As long as football will be played, there will be debates over “the best” — the best teams, the best coaches, the best players; now, over the last ten years, or of all time. In the latter category, no quarterback in NFL history has as strong a claim as the New England Patriots’ Tom Brady. The former sixth-round draft pick is the most decorated player in league history and as such a deserving bearer of the title as the “greatest of all time.”
Before Brady went on to win five Super Bowls and a combined seven MVP trophies, another man was universally considered to be the GOAT: Joe Montana. Between 1979 and 1994 (the first year in which the NFL had a salary cap), Montana won four Super Bowls and five combined MVP trophies — setting the standard when it comes to quarterback success in the league for two decades, until Brady surpassed him.
So how does Montana, who spent the majority of his career with the San Francisco 49ers and its last two years with the Kansas City Chiefs, feel about losing the GOAT-title? “I’m just happy to be in the conversation,” the now-62-year old told Matt Miller during a recent appearance on the Stick to Sports Podcast. “Obviously Tom is putting up stupid numbers so it’s going to be hard for anyone to catch him.”
Montana started the conversation by talking about the difficulty of handing out labels like “greatest of all time” to players that played several decades apart in a sport that continuously evolves. “Everybody wants that title, I think, but it’s really hard to give anyone that title,” Montana said. “Tom obviously has had a tremendous career and I have a lot of respect for what he has done and accomplished.”
“You know, everybody tries to compare us, but there’s just no comparison in the way I look at it,” the Hall of Fame quarterback continued. “I mean if you go back and tried to compare when I played to guys who played long before me — if you look at guys like Otto Graham and Sammy Baugh, those guys were way ahead of their time in what they were able to accomplish. You can hardly find film on them but you know the game’s forever changing.”
Montana certainly has a point, the game has changed quite a bit from the days of Graham and Baugh to his to Brady’s. While the rules have made passing the football easier than it has ever been, the introduction of the aforementioned salary cap made it harder to keep teams together over long stretches of time. Ultimately, Montana offered some advice to those invested in this campaign: “I just say: enjoy everyone for what it’s worth.”