One of the great debates in sports - and there are a few of them - is who the greatest NFL player of all time is. It's a weighty claim to stake, as there have been a lot of dominant athletes who have entered the League and re-written part of the record books during their time there. It's a relevant conversation to Michigan fans, partly because the goal of the program is to produce that kind of excellence, and also partly because of Tom Brady.
Brady, in six Super Bowl appearances, has now won more Super Bowls than any other quarterback in history, save two. Joe Montana and Terry Bradshaw also possess four Super Bowl victories, with each going undefeated in the biggest game. In an era of offense, Brady has surpassed either of those two gentlemen statistically. He's currently fifth all-time in passing yards and touchdowns thrown.
|#1||Brett Favre||71,838||x||#1||Peyton Manning||530||age 38|
|#2||Peyton Manning||69,691||age 38||#2||Brett Favre||508||x|
|#3||Dan Marino||61,361||x||#3||Dan Marino||420||x|
|#4||Drew Brees||56,033||36||#4||Drew Brees||396||36|
|#5||Tom Brady||53,528||37||#5||Tom Brady||392||37|
Looking ahead of him on this list, Brady has some work to do to catch up to some of those ahead of him - but he stands a reasonable chance to pass Dan Marino on both lists. That, though, never mattered to Tom Brady. He wanted to do two things: play and win.
Brady's best chance to add to his legacy will be through his longevity. If he is able to compete for three, four, or even five more years, and also continue making the postseason, Brady will have an interesting claim. After all, his Patriots have been dominant across two decades, and were the AFC representatives in 2002, 2004, 2005, 2008, 2012, and 2015. He is already the most accomplished postseason quarterback of all time. And like so many others who have risen to the top, he worked in conjunction with other Hall of Famers to build a legacy.
But, it will take a lot to make a better career than Lawrence Thomas. Or Jim Brown. Or Jerry Rice. Over the next few months, the Brews will take a look at a few players who have the best claims at Greatest Of All Time. It starts with Jerry Rice, who has the perhaps the most consensus as the Greatest Ever. Interestingly, his best attribute - his longevity - is something Brady seems manically determined to emulate.
The Legacy of Jerry Rice
Jerry Rice, the son of a brick mason, grew up in the deep south of Mississippi, in the middle of nowhere. As a child, he chased horses, learning without realizing it how to run a route tree. When his father needed help at work, he caught bricks from his siblings to lay them for his father. And along the way, he met an innovative college coach, Archie "Gunslinger" Cooley, and played for two Hall of Fame quarterbacks. It was a perfect storm.
He wasn't the fastest. He wasn't the tallest, or the strongest. He had football speed. Once, a commentator asked Chris Spielman if he could run a 4.4 forty back in his day. And Spielman, an all-time great Buckeye linebacker, said he couldn't ever run a 4.4, but he caught up to a lot of people who could. Jerry Rice was like that.
Fourteen 1,000-yard seasons. Three Super Bowl wins, four appearances. He had a 1,200-yard season at 40, and holds the NFL record in yards by almost 7,000 yards. He has 22,895. Terrell Owens has 15,934. Randy Moss has 15,292. And he played in an era when passing wasn't as much a part of the game.
"He had some crazy knack to be able to get behind you," said Joe Montana. "Singled up, he's almost impossible to cover... He did a very good job of reading coverages, knowing where the holes were.... You knew, if he saw the ball up in the air, he was going to go get it because it was his."
His career finally ended at 43, just two years removed from an 869-yard season. And with that, he retired gracefully into the shadows. A revolutionary at the position, Rice is still somehow a quiet legend. Outside of NFL circles, Rice's accomplishments aren't as well-known as someone like Mike, or Mickey Mantle, or Babe Ruth. Even inside NFL circles, players admit that they don't really know who Jerry is.
Former teammate, and rival, Deion Sanders had this to say about him. "That's the mystery of Jerry Rice. We don't even know Jerry, really! .... I think Jerry's probably the best football player to ever lace 'em up. But I don't know if Jerry has the relationships that made the game fun. He didn't enjoy the ride... He didn't enjoy the ride."
In truth, he did. Rice needed to prove himself, to find his best, and find his way outside of rural Mississippi. He did it in outstanding, if still quiet, fashion.
Hitting the Links Is An Athlete
J.T. Barrett, by the way, just had his screws removed from the broken ankle and is now ready for spring practice.
An extraordinarily well-written and accurate detail of Dave Brandon's entrance and departure. This was an absorbing read.
If you missed this MLive piece, read up on one of Jim Harbaugh's favorite players and a possible contributor this season at corner.
Nick Baumgardner made an interesting case for the importance of Jedd Fisch's hire, and also discusses tight end depth.
Both teams are losing three players off their offensive line. Wisconsin is ready to reload with 6'5", 310-pound Michael Deiter and some combination of Ray Ball (6'7", 324), Walker Williams (6'7", 320), Micah Kapoi (6'4", 323), and true freshman Jon Dietzen (6'5", 330). There are a few other options, as well, though the rest has a little less beef.
Also, you know you're doing well when 'right tackle' is one of your three big position battles.
This article talks about how athletes have been able to come in and make a difference right away, and it's reflected in the coaches' attitude. "The biggest challenge will be learning the offense and how we do things," said co-offensive coordinator Jeff Scott. "Once they learn that, our job is to get the ball in their hands, let them go play and do what they do."
This is a massive pile of numbers from Bill Connelly, but it's worth a gander. He includes lists of the top rushers after each of his graphs. Also, for those who don't know, opportunity rate shows how often a running back got five yards, while highlight yards try to quantify how explosive a running back is once they get past the line of scrimmage.
This list is (understandably) a bit reactionary to team wins and losses, but it's still a great exercise.
Michigan's 2012 class hasn't held up as well as it originally looked, with two five-stars in Kyle Kalis and Ondre Pipkins. The jury is still out on several of that year's four-stars - Darboh, Magnuson, Norfleet, Jenkins-Stone, Blake Bars, and Tom Strobel.
The running game has taken Duke to new heights, and that will be a continued strength in 2015. It'll need to be, with a starting quarterback and two top receivers gone.
Days Since Michigan Beat Michigan State