Let’s face it, the NFL has produced a lot of dreary football in the past calendar year. The last Super Bowl was won by a quarterback limping toward retirement who completed 13 passes. This season’s games yielded no dominant teams, allowing the New England Patriots to become overwhelming favorites as much because of pedigree as performance.
The playoffs were about as exciting as “Law & Order” reruns until last Sunday night, when the Packers and Cowboys reminded us what NFL drama looks like and set up an NFL championship Sunday worthy of couch sores.
Sunday, four star quarterbacks will play. However much America may love violence, the NFL is king because America loves watching great quarterbacks.
The combined passer ratings of Tom Brady, Aaron Rodgers, Ben Roethlisberger and Matt Ryan this year: 107. That’s the highest ever for the final four quarterbacks. The previous high was 100.7, produced in 1998 by Randall Cunningham, Vinny Testaverde, Chris Chandler and John Elway.
The four on display this weekend have produced seven Super Bowl victories, and the quarterback who hasn’t won one yet, Ryan, might win the league’s offensive player of the year or MVP award for this season.
But unless you own a Terrible Towel or remember the Dirty Bird, today is about Brady and Rodgers. Today, they can make SB LI — otherwise known as the predecessor to the Minneapolis Super Bowl — rare as a Bill Belichick soliloquy.
Brady’s combined regular-season and postseason résumé marks him as perhaps the best quarterback ever. And yet the eye test tells us that he can’t do everything Rodgers can.
Both hail from the Bay Area and both were disappointed in different ways on draft day, with Brady slipping into the sixth round and Rodgers stewing in the green room until the Packers chose him with the 24th pick.
Brady is two victories from setting an NFL record for most Super Bowls won by a starting quarterback. Rodgers is two victories from building the kind of postseason record that would separate him from merely great quarterbacks such as Brett Favre and Dan Marino and place him on the path to greatest-ever consideration, should he continue to play for the rest of his career the way he has the past 10 weeks.
Today, Brady and Rodgers could create one of the greatest quarterback matchups in Super Bowl history.
Favre and Elway faced off in ’97 in a classic game.
Peyton Manning and Drew Brees played in a less-interesting encounter.
Joe Montana’s 49ers blew out Elway and easily handled Marino.
Terry Bradshaw and Roger Staubach played in two of the best Super Bowls ever, but neither can claim to be the best ever to play the position.
Brady might have the best quarterback résumé of all time, and Rodgers may be the best player in the league right now. Those are not mutually-exclusive tributes.
All-time passer rating? Rodgers ranks first. Brady ranks third, behind Russell Wilson.
Career completion percentage? Rodgers: 65.1, Brady: 63.8.
Average yards per game? Brady: 259.8. Rodgers: 259.3.
Peyton Manning is the most prolific and accomplished regular-season quarterback ever. Brady’s combination of regular-season winning and production and postseason brilliance elevates him past Manning on the greatest-of-all-time discussion.
And Rodgers might be better than both.
Rodgers is a better scrambler than Manning or Brady, although they proved adept at moving inside the pocket. Rodgers also has rushed for 2,544 yards by the age of 33. Brady and Manning to date have combined to rush for 1,707 yards.
Rodgers is accurate, mobile and adaptable. If he played for the Patriots, he might have five rings by now. We’ll never know.
What we do know is that Rodgers beat the Cowboys last Sunday with a play that Brady could not make, and probably wouldn’t even attempt.
The Packers faced third-and-20. Rodgers drew up a play in the huddle, sprinted left and threw a dart just inbounds for a 36-yard gain that set up the game-winning field goal.
Brady vs. Rodgers would be a gift surpassed only by a rematch in Minneapolis next winter.