After Tom Brady won his fourth Super Bowl championship last Sunday, he entered the debate for greatest quarterback in Super Bowl history, yet most Bay Area fans will tell you rightly that Joe Montana is still at the top of that esteemed list. Despite Brady tying Montana’s record three Super Bowl MVP trophies, “Cool Joe” is still at the top of my list as both the greatest QB and most clutch performer in Super Bowl history.
Brady, a native of San Mateo, California, grew up watching Montana as he led the San Francisco 49ers to four Super Bowl victories. Last week Brady won his fourth championship ring in his record sixth Super Bowl. He played a great game and deserved the MVP trophy with his Super Bowl record 37 completions on 50 attempts for 328 yards, four touchdowns and two interceptions. Yes, things may have gone differently if the Seattle Seahawks hadn’t thrown the ball into Malcolm Butler’s arms on the one-yard line, but that’s beside the point.
Brady’s other MVP trophies were given to him more along the lines of the reason that the NFL didn’t have any other good choices of players to give the trophy to. Kicker Adam Vinatieri put the Patriots ahead in both games on last-minute field goals, and other players could have been chosen for the MVP in both games.
In Super Bowl XXXVI, Brady threw 16 completions on 27 attempts with one touchdown. His team won 20-17 with other points coming from field goals and a 47-yard pick six by cornerback Ty Law. Really, no one player stood out in this game.
In Super Bowl XXXVII Brady did play an excellent game with a 100.5 quarterback rating with 32 completions on 48 passes and three touchdowns to one interception. However, no one would have been surprised if Deion Branch had been picked as Super Bowl MVP after his superb performance with 10 receptions for 148 yards and one touchdown.
Joe Montana has the highest passer rating in Super Bowl history at 127.8. He won all four Super Bowls, he threw 122 passes without throwing an interception in his four Super Bowl appearances. He holds the postseason record for games with a passer rating of over 100 (12) and is second in career postseason touchdown passes (45), passing yards (5,772) and games with over 300 passing yards (six, tied with Kurt Warner).
Montana is also the most clutch performer in NFL history, Must I remind you of the 1981 playoffs where Montana’s game-winning touchdown passes in the NFC Championship game and Super Bowl XXIII? The first play is simply known as “The Catch,” and in the Super Bowl he led his team to victory with a 92-yard drive with only 36 seconds left on the game clock. “Cool Joe” knew how to get his team the victory, and he is the NFL leader in career come-from-behind victories in the fourth quarter with 31.
Montana was the definite MVP choice each of his three times he won the trophy. In Super Bowl XXIII he had the last minute drive, and then in Super Bowl XIX and XXIV he led his teams to blow out victories, winning by 22 and 45 points, respectively.
Brady has broken some of Montana’s postseason and Super Bowl records and will be remembered as one of the greatest postseason quarterbacks of all-time. But he also played in more postseason games to pass those records. The Patriots of the 2000’s were the most dominant dynasty since Montana’s 49ers in the late 1980’s, yet Brady’s Pats lost two Super Bowls while Montana’s Niners won all four of theirs. Brady’s win last weekend cements his place in the NFL Hall of Fame, but he is not the greatest quarterback of all-time or of Super Bowl history.