It is pretty widely accepted, following the Patriots' historic 25-point comeback to capture Super Bowl LI 34-28 over the Falcons, that Tom Brady, with his record fourth Super Bowl MVP award, is the greatest of all time (a.k.a., the GOAT), the best quarterback to ever play in the NFL.
This is not a knee-jerk reaction to the comeback either: Brady was right there in the discussion anyway, but the fifth Super Bowl victory, the most ever for a quarterback, sealed the deal. Unless you're the guy being bumped from the discussion, anyway.
During an interview on the Hallmark Channel that was discovered by TMZ (hello, 2017), Montana declined to name Brady the GOAT, pointing out that it's too difficult to compare eras when looking at NFL quarterbacks.
"He's obviously having a tremendous career. I think it's really hard to put anyone in that bucket. Even before he got five," Montana said. "You look back to some of the guys -- some people don't even know -- Sammy Baugh or Otto Graham, and I can't remember which one, but one of them won like seven or nine championships. So far ahead of their time. It's hard to compare guys from then to now, and how they would compare here and how we could compare back then."
It's interesting that Montana lumps himself in the same generation as Brady. They're certainly closer in age than Graham and Montana, but the game was vastly different when Montana and the 49ers were lighting up the NFL than it is now.
The Graham thing isn't wrong. Graham won his first All-American Football Conference (AAFC) title in 1946 with the Cleveland Browns, proceeded to win three more after that and then closed out his career by winning three NFL championships (1950, '54 and '55). Baugh won two NFL championships (1937 and '42). To put in perspective just how different things were then, Baugh played in a single playoff game in 1937, as the Washington Redskins, who had been the Boston Redskins the year before, beat the Chicago Bears 28-21 in Wrigley Field.
Everyone we're talking about was playing football, but the difference between winning a title in 1937 and winning a title in 2017 isn't apples and oranges, it's apples and avocados.
Montana isn't out here trumpeting himself as the best ever either. He admits he's lumped in with the same guys from the previous era.
"I still can't say that -- even though people say it and I appreciate it -- I still can't say that of myself because of, just what I said," Montana claimed.
At this point his wife pipes up and claims Joe is full of it -- at home he's constantly reminding the family he's the greatest. We assume this is a joke, but it's possible he does walk around with a coffee mug that features his head Photoshopped on a goat's body. You can't rule anything out.
The reality is that when you look at what Brady has done with the Patriots -- winning five Super Bowls, making seven trips to the Super Bowl in all, winning his latest at age 39 and generally dominating the NFL in an age where no one should be able to dominate because of imposed parity and free agency -- it's really difficult not to hit him with the GOAT label.
It might be tough for someone like Montana, who not only never lost a Super Bowl but never even threw an interception in a Super Bowl, to accept, but Brady has become the standard bearer for quarterbacks in NFL history.