Column: Tom Brady on verge of adding to his ‘greatest quarterback’ résumé

Rob Gronkowski is lucky he drew only a one-game suspension for his dirty hit on the Bills’ Tre’Davious White.

Rob Gronkowski is lucky he drew only a one-game suspension for his dirty hit on the Bills’ Tre’Davious White.

(Christian Petersen / Getty Images)

No matter what your opinion of Tom Brady, the New England quarterback is the biggest story of Super Bowl LI.

Brady has four rings — as do San Francisco’s Joe Montana and Pittsburgh’s Terry Bradshaw — and could be four quarters away from standing alone in the pantheon of greatest quarterbacks in NFL history. The Patriots play the Atlanta Falcons at NRG Stadium in Houston on Sunday.

While his fans might argue he’s peerless, Brady does in fact have a large collection of peers, the quarterbacks who came before him on the league’s biggest stage. They have varying thoughts on what has gotten him this far:


Former Dallas Cowboys quarterback Troy Aikman, who won three Super Bowls, on Brady’s multiple supporting casts:

“What’s amazed me about the Patriots and Tom is that they’ve done it with so many different people. Most of us who went to multiple Super Bowls pretty much had our same core. He’s done it with three- and four-wide-receiver sets when he had Randy Moss. He’s done it with two-tight-end packages. He did it earlier in his career when they were defense and running the football. Now they’re doing it with these little wide receivers that are running all over the place, and he’s getting the ball to them.

“I’ve seen him when he’s had poor protection in previous years, when they were struggling along the offensive line, and yet he plays the position in a way that keeps from hurting his team and gives his team a chance to win. Even when everything else around him is collapsing. There’s not many guys that can do that. There’s not many guys that can move the team down the field and score when you’re holding it together by a shoestring.”

Bradshaw, on the accuracy of Brady, who had 28 touchdowns this season and a mere two interceptions:

“Some young kids don’t get their feet under their body in the position when they’re throwing, and they’re not accurate. They under-stride, they over-stride, the ball’s in the ground, it’s up over guys. He works every day on fundamentals so he can — foom, foom, foom, foom — click. He said that knowing the offense inside and out, studying and studying all the coverages out there, he can see it and go up and make quick decisions.

“To me, I would tell everybody, ‘Here’s the guy you want to go to when you want to figure out how to play quarterback.’ Two interceptions? Everybody can get two interceptions just with guys dropping passes. Two? That’s amazing.”

Former Washington quarterback Doug Williams, who led the Redskins to a 42-10 victory over Denver in Super Bowl XXII, on Brady’s temperament:

“He gives everybody else so much confidence. It’s almost like, ‘I’ve got to do my job well, and if not, the boss man is going to get on me,’ and that’s Brady. When things don’t go right, I watch him walk off the field cool, calm and collected. But I also watch when he gets to the sidelines how he gets in people’s face. That’s what you’ve got to do. Don’t blame nobody. Don’t point the finger. Walk off like ain’t nothing happened. But when you get to the sideline, get it corrected.”

Hall of Fame quarterback Jim Kelly, whose Buffalo teams went 0-4 in consecutive Super Bowls (1990-93 seasons), on Brady’s pre-snap calculations:

“He knows where his one-on-one matchups are, his mismatches, and the good thing is his receivers know those mismatches, too, so they know, ‘I will be the primary receiver on this.’ But my old saying was, ‘Everybody running. Everybody alert.’ Because you never know what the defense is going to give you.”

Kurt Warner, who went 1-1 in Super Bowls with the St. Louis Rams, then got the Arizona Cardinals back there, on how much longer the 39-year-old Brady can play:

“It’s not physically driven. I tell people that I think I could go out on a football field right now and make every throw I needed to make, physically, at 45. So the bottom line for a guy like Tom Brady is, does his mind ever fall off the cliff? Does he stop being able to see things, react to things, make the decisions that he’s been able to make throughout his career, mentally, not physically?

“The number of times I threw a pass over 50 yards in my NFL career was so small. Physically, for guys like us, I don’t think there’s really that big of a drop off from where you start to where you finish. It really comes down to his ability to stay sharp mentally. He’s been in the same system; he’s running the same stuff. He does whatever he could possibly do to stay sharp every year. He gets the ball out quick. If there’s anybody who throws the ball less than 50 yards more than anybody else, it’s the New England Patriots. A lot of their throws are 10 yards or less.

“As long as he can make decisions that way and see the field and have a comfort level in this offense, I don’t see any reason he couldn’t continue to play at this type of level until he’s at least 45.”

Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan, who, when he was at Boston College, admired Brady from afar. They didn’t meet until both were in the pros:

“I think every quarterback who has played in this league, they have all tried to emulate things that Tom does. He’s been so consistent. To me, the biggest thing, and the thing that’s most impressive, is his consistency throughout the years. He has just played so well for so long.”

Vince Ferragamo, whose Los Angeles Rams lost to Pittsburgh in Super Bowl XIV, on what could drive Brady:

“He acts like a rookie coming in, like a guy who has to re-prove himself. It’s amazing. I don’t know how at 39 he’s able to do that. … I think that fear of failure is a driving force. At his stature, how much success he’s had over the years, he doesn’t want to trip. He wants to stay on top, and I think when everyone’s shooting for you, it drives him to even higher heights.”

Follow Sam Farmer on Twitter @LATimesfarmer