By Flint Wheeler
That doesn’t sound like a good way to describe a great athlete, let alone one that’s currently being praised as the best quarterback of all-time. But in today’s society, goat now means: “The Greatest of All-Time”.
I don’t like the “G.O.A.T.” titles. I think it’s lazy and it eradicates one of the best things in sports: having a respected opinion and not shoving it down someone else’s throat as a fact. Today, you can’t have a fun, level headed discussion about who is the greatest quarterback of all-time without a millennial blowing off whatever you said by simply saying: “Tom Brady has five rings. He’s the G.O.A.T. ‘Nuff said.”
If we could only find a way to make our political debates end with such conviction and certainty.
But like politics, our opinions are normally just that, our opinions. I may not agree with your sports opinions, but I’ll certainly respect them as long as you can do the same with regard to my thoughts and opinions. What I don’t like is someone completely discarding any conversation by simply playing the “ring game” and putting the title of “G.O.A.T.” next to the next big thing.
That’s why I was taken back by “Madden NFL 18” and their recent decision to put “G.O.A.T.” accompanying Tom Brady’s image on their newest cover. I have no problem with Brady donning the cover and I certainly understand why they did it (to relate to today’s society while trying to connect with their target audience: millennials), but I couldn’t believe that a supposedly unbiased game would join the rest of today’s society and jump on the G.O.A.T. bandwagon.
I’m not writing this as a jealous non-Patriots fan. I am writing this as someone that doesn’t like where our sports society is headed, where opinions are being labeled as facts, where fun, informative and educational back and forth sports discussions have been replaced by corny labels and lazy ways of defining who really is the Greatest of All-Time.
Tom Brady may be the greatest quarterback of all-time. He has the most Super Bowl appearances and titles by any quarterback in the Super Bowl era. He owns individual passing records and is still playing at a high level as he approaches his 40th birthday. He is likely the greatest quarterback of this era, with only Peyton Manning joining that conversation, barely.
But before you dub Brady the “G.O.A.T.”, I’d like to share with you who I think is the greatest quarterback of all-time.
After leading Notre Dame to the greatest comeback victory in bowl history, Joe Montana was drafted by a 49ers team that went 2-14 during his rookie season. Two years later, Montana and coach Bill Walsh were running the most complex, intricate and effective offense that NFL had ever seen to that point, an offense (later dubbed the “West Coast Offense”) that would change the game of football forever. Montana stunned Dallas in the 1981 NFC title game, won his first Super Bowl two weeks later, and out-dueled Dan Marino (after Marino put together the greatest passing season — at that time — in NFL history) in Super Bowl XIX three years after that.
Despite playing in the loaded NFC (a conference that won the Super Bowl each year form 1984-96), Montana and the 49ers closed out the 1980s with two more Super Bowl victories, and were on their way to becoming the first team in league history to three peat in 1990. But a devastating injury to Montana in that year’s NFC title game led to San Francisco being upset by the Giants on a last-second field goal. Montana would miss the entire 1991 season, giving Steve Young the opportunity to take command of the 49ers’ offense as Montana watched helplessly from the bench.
While he enjoyed two very productive seasons in Kansas City, Montana was not able to add to his collection of four Vince Lombardi Trophies. While Brady also suffered a devastating injury (missing an entire season in 2008) during a similar point in his career, he didn’t lose his starting job, and was able to continue his Hall of Fame career while eventually surpassing Montana with five rings.
You may not agree with my take on Montana, but if you’ve made it this far in the article, you at least heard my argument, and I sincerely appreciate that. That’s what great sports conversations are all about, but in the world of the “G.O.A.T.” labels, those conversations are sadly coming to an end.