I don’t look at how many championships a player has to weigh into GOAT (Greatest Of All Time) status, especially in the NFL, because then one has to exclude the league(s) outside of the Super Bowl era, which hadn’t started until the late 60’s after the merger of the National and American football leagues. Then Baltimore Colts quarterback and Hall of Fame inductee Johnny Unitas was considered the GOAT until Brady, as he won championships pre-merger and then a Super Bowl. Green Bay QB Bart Starr also won pre and post merger, one Super Bowl where his game stats were abysmal. Terry Bradshaw won four Super Bowls while hardly spectacular, Peyton Manning won his second after one of the worst regular seasons ever posted by a Super Bowl winning quarterback, worse than Trent Dilfer, who won with the Baltimore Ravens, who then was traded after that season. Tom Brady - in one of the greatest regular seasons ever by a quarterback, where he posted 50 touchdowns to like 8 interceptions, having only taken less than 20 sacks - was a season where he lost a Super Bowl to Eli Manning and the New York Giants, the only game the New England Patriots lost that entire season. That season IMO was when Brady could be considered the GOAT, which he clearly solidified during the past four or five seasons. Aaron Rodgers may not be able to match Brady when all is said and done as far as championships, yet he may have a shot at surpassing Brady in touchdowns passed during regular seasons, how many touchdowns to interceptions, and how many sacks taken, which to me are the three main metrics to wiegh a quarterback season with.
Now when it comes to the Greatest Super Bowl Quarterbacks, Joe Montana of the San Francisco 49ers was that maybe until last night, with Brady winning one with another team (as Peyton Manning had winning with two different teams as well, but we would also have to consider the eras within the Super Bowl era of the NFL, which are the pre and post Salary Cap eras. The NFL Salary Cap was mandated in 1995, as a reaction to then San Francisco 49ers owner Eddie DeBartolo Jr. and current Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones having somewhat of an arms race acquiring talent (along with the late Oakland/Los Angeles/Oakland owner signing players to large contracts). Ironically, when you hear one decry “Socialism” here in America, well I bring you the NFL, with a sort of half baked version of what people here consider Socialism, with the NFL self regulating spending, sharing revenue among the franchises, collective bargaining, creating parity to keep lesser teams competitive in the marketplace, yadda yadda.
The Salary Cap put a limit on what franchises could spend per season, which created a new era of free agency among the league. Prior to the cap mandate, teams could not only go after premium talent, but more importantly, keep premium talent they acquired or developed. Post the cap mandate, franchises couldn’t keep talent as they did pre cap era, while going after other talent. Think pre Salary Cap 49ers, when they had both Joe Montana and Steve Young on the same team. Today, that would be near impossible. But here lies a sort of weird conundrum when it comes to Tom Brady being the GOAT: while Brady made the most of the talent around him due to “parity” in the league, he also hadn’t faced a defense like pre cap Pittsburgh Steelers “Steel Curtain”, or teams that were loaded with talent, kept that talent, and fortified it with more talent in order to beat Tom Brady. Also, one has to consider rule changes in the league that helped the passing game more (due to brain encephalitis and long term health of players, as well as the impact of fantasy football has as a revenue stream, and added interest of games as a whole, games that don’t have any marquee value because who cares about the Bengals vs. the Jaguars, because they both suck, but they have players of either team in their fantasy roster).
Tom Brady is the GOAT due to how consistent he has remained and how high his level of play is during the regular seasons he has played in, and the amount of games he has played. You can take four Super Bowl rings away from him, his recent Super Bowl wins even, and he would still be the GOAT, even if he hadn’t reached the Super Bowl in his past five seasons. He has faced so many different defensive schemes and players, as well as lead so many offensive schemes and players, for the past 20 years, and still plays at a level that is insane for a quarterback his age, or any age for that reason. He outplayed the future of the league in Patrick Mahomes, most likely will face him again in the Super Bowl, and unlike Tiger Woods - who is still chasing Jack Nicklaus when it comes to championships - quarterbacks like Mahomes are chasing Brady in the same, and Brady still ain’t done.