By Matt Dolloff, 985TheSportsHub.com
Tom Brady has made a Hall of Fame career out of ending debates. He ended another one on Sunday night, and it was a debate that should have never started in the first place.
Aaron Rodgers better get to winning some Super Bowls in a hurry, because he’s nowhere near Brady’s class. Don’t ever refer to him as even a co-GOAT ever again. Never again. Over.
The Packers quarterback will almost certainly end up enshrined in Canton one day. There’s no question that he has as much talent as any quarterback of his generation, maybe any generation. He throws a beautiful deep ball and hit a few of those on Sunday. He’s as mobile as anyone in the league and kept some drives alive with his legs to let his arm do the work. This all happened on what was a fairly uneven game for Brady and the Patriots offense.
But which quarterback made the game-changing plays when it was time to change the game? Which quarterback shined brighter than the spotlights showering the Gillette Stadium field?
Here’s a couple of hints. He wore No. 12, and his name was not Aaron Rodgers.
The Patriots’ 31-17 win over the Packers on Sunday Night Football actually got the spark it needed from the defense, when Lawrence Guy forced the fumble that Stephon Gilmore recovered on the first play of the fourth quarter. With the game tied 17-17 at the time, it certainly went down as the big turning point.
But it wouldn’t have become a true turning point without the ensuing drive for Brady, who went 4-for-4 for 34 yards. He’d only completed one of his previous nine attempts before that drive. The big play here was Julian Edelman’s 37-yard double-pass to James White, to be fair. But Brady suddenly found his accuracy again after things had gone sideways in the prior two drives, and played mistake-free football when the Patriots needed a touchdown the most.
Rodgers? He had a chance to answer the go-ahead touchdown and really give this thing the classic ending it deserved. Instead, he plummeted in the opposite direction. With plenty of time to throw, he targeted a well-covered Equanimeous St. Brown on a low-percentage attempt. On the next snap, his tendency to sometimes hold the ball too long reared its ugly head at the worst possible time, as Trey Flowers and Adrian Clayborn swarmed him for the co-sack.
Rodgers went 6-for-9 with 102 yards and a touchdown on third downs prior to that play. He didn’t convert when it really mattered. He didn’t accomplish anything at the most important time, really.
He admitted it.
“We’re not hitting on all cylinders, we’re hurting ourselves with negative yardage plays and missed throws and turnovers at the wrong time, not being on the same page too many times,” Rodgers said after the game. “Whether I’m missing a throw or we’re not in the spot I think we’re going to be at, it’s happening at the worst times. When we have to play our best in those crunch times, we haven’t been playing our best.”
Brady, on the other hand, did fire on all cylinders in crunch time. Following up the Packers’ punt, Brady delivered the final dagger with the help of Josh Gordon, who beat his one potential tackler and took Brady’s pass to the end zone for a 55-yard touchdown that ultimately proved to be the capper.
“It was a big play in the game,” Brady said of Gordon’s touchdown. “We needed it, a big play like that, and they got aggressive. You know, we had some big plays tonight. We didn’t have like the 4-yard, 7-yard first down. It was a lot of big plays, which they took some chances, we took some chances and we came out ahead.”
His receivers did all the work! The double-pass was better than any of his! He can’t throw it deep!
And on and on it will inevitably go. Millions of NFL fans across the country continue to deny Brady’s GOAT-ness. They continue to paper-punch artificial holes into the league’s most prolific resume. And they’ll most certainly continue to froth over Rodgers’ undeniable talent.
Sunday night showed once again why there’s more than just arm talent and mobility to playing the quarterback position at a high level, and winning at a high level at that. It showed why we still count wins and losses, and why they absolutely deserve to be credited to QBs. Brady needed to win the game, and he went and won it. When Rodgers had his final gasps to give the Packers a chance to win, he faltered.
That wasn’t a GOAT-like performance from Rodgers in the fourth quarter. Mainly because he’s not the GOAT.
(UPDATE: Zombie me, writing this around 2 a.m., failed to mention the Packers’ final offensive drive of the game, which was most certainly not GOAT-like from Rodgers. A stunning lack of urgency, 2-for-5 for 15 yards, a scramble up the middle to keep the clock rolling, and a 12-yard strip-sack by Adrian Clayborn that he was lucky to have roll out of bounds at the time. Don’t give me the “he has no weapons” take, either. Brady had no Rob Gronkowski and Cordarrelle Patterson at running back. Rodgers needed to take better control of that drive and work quicker, and he did not. Just another example of why he’s certainly great but not on Brady’s level.)
Some across New England (including this writer) were straight-up pissed to see NBC and other outlets hype up Sunday’s matchup as a showdown between a pair of GOATs. Hype that should never have existed, and didn’t need to exist. Who’s the best quarterback in the NFL at this particular moment? At least you have some semblance of a debate there.
The whole GOAT thing wasn’t a debate. It was an insult to all that Brady’s accomplished, including what he just accomplished in Foxborough. He’s separated himself from the pack with his winning in the last four-plus seasons. Sorry if that makes you uncomfortable. But you don’t become the GOAT with an arm and a handful of regular-season Hail Marys.
Rodgers is without question a great player and probably already a Hall of Famer. But he’s not even close to being close to being the GOAT. In fact, he has a little work to do to separate from Brett Favre. He is, at best, equals with Peyton Manning and Russell Wilson and Ben Roethlisberger. All of whom aren’t in Brady’s class, either. Unless Rodgers starts lifting the Packers to more big moments the way Brady has so many times, and does it several times over and does it in multiple Super Bowls, he never will be the greatest.
Hopefully, Sunday night has extinguished the latest inane football discussion. It might not, but it should.
Brady ended the debate for people with eyes and brains, to be certain. And the debate was over before it even began.
Matt Dolloff is a digital producer for 985TheSportsHub.com. Any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of 98.5 The Sports Hub, Beasley Media Group, or any subsidiaries. Have a news tip, question, or comment for Matt? Follow him on Twitter @mattdolloff or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.