By Michael Hurley, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) — On Wednesday, the internet (and perhaps the world at large) became up in arms over Tony Dungy’s declaration that Tom Brady is the sixth-best quarterback since 1978. Yes, not even the sixth-best quarterback of all time; the sixth-best quarterback since 1978.
This was, of course, a bit of a batty opinion, but one that nevertheless provided much amusement. Clearly, some bitter feelings toward the New England Patriots are still thriving inside the veins of the former Colts coach.
But, if we can put our geography aside for a moment, we should probably take a closer look at two more quarterbacks on Dungy’s list who are wildly ranked by the Hall of Famer.
First, there is Peyton Manning, whom Dungy coached from 2002-08. Dungy had Manning ranked either fourth or fifth.
But even more stunning, there is Joe Montana. The quest for the title of “GOAT” has typically been a two-man race in recent years between Brady and Montana. But according to Dungy, Montana is at best the seventh-best quarterback since 1978.
Though ESPN’s Mike Sando didn’t provide each panel member’s complete list, we can patch together the known facts to learn where Dungy ranked his quarterbacks. Dungy’s top three (order unspecified) are John Elway, Steve Young and Aaron Rodgers. His fourth and fifth quarterbacks (order again unspecified) are Manning and Dan Marino. Brady ranks sixth on Dungy’s list, which means Montana can rank seventh at the highest. Based on other information, we know that Montana’s lowest ranking was ninth.
And considering Sando included glowing comments on Montana from nine of the 10 coaches on the panel, it’s reasonable to deduce that Dungy ranked Montana as the ninth-best NFL quarterback since 1978.
Opinions are opinions, but this is sheer lunacy.
Manning is the all-time leader in passing yards and passing touchdowns. He also owns the single-season records in both categories. He was named an All-Pro seven times, he made 14 Pro Bowls, and he won five MVP Awards — the most of all time. While his postseason struggles are well-documented, it’s very difficult to deny that Manning is the greatest passer in history. At the very least, he’s among the top three, and you might assume that the coach who knew him better than anybody might agree.
Alas, Manning is either fourth or fifth according to Dungy. How does that story play out in Indianapolis?
But really, the Montana ranking from a Hall of Fame coach is truly shocking. Montana has pretty much owned the “Greatest Of All Time” label since the early ’90s. Four Super Bowls surely went a long way toward earning that title, but so did the fact that he ushered in a revolutionary new offense in the NFL. Statistically, he may not measure up with the likes of Manning, Brady and Drew Brees, but that’s merely a matter of a difference in eras.
In the 1988 and 1989 postseasons, Montana threw 19 touchdowns and 1 interception while leading the 49ers to consecutive Super Bowl titles. That’s unparalleled. In four Super Bowls, he threw 11 touchdowns and no interceptions. The simple act of itemizing Montana’s resume feels like an odd thing to even have to be doing.
It really wasn’t until Brady won his fourth Super Bowl that anybody even entertained the idea that someone might knock Montana off his throne, and then it became much more accepted once Brady won Lombardi No. 5. That’s been the legacy of Montana for 20-plus years. (Coincidentally, maybe the only other person to have the “GOAT” label applied in that span was Peyton Manning.)
Again, opinions are opinions, and nobody has to agree with popular opinion. The world needs free thinkers.
But does Tony Dungy really believe Joe Montana is the ninth-best quarterback in the NFL since 1978? Ninth?
It’s really a head-scratcher, and considering one can surmise some personal feelings creeping into the Brady ranking, one is left to wonder if perhaps there’s some history between Dungy and Montana. The two were teammates in 1979 in San Francisco, though Montana was a rookie and played just one game was Steve DeBerg went 2-13 as the starting quarterback.
Looking back at tweets from Dungy about Montana finds only comments which were innocuous and/or praiseworthy.
In fact, Dungy even had Brady and Montana in his top-five as recently as 2014.
I’m not sure what Steve Young has done since 2014, but apparently he’s done something.
Overall, it’s a bit weird. Maybe Dungy is the genius and we’re all the fools. Perhaps you reading this right now — yes, you specifically — are a goof of the highest order. With a topic as arbitrary and subjective as “best quarterback,” there’s bound to be some disagreement.
But looking at Dungy’s overall rankings, it’s obvious that having Brady sixth was not the only oddity.