Decision 2012: Author Glennon Says Vote Brady For G-O-A-T!
By Kevin Braig (@quantcoach)
Cold, Hard Football Facts international election monitor
It’s campaign season.
While Barack Obama and Mitt Romney are seeking your vote for P.O.T.U.S. (President of the United States) author Sean Glennon is seeking to convince you that he knows the best candidate for G.O.A.T. (Greatest of All Time).
In taking on the critical campaign issue of our time of who is the greatest quarterback in NFL history, you have to admire Glennon’s passion for his candidate.
“Tom Brady is the greatest quarterback in NFL history,” Glennon writes in "Tom Brady Vs. The NFL: The Case For Football's Greatest Quarterback."
“I don’t think that; I know it. I’ve spent 18 months looking forward, backward, and sideways at Brady’s career and the careers of the best passers ever to take the field, and Brady just keeps coming out on top. [It’s] not always by a wide margin (though sometimes it’s by a wide margin), but always by enough to make it count.”
Al Gore—who watched helplessly as “Hanging Chad” (not Johnson) fumbled away the 2000 presidential election—undoubtedly could relate.
In his book, Glennon runs a solid, statistically supported, fact-based campaign for Brady.
Moreover, Glennon thoroughly examines almost all of the other candidates—the QuantCoach would have included absent former Miami Dolphins quarterback Bob Griese—who might fill the Prolate Spheroid Office of the G.O.A.T. And he does it without “going negative.”
What Glennon gets right is that—except for Griese (1972-73)—he compares Brady side-by-side with every quarterback in the Super Bowl era who led his team to back-to-back Super Bowl titles:
- Bart Starr (Green Bay 1966-67)
- Terry Bradshaw (Pittsburgh 1974-75 and 1978-79)
- Joe Montana (San Francisco 1988-89)
- Troy Aikman (Dallas 1992-93)
- John Elway (Denver 1997-98)
- Brady (New England 2003-04)
In the QuantCoach’s view, the ultimate proof that a player or a play design is superior is the ability to replicate success. Thus, the ultimate proof of both a quarterback and a coach in the NFL is the ability to replicate a Super Bowl championship in consecutive years.
Like all candidates, Brady and the other quarterbacks who have replicated a Super Bowl championship in back-to-back years are members of two distinct political pigskin parties. These parties are not Democrats and Republicans, but rather saviors and disciples.
The saviors—Griese, Bradshaw, Elway, and Aikman—were obvious talents who were picked at the very top of the NFL draft with the expectation that they would turn a franchise around, singlehandedly if necessary.
Indeed, Bradshaw, Elway and Aikman were the No. 1 overall pick when each entered the NFL. Griese, a marvelous athlete who also played baseball and basketball at Purdue, was the fourth pick in the draft upon graduation to the NFL.
Interestingly, Glennon makes almost no attempt to discuss the relationship between the saviors and the head coaches who designed their plays.
As previously noted, Griese and his head coach Don Shula are not in the book, except in the chapter on Dan Marino in a passing mention that lasts less time than Mike Martz contemplating running plays. Elway’s mentor, Mike Shannahan, also does not receive any meaningful treatment.
When Glennon discusses Jimmy Johnson, the play designer in charge of Aikman’s back-to-back Super Bowl champions, he merely notes that Johnson had a “rocky relationship” with owner Jerry Jones and made Aikman’s life “a whole lot easier” by restocking the Cowboys using draft picks obtained from Minnesota in a trade for running back Herschel Walker.
Glennon spends a little bit more time discussing Bradshaw and Chuck Noll.
“Bradshaw didn’t throw the ball that well, but that was OK, because Steelers coach Chuck Noll didn’t ask Bradshaw to throw the ball all that much,” Glennon observes of Pittsburgh’s play-designer-in-chief during the Steelers’ glory years.
“Bradshaw’s other big responsibility was not to put the Pittsburgh defense in tough situations. Because the reality under Noll was that the Steel Curtain defense was the engine that drove championships.”
In contrast to the members of the savior party, the members of the disciple party were not high draft picks and little, if anything, was expected of any of them when they entered the NFL.
