As he prepares for a record 10th Super Bowl, Tampa Bay quarterback Tom Brady is being celebrated as a football GOAT – the greatest of all time.
All time is a very long time and anointing Brady is a helmet full of fun for this generation of football fans. But it might be a good idea to take a deep breath and recognize that there were some pretty good quarterbacks, maybe even better ones, before Brady. They come from football’s leather helmet days, a different time in the history of the game.
There was, for starters, Sammy Baugh, who played 15 seasons for the Washington (you should excuse the expression) Redskins and set 13 records at three positions – quarterback, defensive back and punter.
Baugh played in the era of two platoon football – offense and defense – and was unparalleled. He led the league in passing six times and in lowest interception percentage five times. Baugh was the first defensive back to intercept four passes in a game and retired with a record career punting average of 45.1.
Nobody called him the greatest of all time but in his time he had some pretty great times.
Luckman led the Chicago Bears to four championships in a 12-year career and reigned as football’s first great T-formation quarterback, an innovation that changed the face of the game.
A single-wing signal caller in college, Luckman embraced George Halas’ new-fangled offense and used it to perfection, becoming widely considered the best long range passer in the history of the game. In the NFL’s most memorable rout, Luckman’s Bears defeated Washington 73-0 in the NFL 1940 championship game. Luckman threw just six passes in the rout and completed four of them for 102 yards.
Then there was Graham who took the Cleveland Browns to the championship game, first in the All-America Football Conference and then in the National Football League, every year from 1946-1955.
Graham still holds the NFL record for career passing yards gained per attempt at 8.63 and highest career winning percentage for a starting quarterback at 0.810. With Graham at quarterback, the Browns compiled a record of 57-13-1 and 9-3 in playoff games.
Want some other more modern names? Try Terry Bradshaw and Joe Montana. Both played in four Super Bowls apiece and never lost one. And, oh yes, there’s Eli Manning, who faced off with Brady in two Super Bowls and beat him both times. They may not have been the greatest of all time but they were pretty darned good in their time.