|Tom Brady: Greatest Ever?|
Stally: Ok, Austen, I'm loving this week's question because I know that you as a long-tortured Jets fan will suffer a tough internal struggle providing an unbiased answer. After last week's multi-part question involving several teams, this week's is extremely simple on the surface, yet might require a much more complex answer. Tom Brady: is he the greatest quarterback in the history of the NFL?
Coin's in the air. You call it!
Austen: This is clearly a leading question because Stally knows that I have stood firm on saying that Tom Brady is the best quarterback to ever play the game. I have not watched enough game tape on old school quarterbacks like Johnny Unitas to say that he is hands down the best quarterback, but I can say with little doubt in my mind that he is better than any quarterback to play in my lifetime.
What makes Brady so special is his accuracy. If you have ever heard me talk about quarterbacks, I am sure you have heard me talk about accuracy. It is a skill that is very hard to coach up and having a consistently accurate quarterback means you will win a lot of games. The reason the Pats offense turns "scrubs" from other teams into playmakers is they find guys who can run precise routes or tall receivers/tight ends that Brady knows can win jump balls against defenders.
Wes Welker and Deion Branch are perfect examples of good route runners who Brady can count on being exactly where they are supposed to be. Brady's accuracy enables him to consistently deliver a pass that hits his receivers in stride, which means they are still running full speed even after catching the ball and can run for extra yards after the catch. The reason these two players were useless to other teams is because when you don't have an accurate quarterback, these types of players have to adjust to the ball to catch it and cannot get the yards after the catch like they can playing with Brady. That's the difference between a 3 or 4-yard catch and a 15-yard catch, which Brady consistently makes happen on critical third downs. This allows the chains to keep moving and breaks the spirits of a defense because it is very difficult to defend against. This is also why the Pats do not need a good run game, because Brady can consistently get the ball to one of these guys for 4-5 yards every play that it is almost not worth running the ball.
Randy Moss was a perfect fit for Brady as well because he had Welker running the underneath routes and Moss streaking deep downfield, which makes the defense cover a lot of ground. Amazingly, Brady's deep throw accuracy is as good as his accuracy on shorter routes. Since Moss was faster than most players and much taller (6'4) than any defensive back he played against, Brady could throw the ball up high to Moss where only he could get to the ball. In life after Moss, Belichick has effectively replaced Moss with two extremely athletic tight ends. They provide a similar target because they too are much taller than any defensive back they face and are much faster than the linebackers and safeties they are usually matched up against.
While a lot of success Brady has is because of the system Belichick has put around him, you could say the same thing about a lot of the top quarterbacks. Joe Montana and Steve Young had Bill Walsh who essentially invented the creative West Coast offense that defenses were not accustomed to defending against. Troy Aikman had help from Emmit Smith, Michael Irivn, and Deion Sanders (all Hall of Fame players). John Elway had Mike Shanahan, and barely squeezed in a couple of Super Bowl victories at the end of his career. Despite all of his success statistically, Dan Marino never won a Super Bowl.
Peyton Manning is the only guy that comes close the Brady, but the only thing that I see in his game that is better than Brady is his intelligence and work ethic. By no means do I think Brady does not work hard, but Peyton is in a league of his own in that category. While Brady is impregnating actresses and super models, Peyton has his nose in the playbook and is always watching game tape. Peyton has no offseason and seems to have no distractions in his life. However, Brady is a more accurate passer and has much better pocket awareness. Most importantly, Peyton is nowhere near as clutch of a player as Brady. Peyton has a lot of "come from behind wins," but a lot of those games are against horrible teams like the Jags and Texans, who have had some of the worst defenses in the league and are teams that the Colts had no business losing to in the first place. Peyton has also never brought anything better than his "B-game" to a playoff contest in his life. He played mediocre at best on his way to the Colts' Super Bowl victory, mostly being carried by his running backs and some spectacular catches by his receivers, as well as a very underrated defense.
