49ers Joe Montana vs. Patriots Tom Brady: Revisiting the GOAT Argument after Super Bowl LI
The New England Patriots’ victory in Super Bowl LI adds another chapter to whether quarterback Tom Brady should be considered the GOAT over San Francisco 49ers Hall of Famer Joe Montana. Niner Noise adds the next perspective.
San Francisco 49ers quarterback Joe Montana versus New England Patriots QB Tom Brady.
One has five Super Bowl rings. The other has four. One was named Super Bowl MVP four times. The other quarterback was named such three times.
Montana’s career spanned 15 years. Brady just wrapped up his 17th year and is still playing at the most elite of levels.
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So who’s the greatest of all time — the GOAT, if we should so call it?
Well, it probably boils down to which quarterback you rooted for the most. If you’re a 49ers fan, Montana remains the answer. Yet if you’ve found yourself cheering on the Patriots, Brady stands alone. The honest truth is there’s no clear answer, and there never will be.
But Brady certainly added to his historic accolades with a thrilling come-from-behind victory over the Atlanta Falcons in Super Bowl LI. Regardless whether or not you think he’s the greatest, you can’t deny his among the elite of elites.
Brady’s fifth Super Bowl crown is the most of any quarterback. Former 49ers and Cowboys Hall of Famer Charles Haley is the only other pro to state such a claim — two rings with San Francisco and three with Dallas.
Prior to Super Bowl 50, Niner Noise broke down this same argument. It was especially noteworthy because the Pats had the chance to secure a fifth ring for Brady at the home of his boyhood-49ers team, Levi’s Stadium.
New England didn’t quite make it then, of course. But this year’s championship relights the discussion.
So let’s sift through the latest chapter, shall we? And we’ll come up with our revised conclusion at the very end.
For starters, Tom Brady certainly gets the edge in longevity. He’s defied Father Time over the course of his career. And it’s impossible to ignore the Patriots’ success without the Brady parallel. He’s just as important, if not more so, than any other factor in New England’s extended run of success.
And he’s had a relatively injury-free career year too. Only one season, 2008, did Brady miss any extended period of time due to injury.
The same can’t be said of Montana, who missed eight games in 1986 and all but one game in 1992 — his final season in San Francisco.
Still, let’s look at the side-by-side stats, including Montana’s days with the Kansas City Chiefs:
And now for Brady’s stats:
Brady certainly edges Montana in nearly every regular-season stat. And it helps he’s been relatively injury free and has had a longer career.
And the side-by-side numbers, regardless of career length, favor Brady. he has a higher completion percentage (63.8), more yards per game (259.8) and a better overall passer rating (97.2).
Cumulative Postseason Numbers
Greatness isn’t defined during the regular season. Postseason numbers are what count the most.
Needless to say, both Tom Brady and Joe Montana have compiled awesome playoff numbers. Those efforts are the reasons why Montana is a Hall of Famer and Brady will be when his career is over.
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So who performed better in the postseason and not just under the bright lights of the Super Bowl?
Let’s look at some of the key stats. First, Brady has obviously appeared in more playoff games — 33 to Montana’s 23. And Brady has a total of 24 postseason wins against nine losses which, percentage-wise, is better than Montana’s 16-7 playoff record.
Brady’s playoff touchdown-to-interception ratio is amazing, which now stands at 63 to 31 — just above two to one. Montana posted a 45-to-21 ratio though, which is even higher.
And Montana also ranks higher in playoff completion percentage (70.27 to 62.39) and playoff passer rating (95.6 to 88.7).
You couldn’t go wrong with either QB under center when the postseason pressure kicked up a notch. But Montana surely has the advantage here when it counted most.
Super Bowl Hardware
While playoff statistics are certainly important, teams play for Super Bowls. Not playoff wins.
Tom Brady has more of those than Joe Montana. And while a 49ers fan might argue, “sure, Brady had a longer career and more chances,” one does have to take into account longevity and overall team dominance.
Both the 49ers and Patriots had that during both teams’ respective runs.
But Montana never got a fifth ring. Brady did.
Most #SuperBowl wins by a Quarterback EVER.
— FOX Sports: NFL (@NFLonFOX) February 6, 2017
Super Bowl Appearances
- Tom Brady: seven
- Joe Montana: four
Most Super Bowl Wins by a Quarterback
- Tom Brady: five
- Joe Montana: four
Most Super Bowl MVP Awards
- Tom Brady: four
- Joe Montana: three
Note the first stat — Super Bowl appearances. Even though Brady has two big-game losses to wear, the fact the Patriots have made so many Super Bowls during his tenure has to be considered.
Yes, the 49ers won all four of the games Montana appeared in. But that’s it, and one could argue Montana should have led such a dominant San Francisco team to more championship games.
And to convince the doubters, Brady’s run of dominance has spanned the better part of two decades. Montana’s era lasted a little more than one.
Super Bowl Statistics
OK, 49ers fans. You might be feeling Tom Brady is getting the GOAT award here after the last slide. And many Patriots will use those numbers to back up the argument.
But Brady is far from perfect in his Super Bowl runs. Montana, on the other hand, was almost untouchable.
For starters, let’s look at Brady’s Super Bowl numbers from all seven appearances:
And now the same for Montana:
There are two key stats to look at here — passer rating and interceptions. Brady’s 95.3 mark is more than commendable. But Montana’s 127.8 is inconceivable.
And those picks? Brady has five now. Montana has yet to record one. And unless he applies for reinstatement, that number will never be blemished.
Can’t beat that.
Joe Montana versus Tom Brady. 49ers versus Patriots. It’s a game we only wish we could see.
Both quarterbacks had signature drives. For Montana, it was the game-winning drive against the Cincinnati Bengals in Super Bowl XXIII:
For Brady, the overtime game-winning drive against the Falcons in Super Bowl LI might earn the same nod when we look back at this 20 years from now:
OK, so both quarterbacks have great moments.
But let’s go back to our counter. According to the criteria, Montana still edges out Brady three to two.
Sure, this is going to anger some Patriots fans, and maybe some NFL pundits too. But who cares? They’re both GOATS from different eras.
Quarterbacking GOAT: Joe Montana
If you need a convincer, just ask Brady what he thought of Montana (h/t David Fucillo of Niners Nation):
Well, I don’t ever see myself like him. He was a so spectacular and I think he’s in a league of his own. … He was a winner. Every time he took the field, it felt like the 49ers were gonna win. And I remember rooting for that team when Joe was playing quarterback, and you always felt like they were going to win, no matter who they were playing, where they were playing at.
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Niner Noise might be giving Montana the GOAT, but we’re a 49ers site. Come on, what would you expect?
But the modern NFL era’s GOAT is Brady. No doubting that any longer. And Montana was clearly the GOAT of his time, especially when considering some of the guys he beat in the Super Bowl (John Elway, Dan Marino and Boomer Esiason).
Both made it look easy too, and that’s another reason why we should enjoy what we’re witnessing right now and fondly recollect what fans saw during the 1980s and early 90s.