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Company at the top

Kyle Riviere
kriviere@weeklycitizen.com
Weekly Citizen Sports Editor Kyle Riviere.

For almost two decades now, it has been seen as blasphemous to suggest that anyone other than Joe Montana is the greatest quarterback of all time.

Ever since he retired, his legacy as the best stood alone. Sure, there were some all-time greats that warranted being mentioned in the same breath--guys like Johnny Unitas, Roger Staubach, John Elway and so on.

However, when it came to the question of who was the guy at the top of the mountain, it was always an easy answer for most. Montana was the man.

In just one night, things have shifted. No longer do I think it's blasphemous to embrace a debate that someone may actually be better than Montana.

What Tom Brady pulled off last Sunday night puts him in the conversation and not only is he in the conversation, you can make a compelling argument that he is now the greatest quarterback of all time.

Brady engineered a miraculous comeback against the defending champion Seahawks to earn his fourth Super Bowl title.

A 10-point fourth-quarter deficit may not seem exceedingly tough against most teams, but Brady wasn't facing most teams. He was facing the best defense in the league. When you trail Seattle by 10 in the fourth quarter, it's usually a foregone conclusion that you're going to lose.

That amazing comeback means that no quarterback has more rings than Brady, and only two men have as many: Montana and Terry Bradshaw.

Bradshaw is obviously one of the greatest quarterbacks of all time, but being on a team so chocked-full of Hall of Famers prevents you from saying he's in the top five.

Montana was able to play with some Hall of Famers as well, but the amazing things he pulled off throughout his career solidified him as many fans' top guy.

In addition to winning four Super Bowl titles, he won three Super Bowl MVP awards. He was an eight-time Pro Bowler and two-time league MVP.

And besides those achievements, who can forget how he was part of "The Catch" in the 1982 NFC Championship Game against the Cowboys?

He engineered one of the greatest game-winning drives in Super Bowl history as he led the 49ers 92 yards downfield for a game-winning touchdown pass against the Bengals in Super Bowl XXIII.

And even when he left San Franciso and joined the Chiefs toward the end of his career, he instantly made them contenders. In 1993, he led them to the AFC Championship Game on the strength of two come-from-behind playoff wins.

That looked like a resumé that would always put him on top but last Sunday night, Brady made up a lot of ground.

With the win, Brady now has four Super Bowl titles and three game MVP awards just like Montana.

He is also a two-time league MVP, and he actually has Montana beat in Pro Bowl selections with 10.

In fact, Brady could be the Michael Jordan of the NFL and wear six rings if not for two of the most miraculous plays in Super Bowl history.

In Super Bowl XLII, Brady led a 12-play, 80-yard touchdown drive that looked to complete a perfect season for the Patriots with just 2:42 remaining. But after the bonkers David Tyree catch, New England had their hearts ripped out.

A critical Wes Welker drop, a perfect Eli Manning pass and miraculous catch by Mario Manningham prevented the Patriots from taking home the Super Bowl XLVI title.

Brady led game-winning drives in three of his four Super Bowl wins. What he did against the Seahwaks last Sunday night was the greatest of those feats.

Despite throwing two early interceptions and despite being down 10 in the fourth quarter to the best defense in the league, he led nine-play, 68-yard and 10-play, 64-yard touchdown drives to win it. Both drives ended with touchdown passes.

And what makes the four Super Bowl titles by Brady even more impressive is the receivers he won them with.

The list includes: Troy Brown, David Givens, Deion Branch and Julien Edleman. All were solid, gritty receivers, but none of them were ever considered elite.

That is something that works to the advantage of Brady. Montana had the greatest receiver in NFL history in Jerry Rice. Although, you can say that much of Rice's success hinged on the greatness of Montana.

All in all, I'm not saying I'd take Brady over Montana just yet. Brady still has more football left to play, and it's still hard for me to say someone is better than Montana.

But, I will say this, with Brady's huge win last Sunday night, he's now at Montana's level. To me, when it comes down to the greatest quarterback of all time, they are 1A and 1B.