Recently, analysts from NFL.com were asked which quarterback among the top four of the “Top 100 Players of 2011″ list (Tom Brady, Peyton Manning, Drew Brees, and Aaron Rodgers) they would want to win them one game. In the recent past, the Patriots’ Tom Brady was usually the clear-cut choice with his 14 postseason wins and three Super Bowl titles, with Peyton Manning getting the occasional tip of the cap. Now, however, with Brady not winning a Super Bowl since 2005 and new quarterbacks emerging, TB12 is no longer the run-away leader. Of the eight analysts polled, there was a 5-3 split, with the majority sticking with Brady. The other three did not go Peyton’s way- in fact, none of them did. Instead, Packers QB Aaron Rodgers has now worked his way prominently into the discussion.
Here are some of the arguments from either side that stood out:
Jason La Canfora:
“I can’t argue with Tom Brady. There is no better big-game performer. Heck, there is no better small-game performer. The stage doesn’t matter. He dominates the regular season. He has the rings — three to be precise — or as many as this other trio combined.”
“Brady showed last season, when he threw 36 touchdowns and just four interceptions, how precise he can be, even when his offense was more predictable because of a so-so running game and a lack of a deep receiving threat. All of the quarterbacks are unquestioned leaders, but Brady has the leadership, poise, productivity — and championship rings — that give him the edge.”
“Fact is, in the Patriots’ three most recent playoff losses (Giants, Ravens and Jets), a defense that was built to play with big leads scuffled in the clutch of close games. Those defeats had more to do with New England losing games at the line of scrimmage, on both sides of the ball, than anything else — something that seldom happened in the championship years. And aside from the sound beatings at the hands of the Jets and Ravens, Brady actually did lead a go-ahead fourth quarter drive in Super Bowl XLII.”
“It’s more a vote toward his teammates and Brady’s ability to lead them. He’s proven to be that rare superstar who motivates greatness in his teammates as well as himself.”
“…I’m going with the most recent champion, the hot ticket, but one that I believe has staying power, Aaron Rodgers. From calling many of his games in college, I knew he had the confidence (borderline cockiness, just what you want in your QB), the arm, the accuracy, the mind, and the competitiveness.”
“…if you want to win the Super Bowl — like Super Bowl XLV — the only answer is Aaron Rodgers. The Packers quarterback has become the best at his position, dating back to the second half of the 2009 NFC Wild Card Game against the Cardinals.”
“Is this hypothetical game being played in October? Tom Brady’s the choice. November? Gimme Peyton Manning. December? Phil Rivers is almost guaranteed to get it done. January or February? I’ll take Aaron Rodgers now and for the next half-dozen years.”
My take? Obviously, I’m going with Brady, but that is not a shot at Aaron Rodgers. Rodgers simply doesn’t have the resume at this point that Brady has. Perhaps some day he will get there, but one season does not make a man the hands-down best big-game QB. Albert Breer made the best point of all eight in my view in terms of assessing Brady’s latest postseason losses. It’s the team around him, or lack thereof, that has cost the Pats big. Tom Brady, despite being beat up the entire time by the Giants defense in the Pats’ last Super Bowl appearance, drove his team down the field for the go-ahead score, as Breer pointed out. It was the defense that gave up the game late, and one miracle helmet catch.
If the Patriot defense can improve enough to make a big stop or at least keep the Pats in the game, Brady will come through and lead the team down for the winning score 9.9 times out of 10. We’ve seen it plenty of times to know it can be done. Rodgers, while very good, doesn’t have the resume yet. It would be like electing a guy as President of the United States who doesn’t have a single accomplishment to his na…oh, wait a minute…