I remember just a few years ago, heading into Super Bowl 51, that the consensus was if Brady won the game and his fifth ring he would cement his status as the GOAT above Joe Montana. Some traditionalists will cling to Montana no matter what and some younger Brady-haters will roll with Manning, but the majority was willing to give Brady the crown with a win. Lo and behold, Brady lead the Pats to the greatest comeback in Super Bowl history and earned his fifth ring.
Heading into the matchup last week between the Patriots and Packers, I was quite shocked to hear that Rodgers was suddenly thrust not just into the conversation, but ahead of Montana, Brees, Manning, Marino, and many others who had earned their way into the GOAT conversation. The game was being hyped by some as the true deciding factor between who the greatest of all time was, with others even claiming that Rodgers had earned the title regardless of the outcome of the game. So what changed from a few years ago to now?
Since Super Bowl 51, Brady is 20-5 in the regular season, earning MVP honors, leading his team to the Super Bowl, and setting the all time passing-yards record in a Super Bowl at the age of 40. Since Super Bowl 51, Rodgers is 7-6-1, getting injured last season and with the Packers missing the playoffs. These numbers certainly don’t make it seem as if Rodger’s has suddenly earned a spot in this conversation.
Now obviously, wins aren’t everything. As Rodgers fans are so fond of pointing out, wins are team efforts, and the Patriots have a more talented roster in addition to a better coach. Therefore, stats should be the determining factor. While I do not agree with all these statements, let’s indulge them.
Since 51, Rodgers has 31 TDs to 7 picks while Brady has 49 compared to 15. Advantage Rogers? Sure, slightly. However, Brady bests Rodgers in completion percentage (66.5%-62.3%, passer rating (100.96-98.11), and yards per game (282.86-281.17). Certainly these stats would seem to lean in Brady’s favor rather than Rodgers. So maybe Rodgers hasn’t outperformed Brady these past few years, but he has always belonged in the conversation.
Going into this season, Rodgers had played 149 career games. In those games, he has amassed a 65% completion rate, 38,502 yards, 313 TDs, 78 picks, and a QB rating of 103.6. In Tom Brady’s latest 149 games heading into the season, he has a completion percentage of 65%, 42,399 yards, 324 TDs, 78 picks, and a QB rating of 102.6. The only stat here that Rodgers has over Brady is QBR, and this is only by 1 point. While putting up numbers relatively equal to Brady is extremely impressive, it cannot lead to him surpassing Brady (especially since Brady still has most of these stats).
But what about talent? The most die-hard Rodgers fans will claim that even stats are marred by inferior teammates (I still don’t buy this for Rodgers, as A. a weak defense helps a QB rack up numbers and B. Brady’s receivers and run games have not been that much better than Rodgers’, but regardless…). Certainly Rodgers is more athletically talented than Brady. People say “Rodgers on the Patriots would have 8 rings.” Two big issues with this. One, mental fortitude is completely ignored by these talent purists. Brady is the smartest player to ever play this game. For a QB, mental ability is almost equivalent to physical. Two, Rodgers isn’t the most talented quarterback of all time. If we are judging solely on physical talent, give me Mike Vick, or Dan Marino, heck even Russell Wilson has more physical talent than Rodgers. Certainly no one is arguing that Vick or Wilson is the GOAT. Even Marino’s case is flimsy. Talent isn’t everything for a football player, especially for a quarterback.
Please don’t get me wrong, Rodger’s is an incredible football player. He’s done great things with a mediocre coach and a front office hesitant to acquire talent outside the draft. His clutch factor is undeniable, his arm strength elite, and his decision making uncanny. He is no doubt a top ten all time. But he shouldn’t be in the GOAT conversation. Brady has earned that title, and Rodgers still needs wins to compete with Manning, Montana and co. Everyone loves to have a GOAT debate, but in football there isn’t a real one, and there certainly isn’t one with Rodger’s in the conversation.