There's no room for debate. Even though he put up the worst performance of any of his Super Bowl wins, Tom Brady won his sixth ring.
And he is the greatest athlete of all time.
Not just the greatest quarterback. Not just the greatest NFL player. But the greatest athlete to ever play a professional team sport in the United States of America. Not based on athletic ability, everyone knows that Brady has never been that athletic. But his legacy is unparalleled by any other player in any other sport. And I can prove it too.
Let's start with the man who was the consensus greatest quarterback of all time before Brady came along: Tom Brady's childhood idol, Joe Montana. Most people still put Montana at #2 when it comes to GOAT QB rankings, but there's still a few Bay Area diehards and old-timers that still claim Montana is better. Their argument centers around two points: that Montana was undefeated in the Super Bowl and that he never threw an interception in the Super Bowl. When it comes to being undefeated, yes, Montana went to four Super Bowls and won them all. It's very impressive and should be celebrated. Even with all the great quarterbacks to come into the NFL after his retirement, his four rings are still tied with Terry Bradshaw for the second most all time. But let's play the hypothetical game for a second. Let's assume a quarterback goes to four Super Bowls and wins them all. Then he's the greatest of all time. Then he goes to five more Super Bowls and goes 2-3. Is his legacy somehow worsened by more than doubling his career Super Bowl appearances and still maintaining a winning record? Of course not. So why is it any different when Brady goes to more Super Bowls than Montana, and has more wins? It isn't, but people think it is. Let's look at game-winning drives in the Super Bowl. Montana only had one: the iconic 92 yard drive against the Bengals in Super Bowl XXIII. It is legendary, but Brady one ups him. In all six of his Super Bowl wins, Tom Brady has led the Patriots on a game-winning drive. True, some were higher pressure than others, but it still stands that he did it in all six wins. Not only that, but in all nine of his Super Bowl appearances, Tom Brady has either walked off the field victorious or given his defense a fourth quarter lead which they failed to protect. And that's not even mentioning the time Joe Montana got benched while down 49-3 against the Giants, after he threw for 98 yards and two interceptions in the 1986 NFC Divisional Round. Who'd he get benched for, by the way? Was it Steve Young? No, he wouldn't join the 49ers until 1987. Joe Montana played so bad in the playoffs he was benched for Jeff Kemp. Kemp's career stats look like this: 16-12-1 as a starter, 6,230 yards, 39 touchdowns, 40 interceptions. Let it be known that, in a playoff game, Joe Montana lost by 46 points and was benched for a backup who threw more interceptions than touchdowns in his career.
Now onto the no interception argument. Yes, it is impressive and it should be celebrated. But it can't realistically be used to put down Brady. Montana threw 122 passes in his four Super Bowls. Brady threw 156 in his first four, and still only had one interception. Since then, he's attempted 236 more passes in Super Bowls, and threw 5 interceptions. That's one roughly every 47 attempts. And when Brady throws 47 passes in the Super Bowl? Well, he's 3-2.
Okay, he's better than Montana. What about the greatest NFL player ever? That's a bit more complicated. There's no clear-cut, consensus #1 guy. Some may say Jerry Rice. Some may say Jim Brown. Some may say Lawrence Taylor. All football royalty, but Brady has one thing over any of them: the quarterback is the most important position on a football team. A quarterback is the only player (well, except the center if you want to be particular about it) to touch the ball every snap. Jerry Rice got the ball a lot, but sometimes the 49ers ran it or passed to another receiver. Jim Brown is similar. He played in a run-first era, so he got it a lot, but sometimes the Browns passed or handed it to a different back. Lawrence Taylor never got the ball on offense, but he does have one thing in common with Brady that Rice and Brown do not: he called plays. Calling defensive plays is important, but most of the scoring comes from the offense, so no matter how important LT's role is, he will never be as important as Brady.
So, he's the greatest NFL player ever. But is he really the greatest athlete ever? Yes. He's even better than Michael Jordan. Jordan is the consensus greatest athlete ever. He won six NBA championships as the centerpiece of the Chicago Bulls. That's not the most in any sport. Bill Russell won 11 with the Celtics. Yogi Berra won the World Series ten times with the Yankees. But Jordan is different. When Berra and Russell won their rings, they just had the best team in one league or conference play the best team in the other. When Jordan played, he had to go through four rounds of playoffs to win a title. And he did that six times. Brady had to go through three rounds of playoffs to win a title, which he also did six times. True, Jordan had another round to play, but there's one major difference: looking at all six of his NBA championship runs, Michael Jordan faced a do or die game twice. The first time was in the 1992 Eastern Conference Semifinals against the New York Knicks, and the second was in the 1998 Eastern Conference Finals against the Indiana Pacers. He won them both, and has never faced a do or die game in the NBA Finals. In every playoff game Tom Brady has ever played, it's been a do or die game. And he's won an NFL record 30 of those games. If the Patriots put up a stinker in the playoffs, they don't have another game to bail them out. Michael Jordan’s Bulls always did.
The debate is over. Tom Brady is the greatest athlete in sports history. And we need to appreciate his legacy while he's still adding to it.