Lutz Blog

Bob Lutz: The Montana-Brady debate

Former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Joe Montana was an overwhelming choice as the greatest ever in Bob Lutz’s reader survey. But Tom Brady belongs in the argument.
Former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Joe Montana was an overwhelming choice as the greatest ever in Bob Lutz’s reader survey. But Tom Brady belongs in the argument.

On Sunday, we published the results of the 19th annual reader survey in the newspaper.

I love the survey and plan to take it at least through year 20. That’s a nice round number.

It’s always interesting to me to gauge – even unscientifically – what readers are thinking. Yes, folks, you matter to me. But I’ll forever deny I admitted that.

There were more than 2,200 responses to this year’s survey. That’s the most ever. And there were some interesting results. I also appreciate those of you who took the time to expand on your thoughts in a feedback section provided. I read them all.

I’m going to address some of the questions/answers in the blog this week and will start with Question 20, which asked your opinion on the greatest quarterback in history.

I expected this to be close between several players. It was not.

Former San Francisco 49ers QB Joe Montana, with four Super Bowl rings, ran away with the competition. Montana received 1,010 votes and was the top QB chosen in 46.5 percent of the responses. No. 2 was former Baltimore Colts quarterback Johnny Unitas, followed by Peyton Manning, John Elway and, at No. 5, Tom Brady.

As I wrote in my response to this question, I would also have voted for Montana. But Brady is a close No. 2 and, given that he has never had a Jerry Rice to throw to – outside of Randy Moss for one spectacular season – there is a strong case for Brady as the best ever.

And don’t throw out Deflategate or Spygate as reasons I should think less of Brady’s accomplishments. That doesn’t work with me. I’ve watched the guy play countless games over the year and he’s simply great whether or not a few or air were let out of the football in last year’s AFC championship game against Indianapolis.

Brady with a chip on his shoulder is even better than great and that’s what we’re seeing so far in 2016. If the NFL had its way, Brady would be sitting out right now – he was handed a four-game suspension for his role in Deflategate until a federal judge overturned the ruling.

Brady has so far taken out his anger, frustration, revenge on anything in his way – specifically the Pittsburgh Steelers and Buffalo Bills. At 38, he looks better than ever and intent on adding a fifth Super Bowl ring to his collection.

That won’t win over the anti-Brady group. The Patriots are one of the most vilified organizations in professional sports, much the way the Yankees, Cowboys and Lakers were disliked when they were regularly winning championships.

Winners are loved and revered with passion. And loathed with the same intensity.

Unitas had nearly 800 fewer votes than Montana in the reader survey. Montana managed to not only win championships, but maintain a popularity and reverence among football fans. And that’s no easy task when you win the way Montana won.

Perhaps Montana’s time in Kansas City with the Chiefs helped him in this poll, but certainly not enough to have such a landslide victory as the greatest QB in history.

With respect to Unitas, Manning and Elway, the debate of greatest ever is now a two-quarterback argument – Montana or Brady. I know many of you disagree with that, but that’s what I believe.

Here are Brady’s career ranks in four big quarterback categories: Yards, 54,012, fifth; Touchdowns, 399, fourth; Completion percentage, 63.6, 12th; Rating, 96.2, fifth.

Now for Montana: Yards, 40,551, 13th; Touchdowns, 273, 11th; Completion percentage, 63.2, 13th; Rating, 92.3, 10th.

Brady has appeared in 211 career games including 209 starts. Montana started 164 of his 192 games.

Now for the playoff numbers for each:

Brady – Yards, 7,345, first; Touchdowns, 53, first; Completion percentage, 62.9, 26th; Rating, 89.0, 12th.

Montana – Yards, 5,722, fourth; Touchdowns, 45, second; Completion percentage, 62.7, 27th; Rating, 95.6, sixth.

Brady has been in 29 playoff games; Montana 23.

You can make numbers fit the argument for several other quarterbacks in this discussion. But both Brady and Montana have incredible intangibles, too.

In my mind, they’re 1-2. I still take Montana over Brady, but only by a whisker.

Thanks for reading.