People constantly say that Peyton's supporting cast is not as good as Brady's, but I think it is just the opposite. Peyton played most of his career with Marvin Harrison and Reggie Wayne, who could both end up in the Hall of Fame. Jeff Saturday is a Hall of Fame center and until the last 2-3 years, the Colts have had a very good offensive line. Peyton has also played with a ton of very good running backs in his time, most notably Marshall Faulk, Edgerrin James, and Joseph Addai. James never got much credit for the Colts success during his time there, but he was an integral part of that offense and lead the league in rushing numerous seasons, going to four Pro Bowls. Addai is also a very underrated runner, who was the first running back ever to rush for over 1000 yards in a season without even starting one game. He also set a Super Bowl record in the Colts' win over the Bears with 10 receptions, the most ever for a running back. If not for injuries, Addai would be a top 10 running back.
Brady has had more help from his defense than Peyton, but Peyton has still played with a lot of talent as well. The most notable defenders are Dwight Freeney, Bob Sanders, Robert Mathis and Antoine Bethea. All of those guys mentioned have gone to the Pro Bowl at least twice and two of them (Freeney and Sanders) won Defensive Player of the Year. That is a lot of talent that people consistently tend to forget about.
Sorry to run my mouth off like this, but it is something I have spent a lot of time thinking about and talking about for a long time. I am sure no one enjoys me gushing about how good Brady is more than Stally, but it had to be done. As a Jets fan, I am just waiting for the day that Brady retires so that the Jets can finally win the division again.
Stally: Yep, I enjoyed that! The only thing I didn't love about that was that you took basically all my thunder in why I think Brady is the greatest of all time. He tends to get lumped in the argument with Joe Montana, and I agree with you that Montana had the weapons. He had best football player ever (Jerry Rice) as his top target along with the likes of Dwight Clark, John Taylor, Ricky Watters and Tom Rathman. Watters and Rathman were voted the No. 8 best RB tandem in NFL history by NFL Network last year. Brady's running back tandem the past two seasons has comprised of practice squadders Ben Jarvis Green-Ellis and Danny Woodhead.
While most of us New Englanders started trying to formulate a case after Brady won his third Super Bowl in February 2005 and then launched the greatest offense in league history in 2007. However, 2010 was the year it became undeniable he was the best. He lost his top target (and one of the best WRs of all-time) in Randy Moss, resurrected a WR in Deion Branch we hadn't heard from in about five years, turned not one, but two rookie TEs into fantasy stalwarts and, as mentioned, found a way to utilize a backfield of players you wouldn't be able to pick out of a police lineup. He became the first unanimous MVP in NFL history by throwing for 36 touchdowns and just a jaw-droppoing four interceptions.
Austen: Anyway, my questions to you Stally is what is wrong with Donovan McNabb? Can McNabb actually be as bad as he has been playing the last two years or is he just stuck on teams that do not have solid options for him to throw to? Is Andy Reid actually that good of a coach that he made what we have seen to be subpar quarterback into a six-time Pro Bowler? Or, did he just realize the right time to bail on his aging QB? You and I have hated on Reid for a long time now so is it time that we give him some credit? I really hope it isn't.
Andy Reid's little head or fat tail?
Stally: What do you mean: 'What's wrong with Donovan McNabb?' He's old. It's that simple. He's a 34-year-old quarterback that used to be a huge playmaker because he could challenge opponents with his feet as well as a decent arm. He was never a videogame joystick like Michael Vick, but in his prime, he was one of the more mobile quarterbacks out there. That's not the case anymore.
At this point, he holds 240 pounds on his 6'2" frame and it shows! He looks fat, he looks slow and he can't make the plays he used to. Aside from Terrell Owens, he never had the best wide-out targets. Todd Pinkston was one of the softer players to ever play the game and "Downtown" Reggie Brown only still carries that nickname because you can probably find him sitting on a bar stool downtown enjoying a beer on most Sunday afternoons. He did, however, have Brian Westbrook, who unfortunately might not be remembered like he should as one of the best all-around backs of his generation. I understand he now has Adrian Peterson, but Westbrook was a great compliment to McNabb's style because both were versatile dual threats for which is was hard to script a defensive plan. Westbrook wasn't a feature back that carried for 1,400 yards up the middle every season, AP is. The Vikings only plan is to have McNabb hand it off to AP and then take the rest of the play off. Past that, McNabb's not really given the opportunity to get comfortable in the offense and that's obvious because he hasn't!
