Jerry Green: Brady's not the best
Chandler, Ariz. — The backup quarterback had rescued his team with a rally in the second half. He had been pretty much a reject for most of the season.
Now, in victory, he was taken into an interview area.
He flashed his teeth. He smiled. And he rattled off intelligent sentences. He was glib and charming and he was poised and so mature for a kid in college.
He was a California lad; his name is Tom Brady. He had been seventh on the depth chart when he arrived at Michigan. And every time I see him play live or on TV or listen to him in his interview sessions I flash back to that afternoon at Michigan Stadium in Ann Arbor. It was 1998 or 1999.
First impressions tend to linger.
And before any pro team got around to drafting him, the NFL wizards had bypassed him in five rounds and well into the sixth.
Finally, the New England Patriots selected Tom Brady, the 199th athlete chosen in the 2000 draft. Basically, a reject again. A third-stringer that season at training camp. Then a second-stringer. Then an emergency starter when the No. 1 quarterback, Drew Bledsoe, was injured.
And now some people who are very knowledgeable about football and the skills required of an athlete are making claims that Tom Brady is the greatest quarterback in history.
He is about to become the first quarterback to play in his sixth Super Bowl, Sunday vs. the Seahawks.
"I never thought I'd have the experience to play in one of these," Brady said to the assembled media. "To think that it's my sixth time, I can't imagine that I'd ever play anything professionally. To make the Super Bowl is a pretty amazing experience. To do it once, and then do it six times is very, very special."
Same old Brady
Brady was speaking at the Patriots' well-secreted digs in Wild Horse Pass outside Phoenix. He is 37 now, far from the kid who had rallied Michigan in what is the last century.
But then his look was the same. The smile and the gestures. He still exudes the charm and is glib when dealing with journalists.
Still regarded as a pretty boy athlete — now a celebrity quarterback.
On this day, he was wearing a white sweater below the smile. It seemed he put the white on as a statement of innocence. While some in this Super Bowl XLIX media mob say Brady would be the greatest QB ever, others claim he is the greatest con artist ever to play in a Super Bowl.
He is still accused of passing under-inflated footballs when the Patriots beat the Colts in the AFC championship game. And that controversy —overblown in my opinion — is something else that lingers.
For sure, there is some flimflam to Brady's composure, to his comments.
But then, through the years Super Bowl quarterbacks have been dissected – sliced into quarters.
Greatest QB ever?
Not quite! Certainly not yet.
Greatest Super Bowl quarterback?
That eliminates Sid Luckman, Sammy Baugh and Otto Graham. And in essence it cancels out Johnny Unitas, who won NFL championships before the first Super Bowl in 1967 — and made brief appearances in two early Super Bowls. It essentially eliminates Bart Starr.
The targets in this Super Bowl are Terry Bradshaw and Joe Montana. Bradshaw won four Super Bowls with quarterbacking brilliance on the best Super Bowl teams ever — my exclusive opinion, again. And Montana won four with the 49ers.
Brady would match them if the Patriots manage to win Super Bowl XLIV. He won his first three Super Bowls with late drives that led to three winning field goals. He has been the loser in the last two, defeats that could be blamed on defensive lapses.
And if he could tie Montana, that would be special for him. It would enhance his legacy.
"I was the biggest 49er fan growing up," Brady said, "and to watch Joe and Steve Young — who were my two idols — who were just great for the sport."
But if Seattle squelches Brady and the Patriots, Brady becomes a 3-3 quarterback in Super Bowls.
It does not fit his image, but Tom Brady does indulge, sometimes, in trash talk on the field.
"You mad, bro?" That was Richard Sherman to Brady in the aftermath of a game in Seattle in 2012.
Sherman was just building his reputation as a star verbose cornerback, likely the most skilled in the NFL.
And there were reports of Sherman and Brady exchanging barbs throughout the game. It was a game that Brady dominated and had the Patriots ahead by two touchdowns with some 71/2 minutes to play.
His quarterback opponent that day was a rookie named Russell Wilson. Brady, throughout his pro career had been a comeback quarterback — in the three Super Bowl victories and in 40 or so other games.
That day Wilson started to build his reputation as another comeback quarterback.
Wilson won the game Brady-style in those final minutes. He won it with 1:18 remaining on a 46-yard pass to Sidney Rice. Sort of like the comeback that got the Seahawks into this Super Bowl.
It was Seahawks 24, Patriots 23 — and Sherman got right in Brady's face.
Brady vs. Sherman makes for a fascinating subplot for Super Bowl XLIX.
Sherman talked on Fox TV about the "you mad, bro," comment this week and laughed.
And asked by a media guy if he's giving Brady nightmares, Sherman responded:
"I don't know I was in his dream-sphere. I highly doubt he's afraid of me."
And Brady responded: "It's just part of what motivates guys and whatever they say. ... What over I learned over the years, a lot of guys talk. ... They've been able to back it up."
Tom Brady — the greatest quarterback ever?
The debate goes on. Here's my vote for Johnny Unitas.
Retired News sports writer Jerry Green has covered every Super Bowl since its inception.