Glennon makes it clear that the ability to follow the directions and execute the instructions of their master play-designers—not visually obvious physical talent—is the key element of the success of the members of the disciple party.
Of the party’s members, Montana, who developed into a college star at Notre Dame, was picked the highest as the last selection in the third round, the 82nd player chosen in 1979. But Dallas passed on the future four-time Super Bowl champion in favor of tight end Doug Cosbie when their pick came up in that round before San Francisco’s pick even though the Cowboys had Montana rated as the best player available on the board.
Brady, a little-more-than-part-time starter at Michigan, was not chosen until the sixth round, the 199th player selected in 2000. Starr, a backup quarterback at Alabama, was picked in a round that has not existed for year (the 17thround) and was the 200th player chosen in 1956.
Unlike his discussion of the members of the savior party, Glennon emphasizes the play design that Brady received from Bill Belichick and the other disciples—Starr and Montana—received from their play-designers-in-chief, Vince Lombardi and Bill Walsh, respectively.
“Belichick and Brady have been the most dangerous combination of coach and quarterback in the history of the NFL—more dangerous than Lombardi and Starr, Shula and Marino, or Walsh and Montana,” Glennon writes. “They are the winningest coach-quarterback pair in NFL history, holding records for both regular-season wins (124) and postseason wins (16).”
(The tandem is now up to 129 wins, midway thought the 2012 season.)
Glennon opines that Green Bay’s legendary Lombardi “is still regarded as the greatest coach in the history of the pro game” and gently wonders if Starr would have been a success without his coach.
“Starr’s performance before Lombardi’s arrival in Green Bay in 1959 and after the great coach stepped down following Super Bowl II was something again,” Glennon writes. “None of that undoes the fact that when Starr was at his best, he was downright unstoppable. But it does leave one to wonder how much of Starr’s success was Starr and how much was Lombardi.”
Glennon takes a similar approach to Montana and Walsh.
“Though the West Coast Offense is a common system in the NFL today, when Walsh unveiled it with the 49ers, it was unlike anything the league had ever seen,” Glennon writes.
“To defensive players and and coaches who were accustomed to stopping offensive schemes that turned on power running and downfield passing, the West Coast’s emphasis on short, horizontal passes was a shock to the system.
"It required a rethinking not only of defensive schemes and play calling, but of defensive personnel groupings and personnel types. Montana and the 49ers had a pair of Super Bowl championships to their credit before the league truly began to catch up. The coaching advantage Brady has enjoyed doesn’t begin to compare to that.”
This is Glennon’s strongest point on his stump for Brady.
However, to be historically precise, it should be noted that the 49ers and Montana did not achieve back-to-back Super Bowl titles until a New York Giants defensive assistant named Bill Belichick had pretty much caught up to Walsh’s West Coast Offense design.
And Montana and his teammates accomplished the second of the back-to-back titles in 1989 without Walsh, who retired after the 1988 season, when Montana directed what remains in the QuantCoach’s opinion the greatest, most complete team in NFL history to a 55-10 destruction of Denver in the Super Bowl.
Still, while one might argue all the achievements and all the statistics and the context in which they came to pass, it is indisputable that Brady achieved his back-to-back Super Bowl titles in the most technologically sophisticated era in NFL history.
In Brady’s era, the knowledge of Lombardi, Shula, Noll, Walsh, Johnson, Shanahan and others had already spread throughout the NFL. Starr and Montana—who Glennon concedes are strong candidates for G.O.A.T.—operated with a technological, knowledge-based design edge against almost every other team in the league. Brady has not had this luxury.
As a result of the diffusion of the knowledge of the master play-designers throughout the entire NFL and the corresponding elimination of systemic knowledge-based design advantages, Brady is certainly the most evolved quarterback in history and likely the most adaptable to have ever played the game.
That he has become so out the necessity resulting from the inexorable diffusion of knowledge and relentless evolution of the game does not discount his accomplishments in the least.
Is being the the most evolved and adaptable quarterbackin NFL history the same thing as being the greatest quarterback in NFL history?
If your answer is “YES,” this Election Day you should “VOTE Brady.”
Sean Glennon (probably) approved this message.
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