Some might disagree, but it could certainly be argued that no better judge of an NFL quarterback’s merit exists than a former NFL quarterback himself — especially one who succeeded at the game’s highest level.
Joe Namath famously won Super Bowl III after guaranteeing that his New York Jets would defeat the heavily favored Baltimore Colts. This past January was the 50th anniversary of the Jets’ 16-7 victory that ascended Namath to football immortality.
So when Namath is asked for his opinion on the greatest NFL quarterback of all time, it’s worth taking note. Namath appeared on The Howard Stern Show Monday morning and was posed that exact question. To perhaps no surprise, one famous No. 12 named another No. 12 for his pick of the best QB ever: New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady.
“Tom is the best; I’ve been asked that question for many years,” Namath told Stern. “Tom has been challenged more in recent history, certainly, with huge games than anyone I can recollect. He stepped up every time… I have not seen Tom Brady lose a game for his team.”
Stern framing the discussion by talking about Brady’s longevity was a smart way to go, considering how Namath’s career was significantly affected by knee injuries dating back to his college days at the University of Alabama.
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It’s one of the prevailing questions when discussing Namath’s football legacy. As great as he was — playing 13 seasons in the NFL, throwing for nearly 28,000 yards and 173 touchdowns — how much more would he have achieved had those knees allowed him to? (Namath eventually needed both knees replaced long after his playing days had finished.)
While Namath qualified his judgment of any quarterback by how lucky he’s been in avoiding injury, he lauded Brady for continually “answering the challenge” in big games. Six Super Bowl championships is an achievement that sets Brady apart from football’s other greats, like Joe Montana and John Elway. Montana and Terry Bradshaw won four Super Bowls. Troy Aikman has three championship rings. Elway and Peyton Manning won two.
Then there’s the length of Brady’s career. The 2019 season will be his 20th in the NFL. He’ll be 42 when Week 1 kicks off. Namath played 13 seasons (despite his knee troubles) and was 34 in his final campaign. Montana played 15 years, retiring when he was 38. Elway was also 38 when he called it a career after 16 seasons. Aikman played 12 seasons, retiring at 34. Manning was 39 in the last of his 17 seasons.
Brady is still playing at a high level and could win another Super Bowl this season. And he’s expected to play at least one more year after signing a contract extension, which the Patriots surely want to address before training camp begins in late July. Though Brady presumably doesn’t need to convince anyone in Foxborough, maybe he should bring Namath along for those next contract negotiations.