Also, while I really like Mike Singletary as a person and think he does a great job mentoring linebackers, he knows next to nothing about offense and especially quarterbacks (aside from how to sack them, of course). Perhaps now that he's coaching the LBs in Minnesota, there's some sort of osmosis wearing off on McNabb and lowering his ability. Or, perhaps, it's because Singleteary insisted on his famed "Nutcracker" drill during training camp and one of his proteges rattled Donovan's cage a little too hard. Who knows, thought!? Maybe Leslie Frazier wouldn't let him run it.
As far as Andy Reid, I've hated on him for eating too much and for not having any ability to distinguish the minute hand from the second hand on a clock, but I've never questioned his overall coaching ability. He's one of the best coaches in the league (and [sorry, Rex Ryan] probably the fattest) and his track record of success speaks for itself. Not only has he done a great job coaching, but, as the VP of Football Operations, he's built a strong organization year in and year out.
He took on the maligned Terrell Owens back in the day. Eagles fans might hate him for going to Dallas, but he was the piece that got them over the NFC Championship hump and into a Super Bowl (they lost...to New England!). Unlike the Detroit Lions, he successfully used two high picks in two consecutive seasons to bolster a weakening pass attack (DeSean Jackson in 2008, Jeremy Maclin in 2009). He was the one that offered Michael Vick his second chance and then rebuilt him into a 2.0 of what he'd been in Atlanta. Then, this past offseason, he landed the league's best cornerback (sorry Darrelle Revis, you can still start on the other corner) in Nnamdi Asomugha, despite the fact that most people hadn't projected the Eagles as a frontrunner to land him. It's also now apparent that while, again, part of McNabb's success had to do with him being in his prime, some of the success had to do with Reid putting the appropriate pieces around him to maximize his skill set.
Now, all this said, Reid won't ever go down as one of history's great coaches or be muttered in the same sentence with "Hall of Fame." He hasn't won a championship, so until that happens, he'll just have to get by with being one of the best active coaches. Yet, there's a reason the Eagles have stuck with him for so long. He does a very good job (aside from his clock management) and, along with the Philadelphia brass, I could see him winning the Big Game someday and sliding up the list. "Could" being the operative word as it hasn't happened yet.
Austen: I am still a strong believer that if the Vikings had retained Sidney Rice, and he was healthy which I guess is a big if, that McNabb would be able to showcase his talents better. I stated my case on my own blog to stay away from McNabb and Percy Harvin in fantasy football because Harvin is not a legit top receiver and they have basically no one behind him (I am calling you out Bernard Berrian for being the classic underachiever after the Vikes gave you a huge contract). I guess McNabb is just too old to carry a passing offense, even against 8 and 9 man fronts.
On the other hand, I hate Andy Reid and I will continue to give him as little credit as I possibly can. He consistently does a great job of coaching up players and making them play up to their potential. However, his game planning and overall roster management always seems to baffle me. My main problem with him is that he consistently drafts overweight, run blocking offensive lineman, yet refuses to utilize a big punishing running back and throws the ball 60-70% of the time no matter what the game situation is. Maclin is the only non lineman that Reid has drafted in the first round in recent memory, and pretty much all of his draft picks have turned out to be busts, including 2011 first round pick Danny Watkins, who they clearly over drafted. Not only was Watkins 26 years old when the Eagles drafted him (the average age of a draft pick is around 22), but he failed to even beat out Evan Mathis, who was not good enough to start a single game for the 4-12 Bengals last season.
Going into this season, the Eagles biggest weakness was their run defense. Sure they picked up some talented defensive lineman, but they were all pass rushers. Their weakest position was most likely their linebacking corps. While they added Casey Matthews, Clay Matthews' younger brother, in the draft, they also allowed Stewart Bradley to walk in free agency, who was probably their most talented young defensive player. Instead of helping out their run defense, they decided to spend $60 million on the second best corner back in the NFL, even after trading for Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, another Pro Bowl corner to add to All Pro corner Asante Samuel. Why spend that much money on a position that they have already solidified when they could have used that money to add someone to help them stop the run? Their run defense has already helped them falter this season by allowing Michael Tuner to break a run for over 60 yards in a loss to the Falcons, which may have been the play of the game that lost it for them (who called Turner being the difference in that game... oh yea, me).
Andy Reid can keep on building his team like he is playing Madden, but until he actually has his team play up to their potential in the playoffs, he will never be considered a top coach in the NFL, and he probably never will be in my mind.