Bill Plaschke has just proven that he's cut from the same cloth that drapes the Chicago Sun-Times' Jay Mariotti with his latest column deftly titled, "Brady is just Johnny come lately". Why do I say this outrageous statement, you ask? Well, rather than pulling out quotes that may seem to be out-of-context, here's the entire word-by-word column with my comments whenever appropriate (in bold and parenthesis):
Brady is just Johnny come lately
Patriots' leader is a three-time Super Bowl champion, but he seems more a quarterback for his time than for all time. In other words, he's no Unitas.
January 27 2008
The first thing you notice about Tom Brady is, well, nothing.
He doesn't have a nick on his face because today's referees won't allow it. (More like his offensive line won't allow it. The refs call the same game for all QBs. But nice conspiracy theory, Bill.)
He doesn't have a growl to his voice because today's huddles don't require it. (And that's because you're in the huddle with them. Right, Bill?)
He doesn't have fire in his eyes because today's teams don't need it. (Obviously, Bill, you didn't see the Steelers/Pats game when Brady got in Anthony Smith's face about his earlier prediction. Then again, it's not your job to get those facts right. You just "observe".)
Tom Brady is fantastic, but he's formula. He's a champion, but he's a creation. And to anoint him as the best quarterback ever would be to forget that his position was invented, inspired and made famous by those who were neither. (I'd agree with saying he's not the best ever but to say that he's just a product of a "formula" is disingenuous to say the least.)
If Brady leads the New England Patriots to a Super Bowl win over the New York Giants next Sunday, everyone will celebrate his four world championships.
They will forget that Otto Graham won seven league championships.
Everyone will marvel at Brady's 15-2 postseason record.
They will forget that Bart Starr was 9-1 in the postseason with a record 104.8 passer rating.
Everyone will wax about how, in two Super Bowls, Brady led his team on late fourth-quarter game-winning field-goal drives.
They will forget that, in one of his four Super Bowl championships, Joe Montana drove his San Francisco team 92 yards for a last-second, game-winning touchdown. (I highly doubt people will forget Joe Montana. Well, maybe those two chumps that sit at his diner on the NFL Network would but that's it.)
Everyone will applaud Brady for his tough defender's mentality.
They will forget that Slingin' Sammy Baugh actually played defense, picking off 31 passes in his career, which is more than he threw in his last three seasons combined. (Not exactly sure where you pulled this one from but I see what you're saying. Baugh was a beast in his day. But no one else plays both sides so it's hard to belittle Brady's accomplishments because he's not only the QB but the CB as well.)
Everyone will predict that Brady's 92.9% completion rate in the playoffs against Jacksonville is a record that will never be broken.
They will forget that Johnny Unitas once threw touchdown passes in 47 consecutive games, a record that will truly never be broken. (I think that this comparison could be filed under "Apples & Oranges"; both equal records but are not similar in the least. Nice try, Bill.)
Yeah, everyone will forget Johnny Unitas. (Uh-oh, you can see where this is going - this has the sounds of an old man "Back in My Day" rants. Batten down the hatches.)
He invented the two-minute drill. He invented the rhythm passing game. He invented the quarterback as a leader, calling all of his plays, something today's quarterbacks haven't done for more than a decade.
He was the catalyst in the 1958 championship game between his Baltimore Colts and the New York Giants, an overtime victory by the Colts that changed pro football forever.
He was the first true quarterback of the modern era, setting the bar for toughness and accountability.
"You can look at all the numbers you want," said Dan Fouts, former San Diego Chargers great. "But to me, being a quarterback is all about a feeling."
Nobody illustrated that feeling better than Unitas. He was football's Babe Ruth, and Bart Starr was its Lou Gehrig, and Sammy Baugh was its Ty Cobb, and Joe Montana was its Joe DiMaggio.
Tom Brady is football's, well, um, Alex Rodriguez. (And there you go. Old Man Bill would like you to believe that Brady is just a cold gazing, soft voiced, unfeeling, product of a system that is only about putting up numbers that are easily attainable due to the refs. And I won't even go near that A-Rod comment; that's just trying to bait any Anti-Yankee sentiment. Wow, I wonder what Old Man Bill thinks of Peyton?)
Rodriguez is great, he's headed for the Hall of Fame, but he will retire as neither the greatest third baseman nor shortstop in history. (Maybe as the greatest hitter but he's right; not the greatest 3rd baseman or SS in history.)
Put him in the history books. But put him in context. Same goes for Brady. (You could say the same thing about every other example Old Man Bill uses in his argument against Brady - Montana was a product of the changes in passing rules from the 70s, etc. But I'll give you more credit than Old Man Bill does his readers.)
