Joe Namath is a legendary figure in pro football history. As the New York Jets’ quarterback, he became one of the game’s biggest starts when he led his team to an upset victory in Super Bowl III — one that paved the way for the NFL-AFL merger. Namath led the Jets for twelve years, saw his number 12 jersey retired by the organization, and was later inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. The man has seen and lived a lot of football.
The 76-year-old is still a popular man in New York today, and his opinion carries weight in the city and beyond. Hearing him speak highly about one of New York’s rivals is therefore a noteworthy event — something that happened earlier this week when Namath visited radio host Howard Stern. One of the players mentioned in the conversation was New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady, and the Jets legend offered some effusive praise.
“Tom is the best,” Namath said when Stern asked him about Brady’s ability to still perform highly on the plus-side of 40. “I’ve been asked that question for many years. Johnny [Unitas] was my hero, Otto Graham was great, Slingin’ Sammy Baugh — I go back, these guys are great. But in the meantime, Tom has been challenged more in recent history certainly with huge games than anyone I can recollect and he’s stepped up every time.”
Namath, of course, is referring to Brady’s outstanding performances like those he had in recent playoff games: from helping his team overcome a 10-point deficit against a historically good Seattle Seahawks defense in Super Bowl 49, to the Patriots’ 25-point comeback versus the Atlanta Falcons two years later, to his clutch moments during New England’s recent championship run — from the AFC title game in Kansas City to the Super Bowl.
“Here’s a quarterback, when I watch pro football games, college games, you can literally see... and I actually lost games for our team by throwing poorly, throwing interceptions. I have not seen Tom Brady lose a game for his team,” continued Namath before the host asked about Brady’s status as the greatest quarterback to ever step on the gridiron. For the long-time Jets passer, the answer is a simple one.
“I would have to say he’s the best at answering the challenge there ever was, yes. I have not seen anybody have that many big games and answer the challenge as well as he has,” Namath said. And while fans across the NFL may unsuccessfully try to dispute Brady’s status as the GOAT, those who know the game better than anybody are aware of the fact that the soon-to-be 42-year-old is in a league of his own — the “king of the petting zoo,” as former Patriots defender Chris Long once said.