Despite the setbacks caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, the 2020 NFL season was one of many historic records. Amidst the season, there were multiple legendary quarterback matchups such as those between Tom Brady, Patrick Mahomes, and Aaron Rodgers. Emerging at the top were these three QBs who led the league in almost all stats. Even with the dominant Tampa Bay victory in Super Bowl 55, there still remains a heated argument surrounding who is the best quarterback in the NFL.
The Case for Aaron Rodgers
The NFL 2020 season MVP, Aaron Rodgers, has just joined an exclusive club of pros, becoming the fifth player in NFL history to receive three MVP awards in his career. MVP awards and Super Bowls aside, the Greenbay Packers’ starting quarterback has been in the “greatest of all time” conversation for quite some time now. Leading his team to 20 consecutive playoff games, scoring 20+ points in each of those, and throwing 2+ touchdowns in 9 consecutive playoff games, makes Rodgers legendary on paper. Flaunting arguably the most important stat of them all, the Packers’ QB holds the highest career passer rating in the history of the NFL coming in at 102.9. Just this season the 37-year-old became the fastest quarterback in NFL history to throw 400 touchdown passes. Throughout his journey to 400, the QB also snagged the best touchdown to interception ratio in the NFL.
In his thirteen years as a starter, Aaron Rodgers has completely redefined the role of a quarterback. He brings to the table a special set of skills that newer quarterbacks, like Patrick Mahomes, have only just begun to display on the field.
Always Expect Greatness.
Infamous for his out-of-the-pocket plays, Rodgers has made a name for himself avoiding pressure and working out of the pocket to gain yards. This is a Rodgers specialty, as was seen in the most recent divisional game opposing the LA Rams. The play began with a pump fake, sending Rams outside linebacker Leonard Floyd up in the air reaching for an interception, and ended with a Rodgers pivot straight into the endzone for a TD. That one isolated moment from the divisional game captured Rodgers’ style perfectly. Quick on his feet, Rodgers is notorious for misleading defensive linemen with his body language, namely psyching out players with his eyes.
The Adrenaline Rush.
Rodgers always delivers. Even with a 10+ point deficit in the fourth quarter Packers’ fans rarely fret. The 2018 Bears-Packers season opener is one of many examples. Back after a knee injury in the first half, Rodgers led his team to a 17 point comeback in the last ten minutes of the fourth quarter. Although it was one of the most iconic comebacks in franchise history, the last winding minutes of a game have always been a Rodgers specialty.
Super Bowl or No Super Bowl.
The most recent skepticism towards Rodgers’ G.O.A.T title has been due to the Packers’ performance in the 2020 NFC title game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers led by Tom Brady. At third and goal in the last two minutes and nine seconds of the title game, Rodgers threw the ball away bringing out the field goal team to kick, and consequently handing the ball over to the Bucs who led 31-26. That pivotal play, or mistake as many viewers call it, sealed the fate of the game. Fans and non-fans alike drew up a storm post Packers’ loss blaming Packers’ head coach Matt LeFleur for doubting Rodgers’ ability to convert on fourth down and taking the ball out of his hands. Falling shy of another Super Bowl, the Packers’ loss sent Tom Brady and the Buccaneers to the Super Bowl for another year, reaffirming for many that Tom Brady is the G.O.A.T.
While it may be true that Rodgers has won only one Super Bowl, his greatness is neither diminished nor defined by the number of rings he wears on his hand. “Defense wins championships” and unfortunately for Rodgers, in recent years Packers’ defense has lacked luster. Many, if not all, of the other QBs in the running for the greatest of all time title play for teams with stacked defensive lines. Despite relying on the offensive game, the recent three-time MVP has been setting record after record each season.
At the end of the day, Aaron Rodgers is a defining factor in how far the Packers go in their season, whereas both Mahomes and Brady play for teams that are strong both offensively and defensively. Year after year Rodgers has proven he can put on a show with or without a team full of weapons.
The Case for Tom Brady
It’s hard to dispute that Brady is the GOAT. His Super Bowl win this February sealed that fact. Season after season, decade after decade, Tom Brady has delivered excellence. But what makes him so good? His body has certainly begun to physically deteriorate at the age of 43; most NFL players retire before even 40, yet Brady will be playing next year as a 44-year-old. And Brady wasn’t ever considered a physical specimen to begin with, running an abysmal 5.28 in the 40-yard dash at his Combine. But that was never Brady’s game. He focuses on tearing apart opponents through his mental preparedness and willingness to make not the flashy play, but the right play.
The Next Chapter
As his time in New England came to a close, questions came up. Was Brady fading? Was it really Brady, or his legendary head coach Bill Bellichek that really drove the Patriots? Was Brady a product of Bellichek’s system, or was the system a product of Tom Brady? And these questions weren’t entirely without merit either. The Patriots as a team had declined in quality, with poor drafting, aging of star players, and departure of long-time contributors like Rob Gronkowski all contributing to a lackluster season and early playoff exit in 2019. Brady had led the Patriots for so long, but his time was beginning to run out and he wanted to chase greatness. So, during the 2019 offseason, Brady packed his bags and headed south to Tampa Bay to play for the Buccaneers.
