By Ryan Chatelain
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Even though the Super Bowl LII quarterbacks were Nick Foles and Tom Brady, in some corners of social media and probably at more than a handful of viewing parties, Joe Montana was a big winner Sunday night.
Why? There still seems to be a faction of football fans who refuse to give Brady credit for being the GOAT — the greatest of all time at quarterback. Many of them cling to this argument that because Montana was undefeated in four Super Bowls and Brady has lost three times in eight tries, the 49ers legend is somehow superior.
Here are some examples from Twitter:
It’s an argument that is thin, silly and borderline delusional. It’s a view that only makes an iota of sense if the only football you ever watch is on Super Bowl Sundays. And even then, it conveniently glosses over the fact that not only has Brady won more Super Bowls than any QB in history, he’s led his team there twice as much as the next best guys.
Sorry, Sunday didn’t change anything. In fact, Brady could lose the Super Bowl every year for the rest of his career, and it wouldn’t matter. He is the greatest. If there even was a legitimate debate that was still gasping for air, the Patriots quarterback closed his case last year, when he led his team back from a 28-3 deficit to beat the Atlanta Falcons, winning ring No. 5.
Those who argue that Brady’s Super Bowl losses make him inferior to Montana are essentially penalizing the Pats QB for the years he came up one win short of a title and rewarding the former 49er and Chief for the years he came up more than one win short.
There is simply no metric other the Super Bowl-winning percentage in which Montana — no doubt, an unbelievable quarterback who deserves to be celebrated for decades — beats Brady, who ironically grew up idolizing Montana.
Let’s break it down, and I’ll spare you yardage stats, which would be unfair to Montana because we all know today’s NFL is much different than the one he played in during the 1980s and 1990s.
Pro Bowls: Brady has been selected to 13, Montana to eight.
MVPs: Brady won his third this weekend; Montana has two.
Regular season records: Brady is 196-55 for a .781 winning percentage; Montana was 117-47 (.713).
Playoff records: Brady is 27-10 (.729); Montana was 16-7 (.696).
Conference championship games: Brady has been to 12; Montana went to seven.
Super Bowls: Brady has been to eight; Montana to four.
Super Bowl victories: Brady five; Montana four.
At the heart of its argument, the pro-Montana crowd seems to be pointing to the fact that Montana was more clutch than Brady has been — and admittedly, if that alone was the argument here, we’d have a much more plausible debate on our hands. But even Montana wasn’t always money in big games.
In a 1985 Divisional playoff loss to the Giants, he led the 49ers to just three points. A year later, also against the Giants, he had already thrown two interceptions and had a 34.2 QB rating when he left in the second quarter with a concussion. As a member of the Kansas City Chiefs in 1993, he left the AFC championship game early, again with a concussion — but he was just 9-of-23 at that point. (On another note, Brady’s durability and longevity only add to his case.)
Using the same logic that Montana is better than Brady simply because he never lost on Super Bowl Sunday, you’d also have to argue that three-time NBA champion LeBron James’ legacy would somehow be stronger if the Heat and Cavaliers teams he played for had bowed out earlier than those five NBA Finals they lost.
Consider this: Brady, who passed for three touchdowns and a Super Bowl-record 505 yards against the Eagles on Sunday, has started eight or more games in 16 seasons, leading his team to the Super Bowl 50 percent of the time and to the conference championship game 75 percent of the time. Montana was a starter for 12 seasons, reached the Super Bowl 33.3 percent of the time and conference title games 58.3 percent of the time.
Both easily pass the threshold of greatness. But Brady has been better — and he’s not even done yet.
In Brady’s career full of eye-popping stats and records, perhaps the most remarkable one is this: He has won more playoff games than all but five franchises have won in their existences.
Now maybe a stat like that wouldn’t matter so much if Brady hadn’t been winning many championships, too. But he has been — more than any other QB.
So what if he lost Sunday and twice to the Giants. No one’s saying Brady is perfect. Neither was Montana. But when you put their résumés side by side, it should be clear to any objective person that Brady is the greatest.
Stop trying to say otherwise.
Follow Ryan on Twitter at @WFANWebGuy.