|Brady will undoubtedly be headed to Canton one day but Kraft already thinks he's better than Montana. (Getty Images)|
Patriots owner Bob Kraft clearly has a soft spot for Tom Brady. After all, it was Brady as an unproven -- and mostly unknown -- rookie sixth-round pick who told Kraft "I'm the best decision this organization has ever made." Turns out, he was right. Brady has led New England to five Super Bowls and three Lombardi Trophies and when he retires -- whether it's tomorrow or well after his 40th birthday -- he'll be headed straight to Canton.
And that helps explain Kraft's affinity for his quarterback, as well as his view of Brady's place in NFL history.
“I think that Tommy, with all due respect, is better than Joe Montana,” Kraft told NFL Network's Albert Breer. “I know that's a leap, but I really think he might already be the best of all time. I watch how involved he is, how driven he is. He's like Belichick, he's into the details. And he's got a skill that makes him so special, he can process all of it so quickly. … And then, he's just got that quality. Certain people have that sincerity. He's a very genuine guy. People can relate to him. People can trust him.”
If we start with championships (and, really, that's where every vapid comparison of players from different eras begins, right?) Montana was 4-0 in the Super Bowl while Brady is 3-2. Both are Hall of Fame-worthy, though it would be hard for most unbiased observers to give the nod to Brady.
Something else worth considering: how incredibly different the NFL is today compared to 20 years ago. The evolution of the passing game and the sheer size and speed of the players is most obvious, but we sometimes forget that when Montana played he was treated like every other player on the field. Which is to say: he routinely took a beating.
We wrote about it back in January ahead of the Giants-49ers playoff game, and noted at the time that "As you'll see in the videos below, this brand of tackle football is virtually unrecognizable. There was no such thing at the Tom Brady rule or defenseless receivers or helmet-to-helmet hits, and defensive backs could mug would-be pass-catchers without penalty."
After watching this we've come to this conclusion: Tom Brady would've had a very difficult time staying upright in this era.
Brady, who grew up in Northern California idolizing Montana, was predictably humble when apprised of Kraft's remarks.
“Well, that's my boss. And I love Mr. Kraft for a lot of reasons, and we have a great relationship, and a great friendship,” he said. “He's been through a lot the last few years. There'd be nothing more exciting for all us players than to win for him, because it means a lot to him, and it means a lot to Coach Belichick. I think the great part about being around here is that the expectation is only to win, and there's nothing else. It's not about selling tickets or t-shirts. It's to win football games.”
Winning football games shouldn't be a problem for the Patriots. The AFC East doesn't look to be particularly strong. And as long as Bill Belichick's standing on the sidelines and Brady's under center, New England's probably headed for the postseason. It also doesn't hurt that today's NFL looks nothing like the one Montana played in.
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