers to three straight playoff road wins. During that stretch he completed 68% of his passes to go with seven touchdowns and one pick. “Big Ben” also made a game saving tackle at Indianapolis in the Divisional round.
#9– TROY AIKMAN (1989-2000) Legendary broadcaster Pat Summerall loved to gush over Aikman’s accuracy. Troy could throw the deep out with his eyes closed. He sacrificed his stats for footballs best running game. It paid off with three rings, a Super Bowl MVP, and a 13-4 record as a playoff starter.
#8– DREW BREES (Active) The Saints were in Dallas Thanksgiving day 2010. The Cowboys were up 27 to 23 with three plus minutes remaining. My stepdaughter texts me, “Cowboys are gonna win.” I wrote back, “Three minutes is a lifetime for Drew Brees.” Drew completed a 55 yard pass, followed by a 12 yard touchdown to win the game 30-27. Some guys are just too good to ever let you get comfortable.
#7– AARON RODGERS (Active) Aaron carries himself with the appropriate arrogance for his job description. He’s agile, with an accurate whip for a right arm. In the 2015 post season he led his team to victory on essentially one leg. As a move to throw talent, Rodgers is the best I’ve ever seen play the position.
#6– BRETT FAVRE (1991-2010) Brett was entertaining television. He had the enthusiasm of a young child and the swagger of Han Solo walking into a bar fight. Favre was a gunslinger to the core and earned the recognition of being an iron man. Counting the playoffs, Brett played in an incredible 321 straight games.
#5– DAN MARINO (1983-1999) Nobody had a cat quick release like Dan. He also manipulated the pocket with the best of them. NFL Films co creator Steve Sabol said, “Watching Marino in the pocket was like watching a great matador. With just a little bend of the waste, a jab step forward, a step back, he could avoid the horns.”
#4– STEVE YOUNG (1985-1999) What Dan Marino was to yardage and touchdown passes, Steve Young was to completion percentage and passer rating. He was a superior athlete who had no peer regarding clean, efficient play. Steve was consumed with the mental test the game of football provided. In the end he received an A plus.
#3– PEYTON MANNING (Active) Manning has made himself the face of preparation and in-game chess play. The five time MVP gets sacked less than any QB who has played. Peyton is smashing the NFL record books. You know you are unbelievable at football when you have 70,000 passing yards, 530 touchdown passes, a world title, and fans say you need to do more.
#2– JOHN ELWAY (1983-1998) Before winning consecutive rings to end his career many people claimed John was a “choker.” What I saw was a guy carry three pretty good Denver teams to Super Bowl losses while being the best clutch player in the AFC. Elway had the strongest arm I’ve seen and could throw the ball 50 yards across his body to the opposite side of the field.
#1– JOE MONTANA (1979-1993)& TOM BRADY (Active) This tie is not a cop-out on my part or an excuse to mention 31 quarterbacks. The selection is perfect for me right now. Montana has always been the clear-cut best QB of my lifetime. The morning of Super Bowl 49, I had Tom Brady a close second. After Tom’s dynamite fourth quarter, and taking home his fourth World Championship, I feel Brady deserves to be categorized as Joe Montana’s equal. Joe moved much better than Tom. Brady has been more durable and prolific. Joe played on slightly better, more dominant teams. Tom won big over a longer window of time with a higher variety of teammates. Joe was cool and Tom was fiery. They were the same guy from the neck up and the two best quarterbacks I’ve ever seen play in the National Football League.