It all started with a Michael Jordan promo. “There’s a lot of talk goin’ on these days,” said the greatest NBA player in history, cast in black and white with a steely eyed glare into the camera, “about who’s the greatest ever.” Tom Brady or Aaron Rodgers? Jordan, or LeBron? The comparison, to many, seems apt. They’ll say while Brady is the GOAT because of his laundry list of accomplishments, Rodgers is the BOAT (Best Of All Time) because he can make more throws and run a little bit. Brady, like Jordan, has the rings; while Rodgers, like LeBron, has the stats. So, like Mike says, why don’t we settle this debate head to head.
Patriots 31 – Packers 17.
The Aaron Rodgers apologists will tell you that Rodgers has no help. His running back fumbled the ball away, his defense was fooled on a fake reverse, Mike McCarthy is an idiot, so on and so forth. The truth of the matter is this: Aaron Rodgers consistently fails to overcome adversity on the football field.
While Rodgers running back fumbled the ball on a critical drive at the start of the fourth quarter, Tom Brady was lining up every down with a wide receiver at running back, because the every down back in Sony Michel was out with a knee injury. While the Patriots went deep into their bag of tricks for a fake reverse that fooled the Packers defense, Tom Brady is working with the NFL’s 28th ranked defense. The difference between Rodgers and Brady? Brady consistently overcomes his team’s flaws.
Consider Aaron Rodgers’ lone Super Bowl appearance. Those who still, for some reason, believe that Rodgers is the GOAT will tell you that he has never had a good defense. However, when Rodgers led the Packers to a Super Bowl victory in 2010, the Packers defense ranked fifth in yards per game and second in scoring according to NFL.com. Of course it’s easier to operate with a defense that doesn’t allow as many points, and Brady has fairly consistently operated with a defense that ranks in the top 10 in scoring; however Brady also dragged a Patriots team to the Super Bowl during the 2011 season in which the Patriots defense ranked 31st in yardage.
This season, the disparity between defenses actually lies in favor of the Packers. The Patriots, after nine games, rank just 24th in the league in yardage, while the Packers sit at 16th, allowing 30 fewer yards per game than New England. The average time of possession is virtually identical, and as for scoring, there is only a field goal difference in points per game between the two units.
The apologists will also show how Brady benefits from playing in the AFC East, against terrible teams. While it’s true that Brady has an astonishing 43-11 record against his division since Rodgers became the starter in Green Bay in 2008, Rodgers has an equally incredible record of 40-15 against the NFC North in that span. To go one further, Brady is 7-1 against Rodgers divisional opponents since 2008, while Rodgers is 5-2 against the Brady’s divisional opponents.
Nobody ever talks about how bad the NFC North has been since 2008, because it wouldn’t be as forgiving to Rodgers greatness. Since 2008 the AFC East has a .481 win percentage on the back of 218 wins against non-Patriots opponents, while the NFC East has a .491 win percentage with 220 wins against non-Packers opponents. It’s not like either of these quarterbacks have played against juggernaut divisions. And before anyone can say, “but the Vikings played in an AFC Championship in that span!” the New York Jets also played in a conference championship game in the same span.
To be honest, I’m not entirely sure how we got to this point. Arguing LeBron’s greatness against Michael Jordan’s is warranted in my eyes, because LeBron makes appearances in championship series on a year-in-year-out basis. LeBron has faced off against the greatest dynasties in the history of the sport in San Antonio and Golden State, and while he doesn’t have a winning record against them, he’s taken both dynasties down during his run.
Brady, like Jordan, is the dynasty. Rodgers has proven himself a worthy combatant, but he comes up short in the biggest moments on a consistent basis. Look no further than the 2014 NFC Championship Game, when Rodgers oft maligned defense got him five turnovers against the Seahawks. Not only did Rodgers fail to capitalize, he completed only 56% of his passes for 178 yards, two interceptions, and a touchdown en route to a 55.8 passer rating.
Again, the apologists will tell you that Rodgers should be let off the hook because the Seahawks were fielding a historically great defense. There’s only one problem with that; two weeks later Tom Brady would face that same defense and annihilate them in the Super Bowl, completing 74% of his passes for 328 yards and four touchdowns on a 101.1 passer rating. Oh, and by the way, Brady also engineered a 10-point comeback in the fourth quarter of that game. That would be the adversity Brady consistently leaps over while Rodgers succumbs to it.
On the topic of fourth quarter comebacks, since 2008 Tom Brady has come from behind in the final quarter of play five times in the playoffs. Of course that includes the 10-point comeback against Seattle’s all-time great defense, the 19-point fourth quarter against the Falcons in Super Bowl LI, as well as a 14-point comeback against a stingy Ravens defense in 2014. But perhaps the greatest comeback of all (yes, even greater than the Super Bowl), came in last year’s AFC Championship game.
Aaron Rodgers is always credited for his gutsy style of play, and his ability to play through injuries and still perform at the highest level. It’s interesting, then, that Brady is never credited in the same vein. A season ago, against Jacksonville’s league-best pass defense, Tom Brady engineered another 10-point comeback in the fourth quarter. This time, however, he did it with a strained achilles tendon and more than 10 stitches on his throwing hand to seal a cut he sustained during practice.
Injured, going against one of the best pass defenses the league had ever seen, and without All-Pro tight end Rob Gronkowski who was lost to a concussion early in the game, Brady surgically carved the Jaguars defense. Brady completed 68% of his passes for 290 yards and two touchdowns. Oh, and he was 40 years old.
Why is this even a debate? Brady silenced those who would say Peyton Manning is better when he won his fourth Super Bowl against a defense that had stifled The Sheriff in the Super Bowl a year earlier. Brady silenced those who thought Joe Montana was the GOAT when he came back from a 25-point deficit against the Falcons for his fifth. Now, on a mission for what would be a record-extending sixth Super Bowl title, how in the world did Aaron Rodgers get thrown into this debate? There is no debate.
At 41 years old, Tom Brady is still outplaying Aaron Rodgers. Forget “R-E-L-A-X” or “run the table” to win a division. Tom Brady still has his team’s eyes set on the greatest prize of all. So what the hell are we talking about? Tom Brady is the greatest football player of all-time. End of discussion.