Tony Dungy has revealed some interesting views during his years as a retired coach and NBC analyst. The former Colts and Buccaneers head coach once voted for Seahawks linebacker Bobby Wagner to win the NFL MVP award.
With his latest stance, however, Dungy has touched off a storm of New England outrage.
As one of the former coaches ESPN.com’s Mike Sando polled in an attempt to gauge opinions on the greatest modern-era (post-1977) quarterbacks, Dungy ranked Tom Brady sixth.
His former pupil who also has a strong case for the No. 1 spot, Peyton Manning, also missed the top three on Dungy’s ballot.
John Elway, Steve Young and Aaron Rodgers topped the former coach’s list.
Dungy cited Brady and Bill Belichick’s inextricable connection as a reason it was difficult to measure how the five-time Super Bowl champion passer would fare elsewhere.
It’s a valid point, given the undoubted benefit Brady has had from playing under Belichick and with the Pats’ consistently strong defenses, but a bold claim nonetheless.
“I don’t think Bill Belichick would be Bill Belichick without Tom Brady, and Brady would not have the same success without Belichick and the way they have put that team together,” Dungy said on a list that did end up with Brady being ranked No. 1, followed by Manning, Joe Montana, Elway and Rodgers.
Brady, Manning and Rodgers have played in a much easier era for quarterback dominance. But Dungy cited Elway and Young’s ability to extend plays as the reasoning for his hierarchy.
“You were limited in what coverages you could play against [Elway or Young] because of the threat of them running,” Dungy said. “I got asked a lot when they were both playing, [Dan] Marino vs. Elway? It is hard to pick, but John just made plays when everything else was covered.”
New England fans were quick to pounce on the former Colts coach.
Dungy is out of his mind!! Brady is GOAT!!
— CharliesLife (@chucknicholas) July 19, 2017
Unparalleled jealousy on display at all times from @TonyDungy
— Max Licht (@maxlicht) July 19, 2017
Nine of the other 10 experts ranked Brady as either the best or second-best modern-era quarterback.
Brady’s five titles lead all quarterbacks from the Super Bowl era. The Seahawks’ and Falcons’ late-game decisions obviously helped swing the most recent two Patriots titles, but Brady put them in position to win as the team’s centerpiece player.
But the Boston folk hero was a bit closer to a complementary performer on the defensive-powered teams that captured the Pats’ first three titles (2001, ’03, ’04). Brady was not asked to shoulder as much of the load as his peers during these key years in his career. Despite Brady becoming a much better player in his 30s, his mid-20s seasons are kind of key in his GOAT case considering the first thing mentioned about the iconic passer is the five championships.
In lieu of the kinds of individual accolades Manning and some of the past era’s greats possess, Brady’s case hinges more on team success than the others in this conversation.
Even factoring in some advantages he’s had, it has to be difficult to rank Brady this low. And there’s obviously a reason Belichick and Brady have been together longer than any other coach and quarterback: the Patriots’ unassailable case as the team of the 21st century so far.
The former sixth-round pick thrived during many years the Patriots didn’t win titles as well — the 2007 season, with his then-record 50 touchdown passes, in particular — and is playing at near-peak level as his 40th birthday approaches.
Brady will continue to be an integral part of the greatest-ever argument, and due to the legion of fans he’s cultivated, public debates not featuring his name at the top will ignite firestorms.
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