Brady’s first season in Tampa got off to a slow start. But once Brady adjusted to his new team, Tampa began to dominate, making their way to the Super Bowl. Despite playing with a knee injury for much of the season (a fact which was revealed after the fact), Brady proved that his longevity was truly remarkable. He didn’t have the best season. Tampa’s 38-3 loss to New Orleans was the most lopsided loss of his career, with Brady himself throwing for a mere 209 yards and two interceptions with 0 touchdowns. He had a few truly bad games. But nobody said Brady was perfect. Just that he is ridiculously good. Brady is entitled to a few slip-ups, and while he did have a few of those, overall his season was outstanding. He became the oldest quarterback to have a 5-touchdown game, and the oldest to start, play, and win the Super Bowl, and receive the Super Bowl MVP award. He now has the record for most Super Bowl wins by a player and most Super Bowl MVP wins by a player. Despite a few rough games, Brady played at an extremely high level in what was his 20th season in the league this year.
The Bottom Line
The fact that he was still able to play at a truly elite level at the age of 43 and win a Super Bowl is a testament to who Tom Brady is. He’s not flashy, or crazy athletic. His arm strength isn’t all that impressive. He takes some pretty hard hits. But, he’s a smart player. He works tirelessly in the film room. He knows his opponent’s playbook as well as he knows his own, making adjustments at the line to get the best scoring chance on each and every play. He’s incredibly dedicated, and that dedication has paid off in the biggest way- greatness. Seven Super Bowl wins is something most NFL players, even the greats, won’t ever come close to touching. But Brady did it. And for that, he deserves a spot atop the mountain of great quarterbacks as the best of all time.
The Case for Patrick Mahomes
25 year old superstar Patrick Mahomes is next up. In his football career dating back to Pee Wee football, there has only been one game where he hasn’t thrown for a Touchdown. That was this year’s superbowl. The Texas Tech superstar threw for 38 touchdowns this season and only 6 interceptions. Those stats are just a minor success for Mahomes. He is the fastest player to ever throw for 4,000 passing yards in a season and he did it in just 13 games. Mahomes threw the most passing touchdowns and passing yards in a player’s first nine career games.He was named the MVP in 2018 and was a pro bowler that season. He has also made 2 super bowl appearances in his first 4 years of the NFL. He won his first superbowl in 2020. He did all of this in just 4 seasons and the best is yet to come. Not bad for a guy that was only selected with the 10th pick of the NFL draft.
The success of Patrick Mahomes didn’t just come out of thin air. Patrick Mahomes Sr, a former baseball player for the New York Mets and the Chicago White Sox was a tremendous athlete. His Fathers success in sports put Mahomes on the spotlight to become a great athlete himself. Mahomes this season became the face of the NFL after winning his first superbowl and he took the role very well. After a MVP canidate season this year, he took the Chiefs to the superbowl for the second season in a row. His confidence just keeps on growing as he is the brightest star in the NFL world.
In Patrick Mahomes rookie year, coach Andy Reid made it clear he wouldn’t be starting that season and veteran Alex Smith will be the first choice quarterback for that season. While Alex Smith had a solid year, he got hurt towards the end of the year and Patrick Mahomes stepped in for 1 game. ALthough it wasn’t impressive, you could see a few shining spots and coach Andy Reid noticed that. He wasn’t ready to be a starter at that time but coach Reid knew who he was dealing with. Reid has coached many amazing quarterbacks in his time. From Donavan McNabb to Mike VIck, Andy Reid has seen a lot of talent and he knew that Mahomes could be the brightest star he has ever had. That next season in 2018, Reid announced that Patrick Mahomes will be starting, giving Mahomes the opportunity to try and lead the Chiefs to a superbowl was no small task. Reid had faith in young Mahomes and in that season, Mahomes threw for 50 touchdowns and 5,000 yards. The greatest season he has ever had in his many years as a quarterback. He led the Chiefs to the AFC Championship game where he suffered a heartbreaking loss to Tom Brady and the New England Patriots. SInce then Mahomes has won a superbowl and appeared in another superbowl.
Is he the best?
Patrick Mahomes is the most promising quarterback in the NFL at this moment. His recent loss to Brady may solidify that Brady is still the best quarterback in the NFL. Rodgers won the MVP this season but there is a very strong argument that Mahomes is the best Quarterback in the NFL. In 2018, he was by far the best quarterback in the NFL and in 2019, he proved again he was the best. This season, he took a little bit of a tumble for his standards but if we were to have this talk next season Mahomes would be the best Quarterback in the NFL.