Tom, you’re no Joe
In the wake of the New York Giants’ 17-14 win over the previously-unbeaten New England Patriots, a lot has been written about how hard it is for a team to go undefeated.
Agreed, but it also casts light on how hard it also is to go 4-0 in Super Bowls as a starting quarterback. And the inevitable conclusions are that Joe Montana remains the greatest quarterback of the Super Bowl era and New England’s Tom Brady isn’t even close, even after an 18-1 season.
See ya, Terry
Before we put Montana and Brady toe-to-toe, we must silence fans of Terry Bradshaw, who went 4-0 in the big game with the Pittsburgh Steelers. The Terrible Towel fans do not have a leg upon which to stand.
When Bradshaw threw for 317 yards in Super Bowl XIII ” his third trip to The Show ” it was the first time in his nine years in the NFL that he had surpassed 300 yards passing in his career. Yes, the 5-yard bump rule, which would made piling up yardage easier, was instituted in the middle of Bradshaw’s career.
The bump rule came in 1978, yet Bradshaw had only eight 300-yard games (postseason included) in the five full seasons he played after its institution. Montana? He had 42 from 1981-1990 as a 49er.
We can also use the argument so improperly used against Joe Montana to eliminate Bradshaw. “Montana had a cast of stars around him, so of course, he was great.”
Bradshaw had a Hall of Fame running back in Franco Harris and receivers like Lynn Swann and John Stallworth, also enshrined in Canton. If you can’t throw for 300 yards more than eight times with those guys, you don’t belong in a discussion of the truly elite quarterbacks of the Super Bowl era.
By comparison, Montana played with two Hall of Famers on offense ” Jerry Rice ” OK, he was really good ” and Steve Young, who obviously wasn’t on the field at the same time. So, the Golden Domer gets the nod easily over The Dome.
As for Brady, if you want to be the greatest, you just don’t lose in the Super Bowl. Yes, quarterbacks get more credit than they deserve when the win and more blame when they lose. Too bad, though.
This was the best team Brady ever had and the Pats scored all of 14 points. Please do not give me, “The Patriots had no running game.” Montana won his first Super Bowl after the 1981 season with Ricky Patton leading the 49ers with 543 yards of rushing, a whopping 3.6 yards per carry.
Montana won two Super Bowls without Rice. His main targets in 1981 and 1984 were Freddie Solomon and Dwight Clark. The latter obviously made a pretty notable grab, but we can safely say that Brady had better weapons Sunday with Randy Moss and Wes Welker.
Yes, the Giants’ defense played well and Brady faced adversity. In the 1981 NFC Championship, Montana threw three picks, and the Niners coughed the ball up three other times. (More on that game shortly.) If you’re great, you find a way to get it done.
And not only did Montana get it done, he did it with style. He threw for 11 touchdowns and no interceptions in his four Super Bowls. Brady’s been picked.
In his four Super Bowls, Montana had quarterback ratings of 100, 127.2, 115.2 and 147.6. Brady’s rating in the three he’s won are 86.2, 100.5 and 110.2. There is some confusion with the quarterback-rating stat, but the difference is too lopsided to be ignored.
The Super Bowl is Joe Montana’s world and Brady was just passing through by comparison.
Brady’s good, don’t get me wrong, but his so-called greatness is a media creation.
Compare Brady’s and Montana’s breakout performances. The 2001 AFC Divisional Round between the Patriots and Raiders is called “The Tuck Rule Game.” Brady rose to fame on a play that was ruled an incomplete pass rather than a fumble.
Montana had “The Drive” and the “The Catch” ” 89 yards against the Dallas Cowboys’ Doomsday Defense. That’s quite a bit more impressive than referees huddling in the snow.
Don’t forget that against the Raiders, Brady didn’t cap the drive. Kicker Adam Vinatieri did. The same thing goes for Brady’s two signature Super Bowl drives against Rams and Panthers. They ended in field goals.
Does anyone ever remember who kicked for the 49ers in the 80s? (OK, they were Ray Wersching and Mike Coffer, but I watched every game.) Forty-Niners’ fans during that time didn’t even know what field goals were.
In Montana’s greatest Super Bowl drive, down 16-13 to Cincinnati, he went 92 yards ” not including two holding penalties, and the Niners won 20-16. The Niners didn’t even consider a field goal in this situation. Montana drove for touchdowns, not field goals.
Brady partisans will argue that increased parity makes New England’s four trips to the Super Bowl in the last seven years more impressive than Montana’s run. But the flip side of parity is that the Niners faced better teams in the playoffs on the road to their Super Bowls.
The Niners had to go through the Dallas Cowboys in 1981. In the years after that, San Francisco butted heads with Joe Gibbs’ Washington Redskins, Bill Parcells’ New York Giants and Mike Ditka’s Chicago Bears.
The teams which New England faces every year in the AFC like the Steelers, Colts and Chargers of today just don’t compare.
Perhaps the Niners’ most impressive year was 1984. That year, Montana and the Niners swept through the Giants and Bears, the Super Bowl winners the next two years, in the playoffs, followed by the Dolphins of Dan Marino and his then-record 48 touchdown passes.
The Niners, behind 24-of-35 passing for 331 yards and four touchdowns (three by air and one on the ground) from Montana, crushed the Dolphins, 38-16, to finish 18-1.
Sound familiar, Tom?
Sports Editor Chris Freud can be reached at 748-2934 or firstname.lastname@example.org.