"I hear all these people talking about Tom Brady and I just sort of smirk," said John Unitas Jr., the late quarterback's son. "It's an entirely different game. I'm biased, but what my father did, you can't compare it to anything today." (True, it is an entirely different game but that doesn't make Brady's stats or accomplishments laughable by any means. I'm sure Johnny U would agree.)
Start with the snap.
While Brady is famous for his "decision making," many of those decisions have actually been made for him by his offensive coordinators. (Same with any other QB in the league; although Peyton is largely the one that most "talking heads" point out.)
The Patriots' game plan is more homework than instinct, more science than scrabble. (Hmmm, I thought that all NFL teams study film. Imagine my surprise to hear that the Pats are the only ones who do the work. Wow, 18-0 does have a hollow ring to it.)
Unitas, meanwhile, was renowned for once telling offensive coordinator Don McCafferty to "Sit back and enjoy the game, I won't need any help."
"My father never had a microphone in his helmet," said Unitas Jr. "He would study film two hours every night in the basement, figuring out his own plays." (First, it's a speaker in the helmet and second, the technology wasn't available back in the 50s. But it's nice to hear that the Colts were paying some guy to do nothing while Johnny U was diagramming plays in his basement.)
Next, the pocket.
Brady has been blessed with rules that prohibit defenders from taking cheap shots at the quarterback. This, combined with a strong offensive line, has allowed him to stand in the backfield poring over possible receivers for what seems like hours.
Have you ever seen Brady with blood? Have you ever seen him wearing even so much as a grass stain? (No, that’s because he does have a pretty good O-line. But have you seen the number of QBs that have started this year for other teams, Old Man Bill? Highest ever. But don't concern yourself with the facts; it would render your "theory" moot.)
The ancient quarterbacks survived with no such rules, with defenders hitting them every play, smaller guys than today, but hits nonetheless. (Geez, Old Man Bill, you forgot that players had worse equipment back in the day and that there was no such thing as FieldTurf and that everyone played outside. Oops, and you forgot to say, you buncha whippersnappers.)
There is a reason that one of most famous quarterback photos is not of Tom Brady pumping his fist into the air, but of Y.A. Tittle kneeling with blood trickling down his head. (Really? I thought that it was Starr's sneak during the Ice Bowl or Joe Montana's fist pump or Brett Farve running around like a crazed loon. But Tittle's bloody noggin is a pretty good one too. Can I get it on a T-Shirt?)
"The beating those guys took was tremendous," Unitas Jr. said.
Finally, there is the pass.
Brady's receivers are protected by today's rules, to the extent that defensive backs cannot even accidentally graze them.
The ancients' receivers were routinely tackled. The mere act of putting the ball in the air was a gamble. (So was walking to school ten miles barefoot, wasn't it, Old Man Bill? I get the point; rules change. Did you know that back in the day, college basketball players were not allowed to dunk? Blame Lew, Old Man Bill!)
"My father played when there were mostly running offenses," Unitas Jr said. My father was the other way."
In 1959, Unitas' league-leading total of 32 touchdown passes was more than 50% higher than his closest competitor, Pittsburgh's Bobby Layne, who threw for 20.
Brady threw for a record 50 touchdowns this season, but he is playing in an era when career and season passing records are falling faster than Green Bay snow. (Yes, let's blame Brady for being born in the 1980s and playing in the 2000s where the NFL has changed the rules and it's not like it was back when Fonzie ruled Milwaukee.)
Brady is playing in an era when the following scenario would never happen: (Maybe or maybe not. But you know the old saying - never say never. But yet Old Man Bill is absolute in his stance.)
Playing in overtime for the league championship, having driven his team to his opponent's eight-yard line, a quarterback decides to pass.
That was Unitas, 50 years ago. His Colts were in position to kick a field goal to beat the Giants for the title. Yet he saw a hole in the defense and threw a seven-yard pass to Jim Mutscheller to set up Alan Ameche's one-yard touchdown run.
"My father controlled the game," said John Unitas Jr. "He stuck it all out there." (Nothing against Junior here, but he's not really a model of objectivity, is he? At least he said that at the beginning, unlike Old Man Bill here.)
It is a game that no longer exists, and he is the kind of quarterback who no longer exists.
Today, Tom Brady stands alone. In this history of professional football, he stands in line. (All that to say that Brady is not the best of all time; a subject he is willing to agree with Old Man Bill. But to go the whole A-Rod name-calling route and further bemoan the good old days while belittling Brady's accomplishments not only makes Old Man Bill seem misinformed but sad as well.)